Franchise Players is Entrepreneur's Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not one year. Not two. Not even three years, but three-and-a-half years was the wait business partners Robert Bertram and Robert Coan had to endure before finally opening their Visiting Angels franchise in Albany, New York, in 2012. Visiting Angels is a homecare service for seniors. And as healthcare professionals themselves, as well as owners of a successful nursing agency, the partners were rarin' to go with this next step in their business career. But New York State stymied that energy due to a moratorium, at the time, on issuing licenses. Bertram and Coan were actually turning away potential clients. Flash-forward to today: Now that that unpleasant wait is behind them, the two men are up and running and looking forward to expanding their business in Albany's Capital District region.
Name(s): Robert Bertram and Robert Coan
Franchise owned: Visiting Angels, in Albany, New York and the Capital District
How long have you owned a franchise?
Four years. We began ownership in the fall of 2011 and opened our doors on January 1, 2012.
[Robert Bertram responding] Our decision to get into franchising was tied into the philosophy of what kind of business we wanted to operate. We were in the healthcare industry, and senior homecare had become a growing business. More and more seniors were and are staying at their homes, as opposed to living in nursing homes, and there is a greater need to care for these seniors. Visiting Angels is the industry leader in senior homecare, so the decision to go with them was obvious.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
My business partner, Robert Coan, and I operated a successful nursing agency to provide registered nurses to hospitals through the New York area. I began my career as a certified nursing assistant caring for patients in nursing homes, and then got my home health aide certification. I am also a registered nurse and have specialized in cardiology and emergency care at some major hospitals in New York.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Visiting Angels is like the McDonald’s or Subway of the senior homecare industry. When we were doing our research on Visiting Angels, we mentioned the company to some of our professional contacts in the area. They all responded along the lines that they were in awe of the stature of Visiting Angels, so we knew we were on to something. In addition to being very highly rated, Visiting Angels is aggressive in its national marketing and advertising, and has great name recognition in the industry.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Approximately $100,000. We were fortunate that our nursing agency was so successful that we were able to pay the money up front.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We did a significant amount of Internet research to get information and reviews on the company. Visiting Angels is a very visible brand, so there was plenty of information available. We also reached out to other home-care agencies in the area to get their thoughts. Finally, we had a meeting with company officials at the Visiting Angels’ corporate headquarters in Philadelphia.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The biggest challenge was definitely the length of time it took to receive our license from the New York State Department of Health: three-and-a-half years! The state of New York had a moratorium on issuing licenses, so there was a major backlog on all applications, before we finally received ours. During that time in which we were waiting for our license, we were limited in the scope of services which we could provide.
We could provide companion care but not offer personal care, and would have to turn away potential clients to other competitors. This resulted in a potential loss of more than 50 percent of our client leads.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Do the proper research in all areas of your business. You will need to know all of the regulatory issues that apply to the particular business in your locale. You will also need to do your proper homework on selecting the right franchise and decide if it is the best fit for you. The more you know about every aspect of your business, the more prepared and successful you will be.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are looking forward to growing our business and getting the word out about Visiting Angels in the Albany market. We have expanded our level of services to meet the growing needs of seniors and the disabled in our communities. Our hope is now that we are in a position that we don’t have to turn away more than half of the calls we get, our revenue will double.