Full disclosure: I work for a company that is part of a franchise network. Does that make me biased? Of course. But, being a human beings that form opinions on everything, we are all biased, right? Right. Just hear me out.
I am fortunate enough to work in an absolutely amazing franchise organization, and I have done so (officially) for almost 7 years. Unofficially for 18. Let me give you so background:
About 20 years ago, my grandmother was in her final moments before passing to the other side. From what I remember of her, she was a wonderful woman. She was generous, loving, selfless and always jumped at the chance to serve someone else. The majority of her life, she worked professionally as a geriatric nurse. If you asked her what she did, she would probably just tell you that she was there for people when nobody else could be.
That was her outlook on life. All the stories I have heard from my family validates her altruistic attitude. My father tells me of times he asked her why she would stay late at work, sometimes hours after punching out, and she would tell him that there was a patient that just needed someone to hold their hand and be there with them. “I have a family at home, but they have nobody.”
When the time came that my grandmother needed medical help at home due to numerous serious health issues, there were no nurses, no caregivers, nobody outside of family (many of whom lived hours away) that did anything more than their “job.” There is a world of difference between doing your job, and fulfilling your responsibility, but that is another story for another day.
Many times, my parents packed all the kids in the car for a trip to Bakersfield to go see grandma. When she passed, we learned that the few people that came out to do their “job” had actually taken advantage of my grandparents. When valuables turned up missing and employers were of no help holding anyone accountable, there was a lot of frustration!
It was not 2 years after the passing of my grandmother that my father stumbled across Home Instead Senior Care. The small Midwestern startup was in its infancy. Paul and Lori Hogan founded the company just 2 years prior, the same year of my grandmother’s passing. When they began interviewing friends and neighbors to find someone to spend some time with Grandma Manhart, Paul’s grandmother, they soon discovered they were not the only ones torn between caring for their loved ones, and raising their own young family. Out of a need for trustworthy help, Home Instead Senior Care was born.
I still remember Paul and his brother John flying to Fresno to visit my dad, sharing their vision of what growing old should be like, what we could do to have a positive impact in the world and how we could change the face of aging. In 1996, when I was only 11 years old, my father bought the first Home Instead Senior Care franchise in the state of California, and the 6th in their entire network. Thousands of hours, countless late nights at the office with my dad and 18 years later, that vision and purpose has never changed. What has changed is the scale in which that passion is now spread throughout the world. From 6 franchises to now over 1,000, Home Instead Senior Care has grown up to become the thought leader on senior care and aging issues in over 18 countries.
But… it’s a franchise network. They are franchises! Doesn’t that limit the ability for individual franchisees to innovate and “own” their brand? Not in the slightest. Though Home Instead may share many similarities with other franchise organizations, there is a world of difference. I’d like to share just 3 of them.
Sharing the Vision
Having a noble cause is nothing unique nor is it enough to justify a substantial risk. Anyone can believe something virtuous and profound. The difference is realizing that vision and creating action. That is a tall order, and not something you can expect to happen overnight and on your own. Each individually owned and operated Home Instead Senior Care franchise office is supported by a dedicated Business Performance Coach. Essentially, we all have our own business consultants. These guys are dedicated to the success of each franchise office. To give you an understanding, I speak with my BP coach on an almost weekly basis. I’ve sent an email with a simple question, and my cell phone is ringing 30 seconds later and it’s Mark, “Hey, I saw your email and I think I have an answer for you…”
Sharing the Critique
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Everybody needs that gut-check and strong dose of reality. The Home Instead network organizes their franchise owners into groups with a healthy cross-section of revenue levels and shared economic/legislative environments to serve as a virtual Board of Directors for one another. These owners voluntarily share business plans, goals, strategies and financials openly with each other. They meet twice a year in person and twice over the phone and hold each other accountable. Each owner has to justify themselves to their peers. Nobody is exempt from critique. These other owners have no monetary incentive to make the other succeed. The philosophy is simple: if we are going to succeed as a brand, then we must do it together!
Sharing the Culture
Our annually held international convention is something special. Each April, over 1,500 franchise owners and key players meet in Omaha to receive training, share experiences and celebrate the wonderful CAREGivers that we are honored to work with. That alone is worth the trip, but the icing on the cake is the Home Office staff. For 3 days, these corporate workaholics transform into tour guides, dancers, rappers, singers, musicians, servers, mentors, stand-up comedians… you name it! The culture of Home Instead is so genuine and real, that every year I spend the flight home grinning and asking myself, “What in the world just happened?” The spirit of love and the attitude of service exudes from every touchpoint and it’s impossible to mistake the authentic commitment to the core values of our organization.
Now if you doubt the freedom these franchises have to “own” their brand, just take a look at our Facebook page, or our Twitter account. These are not cookie-cutter accounts that are automated with a bland “message” to push. FYI, I manage both of them along with my step-brother.
Now, I know these are not unique attributes. Many companies have similar programs or attitudes. But nobody does it like Home Instead. As Home Instead, Inc. president Jeff Huber once said about our commitment to service and excellence, “We don’t do these things because we’re Home Instead. It’s not an obligation to live up to a name. We are Home Instead because we do these things. That’s what gives us our identity. It’s who we are!”
And that, my friends, is a franchise organization that my grandmother would be proud of.