Welcome to Vision | The Home Care Leaders Podcast. I’m Miriam Allred with Home Care Pulse. My guests today are from HomeWell Care Services. We’ve got the CEO, Crystal Franz, and we’ve also got Will Childers, one of the franchise owners. Crystaland Will, welcome to the show!
Absolutely. Well, it’s been a really exciting year for HomeWell. Crystal, you are recently appointed as the CEO. Tell me a little bit about the new structure of leadership and what’s taken place over the last few months.
Yeah, so definitely an exciting time for HomeWell Care Services. I would say what has culminated in the last few months has really started a couple of years ago under our new ownership and that is really, you know, looking at home care as an opportunity and seeing how we can fit home care services to position itself, to take advantage of the opportunity that we really see in the home care industry. And so over the last couple of years, we have really invested in our brand looked at making sure that we have a brand that resonates with consumers and referral sources that really sets us ourselves up for success. And then furthermore restructuring our leadership team at our corporate office to make sure that we have the experts in the areas that we believe are needed to really provide our owners very good success.
You know, we want to further our mission to provide home care for all everybody who needs it and what we believe to be extremely quality care. And so we have recently restructured our leadership team to do that. One of the things that we’ve looked at is really putting a emphasis on going deep. You know, one of the things I tell my team often is that we’re not looking at going in a mile wide and an inch deep. We’re really looking to do conversely mile deep and an inch wide really being able to dig into our level of expertise. So, you know, again, we really want to make sure that we’re able to provide the level of care that we believe home while our homo franchisees do and putting these leadership folks in their positions. We feel like we’re very poised to do so.
What an exciting time at home? Well, to, you know, just have a new leadership. A lot of you have been there with the company for a number of years, but always an, an exciting time to appoint new leaders. Let’s talk a little bit about the growth that HomeWell experienced over 2020. Talk to me a little bit about the new locations that you opened and some of the financial growth that you experienced across the board in the last months.
Sure. Yes, 2020 was a record setting for us. As you can imagine, you know, I, it, it was one of those years with the pandemic that it was a little bit unknown. You know, we, we knew in March and April that we weren’t going to back down, we weren’t going to sit on our laurels and that we were going to dig deep and continue to drive the processes and things that we had in place. Also while understanding that we were going to have to be nimble. And with that mentality, and with that drive, we had a very successful year from a franchise development perspective. We signed 19 contracts, brought bringing on 16 new owners. The other three were expansions. So even owners that are already in the system are seeing the opportunity in home care and looking to expand their business. We opened 13 new locations in 2020 so that’s huge for us. And then from a financial standpoint, we saw our corporate revenue grow up 26% year over year. And probably more importantly, we saw our system revenue growth grow 12% year over year at a time when it was, there was a lot of uncertainty.
That’s great to hear. There have been so many challenges, and obviously we see a lot of the negative or the hardships close, you know, up front and center in our, in our daily lives. But it’s great to hear that at the corporate and the system level, you were able to see growth over 2020, you know, that’s so exciting and great to hear. Let’s talk a little bit about what you were able to focus on that attributes to some of that success. Like I mentioned, you know, we focus a lot on the challenges or the hardships, but if you could highlight and boil all of your success down to maybe three areas of focus, what would you say those are?
First thing is really from a macro level, what we have witnessed, and I’m sure anyone in home care has seen the same. It’s all about capitalizing on this though, is really the fact that the pandemic has put a spotlight on home care and the need for the services that we provide. You know, it’s one of those things where our owners have, many of them are legacy owners have been in this business for, for over a decade or two, and just have been, you know, doing what they do best, but what the pandemic did was really provide this extreme spotlight on folks who want to stay home. You know, they w they want to stay in their homes, had an alternative, been in place for them to potentially not age in place. That alternative was quickly not as interesting in 2020. So due to the pandemic, you know, we were seeing this demand for home care and this overall awareness for nonmedical support services.
And so that really helped to catapult our value and really helped to bring awareness to that. And so we made sure owners were aware of that positivity, you know, like you said, when you are in the trenches and you’re looking for PPE and seeing, you know, your caregivers scared potentially to go into homes or your clients are scared to have people into their homes. It was really trying to keep our heads about us and understand that this is a huge moment for home care. And you know, we can be viewed not simply as this downstream option, but that we can really have a seat at the table. And so I really think that is one very key area of focus was just making sure that we became aware of the opportunity presented itself from the pandemic
Let’s maybe kick it over to Will. We’ve got Will here on with us as well. Will,You obviously saw the need and stepped up to the plate. Introduce yourself a little bit and talk to this concept that Crystal has just mentioned, you know, home care has been spotlighted over the last 12 months, and you obviously saw that and found the opportunity. So talk to us about that.
