I recently had the chance to ask Carol about…well…Ask-Carol, the senior living guidance franchise business she started.
Learn about Carol, including why she started her franchise business and more, in my interview of her, below.
Franchise Interview: Ask-Carol Senior Living Guidance
Me: When did you come up with the idea of Ask-Carol senior living guidance? Then tell me more about the idea – and what you hope this business can do for clients and your franchisees.
Carol: Well, Joel, it all started about ten years ago with my own Mom. She reached her early 90s still living at home, but was falling a lot and had broken both shoulders and a hip. I always let her go back home after rehab, but after the broken hip I insisted on Home Care. She didn’t like it, and worse, money was going whoosh out the window. I couldn’t afford it for long.
A nurse across the street suggested assisted living so I visited several and made a selection. The wrong one, as it turned out. Not only that, but no one told me about VA benefits or how to get Medicaid for my Mom’s boyfriend, who lived with her. Finally I did move them to a wonderful facility, got VA for her, and Medicaid for her boyfriend. It ended up saving a lot over Home Care, and my Mom and her boyfriend loved assisted living.
Over the next several years, I referred some other people to the facility my Mom was in, and I was doing some volunteer work there. One day there happened to be a corporate VP visiting who told me he would like to pay me for referrals! I couldn’t believe it. I had no real business experience and no resume (I was always a stay at home Mom before my kids left for college) but I’d learned a lot, so I said sure, why not? That was in late 2009, and the rest is history.
As I built the business from part time to full time, and started adding other facilities, I started doing really well, and one day asked my husband, Bill, to join me. I said to him ‘I want to go for it’ and that was the real beginning of Ask-Carol! I loved helping families and I loved making money for it.
Now we have national contracts with the major facility groups, plus several franchisees, and we’ve decided to expand, mostly in the northeast and middle Atlantic states for the time being, but I’ll consider other areas, except the west coast.
It’s all about our clients’ parents and making sure that they get the right care for the rest of their lives. That’s what we do better than anyone else, and any facility that we work with will tell you that. That’s why we have such an incredible reputation.
Just as an aside, I had a new franchisee join a couple weeks ago. She’s been touring facilities, and one after the other has told her how much they enjoy working with us, and how much they detest working with our major competitor. She’s gotten a real earful about what we do better than the others.
Me: What is it about your job that gets you up in the morning?
Carol: You know the old expression, I’d do this even if I didn’t get paid for it? That’s how I started and I still feel that way. Sure, the money is great, more than I ever earned in my life, but its knowing the impact that I have on people’s lives that gets me up in the morning. Some of them are crying when they call me, and I calm them down and help them create a plan. And I don’t charge them a penny. I get compensated by the facilities, quite generously I might add. You wouldn’t believe some of the letters that I get after placing their parent. I help lift the weight of the world from their shoulders. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Me: What makes the Ask-Carol franchise opportunity special? What are some unique things about the concept?
Carol: If you look at other senior care franchises, you mostly have home care. That’s a really tough business, seven days a week, and getting even tougher with the upcoming regulations on how they have to pay their home care workers and give them benefits.
There are a couple of assisted living franchise concepts out there, but I don’t think their business plans make good sense for their franchisees, who have to sign their own facility contracts and spend most of their time on tours. I’m into helping people, but I do it efficiently and that’s what I want for my franchisees.
We all work from home, including me, so our expenses are low and most of what we earn in fees goes right into our pockets.
Me: What types of people would you like to have as franchisees? Who would make a great fit for an Ask-Carol franchise business?
Carol: I want people with business experience, who know there is no such thing as a fast buck, and are willing to work at a business to make it a success. If they have dealt with their own senior parents, so much the better. They have to like helping people, and they need to have the motivation and drive to do what needs to be done. There are no set hours, but that doesn’t mean you can get up at ten am and play golf in the afternoon!
I’m not really looking for salespeople, unless they are really good at creating relationships, though I don’t think that there is much relationship selling any more. Everything is click here, click there, and that’s not what we do. We don’t do any cold calling because our clients all contact us, so that makes it easier and lessens the need for sales experience.
Our clients are mostly in the 50s and 60s, so our franchisees need to be able to relate to that age group. And I’m sorry to say this, but they have to have the money to invest in their business. Nothing of value is free and no business will work if it is done on the cheap.
Me: What traits do you look for in a potential franchisee?
Carol: As I mentioned before, empathy is a key. If you don’t like helping people, find another business. This one won’t work for you. I look for someone who can create solutions for people, using the methods I teach, so there’s some creativity required and a willingness to follow a plan. But mostly I want franchisees who are committed to putting in the effort to achieve major income.
Me: What are some of the things you do as a franchisor/CEO to help your franchisees succeed?
Carol: As I said, a key one is that we have national facility contracts and lots of local ones ready for our referrals. That’s huge, and no one else has it. We also have advertising programs and a training director who works with our franchisees one on one to teach them how to get referrals. That help never ends, and we don’t charge for it. I spend all of my time every day working with our franchisees teaching them how work with their clients and close deals.
Me: Why should prospective franchise business owners look into your franchise opportunity now?
Carol: The seniors market is one of the strongest in America, and will only continue getting stronger. We plan to raise our franchise fee significantly later this year, so that might help spur some people to get started now rather than later. But the main reason is that once you sign up with us, you launch your business in about four weeks. We do all the heavy lifting for our franchisees to make it as easy as possible. They have nothing to buy except maybe a new computer or smartphone.
Me: Anything else you’d like my readers to know?
Carol: The strong commitment that I have to our clients and their parents is equaled by the commitment that I have to our franchisees. I know how to make this business work, have done well with it, and my only goal is to help other do even better. That’s the bottom line.
One more thing, Joel; Thanks so much for talking with me. It’s been fun to share this with you and readers of your franchise blog.
Me: You are very welcome, Carol.
I love introducing my readers, and all the folks who follow me on the social networks, innovative franchise opportunities.
If you’d like to learn how you can capitalize on the booming senior care industry-without having to hire health care workers…