Franchise Players: Finding a Niche in a Crowded Market
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Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Wann was used to being a smaller part of huge international corporations. However, he knew someday he wanted to start his own business. Opening a Homewatch CareGivers business in Florida, Wann faced a saturated caregiving market. However, instead of competing, he found his own niche – long-distance caregivers managing the care of loved ones. Here's how he set his business apart.
Name: Greg Wann
Franchise owned (location): Sarasota, Fla.
How long have you owned the franchise?
Three and a half years.
After spending most of my career working at large international corporations, the first major decision I made was really to start my own business. I reached a point in my career where I wanted my goals, phone calls, emails and daily interactions to be dramatically different. In other words, I wanted to have more of a direct impact on clients, the community and the course of my own life. For example, I used to spend lots of time in conference rooms and on the phone, whereas now I’m in the field and talking to people—clients and their families—face-to-face every day.
Once I decided to start my own business, it became clear that franchising was the best way for me to realize the professional and personal goals I set out to pursue. I was in my forties and didn’t want to start from scratch in such an intricate industry as elder care. So I needed to leverage the expertise of people in the network, as well as the reputation of an established brand. Particularly in the home care industry, you need that solid foundation and support network even before you open your doors. The regulatory and licensing requirements are complex and really demanding in Florida, so it’s essential to partner with a franchisor that can guide you through the process — and connect you with other franchisees willing to do the same.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I spent nearly two decades in the corporate world, first in accounting and eventually as an HR executive at the Walt Disney Company. In that capacity, I lived abroad for about four years in Hong Kong and France. After spending most of my career at Disney, I spent a few years in the nonprofit world working for World Vision International. That position required a lot of international travel as well. As a lot of people know, the corporate world can be very rewarding, but also demanding. I had some amazing experiences and accomplished a lot of my professional goals, but sometimes those goals change. For me, it eventually became about independence, control and time for my family.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Two things really mattered for me at the end of the day: 1) The caliber of other franchise owners, and 2) the character and competence of the franchisor and senior leadership team of the franchisor. Homewatch CareGivers International clearly fit that bill.
When you start researching franchises, you realize early on that the expertise, reputation and support of other franchise partners will be key to your success. At the beginning of the validation process, Homewatch CareGivers put me in touch with five franchisees, and I spent about an hour on the phone with all of them. I walked away from every one of those conversations impressed. Not just because of the their business acumen, but their sincerity—about their clients, service and the success of the entire network. I myself do validation calls now with potential franchisees because I know the value of those conversations and the impact they can have on your decision.
At Homewatch CareGivers, that culture of collaboration and commitment to quality service wasn’t just something I heard from franchisees, I saw it reflected and fostered at the corporate level as well. And that really influenced my decision to partner with Homewatch CareGivers. My conversations with other franchisors seemed to lean toward the topics of financial success, marketing and rapid growth. My conversations with Homewatch CareGivers corporate were different—although financial success and growth were important, it was also clear that providing quality service, maintaining a focus on people and market planning were seen as ways to achieve business success.
When you are choosing a franchisor, you are really choosing a long-term business partner, so corporate culture and leadership matter. In short, Homewatch CareGivers President, Leann Reynolds, was the kind of leader I wanted to associate myself with. After years in the corporate world, she returned to the business her father founded—as a franchisee. She commands a lot of respect because she’s been in our shoes.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
My investment was probably higher than most because of the licensing requirements for the state I’m operating in – Florida is one of the more regulated states and therefore one of the most expensive states in which to obtain a home care license. Homewatch CareGivers estimates that the investment necessary to begin operations is from $83,750 to $136,500, which includes the franchise fee, three months working capital and other office and startup costs. This investment cost is based on varying factors, including the size of the territory you purchase, whether your state requires licensing and the cost of operating in your local market area.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Most of my research I did online and through phone calls or meetings. Once I decided I wanted to live in Sarasota and start a home care business, I spent a lot of time learning about the different franchises with that territory open. I found the best way to learn about a franchise is in talking to franchisees and senior leadership.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I knew from my research that regulatory and licensing requirements in Florida would be a challenge but, like anything in life, you never really know until you go through it! I basically had to start operations prior to opening in order to get my business license. For example, you are required to show you have a nurse on staff, emergency management program and ongoing training plan when you apply for your license. There are actually consultants in Florida who make a living guiding people through the complicated process! I did it on my own, but was lucky to have support from Homewatch CareGivers corporate leadership and other franchise owners familiar with the process.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Define your business goals for the short, medium and long term. Having clarity on the growth process and your own expectations is really important when you are starting out. It’s not just about financial benchmarks, but imagining what you want your role in the business to be at various stages and how you want your day to day life to look. Select a franchisor that allows for enough independence and flexibility to enable you to grow professionally and eventually focus on certain aspects of the business that you like. But be aware that getting to that point requires a lot of work at the outset.
Once you’ve established your goals, make sure that the franchisor you choose can support that vision along the way. I mean this in terms of the franchise’s business model as well as its culture and values. You want to be thorough in researching the legal and financials, but also make sure you’d be proud to be associated with the franchisor.
What’s next for you and your business?
My business has grown to a point where I have a bit more free time, and I want to spend it with my family as well as engaging with the community. I really like that aspect of the business and would like to focus on it more. I also want to continue achieving steady growth.