Well again, thank you for having me on my name is Will Childers and I am a HomeWell franchisee owner in Delaware. First territory was Southern Delaware. And since then I am one of those people who are expanding and I’ll be doing the whole state of Delaware here shortly. I actually started the process in January before the pandemic. And as fate would have it, actually, I was in Texas at our corporate office the first week of March last year, doing our franchisee training. And right about the time we landed back down here and I signed a lease for my new office was when everything shut down. So yeah, the pandemic was not on my mind at the time, but it has ended up being a benefit.
And you’ve experienced some growth over the last 12 months. Obviously there’s been a demand for home care. So tell us a little bit about what you’ve just experienced kind of high level over the last 12 months.
Yeah, well, I was ready to open a business or, or the home care business. I actually used to work in home care. And then I got into it kind of not fate when I started looking for a job because my former owner in home care wanted me to relocate. I opened up LinkedIn and there was the first thing on LinkedIn when I’m looking for a job was Crystal. And then I saw where Crystal worked and I was like, this is fate. This is God. And reached out to Crystal, and then we all hooked up together, but we’ve seen great success in eight year. We’ve grown to just under a hundred clients. I have just under a hundred caregivers now as well. And technically right now I’m billing about 2,500 hours a week. And on pace to be, you know, a multi-million dollar business this year.
Great to hear it well, really exciting time for you and your organization. I want to kick it back over to you, Crystal. You know, we just talked about kind of the one area of focus, home care, being spotlighted throughout pandemic, but what’s another area of focus that has led to so much success this year?
Homewell Care Services are homo-franchising being a pure franchise or obviously growing our national footprint is, is a big focus of ours as well. So we want to continue to have that unit growth. We also want to expand and continue, like I said, to open offices across the country. And so, you know, when you, when you look at the company from a franchise position, what we saw with the pandemic specifically is that other franchise opportunities that might fall somewhat in the range of comparison for a home care agency just were no longer a viable option. You know, we, we saw gyms and restaurants and things like that, all shutting down. And so people started to gravitate towards, you know, looking at the silver tsunami and looking at the opportunity and, you know, our leads for franchise development continued to grow dramatically. And what, again, I love about that is the fact that we’re getting wallet candidates coming to the table, who really are looking to further our mission.
And, you know, we find a lot of times that we get these candidates in who they really want to do well. And I think that, and they want to do good for people. And I think that’s something else that came out of the pandemic was this renewed sense of purpose from our owners that were already in the system and people that were looking to join our system. You know, we talked, you mentioned the pandemic brings up a lot of negativity and has a lot of connotations with shutdowns and masks and regulations and things like that. But really when you look and you see the past year for what it was worth, a lot of people Rose to the occasion. A lot of people began to help. And you know, one of our, our motto is ‘trusted care, true compassion’. And we saw a lot of compassion come out of the pandemic. And I believe that we benefited from that as well. You had people entrepreneurs want to come take advantage of the opportunity, but also build on the compassion that they have and wanting to help and do well in their communities and help seniors and help people who want to age in place do such do just that. And so, you know, I think that’s just another focus. It’s very qualitative, but it’s one that I don’t like to ignore, you know, because I do believe that it certainly played a role in our success.
Absolutely. It’s been so fulfilling to work in this industry over the last year because we have had to rise to the occasion. And I think I’ve talked with past guests about, you know, home care may not get as much attention as the workers in the hospitals or the facilities, but yet we are also, you know, providing the care in the home where people have had to stay the last 12 months. And it’s been just really unique and special to be in this industry at this time. I want to kick it over to you. We’ll talk to me about, you know, you said it was fate that you and crystal, you know, kind of knew each other and you found her on LinkedIn and that’s how you got started. But in Delaware, there’s obviously stiff competition. And you decided to go with HomeWell you know, rather than starting an independent, talk to me about some of the benefits of working with a franchise and having that, you know, structure and standardization from, from the get-go.
Well, I had worked in home care, you know, as a part of a franchise, one of the benefits definitely of franchising in general and specifically HomeWell is as far as your startup, you know, you have to do policies, procedures all these things to get your licensing and that’s time consuming. One of the great things, you know, I’ve found with HomeWell is they have a great library of policies and procedures, and you can take what they have generically and use it from state to state and modify specifically to your specific regulations and do that pretty quickly. That allowed me to be able to put together a 400 page policy manual in about 30 days. And I was licensed in less than 60. Additionally, the structure or the program management that homo gives to the franchisees when they first start with their support person. And the weekly phone calls is on very nice programmatic checklists of everything, those little things you forget to get this license or to do this, or to do that. The checklist is there and it keeps you on pace. And if you stick with it, you should, from, from a timely perspective, be able to stay on schedule and get yourself open as expeditiously as possible.
