John Houghton

JohnAfter a few months of trading, how are you finding running your franchise office?
We have been operating for 6 months now and have built a fantastic reputation for quality and great service in the Derby region. We are therefore finding each day a new challenge as our word of mouth marketing exposes us to new clients with differing needs and requirements.

The key to a successful office is getting the right people on your team; a committed and experienced registered manager with dedicated and caring home care assistants are essential. From this point, the office doesn’t need managing, it needs ‘leading’. With the Right at Home systems and policies in place, the office operations run themselves. This leaves time to ensure we are delivering quality at all times and to look for new business opportunities and growth.

There are still some points about running the office that no franchisee will look forward to, such as payroll. I like to remind myself though that for every pound spent on carers, the actual revenue coming in is greater than this. With no stock holding, limited overheads and the fact we have normally collected client invoices before we complete payroll, even paying your employees can be fulfilling! 

How does the actual experience compare to your earlier expectations?
The importance of quality and the difference it can make to a person’s life is far more important than I had previously expected. With my corporate and operational experience behind me I had no concerns about being able to run any business. My concern about the care sector was my lack of knowledge and slight fear about providing care myself. From a health and social care knowledge perspective and thanks to the training provided by the franchisor I have quickly removed any concerns I had about lack of care experience. I am now very comfortable discussing and even leading conversations with seasoned professionals on personalisation, dignity, choice, respect, independence etc. It is surprising how much I have learnt in a short period of time.

The concern about actually providing care myself was also quickly removed. The franchisor training provides all the knowledge you need but it is nothing compared to actually doing it for the first time. Whilst it is not common practice to schedule myself onto care calls, if we pick up a new client or if a customer requires additional support I have been known to go and help. If you don’t have a caring nature then you shouldn’t consider working within the care sector; if you do have a caring nature then actually providing the hands-on care will come easy to you. 

After completing your training, what kind of support have you received from your franchisor? Has it proved worthwhile?
It is fair to say that we wouldn’t have been able to get through the initial CQC inspection if it wasn’t for the franchisor team. As our business has grown rapidly we also relied on the franchisor’s team to help us put procedures and policies in place to cope with our growth.

In addition to the regular webinars, weekly performance calls and conferences, I have relied on the franchisor’s office to be at the other end of the phone whenever I need them. I have often wondered how I would have got through some situations if I had been an independent start-up operator and didn’t have the franchisor supporting me. This support and guidance is what I paid the franchise fee for and is worth every penny.

I have worked closely with the National Business Development team exploring networking opportunities and benchmarking my office against the top performers in the network. As a competitive individual I find it extremely motivating to see how well the other offices are performing and to set myself targets to beat them. If I was a stand-alone independent then I don’t think I would have pushed my business to the level it is now without being able to see other offices success.

Do you feel you have sufficient control over the way you run your office?
The franchisor has given me full and complete control over the way I run the office. Ken and the team are tuned in to the fact that I am an entrepreneur and do not want to be told how to do everything. If I did want this, I would get a job!

In a relatively short period of time, I have taken Right at Home Derby into new business opportunities and directions that had not been previously explored by Right at Home. From the outset the franchisor has asked challenging questions to ensure that we will be able to deliver quality and be profitable in these new ventures, but at the same time they have been encouraging and supportive as we looked for new ways to grow our business.

What ideas have you been able to introduce?
Right at Home Derby was initially set up to look after the older adult (post-65) demographic. Early on though we discovered opportunities with younger adults with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. This is a completely separate market and service offering than the older adults. With the help and support of the franchisor, we have built a strong market position and reputation for providing outcome driven support plans to help young adults achieve their independence within the community. As well as the fulfilment of helping a young adult become independent and, with support, live on their own with a life of their choosing, the age profile of this sector and therefore the longevity of the contract make a compelling business case. A large percentage of our business is now working with younger adults.

What has been the most satisfying aspect of the business so far?
There are several most satisfying aspects for different reasons; signing the first client, achieving single month profitability in our 3rd month of trading, providing employment in the local area etc. The most satisfying though has to be the difference that we can make to our customers lives. The video on our website made by our first customer clearly demonstrates this difference. For the right reasons, this customer is now independent and has regained her confidence after a stroke to the extent that she is no longer reliant on support. There cannot be anything more satisfying than that.

What have been the biggest challenges?
There are administration and business set-up challenges that every business faces. The biggest unique challenge to our business though is matching the right carer to the customer. Whilst training, knowledge and experience are all vital elements of providing quality care, finding carers with the right personality and communication skills to match our customers is essential.

Our care assistants do more than provide personal care, medication, meal preparation etc; quite often they are the only people that our customer may see all day. Spending quality time in a companionship manner is the most important factor that truly makes a difference to people’s lives.

At Right at Home Derby, we use psychometric testing, employee profiling, carer skill matching software to help match carers to clients. Ultimately though, it is our free of charge introduction to their proposed carer prior to commencing support and the guarantee of continuity of carer that makes such a difference to the individual.

Can you describe your typical working day?
As most business owners know, there is no such thing as a typical day! Each day of the week has a different routine. Recruitment, client acquisition, rotas and scheduling, invoicing, payroll, assessments, training all need to be accomplished on a weekly basis.

A day may consist of:
Either go to the gym on the way to the office or cycle in for around 830am. Shower and change before a chat with the registered manager about what the objectives and priorities are for that day. If we are not careful though, our discussion on what we can do to help our clients further would last till lunchtime.

Our discussion is normally curtailed though by a new enquiry or an assessment for a new client. The registered manager is the backbone of the business handling the majority of the administration functions, new client assessments and care planning. This allows me to spend time during the day on networking, client acquisition, marketing and business development.

Between 10am and 4pm I will have meetings with networking groups, potential referral sources, local authorities and social workers. My roles as a Dignity Champion, Dementia Friend Champion and management committee member for Derby Choice allow me to work within the community to help improve the lives of people in need. I will probably spend at least an hour a day representing one of these organisations.

Around 4pm we will convene back at the office to discuss successes and opportunities. Schedules are double-checked to ensure that carers will be providing support through the evening and the following day. I will typically leave the office around 6pm to provide taxi driver services to one of my own children.

Whilst there is no such thing as a 9-5 job for a business owner as I will often clear emails, write blogs, do social media etc. into the evening, the work/life balance and overall hours spent are significantly more controlled than the 80-90 hours I was doing in the corporate world. I have to say, the 10-15 minute commute into the office is a dream!


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