A new dessert shop in Walsall, Heavenly Desserts, has been given a stay of execution after planning chiefs chose not to refuse retrospective planning permission.
Despite only opening this week following a £200,000 refurbishment, Heavenly Desserts faced being shut down due to a number of planning concerns raised by officers.
But on Thursday (February 21) gave owner and applicant Zubair Mohiuddin the opportunity to address these issues before coming back to committee at a later date.
Heavenly Desserts is part of a national franchise and Mr Mohiuddin said he had ploughed all his money into the business and added he was advised that he would not need to apply for a change of use for the shop, which was last used as a garage repair shop.
Officers, however, told him he needed to obtain cafe classification for the business. They also highlighted concerns about disabled access into the premises, pollution control, parking provision and bin storage.
But the business was backed by a petition with more than 1,400 signatures and support from the neighbouring chicken take-away which said Heavenly would complement their business.
Mr Mohiuddin said he had moved from Derby to put all his money into opening Walsall’s Heavenly Desserts and refusing permission for this location would end the business.
He added they had already enjoyed roaring trade and he had so far taken on 30 local people in full and part time jobs.
Committee member and former chairman Garry Perry said he was against retrospective applications and felt there were too many variables against granting permission.
Thursday 28 February, 2019– HITIO Gym has announced the appointment of Majid Alamgir, award-winning salesman and senior health and fitness professional, UK Head of Sales, to lead the Norwegian franchise’s expansion in the UK.
Combining a traditional gym and studio offering with combat sports training, HITIO has become one of the largest fitness chains in Norway, with 32 clubs nationwide, and has now confirmed sites in the UK, Portugal and Spain. In his new role, Majid will lead the B2B franchise sales to establish and grow the concept throughout the UK.
Majid joins HITIO with over 15 years’ experience in senior sales roles across the health and fitness sector including most recently as General Manager and Regional Sales Manager of boutique gym company, Beckenham Gym, formerly Tally Ho Gyms, in South East London.
Prior to his work in the boutique fitness industry, Majid spent eight years working for Fitness First, where he progressed from Membership Consultant to Cluster Sales manager. In this time, Majid won the award for most sales three years in a row from 2008 to 2010, and still holds the record for most membership sales in a month.
Majid also worked at Virgin Active and as Contract Sales Manager at Parkwood Leisure where he has trained staff and implemented a new sales strategy to hit all sales targets.
Commenting on Majid’s appointment, Andrew Rayes, International Sales & Marketing Director, said: “Majid has in my opinion an unrivalled sales track record in the leisure industry alongside his extensive knowledge of the fitness sector which makes him the ideal candidate to lead the growth of the HITIO franchise network in the UK.”
“Having worked with Majid at Fitness First, I have had first hand experience of his unbelievable work ethic and determination to succeed, and he is very passionate about the HITIO concept. I therefore have no doubt that he will help us achieve our ambitious international expansion plans.”
HITIO’s distinctive format aims to bring people together through physical activity by targeting a large customer base including families with children, who can exercise at the same time thanks to HITIO’s unique offering. Each facility combines a state-of-the-art gym and studio with group training in a variety of martial arts, with membership packages available to suit individuals’ training needs.
On his new role and being responsible for HITIO’s UK growth, Majid commented: “It is a concept that makes so much sense in today’s crowded fitness market. By allowing parents to train alongside their children, HITIO is changing attitudes to children’s upbringing and towards fitness.
“In my opinion, HITIO brings something for everyone, and from personal experience, I know the benefits of self-discipline that martial arts could bring, especially given the challenges society faces today. Now with our first site confirmed to open in the summer of 2019 in South London, I am looking forward to taking the HITIO brand around the country.”
HITIO was founded in Norway in 1998 by entrepreneurs Per Christian Pedersen and Fredrik Bjertnæs.
What started out as small taekwondo centres, the concept has since evolved into a gym and combat sports offering and in less than 20 years, has grown to become one of the largest fitness chains in Norway with 32 clubs nationwide.
