Leann joined the Homewatch CareGivers family in 2001, providing sales and operational support to the northwest region of the U.S. Before stepping into the position of president, Leann began her own Homewatch CareGivers franchise in Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2003. Along with her business partner, Carol O’Cell, she oversaw the administration, operations, marketing and sales for her business. The business grossed more than $1 million in sales within two years of its initial start-up. Their primary goal was to bring compassionate services to clients living in the Portland area, delivered by the highest quality caregivers. Leann sold the business in 2008, at a time when the operation was providing 8,000 hours of care per month to more than 100 clients with a staff of 85 caregivers. Leann earned a business degree with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Colorado.
BeTheBoss: Tell us about the Homewatch CareGivers concept.
Leann Reynolds: Homewatch CareGivers has been providing in home care to seniors and people of all ages since my dad started the business in Denver, CO in 1980. He set the vision for compassion and care for all people who needed home care services and established himself as a leader in the home care industry. He began franchising the concept slowly, always being more focused on the care than on selling franchises. We really didn’t start franchising seriously until 2000, and even then it was always to grow the right way, with an emphasis on remaining true to our mission and values and effectively supporting our franchisees. Now we have over 210 locations in 6 countries. We’re growing in the United States and investing in building the brand in Ontario; eventually we plan to grow in additional Canadian provinces. We provide care to people of all ages but the majority of our clients are seniors over age 65. Our services can range from companion care with light housekeeping, meal preparation and transportation to more complex personal care such as bathing, grooming, transferring to a wheelchair, assisting with movement, etc.
BTB: How and when did you become involved with Homewatch CareGivers?
LR: In 2003 I bought my own Homewatch CareGivers franchise in Portland because I really wanted to be part of this organization that I had been exposed to for practically my entire life. Growing and managing my own successful home care business really prepared me for my current role as president of the entire organization. When my dad decided to retire in 2006 I stepped in as president and continued to build upon the strong foundation that he had established. With the mission and values of the organization already in place, my job was to work with the leadership team and the franchisees to establish a strong vision for the next phase, which was quality growth. To do that I pulled together a collaborative, experienced leadership team and a committed support staff.
BTB: What was your background prior to joining Homewatch CareGivers?
LR: I was in IT management, focused on process improvement and client satisfaction for a few large tech firms. I learned some really relevant business and leadership skills, but it was definitely different than running an international home care franchise company.
BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a Homewatch CareGivers franchisee?
LR: One big advantage is our history of excellence in Home Care since 1980. We started out as a company caring for people, and that really shows to our network and to our clients. Additionally, our support from a home office perspective is huge: we refer to ourselves among the network as “The Support Center.” And we have a great culture because we’re in it for the right reasons. Franchise candidates who come to Denver to meet us always tell us that it is our culture that helps them make the final decision to join our network.
Our ability to offer full services for all ages, and specialized care for dementia and other chronic conditions sets us apart from a lot of the “me-too” brands. Our professionally-developed Homewatch CareGivers University provides online training for franchisees’ staff and caregivers so that our quality of care is consistent across the board. Caregivers can train on specific chronic conditions so that they are familiar with the issues associated with a certain diagnosis and can better care for individuals. Families can rest assured that caregivers coming into their loved ones' homes are all held to the same standard of education, and have been trained and tested on relevant subject matter. It’s a huge differentiator that really makes our franchisees confident that they can compete in this competitive market. We also have a great network of collaborative, experienced Franchisees that really do help each other out and offer peer-to-peer advice and support.
BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?
LR: We look for owners who truly want to help care for others in their communities; people who are civic minded and want to be involved in the communities where they live and work. You don’t necessarily need to have health care experience, but you do need to have business acumen and leadership skills. This is a people business, so ideally you need to love working with people of all ages and backgrounds. We find that ideal franchisees have a heart for the business either through a personal experience, or recognizing the need for quality care providers in this growing industry.
BTB: Tell us a little about the senior care Market?
LR: The senior care industry has long-term sustainability due to the growth of the aging population in the U.S. and Canada and seniors’ desire to age at home. As people live longer, they are going to need more long term care options in order to remain living as independently as possible in their own homes. The lack of family caregivers as the population ages is also a concern and so family members will be turning to home care providers to help supplement the care need for their loved ones. We’re also seeing an increasing number of Alzheimer’s and dementia cases, which requires customized care to the individual, otherwise known as person-centered care. Our organization has a dementia care program and training courses for our caregivers to be able to provide this specialized dementia care.
BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
LR: A big thing for me is that we’re looking for candidates to align with us from a mission/values standpoint, to understand that their financial rewards are there, but they are really getting into this business because they want to make a difference. We do not grow just to grow. I absolutely learned early on that short-term cash is nothing compared to the long-term relationships. There is a shared objective, which means there is responsibility on both sides—it’s not all on them to do anything and everything. There should be mutual expectations and accountability on both sides of the coin. Also it’s important to have the appropriate processes, people and infrastructure to support a growing network with good, steady sustainable growth.
BTB: Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
LR: Certainly my Dad (Paul A. Sauer, founder of Homewatch CareGivers) is a huge inspiration and influencer in my life. For as long as I can remember, he had us setting goals—both short and long-term achievements. He had us do the Seven Spokes of Life, and would ask, “What do you want to do this year with the following topics: work, education, spirit, travel, health, finances, family.” I remember one year I had a purple bike on that list!
Also, I think that I’ve always gravitated toward Level 5 leadership, servant leadership. Right now, my Vistage group (private advisory boards for CEOs, executives and business owners) is a source of inspiration as well as accountability. We have meetings with a group of CEOs of companies that range in size from $1 million to $30 million and I get a lot of good information. I’ve been working with Lisa Rogge (a Vistage chair and CEO of Talent Works, a business coaching and consulting firm) for seven years and she’s my mentor.
BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
LR: My advice is to follow your passion, that’s a huge piece. Then it is easy to get excited about work and easier to work through the challenges. It’s where work becomes a lifestyle you enjoy if you are passionate about what you do. It changes the dynamic. This is definitely a business you have to feel passionate about because you are dealing with people—and you better like people! You can’t go into this business without feeling very passionate about it, because it comes across.
BTB: In your opinion, why do you think that Homewatch CareGivers would be a great opportunity for someone?
LR: Homewatch CareGivers is a great opportunity for all of the above reasons. I mentioned we’re a support organization that really focuses on making our franchisees successful. It’s a meaningful opportunity to not only be in business for yourself but have the support you need; knowing that you are caring for people in your community, you’re providing jobs, and you are creating a legacy for your family that you can be proud of.