Experience with homecare / seniorcare franchises?
January 18, 2013 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I want to start a business while helping people in my city. One option would be to purchase a homecare franchise, such as Visiting Angels, Home Helpers, Senior Helpers, Comfort Keepers, etc. I understand that these franchises might cost anywhere from $50k - $150k plus ongoing fees. Alternately, I could hang out a shingle and start my own without any outside support. I have financial experience, but I have never done homecare and I have never owned or operated my own business. Does anybody have experience or advice with related to buying or operating a homecare franchise? Does your franchise treat its members well? Does it make sense to purchase one from a well-known provider or start from scratch? I welcome all feedback and advice!
posted by 0110 to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What does the franchise take care of on the billing end? Basically any senior services stuff needs to be set up to take Medicare/Medicaid/etc. (unless you're catering to rich people paying in cash) and you'll either need to set up your own Medicare billing infrastructure, or farm it out somewhere. I can't tell you about the specific agencies you name (and whether they provide decent service and/or support to their franchisees) but the less agencies you are dealing with, the easier it is to keep your ducks in a row. And when you're dealing with the shambling behemoth that is Medicare, you want your ducks in a row as best you can.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on January 18, 2013

If you've never done homecare or owned a business, it seems like jumping in to start a homecare business from scratch might be a bit much. To me it sounds like a lot to even start a franchise if you don't have any experience working with seniors or running a business. Is there any way you could work for a group like this for a year or two to find out what the work is like, and what kinds of organizational stuff you like or don't like about an existing homecare business? This experience would be valuable to you as a future business owner. It was also be extra valuable to you as a future potential boss, because you'll know what kinds of things your employees are dealing with. Plus, you'll find out whether you actually enjoy working with seniors, which would be a good thing to find out before you invest a ton of money.
posted by vytae at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you're considering starting a business in a field you know nothing about, having never run a business before. This is... problematic. You need to at the very least partner with someone with significant experience operating this sort of enterprise. The amount and level of detail of help you need here, I don't think AskMe can provide you.
posted by eugenen at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I have never done homecare and I have never owned or operated my own business

Go work for one. Do your research and apply to ones in your area that are highly rated (by a variety of metrics) and learn it from the inside out. ACA (aka Obamacare) regulations are and will be making changes to how a lot of home health care things are handled, and the more detailed knowledge you have about how these changes will look on the ground the better off you'll be in terms of deciding whether or not to go into this at all, and if so, how best to serve your clients without (inadvertently) getting in trouble with the regulatory bodies.
posted by rtha at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also how much of the licensing do they handle? Anything that remotely deals with healthcare has to be licensed ten times over, which means dealing with more behemoths on the city/town, state and federal levels. If they're providing that service for you (i.e. "fill out these forms and send them back to us and we'll do the rest") that saves you a lot of time on your end. Dealing with the government yourself is playing on Hard from the get-go.
posted by griphus at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2013

Have you heard of Father Flanagans's Home for Boys in Omaha, Nebraska? Father Flanagan started out with old men, then gave that up and went to the other end of life. Be sure you know what you are getting into!
If you decide to go ahead with elder care, bless you.
posted by Cranberry at 11:42 AM on January 18, 2013

Beyond Medicare, is also an insurance suppliment issue. Licenses for employees, equipment usage license, med license, coordinating with doctors, security/background checks. You're looking into a lot. But good luck if you take the leap.
posted by stormpooper at 12:17 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My husband has a senior industry franchise. A few thoughts.

1. Regardless of the type of business, you need to get an idea of time to profitability, and figure that into your costs. If it takes you a year to get profitable and your family needs $10k a month, that's an additional $120k. Typically, when you buy into a franchise, there is a two-way interview process, so you can ask them what that time typically is. If you step out on your own, the time is probably longer than if you buy into a franchise. It could easily take you a couple years to get established. Either way, I would talk to a few franchisees in your area to get an idea.

2. As others pointed out, senior care industry is heavily regulated on both the federal and the state levels. However, as daunting as that is, IMHO marketing is even more daunting. It's all about client referrals, and you can ask the franchise how many referrals come from corporate (vs. hustling for clients yourself). If referrals are high, it's a no-brainer to go the franchise route. If referrals are low, I would ask why, and question if the business is viable at all. I would be especially mindful of state regulations which can vary wildly from state to state, making some business completely unviable in a particular state (as just one example, some states have strict conflict-of-interest rules re. referrals from medical or social worker personnel). Also, remember that whether you are paying into the common marketing pot or paying for your own marketing, you are still paying.

3. Most people don't know about this but there are franchise consultants out there that offer free services to potential franchisees. They will evaluate your skills, desires, etc. and educate you on pre-audited franchises available for purchase in your area. We used FranChoice (I think).

If I were you, I would talk to a few franchises and try to figure out what's involved in terms of "runway" before any other decisions. It may well be that you can afford the initial investment (e.g. $100k for the franchise, or for your own startup capital) but not 2 years of zero income.
posted by rada at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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