Recently launched into the UK and with sites confirmed in London, Spain and Portugal, HITIO offers opportunities for master and single site franchisees throughout the UK and Europe.
Its unique concept encourages parents to work out at the same time and place as their children; members can bring friends, family or colleagues or simply train individually; or choose to work out in the gym or take classes in martial arts – or both.
Martial arts develops focus, concentration, discipline and self-confidence and HITIO brings the best of martial arts philosophy into the gym environment.
The retailer’s underlying operating income increased 17.3 per cent to £260 million in the period.
“With double-digit growth in revenue, adjusted EBITDA and net income and strong free-cashflow generation, Natura’s performance in the fourth quarter caps its first full year of existence with a very strong note,” said Roberto Marques, executive chairman of parent company Natura & Co.
British Franchise Association (BFA) member and UK-based multi-service pet care franchise Petpals has launched a scheme to make it easier to purchase one of its franchise businesses.
Under the new ‘Easy Start’ scheme, anyone buying a Petpals franchise will only be required to pay a fee to cover the costs of initial training and launch marketing, with the remainder of the £12,500 (+VAT) spread over the rest of the franchise term which is usually five years.
Kevin Thackrah, MD of Petpals, said: “At Petpals we have been helping franchisees start up and run their own profitable, sustainable pet care businesses for over 17 years now; with ‘Easy Start’ we’re looking forward to helping more people to join us and to share in the success and strength of the UK pet care market.
“We fully appreciate that people don’t always have the upfront funds to purchase a franchise and it’s testament to our confidence in our brand and to the potential for success for our new franchisees, that we’re able to offer this new scheme today. I very much hope that anyone who would like to own their own business and to regain control of their working life by doing a job that they love, will visit our website to find out more.”
Petpals franchisees own their own territories from where they board and walk dogs, visit cats and any other pets while their owners are at work or on holiday. If available, franchisees have the option to purchase additional adjoining territories. Currently 17.5% of franchisees own one or more franchise territories.
Petpals are full members of the BFA and are committed to ethical franchising.
Sports Franchise UK – the TOP 10 MUST KNOWS about finding and running successful UK Sports Franchises.
UK sports franchises, harnessing the power of an evergreen industry, have grown to become solid, profitable business propositions for franchisees. But, should you jump on board?
Sports have always been an integral part the quintessential British way of life across the cross section of ages and demographics.
Thankfully, the sporting spirit that we all hold so important has somehow managed to seep through into other aspects of our lives, giving it a larger significance than mere entertainment. Today, however, being able to indulge oneself in a sport of their choice isn’t as easy as it would have been a few decades ago.
For starters, people just don’t have time anymore. Secondly, the costs of equipment, training and facilities are next to prohibitive for many popular sports.
As always, businesses have managed to combine these ‘pain points’ into an opportunity, creating businesses that revolve solely around letting families and individuals enjoy their favourite sports without a worry. UK sports franchises, taking a leaf out this book, have gone ahead and merged these business ideas with the successful franchising model, creating a unique phenomenon that is much more than a brilliant investment opportunity for UK franchisees.
How A Sports Franchise UK Benefits From Market Currents
Understanding why a sports franchise UK offers a blend of value-for-money and demand appetite is all about understanding the market currents in this regard.
The professional sports industry in the UK is well worth over £20 bn. This includes ‘sports as a service’ businesses and sporting equipment, gear and facilities retailers/providers. (These numbers, dated as they may be, are still good enough to give us an idea of the enormous market size. We’ll make every effort to update this report as the new data rolls in).
The UK sports industry employs close to half a million people.
The retail consumer spending on sports services, products and facilities clocked at over £8 bn in 2017. This is a more important number for us as it excludes a non-retail portion of the industry that’s comprised solely of big-budget sports clubs (that have nothing to do with an average sports franchise UK).
