FDS Southern consultant Gary Rigby, talks to Caremark founder and current CEO, Kevin Lewis, about franchising within the care sector, the rapidly changing care industry and how he sees franchising in 2013

Q: As prosepective franchise owner, is it a pre-requisite to have experience in the care sector? A:No – a passion for care and a commitment to providing the highest quality of service is vital. Good business skills and a desire to integrate your business within a specific community by providing a valued service are also key aspects of any successful care franchise.

Q: Kevin you are one of the original founders of the Caremark franchise within the UK, can you tell me how this has changed over the years? A: The care sector used to be unregulated. When this changed, we were able to adapt easily because we have always operated to the highest possible standard. We monitor our business practice constantly. Care provision evolves continually and now there is, quite rightly, a focus on the client being at the centre of their care, which is something I have always believed in. Also, the market has continued growing each year for the 20 years that I have been involved in it. It continues to change, which always brings opportunities. As a result, I am more excited about the businesses than I have ever been.

Q: Is there any significant legislation that affects the business activity? A:The industry is highly regulated by the Care Quality Commission. All providers are required to operate to The Essential Standards of Quality & Safety. The Caremark model aims to exceed the Care Quality Commission’s expectations, all our franchise owners have to do is stick to the system.

Q: I understand that the aging population has a significant impact on this type of business, can you explain more? A:Our aging population will drive the demand for services for older people as we all continue to live longer. People are choosing to stay at home and retain their independence more frequently – we, as a nation, are becoming better equipped to survive illness and live with complex conditions. However, the aging population is not the only significant factor in relation to this type of business; we provide care for children and young adults, people of all ages with disabilities and anyone who needs our support.

Q: I understand that the Caremark management team have extensive knowledge of franchising in the care sector? A:Yes – I have been in the industry for over 20 years and my Operations Director started working in the sector in 1999. The team at Caremark have experience in both care and franchising and are able to understand and support key disciplines such as marketing, training, finances, legislation and so on. Some of the team have been franchise owners or have run their own businesses, which means they are well placed to offer both an experienced and empathetic approach to how we work with our franchise owners.

Q: Could I borrow money to purchase a Caremark franchise? A:Yes, we have the support of all the major banks. We always recommend dealing with the franchise division, as they have the specialist knowledge to deal with our franchise owners needs quickly and efficiently. Where lending is required to assist in the set up of your business, the banks will normally help out with up to 70 per cent of your financial requirement.

Q: In what way does the franchisor monitor service standards across the network? A:We support vulnerable people – this means monitoring service standards and ensuring that we operate to the highest standards is vitally important. We have a range of tools and inspections in place to do this formally and on a regular basis, but more than that, there is always an element of monitoring in every aspect of our service provision. During every regular visit to a franchise owner’s office, or even during a phone call, our experienced team will be able to pick up on compliance issues or trends that could cause a problem later on, enabling them to support franchise owners accordingly.