Kelly Britton is the owner of the Always Best Care franchise providing senior care in North Houston and she’s one of our company’s rising stars! In so many ways, Kelly exemplifies the ideal ABC franchise owner thanks to her background, experience and knowledge. But it’s her passion for providing excellent, compassionate care that truly sets her apart.
Recently, we sat down with Kelly – recipient of the prestigious ABC “Rookie of the Year” award for 2016 – to ask her about franchise ownership in the senior care industry. Her enthusiasm for senior care was infectious and her passion for her business was on full display.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to be a a franchise owner for Always Best Care, you’re in for a treat!
(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity)
Can you give me a little background about yourself, your story and how you came onboard with ABC?
Sure! I am a registered and licensed dietician, so I have been working with seniors in some way, shape or form for the past 20 years. I primarily worked as a consultant for long-term care facilities, which consisted mainly of skilled nursing homes.
I became really frustrated with the care that seniors were getting in those places, and I just thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I had a service where I could put a private-duty caregiver with someone so they could get one-on-one care and be able to stay at home and age in place?”
My father also died at an early age and wanted to stay at home — “Don’t ever put me in a nursing home!” he said.
So we all took shifts and took turns taking care of him at home, which was where he wanted to be.
I know what families are going through. I’m really able to sympathize and walk them through that process.
I’ve noticed that among franchise owners — there’s that personal connection that often drives them and makes senior care attractive as a business.
Absolutely! You really have to have a love for working with seniors and helping people through that process.
So this has been a focus in your life, and especially in your professional life, hasn’t it?
Yes! As a dietician, I was helping seniors manage the symptoms of aging through nutrition. Mainly, they were moving towards the end of life, so I was actually trying to put weight on them instead of helping them lose weight.
You know, it was a nice transition, and I really use my nutrition knowledge a lot in my franchise. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve done so well.
I can definitely see how that would have a positive impact! Is there anything in particular that led you to franchise ownership as opposed to a more traditional, corporate career? Why Always Best Care?
I live in Houston, which is probably one of the worst traffic areas, so as a dietician consultant, I was actually driving to a different facility every day. When you’re putting in an eight- or ten-hour day at a facility and then you’ve got another three-hour, round-trip commute, it gets a little crazy, so I wasn’t able to be home as much as I wanted to be.
I have kids, so any time they had appointments, it was just too hard to try to get home. So that got me thinking; I wanted to own my own business and I thought, “What could I go into that I know something about?”
So I started researching things, and, of course, I have a degree in dietetics and a minor in food science, so I thought, “Okay, maybe a restaurant or something,” you know? Then I really got to thinking, “I know something about seniors,” and just came across the idea of senior franchise ownership.
I looked at, probably, three different ones. And I really liked Always Best Care because it had a couple of different streams of revenue: you could do the in-home care, but also the assisted-living placement, which I really enjoy doing. It’s almost kind of like being a Realtor; I’ve always wanted to be a Realtor, too, so I get to go around and show people places that I’ve already toured and looked at.
We really just started looking — my husband and I — narrowing our options down. We decided that Baby Boomers are aging, and in the area we’re in – the North Houston area – it’s more of an affluent area, so we were thinking, “It would be great if we could have a home business that’s local and we could give back to the community.”
I really find that I love networking. I love getting out and visiting with the community and seeing what people have to offer. And I can keep that in mind for my clients, too, whenever the need arises.
Are there any special programs or initiatives that you’ve taken on to serve the specific needs of seniors in your communities?
What I realized is that I needed to start doing more education for people — even younger people. So wherever they would let me go and speak, I would speak to all kinds of groups, including the National Charity League. I’ve talked to pastors at churches and various senior groups.
I did a lot of marketing that way. Possibly one of my biggest referral sources has been my business networking groups. Again, it’s just getting involved in the community so that you’re “top of mind” to people in the area.
I really try to position myself as a senior-care expert, so when I go and talk to all of my networking groups, I’m letting them know, “Hey! If you’ve got a neighbor, a friend, someone at church, a colleague that’s struggling with senior issues, call me! I’m your local senior-care expert!”
I can help them. Or if I can’t, I will find someone who can because I’m plugged in to the senior community. I’ve really tried to position myself in that way. You know, I’ll do radio shows, anything anybody wants — I don’t say, “no,” to anything! (Laughs)
I help people wrap their heads around concepts like, “what does an aging parent look like? What are some signs and symptoms? What can you expect around here, cost-wise? What does Medicare cover? What does it not cover?” So many people think that Medicare is going to cover everything.
I really started noticing that I just need to educate more people, and hopefully that will trickle down through the generations. That really has been my platform.
As far as thinking outside of the box and doing things that aren’t really set for us by Always Best Care, I went with the franchise because I enjoy the idea that things are “pre done” and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you know?
I wanted some systems in place, some forms in place — things like that — so I could have a quick start up. Of course, I always tweak stuff because that’s just me! (Laughs) I like to change things up a little bit. So I work to develop and tweak the forms to fit my clientele.
We also do a lot of transportation, and I’ve been marketing that, as well.
Social media is really big for me, too, and, again, I want to be that local expert for people who are following us and getting information out to them.
How important has training and support been? How would you describe it to those who are considering a franchise with ABC?
Again, that’s one of the reasons why I really liked the idea of a franchise brand because I wanted the support, and I really have found that the support has been great.
