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 email@example.com.
Page Cole has always centered his career on assisting others. For 23 years, that meant working as a Baptist minister, first with teenagers, and later as an executive pastor at large churches. While his job as an executive minister provided Cole with a six-figure salary, it didn't give him the opportunity to directly work with people who needed his assistance. So, at age 43 he took a leap of faith and decided to open a senior care franchise. Here's what Cole has learned as a Visiting Angels franchisee.
Name: Page Cole
Franchise owned: Visiting Angels in Tulsa, Owasso, and Bartlesville, Okla.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I purchased my first territory covering the suburbs of Tulsa in December of 2006. I purchased the Tulsa metro territory in April of 2009, and then opened the Bartlesville territory in January of 2011.
After a 23 year career as a Baptist minister, I was making a career change at 43 years old. I knew that by stepping outside of my previous career track and education, I had a much better chance of succeeding if I had the strength, experience and support of a franchise behind me. Visiting Angels gave me the support I needed.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I had been an executive pastor in large churches for several years, and before that had served in churches in working with teenagers.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Although I loved what I did in the local church, I wasn’t as directly involved in the lives of people as I had been in other roles and in smaller churches. I wanted a chance to care for people in their points of greatest need and crisis. I had always loved working with seniors and Visiting Angels gave me that hands-on opportunity I was searching for. With Visiting Angels, it’s so rewarding to provide seniors with Alzheimer’s/dementia care, palliative care, social companionship, light meal preparation and housekeeping, medication monitoring, transportation to doctors and more. We make a real difference in the daily lives of seniors. I chose Visiting Angels over other homecare franchises because I was so impressed with their system of communication between owners and corporate, and the support they offered their franchisees.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Franchise Fee (in 2006): $26,000
License/Training (in 2006): $5,500
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I did my initial research on the internet. I followed that up with research through the Better Business Bureau, talking with current owners of various home care agencies, and with key people at businesses and organizations who referred to or worked with home care agencies. Everyone I spoke with had wonderful things to say about not only the services Visiting Angels provides but they also spoke highly of the Visiting Angels team.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I felt challenged because of my newness to the industry. I had become very knowledgeable and proficient in my previous job, and suddenly I was running a business where I had very little training or expertise. But I quickly overcame that challenge because Visiting Angels provided me support and guidance every step of the way.
The other challenge was a financial one. As I’m sure any business owner would tell you, when opening a new business, every dime has a name on it. Watching every expenditure is something I hadn’t done in years, but it has more than paid off. Not only did this Visiting Angels franchise allow me to create a new career where I could continue to give back to others, but financially, it has been a great investment for my family.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
First, I’d say you HAVE to get your own financial house in order. You need at least six month’s salary saved, and it’s better if you could have 12 months. Eliminate as much debt as you can. Personal money issues can overwhelm you while you’re trying to deal with the day to day financial pressures of owning your own franchise.
Second, I’d say compare, compare, compare! There are usually more than one franchise in whatever field or business you’re interested in. Compare franchise purchase costs, monthly franchise and advertising fees, other costs associated with the franchise. Some have major requirements and/or limitations regarding storefronts, advertising or hiring practices. Make sure that you’re comparing not just what you’re buying, but what you’ll have to live with after you buy it.
Finally, you MUST talk to several current franchise owners. Visiting Angels encouraged me to call any one of their franchisees and ask questions. I encourage others to Google your franchise name in your region, and in other areas of the country. Ask questions like, “what do you wish you had done differently when purchasing your franchise?”, or “are there any hidden surprises I should be watching for?” People are generally excited about helping someone else NOT have to go down the same road of hard knocks they did. Ask, ask, and ask some more!
What’s next for you and your business?
We currently have three Visiting Angels locations and we love what we do! So, what’s next? Continuing to find new ways to positively impact our clients and our community. We did this several years ago when we created the LifeChest App on the iTunes store. It’s an app designed to help adult children assist their aging parents in gathering all of their most important life information into one location.
Our next big step was in supporting our local Alzheimer’s Association. Visiting Angels provides care for so many people with various forms of dementia, and we wanted to make an impact in a big way. Our annual Alzheimer’s walk had allowed us to raise about $1,500 per year for three years, but this year we took it to another level. We walked down RT 66 from Tulsa, Okla. to my hometown of El Reno, Okla., and as a result were able to raise over $33,000! We’re already brainstorming on what our next big walk will be!
In general, many franchise owners feel like others believe they are a different class of small business owner. Simply because we have a national presence doesn’t mean we’re not a locally owned, locally run business. We care about our communities just like the “mom and pop” grocery or hardware stores. One way we’ve shown this has been to be a founding business partner with a local street festival in our community. I serve as a member of the board of directors and as treasurer. This monthly festival draws around 8,000 to 10,000 people each month. We wanted to provide a safe, fun environment for families to enjoy unique food, music, crafts and art opportunities, while getting to know some of the local business owners. Investing your time and effort beyond just you niche market is incredibly important to be successful as a franchise owner.
Most recently, we’ve run across several seniors whose finances and financial security have been undermined by con artists or scammers. As a result, I’ve recently published a book on Amazon.com called “Protecting Your Nest Egg: Fraud Protection for Senior Citizens from Con Artists, Thieves and Scams.” Our hope is that seniors and their families can use this as a resource to protect their life savings and financial well-being.
Our goals as a Visiting Angels franchise are simple: be the best home care agency in the area. That involves hiring great staff, excellence in communication with staff and clients, and using our time, talents and resources to make the world a better place for our team members and our community.