And that’s huge, you know, there’s a lot of logistics attached to starting up an agency, but to know that you can do it in a timely manner, especially over the last 12 months, you know, we’ve seen a lot of franchises and a lot of startups enter this space and to be able to do it so quickly with the demand being so high right now is huge. Let’s talk about another area of focus, crystal. I think you’ve got one more. Talk to me about this last area of focus that has really helped attribute to your success.
So I think this is probably still relatively in its infancy, but I think one of the other things that the pandemic has done to help us with, you know, set ourselves up for success is really focusing on the role of the caregiver. We hear quite frequently caregiver recruitment, caregiver retention is, is a challenge in, in the home care industry. I believe that the pandemic is going to help us really finally be able to give credit where it’s due and help us really understand the, you know, the caregivers should be appreciated for the work that they do, and they are the life source of our agencies. And again, back to what I was talking about with compassion, we’re seeing more people have a calling perhaps to caregiving that they didn’t have before, because there is this heightened awareness of people wanting to stay in their home and not wanting to avoid, you know, your alternatives to aging. And so having folks understand the role of caregiving, having our owners understand how to retain caregivers and really that engagement and that support.
I hope that that helps us in that challenge with recruitment and retention of the caregivers, really understanding that home care is a compassionate business. We’re looking for compassionate caregivers and that we’re going to do what we can to make sure that that you’re supported, you know, that our caregivers are supported, that they are part of our agencies part of the home health system. So they feel valued too. And I think if we can continue to capitalize on that and keep that a strong focus, I think that’s going to catapult us further too!
I love it. Sometimes it feels like all we talk about is caregiver recruitment and retention. It’s still top of mind, but, you know, I think we’re, we’re going to get there as an industry where, you know, the caregiver is front and center. We talked so much about it. And a lot of agencies and franchises are adapting and focusing on the caregiver. But I think as an industry, you know, we’re going to get there to where we’re doing it, right. And we’re going to see the results because happy caregivers really equal happy clients. And when we get there, it’ll just be this, you know, dance of, you know, it’ll just come together and work out so perfectly when we can figure that out fully as an industry.
And I think we’re on the path. I think we’re certainly on the path. I think we’re getting there so a lot of work to do, but I believe we’re, we’re heading in the right direction. I look forward to that day that we can dance too.
Will, you’ve seen it over the last 12 months. You’ve had to recruit and retain and I’m sure it has been difficult, but tell us about some of the successes that you’ve seen and how focusing so heavily on the caregiver has led you to some success.
Who had, who’s now been at home with that family member or their loved ones, the needs help. They actually have learned to appreciate caregivers more as well. So, but from a retention perspective, we’re doing pretty well. It all comes down to give them, giving them fair pay, treating the employees like a part of the team. As Crystal said, they’re a part of the homegrown team. We try to give them benefits and understand that these are not people making a lot of money, but they’re doing a selfless job. You know, even like with relationships or partnerships that homo has, I’m able to offer them free exit and life insurance, for example which for example, right now I have a caregiver who was out from a car accident, another caregiver who’s out specifically with COVID, but because they have this policy that I, you know, have decided to pay for just to give them a little benefit.
They’re getting a hundred dollars a day back, you know, when they filed a claim. So I think the other thing is understanding, like I said, as, you know, $12 – $15 an hour person, they have everyday problems just like anybody else. And you know, we’re out networking and meeting folks. And when you network and meet folks, you can’t just think about the people who can be direct referrals, or do you think of as direct referrals as sniffs and hospitals and things, everybody that you meet is a possible referral source. And if it’s not a direct referral source for clientele, it may be somebody, for example, like I keep good relationships with people in social services. So when a caregiver, you know, it was open enough to talk to me about a problem they’re having, why they’ve been late or why they’re missing work, because they’re, for example, in the true story, sleeping in their car or a homeless, I can talk or connect them with the people with social services, who’s going to help them with housing, had a caregiver just this weekend who you know, house burned down and helping connect them with different community resources and folks that I know through my network and helping them out so that they can survive, thrive.
I love that you talk specifically about some of the benefits that you’ve offered that have helped incentivize your caregivers, any other specific, I’m kind of putting you on the spot, but any other specific, you know, strategies that you’ve put in place over the last year that have really helped you retain caregivers and really help them feel, you know, bought into your agency and to the service that they’re providing.
Like I said, I think we, we, we do offer them the benefits. We, you know, we pay them to time and a half for the holidays which I know a lot of people don’t or I know a lot of other agencies don’t. Then we also, I mean, we do definitely just, I guess I’ll say, try to make them feel at home. We offer training I’ve, I’ve actually promoted to caregivers, to training coordinators in the past year and they, you know, if they go out to a client and we’re trying to grow everybody, if it may be a caregiver, who’s at the companionship level, but really is working hard and wants to do more and wants to get some of the bigger cases. I send them out, you know, with a trainer and teach them all those other skills to sort of, they can grow.