Is This A Right Time To Buy A Sports Franchise UK?
UK sports franchises operate in a sector that overlaps the fitness industry and the recreation/entertainment industry. Not all sports are aimed at helping people stay fit, and certainly not all are meant to merely help the partakers ‘unwind’.
Thousands of young children start training each year – through their schools as well as through private training academies. Of course, not all of them end up choosing football as their choice of career (and that’s the whole point, really). By helping ‘consumers’ get the services they want, need and love, trainers and academies have – for many years – created local niches that eventually have ended up becoming well-oiled franchise businesses.
Since every sports franchise UK is based largely on this phenomenon, it’s safe to say that it’s never really a bad time to buy one. You can, of course, turn your investments sour by choosing to operating in overly saturated territories or trying to cater to underwhelming demand metrics. So, it’s important to have a solid grip on your franchise market research before you think of buying or even shortlisting sports franchises UK.
As is the case with other franchise sectors, sports franchises UK are loosely scattered across multiple sizes.
On average, a UK sports franchise will cost you anywhere between £10,000 to £100,000. We understand that this is a fairly broad range – much the reason why, it becomes important not to generalise the initial investment as a decisive factor while buying a sports franchise UK.
Much of the initial investment while buying a sports franchise UK goes towards the one-off franchise fee, followed by working capital that is required to set the business in motion.
If you are thinking of buying a UK sports franchise, you’ll probably need an experienced franchise finance provider on your side. We’ve already talked at length about how that works in our free franchise finance guide.
How Do Sports Franchises UK Make Money?
The money-making model adopted by sports businesses UK is much the same as the one used by UK fitness franchises.
The incomings are largely comprised of subscription fees/session fees/product sales. Many UK sports franchises are now exploring additional revenue streams by selling ‘digital content’ – think sports blogs, online consultations and video tutorials/tips.
UK Sports Franchises Vs Fitness Franchises – What’s The Difference?
There is no fundamental difference between a fitness franchises and a sports franchise UK. Both aim to provide recreational/health-oriented services and products for a fee.
The major difference lies in the demographic that each tries to serve.
“Conventionally speaking, UK sports franchises have focussed more on the young demographic – especially children aged 5-15.”
From a purely business point of view, this makes a lot of sense. By working with local schools, UK sports franchises can easily ‘lock in’ reliable revenue streams, while also making sure that they are catering to their most important set of customers.
This isn’t to say that the adult customer base for sports franchises UK is non-existent.
It is estimated that 63% of men and 58% of women (aged 16-50) were active in at least one sport, with nearly half of them being ‘sport-active’ at least once every month.
Many franchises have successfully managed to onboard customers – especially in metropolitan cities (this, however, typically has large marketing costs associated with it).
Types Of UK Sports Franchises
There are two broad categories in which we can divide the sports businesses UK.
1. Sports As A Service
This is by far the most popular option for a sports business looking to franchise.
Sports as a service businesses are essentially service provider businesses that offer training, facilities and equipment to their customers on a ‘pay as you go’ or subscription basis.
Typical examples includes Karate coaching, cricket equipment/gear rental and football academies.
2. Sports As A Product
The product-centric counterpart of UK sports franchises is closer to retail franchises than fitness franchises.
Typical examples include high-street activewear retailers, fishing supplies store etc.
Top Sports Franchises UK
As we mentioned earlier, a sports business UK can come in a variety of sizes and features. Here’s our shortlist of some of the most popular UK sports franchises.
If you run a successful sports franchise UK, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with us to let us know of your experiences and we’ll make sure your voice reaches a strong, vibrant franchising community.
Ian King, head of business development at WH Smith said: “We are excited to bring the WH Smith and M&S brands together in this new shared space at Royal Blackburn Hospital, and to open our first full store franchise with Costa Coffee.
“We look forward to welcoming patients, staff and visitors to the stores and offering the convenience of a wider range of products.”
