Homewatch CareGivers President: So Many Gaps Still Remain, Opportunities for New Franchise Units
Todd Houghton, president of the Homewatch CareGivers brand, has always been passionate about helping people start their own businesses. As his career progressed, he also developed a passion for helping the aging population age gracefully in their homes.
In his role at Homewatch CareGivers, he combines these two passions. Houghton oversees and implements the franchise’s overall growth strategy while ensuring that franchisees in the Homewatch CareGivers network have the opportunity to thrive as business owners.
Based in Denver, Homewatch CareGivers is a franchised home care company that operates in over 30 states and 7 countries. The franchisor employs more than 4,500 caregivers in a total of 230 locations.
Houghton recently appeared on the latest episode of Home Health Care News Disrupt. During the conversation, he detailed the company’s aggressive franchise plan, innovative talent strategy, and his vision for the home care industry.
Below are the highlights of the conversation, edited for length and clarity.
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HHCN: Homewatch CareGivers has shown fairly steady growth over the past few years. How did you manage to put your growth strategy into practice?
Houghton: There are two things that really helped the growth. One of them focuses on our existing franchise network and provides them with the appropriate resources to grow their business day in and day out.
One of the biggest challenges they face day in and day out is having enough staff to serve this demand. The space must continue to evolve and find other technological aspects that can improve efficiency. This is part of what we have focused on. In addition, there is still so much space and opportunity to open new franchise units in the United States and beyond. We were very focused on this. Every day more and more people want to start their own business and our space is very driven by passion. People at the peak of their careers or in the middle of their executive careers start wanting to go into this business for themselves – their parents are getting old or something like that. This helps our segment and Homewatch grow.
What are some of the company’s immediate growth goals for the early stages of 2023?
Starting with a single growth, we are very focused on how we are going to fill the gaps across the country this year. Personally, I have a goal of opening 30 new offices, in particular in the US. Last year we made 18, almost twice as many as this year. We will look at 2024, 2025 and 2026 making the same growth. This is from a unit of height. From existing franchisees, we’ve seen double-digit revenue growth across our brand over the past five years. We have the same goal for the next five years.
When it comes to franchise expansion today, what problems is Homewatch CareGivers trying to solve? What is most important to you and the rest of the company?
Looking back, maybe 14 or 15 years ago, there were only about a dozen home care franchises. Today there are more than 70 franchise companies. This is one of the biggest problems. There are so many competitors who offer franchised home care services. This is a big hurdle. The other one just really solves that labor problem so that when new franchisees come into the space, they can get out there and hit the ground running.
Also, the world changed a few years ago and it makes people think about what life is like after COVID and they come back and focus on their business and grow their business. As they grow their first territory, we force them to expand, which will also help us grow.
What about the opportunities that are most interesting for you and the company?
I think it’s a great time to innovate and make a small breakthrough in space. How can technology drive this? It’s time to expand the space and give more people access to home care. We’re working on some exciting stuff that I’m looking forward to revealing a little later this year.
Why is Homewatch CareGivers so focused?
As for the learning aspect, it’s all about the quality of care and assistance. If caregivers are not properly trained, there may be safety issues or other issues that may occur at home. This can damage the brand. That’s why we put so much emphasis on this learning material for people who join Homewatch.
It is also a hallmark of the fact that we require our offices to conduct many different activities for their caregivers before they even enter the home. The other part that has to do with the learning aspect is that there are many non-traditional caregivers out there. With a serious training program that we have in place, we can take the best barista in the cafe and turn him into a babysitter.
We want them to have the best preparation so they can join us.
The last time we spoke with Homewatch CareGivers, the idea of a HR strategy committee made up of the company’s franchise owners was relatively new. Tell me about how this happens and what you learned from this process.
We have made great strides in this. We have a Franchise Owners Working Group and I have a HR Strategic Planner on my support team. They meet monthly. The theme is excellence in the workplace, so it’s about recruiting and retaining caregivers who come to our space and our brand. We have seen a huge improvement in the retention of our guardians as a result of this committee having monthly meetings, sharing best practices with our entire network, and having the best guardians.
Conversely, in terms of hiring, it was they who came up with the idea of turning non-traditional caregivers into Homewatch CareGivers. This group has been truly innovative and a great resource for our network to bring these things to life.
What do you guys do with technology when it comes to hiring and retention?
For example, we make a lot of funny video clips on social media. Simplifying the application process with technology using Applicant Tracking Systems which certainly improves the process. Not a day goes by and they get a call back about the hiring process, which greatly reduces the time from application to hiring and getting started. Also, implementing technology to make patient care easier once they join us, so the practice management platform we use really helps them cut down on documentation time, which can be a significant time-consuming process. In addition, just be able to view electronic care plans more easily, communicate with family through technology. All of these things have really improved the process for home caregivers.
Finally, Todd, do you have any home care projections?
The segment will continue to grow tremendously. We have a great opportunity to treat patients with more severe illnesses at home, which will help us grow. Technology will play an increasingly important role day by day. In the next 9-12 months, we will see a lot more AI that will provide practitioners with feedback to understand what is happening with their patients at home.
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