Chief Development Officer talks about finding passionate, caring franchisees.
Eric Little, Right at Home’s chief development officer, is responsible for leading Right at Home's national growth efforts to find new, well-qualified franchisees who want to make a difference in their communities. 1851 spoke with him about the brand’s growth plans and how the company helps seniors and the disabled get quality care in their homes.
1851: How long have you been with Right at Home? How did you get involved with the brand?
Little: Prior to Right at Home, I had already been franchising for quite some time, focusing on a number of different industries. I quickly realized that senior care was a phenomenal industry on the rise. I targeted the industry and was fortunate enough to have several offers before deciding on Right at Home. Culturally, this was the best atmosphere. I remember calling my wife right after the interview because I was excited to be a part of this team. I just celebrated my seven-year anniversary in September.
There’s a strong parallel between the job search I was doing back in 2008 and the search that prospective franchisees were doing, then and now. I firmly believe that the things that I was looking for in an employer are very similar to the things prospective franchisees are looking for in a franchisor. There are three distinct entities I remember looking for that hold true today:
I wanted a company that had high morals and ethics, one whose brand I would be proud to be associated with.
After working for a couple of startups and then welcoming our first son, I was ready to associate myself with a stable yet growing company that I could stay with long term. The industry needed to have significant growth potential, for sure, but I also wanted wherever I went to be a good industry today.
A company with a strong culture was key. Companies with strong cultures tend to be more financially sound, make better decisions, have happier employees, and in the case of franchising – happier franchisees too.
1851: What do you look for when considering franchisees and areas for development? What are the key components that make up a successful market and a successful franchisee?
Little: From a market stand point, there are 78 billion baby boomers ages 65 and older, with approximately 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the U.S. Typically 30,000 seniors fill a territory for our franchise owners, but as more people turn 65, the franchisee’s territory continues to grow as well in terms of potential customers. Interestingly, most of our customers are over age 75 at this point. With the oldest baby boomer being just 69 years old, the best is yet to come for this industry! As the boomers continue to age, our potential customer base will swell well beyond anything we have ever seen in terms of demographic shifts.
In terms of franchisees, we have to have franchisees that can follow the system and want to follow the system. Franchisees also have to have a passion for what they’re doing. We believe in the phrase “success with significance” and try to identify individuals who fit that profile. We want our franchisees to be here for the right reason, who believe this is the next logical step in their career path. We also want people who are willing to put in the leg work to build relationships in the community through volunteering and getting involved with other local organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association.
1851: What have been the biggest development challenges and biggest successes (in terms of market and growth strategy) surrounding your brand this year?
Little: From 2012-2014, we added 165 franchises. In early 2016 we will open our 500th location worldwide. So, purely from a franchise development perspective, our biggest success has been this tremendous growth over the past several years. The downside of that growth is that we have fewer territories available now. That’s our biggest challenge in the U.S. – finding new franchisees in specific markets with targeted media as opposed to national advertising. Internationally, our biggest challenge is finding the right partner for a particular country. Not surprisingly, though, all of this recent growth has increased our visibility in the senior care sector. An example of this is a study that we are now conducting with Harvard Medical School and software provider ClearCare – we certainly weren’t seeing opportunities like this years ago. Another big success is that two years in a row we’ve been recognized by Forbes and Franchise Times for growing the “right” way. We have such tremendous momentum at this point that I think competing brands are going to find it difficult to keep up.
1851: What are your targeted key growth markets?
Little: From a domestic perspective, we’re focusing on New York and Florida, but we still have many other markets that will fill in as well. Internationally we’re focusing on Europe, specifically Germany and Scandinavia.
1851: How do you see the industry developing? What do you think is next for in-home care?
Little: If you looked at home care 10 years ago, people in the medical field were skeptical and largely unaware of our services. Home care over the past 10 years has become a much more relevant part of the health care continuum based on increased credibility. Because of health care reform, there’s added responsibility and accountability placed on caring for the elderly. We were the first company that formerly packaged a transition between the hospital and home care for seniors, called Right Transitions. I think home care is going to continue to be an increasing part of the overall healthcare system. It certainly improves the quality of life, not only for those being cared for, but also for the family who’s taking care of them. I think we’re going to continue to see the growth of home care and recognition by the formal medical community.
1851: What do you think is the biggest reason for Right at Home’s success?
Little: I think the biggest thing is our culture. Everything flows through our culture and our mission of improving the quality of life for those we serve. Our culture allows us to make good decisions and to be nimble in our reactions to the changing marketplace. Our culture provides a very solid foundation upon which to grow, and it has allowed us to create great momentum and brand preference in the marketplace. We are consistently surveying our clients, their families and our franchisees to improve our services. We use the phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast” a lot in this office, which was originally coined by Peter Drucker. By selecting great franchisees that buy into this culture, our brand continues to grow by being associated with the right people. Whether you’re a part of the corporate office, a franchise owner, a caregiver, or anyone else associated with our company, we’re all stronger, together because of the common belief that we all share in our culture and mission.