James Maguire, divisional director of estates and facilities for East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, said previously: “We’re really excited to be adding to the food and drink retail offers at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital and giving patients, visitors and colleagues here more choice.”
The Haute Dolci franchise is opening in Bradshawgate bringing a luxury dessert experience to the town.
Mohammed Bhuta from Daubhil, a self-confessed life-long dessert fan, is heading up the operations with the help of his sister Safiya.
Mr Bhuta said: “I’ve been into desserts since I was a kid and I have always wanted to open one. My sister is an entrepreneur — she approached me and said ‘there’s an opportunity to open a franchise’.”
Haute Dolci aims to provide luxury for its customers, there are a huge 72 different desserts on its menu to try in the plush surroundings or even the private dining area.
Mr Bhuta’s personal favourite is white chocolate and raspberry pancakes.
The Canna Kitchen is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant that opened at the end of 2018 in Brighton, England. It’s also the UK’s first restaurant to infuse their dishes with CBD and other similar cannabinoids.
Interest in all things hemp and CBD-related is booming in the UK. As a result, this restaurant immediately became a sensation, with acres of coverage in the British press.
Brighton has long been regarded as one of the UK’s most bohemian and forward-thinking cities. It makes perfect sense for this location to be the origin of what promises to be a groundbreaking development in the world of food and CBD. We spoke to the founder of The Canna Kitchen, Sam Evolution, about the evolution and execution of his one-of-a-kind CBD restaurant.
THE UK’S MOST BOHEMIAN CITY IS THE IDEAL HOME FOR HEMP AND FOOD
“I’ve been involved with hemp for over eleven years,” said Sam Evolution. “Owning businesses that specialised in creating hemp-based products such as dermatological creams and food products.”
Like many people involved in this relatively new industry, Evolution has a strong appreciation for just how revolutionary CBD and hemp can be for the world at large.
“I’ve always been inspired by the rich history of hemp,” Evolution agreed. “Particularly its potential to revolutionise agriculture, industry and health.”
But when it came to combining CBD with a sit-down restaurant concept, the idea came from some good old-fashioned home testing.
“The initial idea came about a year ago when doing some personal experimentation with friends, involving food and flavonoids from the plant,” Evolution said.
Then the idea came to combine cannabinoids with high quality organic foods, which led to the complex and exciting menu The Canna Kitchen offers today.
HEALTHY AND WELL-BALANCED VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN DISHES INFUSED WITH CBD
These dishes includes a classic vegan buddha bowl, featuring seasonal roast root vegetables, homemade hummus and fresh salad, with a CBD-infused tahini cream drizzled across the top. Or the canna sandwich, which offers a choice of harissa tofu or haloumi, on locally-sourced sourdough bread, paired with a salad and CBD dressing. For dessert, you can finish off your meal with the canna Snickers bar, loosely based on the well-known chocolate bar, put together using homemade cake, layered with date caramel on top of a hemp brownie biscuit base, then coated with dark chocolate and nut sprinkles.
“Our mission is to change the way people think about the cannabis plant.” — Sam Evolution, founder of The Canna Kitchen
From a personal perspective, Evolution has had impressive results using CBD.
“I’ve found that CBD to be extremely effective at helping to manage pain,” he told us. ”It decreases aches in the body due to its anti-inflammatory properties and interaction with the bodies endocannabinoid system. Many people report assistance dealing with stress and anxiety, and some find it can help with sleep.”
CBD RESTAURANT IS FIGHTING AGAINST UNHELPFUL STEREOTYPES
The misconception that CBD and hemp are tied up with a darker drug culture is something Evolution and The Canna Kitchen are keen to dispell. Indeed, the mission statement on the website states clearly, “We at The Canna Kitchen aim to redress dated stereotypes mislabelling this extraordinary natural resource purely as a recreational substance.”
This meant taking a cautious approach when it came to the legal sides of setting up a CBD-based restaurant.