And when they grow and they’re more valuable to me and can handle higher acuity clients, you know, they additionally get raises and feel more valued as well. We also besides paying for the holidays, we offer PTO to our caregivers. You know, I know a lot of agencies or a lot of caregivers when they come on and they see that they’re getting paid for the holidays to get in PTO. We offer them, like I said, this free accidental insurance, which also comes with tele-health and a bunch of other different things. And all of that is provided by myself or the franchise directly at no cost to them, but then also offering them health insurance at a reasonable rate understanding their, their plate because they have families to take care of and, you know, helping a caregiver out, even when their car is down or whatever the case may be. If their cars they’ll, they’re not making money client’s not getting service, you’re not making money. And honestly, if they’re not working, they can’t pay to get it fixed either. So understanding their situations and making resources available to them so that they can keep thriving as well as you.
Thanks. Well, I love what you said about that career ladder, you know, giving the opportunity for your caregivers to progress and to grow into new roles. You know, we find, we’ve talked a lot about mentoring over the last six months here at home care polls have found time and time again, that having mentors for your caregivers really results in long-term retention. And so finding that way to build out your own career ladder at your own agency is so impactful. And it sounds like you guys are doing that and figuring that out, which is great.
It does. And you know, a funny thing, I’ve also found out about it. The relationships that grow between my trainers or my mentors and the caregivers is unbelievable. Some of the things that a caregiver is scared to call me about, or somebody at the office about they will call that trainer or that mentor all times, all times a day and all times a night and ask them anything or tell them about a problem they’re having. And, you know, you know, the mentor will tell them if it’s okay, let me just talk the will, I think will help you on it. You know, so it definitely, it breaks down that barrier sometimes between a caregiver and office, because let’s be realistic, a lot of caregivers once you’ve hired them, you may not see them, but once or twice a year in the office, again, if everything’s direct deposit and whatever, you know, so it keeps a face in front of them and the relationship fresh.
It gives them a platform where they feel comfortable to speak up and share how they’re truly feeling through that, through that trainer, that mentor. So really great to hear. Let’s take kind of a step back here as we’re kind of in closing here. Just any words of advice for other agency owners right now, you’ve just been in your role a number of months, but like you said, you’ve been franchising and in this industry for a lot of years, what have you learned and what advice would you give to other agency owners to continue forward at this time?
So, one of the things that also 2020 brought to us was really look having to look at our business through a different lens. And it forced us to do things differently in a very rapid amount of time. You know, I I’ve been in very large corporations where it’s like moving the Titanic. If you want to introduce any kind of new initiative, or if you’re looking to just approach your business or, or particular program differently. And one of the things that we were very forced to to do very quickly was to embrace digital digital initiatives in home care. And really, you know, not just relying on those traditional sales tactics. And so we quickly dove into training and helping our owners understand the value and figuring out how to extrapolate value from things like LinkedIn potential search, social media advertising, things like that.
And so I would say as the world starts opening up, the country starts opening up more to diversify your, your, your lead sources and continue to, you know, look at the digital side as well as the sales side or your traditional sales side and together find that optimal you know, algorithm for what’s going to maximize both caregiver recruitment and client lead sources. So that’s certainly one I think another, as we talked about the awareness of home care and really that strong seat at the table and recognizing that we can be very much a player in that continuum of care is to make that, you know, you are collecting your data, you know, making sure that you are putting your data together, that you have your house in order that you are proving your value quantitatively as well.
Because Michelle Cone, who I said, she’s our resident home care expert. She hounds on this daily that as we see the industry evolving and evolving quickly in light of the pandemic we have to be ready. You know, we are going to get the opportunity to have a strong seat at that table, but we want to be ready to sit down and prove our value so that we can definitely take advantage of those opportunities. So I would say the diverse lead sources really taking the learnings from 2020 and continue to apply them as well as becoming much more sophisticated and comprehensive in our data capture
Really well said, I’m jotting down some notes and I wrote down adaptability and data. Those two words, really good summary of what we need to, what we’ve learned and what we need to do moving forward. It’s been an absolute pleasure. There’s so many exciting things going on at home. Well, and it’s been a journey the last 12 months, but we’re excited to see where you all had over the next 12 months and the years down the road. So thank you both for joining me today and we’ll look forward to connecting again in the future.
For more discussions with top CEOs and industry leaders, join me at the Home Care Growth Summit on March 16th through 18th. It’s a virtual three-day conference hosted by Home Care Pulse with over 20 of the top leaders and innovative minds in home care, coming together to discuss industry trends and best practices for all things home care. To learn more and get registered, visit homecarepulse.com. Thanks again. We’ll see you next time!