Cover Story May/June 2019

Keeping Up with the Boomers

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Canada’s population of baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – is getting closer and closer to retirement. For franchise systems operating in the senior care sector, this is good news. The first baby boomers turning 65 in 2011 led to the largest increase (+20 per cent) in the number of people 65 years of age and older in Canada in 70 years, according to Statistics Canada. This rapid increase in the number of Canadians 65 and older since 2011 has led to a growing demand for home and senior care service providers that offer seniors transportation, healthy meals, independent living assistance, and more.

Luckily, the franchise model has stepped in to meet this massive demand. Franchise systems and their franchisees are prepared to help with a wider range of senior care service. From medical and non-medical in-home care to services that help seniors maintain mobility, proper nutrition, and independence, franchises assisting the growing senior population in Canada provide a variety of services as diverse as the demographic they serve. Here, Franchise Canada takes a look at five franchises that are helping Canada’s seniors live full, independent lives.

Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy isn’t simply a transportation service. The franchise also provides assistance and accompani­ment to improve quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities or special needs. “We call ourselves ‘caregivers with cars’,” says Elfriede Lane, who operates Driving Miss Daisy in Niagara Region, Ontario with her husband Terry.

“We saw a need for this kind of support service for seniors during my mother’s own experience with dete­riorating health and independence,” says Lane. As they investigated the logistics of starting a business to help seniors preserve their independence and prevent social isolation, their research led them to Driving Miss Daisy.

“We thought, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. This brand aligned with our vision and values, had best practices in place, and was a reasonable investment for the potential return. The rates we get on vehicle insur­ance and liability as a franchise we would never be able to get on our own. Plus it’s a great name – it’s our best advertising!”

The husband-wife duo appreciates the support and guidance they have received from Driving Miss Daisy’s head office, including navigating startup issues. They also value the autonomy they have, within franchise guidelines, to customize services to suit the local com­munity, and to grow in a way that works best for them. “We started with one vehicle – a small SUV – and have added two wheelchair vans and a small multi-passenger van,” says Lane. “Different franchisees might make dif­ferent choices.”

Whether accompanying a client to a medical appoint­ment or to board a flight, or driving a vanload of clients to a local community support agency, the Lanes say the best part of running a Driving Miss Daisy franchise is the people they meet and the relationships they build. Their only regret? “We wish we had done it sooner!”

Heart to Home Meals

Chetan and Roshni Bahl have training and experience in the hospitality industry, but they say that customer service and relationship building skills, coupled with being caring, empathetic and patient, are equally important to the success of their Heart to Home Meals franchise in Edmonton. “Growing up in India, my grandparents helped raise me and all generations shared family meals,” says Chetan. “We are committed to helping seniors improve the quality of their lives by offering a choice that makes it easier for them to live more independently. Having more control over your diet has tremendous health benefits.”

They chose to become a franchise partner with Heart to Home Meals mainly because the franchise aligns with their values and expertise. “You feel satisfied at the end of the day, when you realize how important independence is to seniors,” explains Chetan. There were other reasons, including Heart to Home Meals’ high-quality and great-tasting product line (over 200 frozen soups, entrees, and desserts, with meals designed by nutritionists); a user-friendly print and online catalogue (food items are colour-coded, with a range of dietary choices from low sodium, no sugar, or high fibre to gluten-, dairy- or peanut-free); training, support, and backing provided by the franchisor; and financial accessibility (reasonable franchise and start-up fees, no royalties – franchisees are only charged for the food they order).

Heart to Home Meals is not a subscription service – clients order what they want, when they want. “We do a lot of marketing to seniors’ centres and also work with hospitals and dieticians. When a client has a list of allowable foods, it can be time consuming to assemble and prepare meals with those dietary restrictions,” says Roshni. Heart to Home Meals offers a convenient alternative, with free delivery to the client’s home by helpful and caring staff who have been empowered to do the little things that help build relationships and a loyal client base.