“I had to present my plans concisely to local authorities, and my approach was very carefully considered,” Evolution said.
Hemp-based ingredients at the UK’s CBD restaurant are source from crops grown organically in Spain and Switzerland. (Photo: The Canna Kitchen)
The hemp used in preparing the dishes used at The Canna Kitchen is also carefully sourced. CBD business-owners must have a delicate touch in the UK when it comes to working with this product, as the authorities remain wary of its legal status.
“Our hemp is grown for us organically in Spain and Switzerland,” said Evolution.
“And we ensure any trace elements of THC are within legal limits,” showing just how careful the UK hemp-user must be when working with this plant.
THE QUALITY OF THE FOOD IS OF EQUAL PRIORITY
But it’s not all about the potential health benefits of CBD. Evolution made it clear that the ideas and flavour balance behind the food are equally important:
“Our food is contemporary and fresh, using locally sourced and organic produce wherever possible. Our mission is to change the way people think about the cannabis plant by creating beautiful vegetarian dishes which are tastefully complimented with its infusion.”
The process wasn’t easy, at least not at first.
“There was certainly an amount of trial and error in the beginning,” said Evolution. “Finding balance between flavours has been the most challenging aspect for us but we now feel that we have a good understanding of this, and we’re continuing to experiment in new and interesting ways.”
A FULL MEAL PROVIDES A RELAXING DOSE OF CBD
But how much CBD could you expect to consume over the course of a meal? Evolution estimated this at “between 20 and 30mg of CBD, depending on the drinks that are ordered and any sides.”
For the average person, this is enough to gain a beneficial effect, whether the goal is simply relaxation, or for something more substantial such as pain reduction.
Indeed, their website has a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer: “The optional infusion of cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG and CBN with food, may lead to a sense of relaxation, peace and well-being.”
Thanks to the runaway success of the UK’s first CBD restaurant, The Canna Kitchen is already planning to expand. (Photo: The Canna Kitchen)
THE SKY’S THE LIMIT FOR UK’S FIRST CBD RESTAURANT
When it comes to future plans, Evolution is cautiously optimistic, taking care not to move too quickly, despite the success so far.
“We are in talks currently with potential partners and investors,” he said. “And we’re planning to roll the idea out over the UK in franchise form.”
It’s clear that The Canna Kitchen won’t be the last CBD restaurant to open in the UK. We’re already aware of numerous cafes popping up offering similar products. The UK is finally waking up to the eco-friendly nature of hemp and the helpful effects of cannabinoids, and the public demand is set to grow and grow.
Martin Jones is responsible for leading the entire UK operation of Home Instead Senior Care, the world’s largest multinational network of franchises specialising in non-medical in-home care for the elderly. He sat down with Home Care Insight to discuss the challenges of providing personalised home care in a growing market, what it takes to become a successful franchise owner and why renowned franchise businesses from other sectors such as McDonald’s can provide inspiration for his business.
Home Instead Senior Care is the largest provider of in-home care in the UK. Where do you see the company fitting into the wider social care market?
My belief is that people’s homes are going to be the hospital wards of the future. Residential care has its place but more and more people are going to have to be looked after in their own homes and that is something that was talked about recently in the latest long-term vision of Theresa May and Matt Hancock in terms of the 10-year strategy of the NHS. More people will need to be looked after in community-based care. Home Instead Senior Care plays a big part in that in the sense that the client wants to be in their own home, the client’s family wants to them be in their own home and if you look at the care continuum overall from an economics perspective, it is more cost-effective for the client to be in their own home.
The business was founded 25 years ago in the US and is now present in 12 countries around the world. What does the structure of the UK operation look like?
The UK business is 12-years-old and we are a franchise business – we have got 195 franchise offices in the UK and will break through the 200 mark this year. We are the largest provider of home care in the UK – the largest provider of home care globally – with a turnover of $1.6 billion (£1.2 billion) across the globe. Our aim is to become the UK’s most admired care company through changing the face of ageing.
