Seniors Helping Seniors®
Seniors Helping Seniors®: Executive Q&A
The in-home senior care brand’s co-founders share the brand’s beginnings, major milestones and qualities of an ideal franchise owner.
Seniors Helping Seniors® is a in-home senior care franchise founded by Philip and Kiran Yocom in 1998. Kiran grew up in India, and learned the Power of Love® through her relationship with Mother Teresa, who she met at age 7. Kiran spent 14 years working with the Catholic nun and carried a devotion to humanitarian efforts throughout the rest of her life, eventually inspiring her to create Seniors Helping Seniors® alongside her husband Philip.
The husband-and-wife team started Seniors Helping Seniors® with a vision of helping seniors continue to live independent lives in their homes while also providing employment for more active seniors interested in offering companionship care such as personal care, dementia care, light housekeeping, cooking and shopping, pet care, aid with household tasks, transportation to appointments, fall prevention, 24-hour care, overnight stays, and more. This business stands out in the sector due to a seniors-inclusive care team, spearheaded by the Yocoms based on the belief that seniors have so much to offer, both to each other and the world.
The Yocoms began franchising Seniors Helping Seniors® in 2006 and have since expanded the brand’s footprint to 200 territories across 33 states, the U.K. and Malta. Franchise owners see Seniors Helping Seniors® as more than a business venture, but as a highly rewarding opportunity which allows them to work towards the greater good.
Below, the Yocoms share how a commitment to compassionate care for seniors inspired them to found a company based on The Power of Love® and where they’re looking to take the business in the future.
Past: What market gap does the brand fill? What was missing in the space before? How was it identified? What inspired you to start?
Kiran: When I moved to the U.S. from India, I started visiting people in nursing homes. I would go to as many nursing homes as I could just to meet strangers and give them hugs. I didn’t even know who these people were, but when I would hold someone’s hand, they would often become so overwhelmed with emotion that they would start crying.
As people age and begin to lose their independence, and it becomes a huge source of stress in their lives. I believe that just because someone lives alone, it doesn’t mean they have to become a number in a nursing home or assisted living facility. There is often no one they can trust in those environments and the experience can feel strange and unfamiliar.
I made it my mission to change this. I thought if I could come up with some idea where I could help seniors live independently at home, it would be a win-win for everyone.
What was missing before in this space was the love, kindness, companionship and understanding that Seniors Helping Seniors® provides. Once we identified this need among seniors for companionship, we got the inspiration to really start making a difference in the world.
Philip: We were genuinely one of the pioneers of this industry. When you take us back to our beginning, we were not even aware of anyone who was providing holistic companion care for seniors outside of assisted living facilities. You can see how far the industry has evolved.
My wife worked with Mother Teresa for fourteen years of her life. She came here with a very strong sense of wanting to serve and to help. In India, multiple generations of families often live together through the end of their lives. In America, we live much more independently from our families and her heart really went out to people who were spending the end of their lives alone. Kiran started volunteering to visit people in nursing homes just out of the goodness of her heart. From that process, Seniors Helping Seniors® was born.
Present: What are you doing well right now? What are your brand’s differentiators?
Philip: Seniors Helping Seniors® success is being driven by both the swelling demand for in-home senior care services as well as the franchise community’s desire to help because they want to, not because they have to. We stand out in a crowded senior care industry thanks to several key differentiators.
There wasn’t anyone else doing what we were doing when we started almost 20 years ago. Medical homecare existed, but we took a more holistic approach to the industry. When we took a look at our country’s entire senior population as a whole, we saw not only less-active seniors who were looking for help to stay out of nursing homes but a growing population of more-active, retired seniors who were looking for a way to get out, give back and be more productive.
When we created this business model, we almost thought of it as having two businesses—companion care for seniors and a staffing agency for more active seniors to supplement their social security. It is a way for them to work in an industry where they might otherwise face discrimitaion for their age.
Another huge differentiator with our brand is that we actually use the word love—two of our registered trademarks are Why not Love?® and The Power of Love®. Because we’re bringing life and love into the lives of seniors, we bring another caring and compassionate person into the equation.