Just Like Family Home Care

Jen Dimatatac worked in the home care field for 10 years as a caregiver, then a registered nurse, and had looked into working independently when she discovered Just Like Family Home Care. “Starting by yourself in a competitive field is very hard. Being part of a franchise system is extremely useful,” she says. “This was one of the more affordable franchises. They have great training and marketing programs, excellent 24/7 support in all stages of growth, their system is easy to follow, and everybody is very professional and friendly.” Dimatatac finds the franchise-supplied software systems are useful for scheduling staff, and tracking and billing clients. If she has any questions the corporate office responds quickly.

Dimatatac does little front-line work these days, relying on her team of 20 staff members to provide in-home services to clients. While franchise owners need not have experience in nursing services, Dimatatac says that her background has been helpful for her to fill in when unexpected staff absences arise.

“Helping seniors with everything they need to have a happier and safer life is what motivates me and our caregivers,” she says. The company’s services – which include personal care, companionship, home support, and overnight/live in care – are personalized to meet the needs of individuals, to enable them to continue living in their own home.
When she was originally researching and considering different options, Dimatatac was first drawn to Just Like Family by the name. “I’ve always tried to treat my clients the same way I would treat my family members,” she says. “With what Just Like Family teaches you, if you always follow the system and are 100 per cent committed, heart and soul, anybody can be a successful franchisee.”

LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic

LIVE WELL is a medical fitness clinic specializing in supervised exercise and healthy-lifestyle coaching for the prevention and treatment of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Vancouver franchisees, husband-and-wife team Andrew Taylor and Tory Brooks-Hill, are excited about the emerging medical fitness industry and their ability to have a positive impact on the health of seniors.

“Regardless of current activity levels or health status, regular exercise is the best first line of treatment and prevention for any chronic health condition,” says Brooks-Hill. “But each person needs to know ‘what is safe for me, based on my personal health history?’”

Clients are often referred to LIVE WELL by family doctors. A LIVE WELL Clinical Exercise Physiologist will design a unique program for each client, and vitals will be monitored in every exercise session. For people with a sedentary lifestyle, starting an exercise program can be daunting. LIVE WELL facilities are designed to not look like a traditional gym, and exercise programs are in a small-group setting and designed to be fun and social.

Being part of an emerging trend has both advantages and challenges, says Brooks-Hill. “With the large baby boomer population there is an opportunity to work with a significantly large demographic. But being in a new industry means there is no blueprint for success—as each new clinic opens, we learn from each other and continuously improve as a franchise system.”

“We did a lot of due diligence. This franchise has a strong training program and lots of ongoing support, easy to use systems, weekly coaching calls, and assistance to help grow the business. We currently have two clinics, and we’re looking at opening a third location.”

Prep’n Sell

The aptly named Prep’n Sell helps homeowners prepare their home before it goes on the market.

“Typically, I will get a call from a real estate agent to do our ‘reno magic’ to make sure a home shows well,” says west coast franchisee Richard Foster. “If it’s a home that a family has been living in for two plus decades, styles might be dated or they might not have kept up with small repairs.” Whether it’s cleaning, de-clutter­ing, fixing, painting, renovating, roofing, moving items, or some other task, Prep’n Sell offers a one-phone-call solution – and that, says Foster, is one of the things that makes this business concept stand out.

“I’ve had rental properties and flipped houses, but what drew me to Prep’n Sell is that it is a unique idea,” says Foster. He could have run a similar business run­ning solo, but “I wanted to hit the ground running instead of spending a couple of years before I got it right. It’s a relatively inexpensive franchise to buy into, and you can be profitable quite quickly.”

While Foster has a handyman background, that’s not a requirement. “Ideally I’m not on the tools, I’m out meet­ing with customers. Reno knowledge would be helpful, and it’s important to be able to know what to look for, but it’s more important to have excellent communica­tion skills and to be good at networking. Most of the time you’ll be working with realtors, subcontractors, the trades, and of course customers.”

Lining up good people to do the actual work and keeping them happy is one of the business’s biggest challenges, says Foster. He keeps about a dozen work­ers busy, including painters, electricians, plumbers and general handymen. “I throw them a lot of work, and I pay as soon as I know the client is happy, so when I call they put me at the top of the pile.”

By Kym Wolfe