Tell us about the sort of culture that exists within Home Instead Senior Care, particularly as you operate a franchise-led model.
We are a mission-driven business. All our franchise owners come to this business because they want to buy a business to make a difference and I fundamentally believe that is one of the reasons why we are as successful as we are. We have 40- CQC ‘outstanding’ ratings across England at the moment – which is over 20% of our English network – and that compares to an average of 2% within social care. I believe the reason for that is down to the support that we provide here, our model, and our franchise owners. We are the only home care provider to win the Queen’s Award for Innovation (in 2016) and it is fundamentally because we put the clients at the heart of everything that we do. We are relationship-based – not task-driven – and that makes us different from most of our competitors in this sector. That’s where we are trying to make a big difference in terms of the wider social care arena.
How has the business evolved since you joined the company in 2011?
At the time we were a lot smaller – we had around 56 offices and we have now grown to 195 so we have seen quite a transformation of the business. We had 14 people in the national office and now we have 52. We have invested in the infrastructure here, as well as the training and development of our team. We have got our own academy because I firmly believe we need to raise the bar of people joining social care – not just at Home Instead but the wider sector. We need to make working in the social care profession a rewarding career because it is one of the most rewarding things you can do. If you’ve got a choice to become a caregiver or to stack shelves in a supermarket, I want people to think, ‘actually, caregiver is the role I really want to do; I really want to make a difference to someone’s life.’
I understand that kind of thinking was central to you moving into the care sector having previously worked in retail?
My journey to Home Instead Senior Care came because I was a carer for my Dad. I had given up my job and set up my own business so I could look after my Dad because he had prostate cancer. And when he unfortunately passed away in 2011 I wanted to do something different and I wanted to join a business that actually made a difference, I came across Home Instead UK and the rest is history. ‘Changing the face of ageing’, both from a global perspective and a UK perspective, is at the root of what we do and that drives me, it drives the team, it drives our franchise owners and it drives our caregivers as well.
That growth you described, in terms of going from 56 franchises to 195 in the last eight years, is quite an achievement. Do you obsesses about growing that number as a company?
It is not about being the biggest, but if you are going to change the face of ageing across the UK you have to have a voice in terms of volume – we are providing over a quarter of a million hours a care every month now. Having that spread and that mass is really important because you can’t change the face of ageing with one office. However, when you can say that you have 40 CQC ‘Outstandings’ and a Queen’s Award and a Princess Royal Training award as well as over 190 offices, then it is making a difference. And you can start to influence those around you that actually it is about relationship-led care and putting the client first.
Having that number of franchises while trying to foster consistent culture and ethos throughout the business must be difficult. How do you tackle that?
You have to find people with the right culture and values. So right from the onset, from the first moment a prospective franchisee starts to look to buy a franchise, they have to fit in with our culture and they have to fit in with the ‘why?’. We cannot afford to fail as our business is delivering essential services to sometimes very vulnerable people, who put their trust in us. So if a prospect is just looking to make money, they won’t be awarded a franchise. Most of our franchise owners have personal experience of looking after their mum and dad – one of our biggest franchisees in London was a well-respected estate agent but she wanted to use the experience she’d had of poor care with her own parents to make a difference. I could give you loads of other examples of that. Yes, we have got the policies, procedures, academy and structure, but the ultimate aim of changing the face of ageing keeps us all on the same road together.
What does the structure of your largest franchisees typically look like?
Across the UK we have got about 10,500 clients and about 9,500 caregivers, broadly speaking, and every office will be different. But it really does depend on the nature of the beast because if one office has got a lot of companionship work compared to an other office with more live-in care then the mix of that staffing requirement is very, very different.
How do you measure the success of a franchise office?
First and foremost it is about quality. We are a quality-driven business, and the quality of the care that we give to our clients is what comes first. The quality of training that we give to our caregivers is therefore what drives our business. You have got other metrics of course, such as revenue etcetera, but we are a quality-driven business and if you get that right it drives your reputation and your trust – not only within the client’s family and the client themselves but in the wider network in which we operate within the communities that we serve.
