Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. In celebration of Memorial Day, we're running a series celebrating veterans in franchising. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
Nick Colgin knows every possible side of caregiving. While deployed in Afghanistan, he earned a Bronze Star for saving the life of a French soldier that had been shot in the head and helped rescue 42 Afghan villagers from a flooding river. Then, after rocket propelled grenade hit his Humvee, Colgin learned the other side of caregiving when he needed assistance to walk, write and even struggling to speak. Today, Colgin helps others in a new way: as a franchisee for Right at Home, a home care franchise. Here's what he's learned over the years about caregiving and franchising.
Name: Nick Colgin
Franchise owned: Right at Home – located in Western Massachusetts
How long have you owned the franchise?
After having served in the military, I felt that a franchise had a lot of similarities to that of the military. In the military, we had Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). A franchise comes with its own SOPs. Basically, all the tools and resources are there, it’s up to you to use them in a manner to be successful. The best part though, is unlike the Army, I don’t have to do pushups if I make a mistake because I own the franchise.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Following leaving the military, I fell into a position at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) after I was fortunate enough of having President Obama tell my story in a speech to the nation. So there I was, a small town Virginia boy, living in Manhattan and working on veteran issues for the first and largest nonprofit for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Because it was a nonprofit, I had a number of jobs ranging from speaking in major media, fundraising major gifts, working on corporate partnerships, but above all, spending time with veterans.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
It was an easy choice to pick Right at Home. Of all the home care franchises, they seemed to be the most innovate and focused on quality. I often times find myself comparing them to being the Apple of the home care industry. And at the end of the day, doing the right thing and having a core system of values was important to me. The Army had strong values, IAVA had strong values, and I do a lot of things in my life, such as guiding blind people up mountains, which are focused on having strong values. Right at Home ended up having a lot of those same values.
How did your experience in the military prepare you for franchise ownership?
I had a rather high profile career in the military, especially during my 15 month deployment to Afghanistan as an airborne medic with the 82D Airborne. I earned a Bronze Star for saving the life of a French soldier that had been shot in the head. I went on to help rescue 42 Afghan villagers from a flooding river. Then, something unexpected happened. A rocket propelled grenade (RPG) hit off the right side of my Humvee.
I came home unable to spell my own name, unable to walk without a cane, and I could barely speak. I had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I had been this helper, and needed help for the first time in my life. It gave me a perspective on how to provide care. And when I began working on veteran’s issues, I found out there were delays in getting proper care to some of the older veterans such as members of the Greatest Generation. That was my call to action. I knew that I had to take my experience and skills into the home care industry to care for our nation’s seniors and disabled, veteran or civilian.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Franchise Fees – Location 1: $45,000 – Location 2: $33,000
Rent (six months)- $5,000
Insurance - $3,000
Furniture & Fixtures - $5,400
Marketing - $12,000
Computers/Software - $5,000
Office Equipment - $1,500
Travel & Training - $5,600
Permits - $1,500
Professional Fees - $3,000
Signage - $1,500
Operating Funds (9 months) - $30,000
Salary (Living Expenses) - $48,000
Misc. Expenses - $7,500
Total - $207,750
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Since I was only 28 when I took this on, there was a steep learning curve. I did a business program for veterans through an organization called Fullbridge, I spoke with various CEO’s in NYC, and I used a consultant to get me through the process of purchasing Right at Home. Throughout the entire process, I made sure to speak with anyone I could to soak in advice. I didn’t get through 15 months in Afghanistan without relying on my battle-buddies to my left and right. I knew I couldn’t get through the first year of owning a business without doing the same.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The largest challenges we faced when opening was picking a poor time of the year to open, and not expecting rapid growth. While I have owned the franchise for over a year now, we actually didn’t open doors until later in 2013 because we had to get the proper licenses for Massachusetts. Business was quite stagnant due to the holidays and it was hard to get meetings with anyone at hospitals or senior facilities.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Just go for it. Life is about taking chances, and this is one of the least risky chances you can take if you are willing to put the work in. It is such a relief being my own boss and seeing the company grow. It also helps that we are changing lives daily and providing life sustaining care to seniors and disabled adults in Massachusett.
What advice do you have for other veterans who want to own their own franchise?
If you succeeded in the military, it is easier to succeed in a franchise system. There are a lot of parallels, and you don’t have to go it alone. Right at Home is like the Pentagon, and I run my division how I see fit with their support. It’s a great relationship. And if you have any doubts, remember, you have overcome a lot of adversity in the military and what is inside you is stronger than anything in your way.
What’s next for you and your business?
Right now, we are just focused on growth. It has always been a goal to gross $1 million in a year, so we are trying to push towards that. Lastly, we are trying to leverage some of the unused outreach methods typically found in the home care industry. I want to leverage my youth to focus more on digital engagement. It seems to be a wide open avenue in Massachusetts to grow the company.