Caring Transitions Executive Q&A: James Stapleton, Vice President of Franchising Development
1851 Franchise: What are Caring Transitions’ key differentiators?
James Stapleton: We aren’t a moving company, and we aren’t an estate sales company. We are a transition company, and we are the largest in the segment. It’s not about moving boxes; it’s about recreating an environment that feels like home in a new location, and that requires care, patience and listening. Because of our size and experience, we can create a seamless transition for seniors, filling a gap in the otherwise crowded senior services industry that no one else is addressing.
A mover can come in and move the kitchen table, but Caring Transitions moves 50 years of memories that happened at that kitchen table. There is a critical difference there. With Caring Transitions, you've got people who really take care of the emotion that is integral to the transition process. They help clients decide what to keep and what to throw away or donate or sell. Everyone who works for Caring Transitions has a story of a friend or family member who went through a difficult transition, and they take this work personally.
In terms of the franchise opportunity, we are differentiated by a model that is designed specifically to help franchise owners grow fast. Most franchises start you with one unit, then wait until you grow to a certain size and then allow you to acquire another territory. Our franchisees, on the other hand, can grow as big as they want, as fast as they want. They tell us what their goals are, and we provide a dedicated coach and guide them through writing a business plan to execute so they can scale their business with our full support.
1851: What are the brand’s growth goals for 2022?
Stapleton: Back in 2019, our goal was to reach 400 units in five years, and we’re already at 255, so we are far outpacing our five-year growth plan. But more importantly, we are not focused on growth for growth’s sake alone. The more we grow, the more clients we can serve, further establishing Caring Transitions as the dominant player in our category.
Right now, we are primarily concerned with putting the right people in our system. So far, we’ve had no trouble finding talented franchise owners who align with our values, and we have no interest in selling franchises to people who we don’t think can succeed in the long term.
1851: What does the ideal Caring Transitions franchisee look like?
Stapleton: The great thing about our model is that our franchisees don’t have to be experts in this industry to find success. We work with franchise owners from all walks of life. All we are really looking for are people who are passionate about what we do and are willing to be coached. Of course, local, grassroots marketing is a big part of any local business, so we are also looking for folks who can be aggressive and outgoing when it comes to building relationships in their communities.
1851: How did Caring Transitions thrive during the pandemic?
Stapleton: We made a couple of strategic pivots that paid off during the pandemic and still continue to drive business.
A big part of our service offering is the estate sales we provide after transitioning a senior. Whatever they no longer want, we will sell or auction off on our proprietary platform. Of course, during the pandemic, social distancing made that difficult, so we created an app that allows people to take pictures of the items they would like to sell and send them to us, then we take those pictures and turn them into an online estate sale. Ultimately, that pivot proved wildly successful, and it’s something we’re continuing to build on even as we move on from the pandemic.
Some of our owners found ways to continue providing service even when their market was completely shut down and they couldn’t get into senior living facilities. We had one group who turned their business partly into a delivery service for seniors. They would do grocery or medicine runs for seniors. We also had a lot of owners who hosted activities for seniors who couldn't see their families. One of our owners hosted virtual bingo. Other owners held auctions on our CTBIDS platform used the proceeds to support staff and purchase gifts for seniors.
Those actions speak to how this is not just a business but a community of caring owners. Of course, they are concerned with running a profitable business, but taking the stress off of these families, taking care of their clients and making a difference to is what they’re the most proud of.
1851: Why did you choose to join Caring Transitions?
Stapleton: Almost all of us at the corporate level have something that drew us to Caring Transitions from similar experiences that we have had in our own lives. For me, it was my grandmother. My grandmother lived in her house for over 50 years and during that time she collected a lot of “stuff” during that time. The last few years of her life she spent in rehab facilities and hospitals and I had a conversation with my mom about “what are we going to do if something happens with all the stuff in this house. When I read about Caring Transitions I saw that there was a definite need for these services and I could be passionate about talking about the business. It wasn’t until I met our amazing operations team who supports all of our owners that I was like “Let’s go!! Full steam ahead” and haven’t looked back since.
1851: How does Caring Transitions support franchisees?
Stapleton: Franchisee support is one of our biggest areas of focus, and it starts as soon as a franchisee signs on to open their territory. We provide comprehensive training for every aspect of the business and ongoing, dedicated support after that. Any challenge or question a franchise owner runs into in the field, all they have to do is give us a call to get personal support.
Our focus on franchisee success is probably best encapsulated by our Winners Circle program, which allows franchisees to earn their initial franchise fee back after hitting certain milestones within the first five years. We want our franchisees to be able to reinvest in themselves and their business, so we do everything possible to encourage that, including returning the franchise fee for top performers. That’s not something you’ll find at many other franchise brands.