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Clare Jefferies from Wimbledon & Kingston

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?

After a career in marketing and events, I stopped to have my children and then went into Estate Agency where I worked for 7 years. During that time, both my parents were terminally ill and died 7 months apart.

Whilst working for Hamptons I heard from a friend about a franchise that they had bought called Home Instead Senior Care and on learning more, it made me reflect on how awful the care that my parents received during their illnesses had been. The more I heard about Home Instead, the more emotional I became about what I, as a daughter, had been through over those years, trying to bring up children, hold down a job and look after my parents and their increasing needs. I kept thinking, if only Home Instead Senior Care had been around when I needed them.

2-clare-jefferies-with-dad-mike-dawson-on-wedding-dayI spent the next few months thinking about what my parents and I had been through and I became more and more upset, angry and guilty.

I contacted my friend Paul, who had been running the Home Instead franchise in Epsom, Surrey, wanting to know more about Home Instead Senior Care as it sounded so magical – continuity of care, delivered by people who want to make a difference to older people’s lives. People who involve the daughter and maybe take some of the guilt away.

Paul suggested I buy the Wimbledon franchise – just an off the cuff comment really, but it planted a seed that grew and grew and the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it.

After a meeting with Home Instead Senior Care’s National Office and its founder Trevor Brocklebank, it all fell in to place. I wanted to be part of their franchise family, providing non-medical homecare to older people.

What attracted you to franchising versus started starting up on your own or finding employment?

I had never planned to own or run my own company, having had no experience of managing a team, HR, Profit and Loss and all the things that are involved. I would not have considered setting up a company in an industry I knew nothing about.

The opportunity to make a difference to older people’s lives by starting a franchise business that cared in my local area, was a really exciting opportunity. Being a franchisee would give me all the support and confidence I would need, particularly in an industry that quite rightly has such strict regulations.

Why did you choose your particular franchise business?  What research did you undertake?

I had a good feeling and loved their ethos. Everyone that I met and spoke to about Home Instead’s relationship-led model, which has visits that last a minimum of one hour, talked about its dignified, quality care.

I undertook my own mystery shopper exercise, I phoned around different care companies, gauging the responses to my enquiries and had very mixed experiences, many not positive. If I was back in the situation I was with my parents and looking for care, I would not have been reassured or comforted by how I was treated. But whoever I spoke to from Home Instead, were so supportive and caring! It knew I was buying the right franchise.

3-clare-with-dad-mike-dawson-and-mum-annaHow did you raise the finance for funding your franchise?  Did you use any financial support (grants etc.) specific to business start-up?

Fortunately, I was left a small amount of money after my parents passed away so we invested their money on the purchase and set up of the franchise.

Did you take advantage of any support available to women looking to get into business? E.g. member of a women in business network, attend any specific women business events?

Yes – I attended as many ‘getting started’ workshops I could –  e.g. managing cash flow, networking, chamber of commerce and HSBC events. I joined a ladies networking group called Athena and surrounded myself with people who could help me learn and grow.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing from your franchisor?

I attended a getting started workshop followed by a week-long training session on how to get started.  We were allocated our own business support manager. We attended further training after 90 and 180 days and have quarterly visits from our dedicated Business Support Manager.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?

There is no typical day and over the last 5 years I have done every role in the office. As the business and the team has grown, I try to focus on leading the team, supporting where I can and filing the gaps when needed.

We care for clients AND CAREGivers so we spend a good proportion of my time making sure everyone is ok.

We have many enquiries from ‘daughters looking for care for their parents’, so having been in this situation myself, we ensure that when a daughter calls, we are there to support them through the maze that is the care world for their loved one.

I try to attend as many events as I can in the community, keeping an eye on what is going on and also so that I have a good handle on what is available for our clients.

I am usually the first in the office and the last to leave.

What challenges have you faced?

Recruitment – making sure we have caring and compassionate office and care staff. I look for people who have a big heart for caring and want to be part of the Home Instead mission: to change the face of ageing.

Cash Flow – managing late payers and ensuring invoices are paid in a timely fashion.

Keeping the work/home life balance.

Remembering that I am running a business not a charity – I want to help everyone and I can’t – I wear my heart on my sleeve!  

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?

Unrecognisably – It has been the most fantastic journey!

Running a successful business that is profitable, sustainable, recognised and admired for its quality care is something I could have only dreamed of when I got started.

My confidence has grown as well as my ability to be a leader of my business.

I am very happy and even after five and a half years I jump out of bed each day.

My parents would have been so proud of what I have achieved. It’s such a shame they are not around to see it for themselves. 

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?

Believing in the brand and the ethos.

Recognising your own strengths and weaknesses.

Be prepared to be tested and challenged and taken out of your comfort zone

Only buy a franchise if you truly believe in the model.

Someone who is prepared to work hard and eat, sleep and breathe the brand.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give other women looking to start their own business through franchising?

Believe in yourself.

Do it from the heart.

If you have children, get a good support network

Breathe! 

What are your plans for the future?

To continue to strive to improve the perception of the care industry, by only recruiting people who want to make a difference to our clients’ lives.

To continue to raise the profile of care.

To double the size of my business.

To invest in transportation (a minibus) to take our clients out.

To train as many people in gaining a better understanding of dementia, creating safe dementia environments and increase the opportunities for older people to be part of the community and avoid isolation and loneliness.

Would you do it again?

In one word…Yes! My franchise received Outstanding Rating from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in February 2016. We are the first homecare provider in London to receive the highest possible rating. Here’s what the CQC said, I know my parents would be so proud.

Sally Warren, CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector for Adult Social Care, said:

“We are delighted that Home Instead Senior Care is the first London home care provider to receive an Outstanding rating.

“We were particularly impressed with the provider’s work to ensure meaningful and positive experiences for people who use the service and the commitment of all staff to continuously seek improved outcomes for service users.

“People we spoke with were very positive about the service and the ability of staff to respond to their changing needs. Staff demonstrated a sound understanding of the differing needs of the people in their care and reflected these needs when planning and delivering services.  This is a great example of what outstanding care looks like.”