Presumably CQC ratings are an important measurement, too?
CQC ratings are important but our own standards are higher than CQCs – we have our own internal audit team that goes out and does supportive audits for our franchise owners and that’s really to ensure they are complying with what Home Instead is all about but more importantly in terms of what the client’s needs and wants are. And don’t forget CQC is only England, you have got the other three countries that we operate in to ensure that the quality is being met, which is why our standards are higher than the regulator’s minimums. It is not a big stick approach, it is a supportive element to ensure everyone really understands why we have got different processes in place. For example, we do introductions between our caregivers and clients – our caregivers are always introduced to a client – and that is not commonplace. We also match our caregivers and clients, which again is not common place.
Your website outlines the different types of care you offer and references the fact that everybody is different – some people need full-on support while others might just require a friendly face popping in to check on them each day. Is it therefore true to say that a tailored approach to care is at the heart of your business model?
Yes, it completely is. The reason why we won the Queen’s Award for Innovation was purely that – nothing to do with technology. It was basically around the way that we put the client at the heart of everything we do with that tailored approach as you put it. We will do a care consultation with a client and find out what their needs and wants are and then we build that package of care. And it might be somebody wanting a bit of companionship for one hour a week or it might be a live-in at the very other end, and then everything else in between.
Is labour as big an issue in the home care sector as we are led to believe it is in many other people-driven industries right now?
Finding great quality caregivers is a challenge – finding great quality people in any industry is a challenge. And I think it will continue to be a challenge. That’s why we started the Home Instead Senior Care Academy a couple of years ago. We need to raise the profile of social care so that people regard it as a chosen profession rather than something they have fallen into. There are a lot of care managers in this sector who have become care managers and they haven’t had the right support, training or development – they have just been the last man standing and been made a manager. We put a lot of infrastructure around people to help and support them. And if we develop people that are so good that they end up leaving and getting another job then actually that’s fine because it still means that we have attracted more great people to the sector and that’s what it has got to be about.
In the time you have been with the business, would you say the market landscape has shifted quite significantly?
I think there is a lot more of the sector now looking towards the private pay segment of the market than there was when I joined seven years ago. And there is also more realisation – even from the government sector – that we need to work more in partnership with both the private sector and the third party sector. I think home care at long last is now being perceived as the way forward and if you look at somewhere like Japan, which is 10 years ahead of the UK in terms of an ageing population, bricks and mortar will not solve the ageing population crisis – and it is going to be a crisis. I am really passionate about the need to think about how we fund social care going forward.
Funding is the million dollar question though, isn’t it?
Yes it is, but I firmly believe there is something along the lines of having some sort of care voucher approach –we have vouchers to look after our young in terms of nursery, why don’t we open it up and have care vouchers for both ends of the spectrum? If we don’t then it comes back to the ageing population and the ageing workforce. There are a lot of people who are unknown carers now, who are having to take time off work to look after mum and dad. That is costing the economy billions. If we had some kind of support in there, then actually you could pay for someone to look after mum or dad so that you could be in work and it becomes self-financing from an employment perspective and a government perspective. I know from speaking to the World Health Organisation that there is a lot of rigour being put into place to make governments around the world really start opening up their eyes to that ageing population by 2025.
That concept of the care voucher scheme is an interesting one. Is that something you have put to ministers?