We’ve seen people who started out as being receivers transform so much that they turned around and started providing services for others.
Kiran: We really believe that seniors have so much in them to give and are such dedicated, loyal and honest people. We are making a difference in so many seniors’ lives. It is hard work, but we do this because this is what we believe. We are making a difference, we are growing, and we are genuinely trying to help both sides of the equation.
Future: What are your growth goals? What is your vision that you want your brand to fulfill, realistically or ideal state?
Kiran: I have only one vision and one goal, and that is to see our impact globally. When I die, I want to leave a legacy behind that makes a real difference in people’s lives.
The number of people aging in the U.S. is growing exponentially and we need to ensure that seniors are being treated with kindness and compassion. If we do it in a loving way, we can make it into a beautiful thing where every human being has someone who can care for them and give them love.
What were some learning opportunities that the brand leveraged to get where it is now?
Philip: Our whole goal was not to go into competition with anyone else; it was to fill a niche that nobody else was filling. We put ourselves 100% into the non-medical care side of the equation. Along the way, we decided to start to expand our services into what is considered to be personal care including things like bathing. As time evolved, some of our franchise partners have even started to get into the medical side of providing services. It wasn’t so much a learning opportunity but the evolution of a marketplace.
Kiran: I think we have really learned a lot from life. Every learning opportunity is a chance to do better. We are not perfect but we have become pretty good at what we do. It has become a beautiful way of learning things while we were doing them.
What are three or more of the brand’s most important milestones over the past five years?
Philip: In terms of rebranding, we have recently gotten several new trademarks that center around the idea of a 360-degree circle of service. The trademark reflects the expansion of our service offerings.
In the past three years we’ve been able to increase our number of franchise partners that are generating over $1 million dollars a year from less than 1% to closer to 20%.
Our transfer price has also gone up dramatically in the past year. We are continuing to establish a very strong footprint in the U.K. market and one of our U.K. offices has been recognized as one of the top senior home care franchises in the U.K. for three years.
Kiran: People are doing now over $2 million dollars a year in one franchise. We have multi-unit franchise owners and developers and our whole goal is to have more and more international market growth. We are already in the U.K. and we are hoping that as the brand becomes more mature, we can look into more international markets.
As far as technology is concerned, we are pretty savvy. It is a milestone for us to be able to work with other companies and grow with them. We are 13 years into franchising and over 20 years with the company in total. We have worked very hard, but there is always more work to be done. We’re committed to Bringing love into the lives of seniors with dignity and respect® and will continue to work towards this mission to ensure compassionate care for seniors.
What does your ideal franchise owner look like, in terms of how they run their business, what personal traits they have, what prior business experience they can claim, what kind of investor model they align with, etc.?
Kiran: I think first and foremost, they have to be business-savvy while having compassion and the want to do more, and give back. When someone invests in our business we tell them we don’t want their money, we want their success. I think you can make money while also doing good as long as you work hard. Ideally we’re looking for someone who wants to do both of those things.
Seniors Helping Seniors® is a way for people to make money while also giving back to their communities. Our franchise owners must have a fundamental desire to want to care for others. Investors should be prepared to be very much involved in the business itself.
How does Seniors Helping Seniors® support franchise owners?
Philip: We know how to support our franchise owners because we were in the business ourselves for eight years before we started to franchise. We defined all of the systems, tools, processes and procedures to be successful. We have a great business model that is constantly evolving and work with our franchise community to continue to build a business with them. I believe we have unparalleled support in terms of helping people.
We have a comprehensive training program that includes new partner orientation, weekly ongoing training throughout the life of the business, sales coaching, conventions, live training opportunities and more.
How many units is the brand targeting over the next year, three or five?
Philip: Our goal over the next year is to develop 20 units domestically and to find master licenses for two countries. In three to five years, we hope to be granting 100 franchises per year. We also want to provide a whole suite of non-medical and medical services to our clients.