Non-medical home care provider FirstLight Home Care recently secured a number of coveted spots on the “top” lists of several major publications. FirstLight was ranked for the eighth consecutive year on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, ranked in Forbes’ Best Franchise List and was listed in Franchise Business Review as a Top 100 Franchise for Veterans and a Top 100 Franchise for Innovation, as well as ranking No. 30 out of 200 on the publication’s Top Franchise Opportunities for 2019 list.
So what drives FirstLight’s success?
A “Culture of Care” that translates to an emphasis on caregiver retention, client satisfaction, innovative approaches to the industry, plus a model well-suited to candidates who have served in the military.
“Our Culture of Care relates to our differentiation by creating a whole framework in how we operate, how we recruit, hire, train and retain employees at all levels,” FirstLight CEO Jeff Bevis said. The Culture of Care approach has led to a caregiver retention rate that is considerably above the industry average—FirstLight enjoys an 86 percent retention rate as compared to the industry average of 40 percent. “That results in lower HR and recruiting costs for our owners,” Bevis explained.
That low caregiver turnover correspondingly promotes sustained relationships between caregiver and client, which in turn leads to high client satisfaction.
“Our client satisfaction ratings also lead the industry in both results (95 percent YTD), as well as leads the industry in statistical validity, process and frequency, with every office being surveyed every quarter via a certified third party company,” Bevis said.
Using this approach, FirstLight has set a new standard of care for its industry. By prioritizing the experience of its caregivers and care recipients and by committing to “executing better than all other home care companies by doing the core fundamentals of the business at an excellent level,” according to Bevis, the company has earned its place among top franchises across segments.
When asked to elaborate on just what these rankings mean for FirstLight, Bevis was both thorough and clear.
“Several elements of the business are reflected by our rankings,” Bevis said. The rankings demonstrate “continued growth in pure number of offices and markets added year over year with low number of closings; the ongoing success of our existing owners to grow faster than the industry average, which spurs more existing owner referrals to new, strong owner candidates,” among others, Bevis said.
Bevis also shared that the rankings showcase the strength of the franchise’s growth, reflecting “rapid rise” after “only seven years of operating.”
This rapid growth and industry-leading success also makes sense to Michelle Rowan, president of Franchise Business Review.
“One of the things I think that distinguishes FirstLight is the leadership and corporate team,” Rowan said. “First off, they are focused on supporting the existing franchisees as they grow the brand. Second, they are committed to bringing in quality franchisees to grow the brand—taking the time to make sure they are a cultural fit. This sets new franchisees up for success.”
Rowan also echoes Bevis regarding FirstLight’s emphasis on chasing innovation and prioritizing franchisee relationships.
“I think when you are looking at a segment of franchising in which there is a plethora of brands to choose from, you want to find a brand that is leading the segment, not playing catch up,” Rowan said. “Franchise systems have to balance ways to change and innovate their brands, while keeping unit level economics (profitability) and franchise satisfaction top of mind. Looking at brands that measure franchisee feedback as a way to gauge franchisee expectation, and use that data to get stronger and better, leads to alignment. When the franchisor and franchisees are working towards the same goals, like being the best in their industry, or top of mind for consumers, big things can happen!” Rowan said.
Franchise Business Review completes its rankings as a result of the extensive surveying of franchisees across companies. For the second year in a row, FirstLight scored highly with both veteran franchisees—a total of 2,523 veteran franchisees were surveyed across 251 brands—and with all franchisees surveyed in terms of innovation.
“These rankings are not based on just discounting the fee for veterans,” Rowan said, in explanation of FirstLight’s ranking as a Top Franchise for Veterans. “Instead, it's based on how existing franchisees rate the brand overall and specifically, how all veterans that respond to our survey rate the brand they are part of. It's about their scores around key areas of launching and running a business—training and support, financial opportunity and leadership,” Rowan said.
Bevis expressed his commitment to veterans and his belief in the transferable skills of those who have served by saying: “[The FBR ranking] exemplifies our many military owners (over 15 percent today are military veterans) who are among our leaders in operational performance, growth revenue and client satisfaction leadership.”
He continued, “These same characteristics mirror many of the core approaches in the military and make for added effectiveness as we see military veterans transition out of the service and into the FirstLight Home Care system with high rates of success. We applaud each veteran and their spouse—and their families—in serving our country. We think it is only fitting that we also provide the highest level of support that drives the highest rate of success and growth in the home care industry.”
FirstLight also scored highly to place on Franchise Business Review’s Top Franchise Opportunities for 2019 list. More than 30,000 franchise owners were surveyed, representing 300-plus franchise brands, in order to determine the best of the best for the year. Brands were evaluated on their home office’s leadership, training, core values and franchise owners’ business lifestyle and how much they enjoy running their franchise.
Pertaining to FirstLight’s high ranking for innovation, Rowan said, “FirstLight franchisees mention the FirstLight team's willingness to hear what franchisees are doing, or need, to make their business better.”
Bevis said that FirstLight offers “continued enhancements and focus on technology platforms, service offerings and client satisfaction performance tools”, the latter category of which keeps FirstLight innovating faster than other businesses in the industry.
It’s clear that FirstLight’s “Culture of Care” isn’t just a tagline. Bevis closed by speaking to the ongoing support the corporate office offers the brand’s caretakers, including a National Advisory Council, business development training, regular regional meetings, a three-day national conference and more.
“All help to keep communication flowing [and] to strengthen the core aspects of their FirstLight Home Care business and reinforce new tools and programs to make their FLHC business even better,” Bevis said.
With this kind of vision, FirstLight franchisees—both current and prospective—can likely expect both great care and future high rankings.