The initial training was great. I liked getting to know the key people in the corporate area of Always Best Care, and knowing that I can pick up the phone, call them and they’re going to help me with whatever I need. That makes me feel valued, and it’s just nice to know that.
I like knowing that they’ve already done a lot of the hard work and the legwork because you get really busy — you just don’t have the time to do all the little stuff. So I think having the franchise that kind of helps you along the way is invaluable. And just the presence of them online and all of the stuff that they’re doing with the national advertising fund — I just couldn’t imagine being a small Mom-and-Pop operation trying to compete with some of these big corporations.
We are all individuals who have purchased franchises. We’ve purchased the same franchise rules, but we’re all individuals, so we’re going to apply our own personal beliefs and our own personal values to those rules. I think that’s what makes some franchises better than others to work for.
All of my caregivers have told me that we’re one of the best care companies they’ve ever worked for. They appreciate that we value them and that we communicate with them. That’s really important to me. I would say that customer service is the most important thing, and that’s with the caregivers, as well.
I think the franchise definitely helped me launch quickly and ramp up quickly.
It seems like the franchise gives you the freedom — freedom you wouldn’t necessarily have as a solo business owner — to go out and take on initiatives, talk to community people and position yourself as an authority. Is that fair to say?
When you’re starting out and you’re wearing all the hats, it’s really difficult to devote the time to all the social media and other initiatives when you really need to be out there marketing and building your name, so that’s absolutely true. Yes.
Is that something that you plan on continuing to do, or will you hand that particular duty off to someone else soon?
I’ve done some interviews with some people; it’s just really hard to find people that have the passion — the same passion that you would have on some things, so that’s why I’ve decided to continue to do it for now. When the right person comes along, I’ll know.
Also, I like to promote from within, and I’ve got some caregivers that really show, you know, promise for some other skills. I just want to get them working and understanding how the business works from the bottom up, and then I might offer something like that to one of them. I just haven’t found the right person. I actually think that finding the right people is something that everyone struggles with to some degree.
What are some of the ways in which you’ve grown – and your business has grown – as a franchise owner?
Well, for my first full calendar year, which was 2015, I won the Rookie of the Year award. That’s based on the fastest startup and continued growth each month.
Things leveled off temporarily when I lost a 24-hour case. She had passed away, sadly. When you lose clients like that, it can really hurt. But we’re ramping back up!
I think we’re over 2,400 hours of care so far this month. We have about 25 caregivers. We are constantly hiring and recruiting. We have a good little system down, which seems to work. We’re paying caregiver referral bonuses and things like that if current staff members bring other caregivers to us. There are a lot of incentives.
You’re doing well enough to where this is an ongoing process, where you’re always on the lookout for new people to help you grow your business?
Absolutely! We’re interviewing every week. We hold an orientation either every week, or every other week.
Can you describe the hiring system that you mentioned?
We use the Hireology System, which is paid for through the Always Best Care national advertising fund, and it’s a great tool. We actually get a pretty steady stream through there. Otherwise, we do occasionally have to post an ad here and there. We also offer incentives for referral bonuses and things like that if current caregivers bring other caregivers to us.
I also have my staffing coordinator and the training coordinator sit in on the interviews. One of them has clinical skills, so she’s really able to assess if what candidates are talking about is really true.
We have a pre-test, and we have interview questions asking about their experience and skills, prompting them to talk about what they are able to do as caregivers. We really listen to those stories and how they tell them. We really look for that passion.
And, obviously, we do all of the background checks and we call all of the references. Then we schedule new hires for an orientation. We have nice little caregiver packets that we give them with goodies just to make it fun. We watch videos, too, of course.
Then we do a monthly training via email. Also, every quarter, we get all of the caregivers together and we do more on-site training. It’s more of a caregiver-appreciation lunch, but we throw in some education in there, too.
Communication is really big for us, too, so we’re always texting and sending out information and reminders.
Based on your experience and wisdom, what would you tell readers who might be at a professional crossroads and who may be considering senior care franchise ownership?
I would say I really wish I had done it sooner!
I was one of those people who was on the fence, myself, because I was really into security and knowing that I had a paycheck every two weeks from my boss. I really thought that I was meant for so much more than what I was doing. I just had to really trust myself.
It was really hard to take the leap — I was really scared, but once I got in, I was like, “Gosh! Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
I could never go back to a nine-to-five job. Once you have that flexibility, being able to be home more with your family and all of those little perks that you can get from working at home, going to good meetings, networking and things like that — it’s just not like the work that you used to do. It’s different work – it’s more rewarding.
Having enough capital — I think that’s really important, especially if you’re like me and you’re just really worried about if it’s going to do well. So making sure that you have the capital so you can sleep at night and that peace of mind that you need to take that leap is really important. So is trust: trust in your skills and what you’re capable of.
I definitely say do it. Do it because you’re looking at long-term growth and what you can give to your family later on. The first few years might be a little hard as far as starting up, and there’s going to be some longer days, work and worries. But I think that once you reach that 18-month mark, you finally see that light at the end of the tunnel. It all comes together.
It’s definitely worth taking a risk on yourself.
I just love what I do! It’s tough work, but it’s so rewarding!
Many thanks to Kelly Britton for her time! To learn more about Kelly’s franchise, visit the Always Best Care North Houston website.
Are you interested in learning more about what it takes to be successful as a senior care franchise owner during the aging-in-place boom? Always Best Care is here to help you navigate the industry as one of our franchise owners! Download our free franchising E-Book today to learn more and refer to our most recent Franchise Disclosure Document for important details.