Not yet. I have been mooting the idea. It was sort of mentioned in the Conservative manifesto. The challenge is what vehicle to put it through. Home Instead Senior Care is apolitical – we are not affiliated to any party – and I think the problem with social care is that it’s a bit like the NHS in that it is used as a political football because governments don’t really look 10 years into the future, they look four years ahead because they are focused on re-election. What we need is a cross-party group to look at how social care and the NHS are funded and where they are going because in 20 years’ time we are going to have a lot of older people. And if we don’t get it right they are just going to bed-block up the NHS. There is no point continuing to just keep putting loads and loads of cash into the NHS because it is not going to make any difference. You could double the budget and still end up in the same place in 10 years’ time because you are not dealing with the issue. The NHS is a sticking plaster – and that’s what it is meant to be, you break your leg, they make you well – it is not about prevention. The care continuum just needs to be joined up better, and that involves pulling in from public, private, charity and cross-party. There is a bit of movement on that.
All your growth in the UK has been organic. Would you ever look at acquiring a company or is that not part of your thinking?
I would never say never, but I think if I was to acquire 20 offices in the south west, just as an example, that would involve a lot of people and it goes back to that earlier point of culture, ethos and values. And with any acquisition like that, it is the culture and values which make or break it.
What kind of partners are central to your business being able to operate efficiently?
We have core partners in terms of technology and in terms of how the offices operate. We are using virtual reality for some of our caregiver training. We have core partners in training and to ensure that our caregivers, franchise owners and managers are supported. But we haven’t got the food, we haven’t got the bricks and we haven’t got the furniture. We are going to someone’s home so the infrastructure is all there so there is less of those logistics to look after.
Home Instead Senior Care is the largest home care provider in the UK by some distance. How do you think you’re perceived by the rest of the industry?
That’s an interesting question. I think very well. We have got good relationships with the Care Quality Commission, Skills for Care, UKHA, I am a trustee for the Care Workers charity, I work hand-in-hand with The Silver Line and with Business in The Community so we give a lot back. We share our best practice, we are very collaborative and I think people do see us a benchmark in terms of what ‘good’ looks like. But we are not arrogant enough to think that we know everything, so we do spend a lot of time with other care providers, helping and sharing. In terms of our academy, I do want Home Instead to be the leading light and we do want to drive it forward because if more people come to our sector that can only benefit everyone.
Do you find that the market landscape is more competitive now? If somebody is looking for a home care provider, it feels like they are not going to be short of choice…
There are more players in the sector, but don’t forget the cake is getting bigger, a lot bigger, very quickly. So the opportunity for us all is growing day by day. There a lot of players entering but there are also a lot of players falling out of the sector as well. I would certainly say there are a lot more franchise care businesses entering the sector, too. I think when I joined there was around six, but it’s in the late teens now so it has more than tripled. But we still grew 20% like-for-like last year, we are still opening new offices and we are still finding great franchise owners who want to make a difference.
Do each of your franchises set their own prices and fees, or do they work from a centralised model?
We have a metric in terms of the rationale, but obviously local market places dictate pricing so they have that flexibility and that’s the beauty of franchising. We are not a head office, we are a national office – there is a clear distinction – and I do genuinely believe this is why the model works.
When you talk about franchising, many people would automatically think of companies such as McDonald’s or KFC, who are ultimately selling a low-value, physical commodity. You’re in franchising too, but there is a moral element to the product you sell in the sense that the wellbeing of a human being is at the end of it. What sort of challenges does that bring?
It comes back down to me in terms of the type of franchisee that we attract and the type of franchisee that becomes part of Home Instead Senior Care in the sense that they have got to have passion and they have got to have it in their heart why they are doing this. I had one guy that came to us with a great CV and on paper he should have made a really good franchise owner, but all he talked about was profit and that it was a logistics business. He didn’t mention clients, he didn’t mention caregivers, he didn’t mention quality. I got up and just opened the door and said ‘you’re just not for us’ and he went absolutely ballistic. And that really underlined my reason for making the decision! If you put profit before people in this sector it will never ever work. It has to be about people and quality. You have to put the client first and that quality element first because you are dealing with vulnerable people. And that builds up your trust and your reputation. Profit is a reward for what you do, it is not a reason.
Do you take inspiration from any other global franchise businesses?
In terms of this sector then potentially no. We spend a lot of time within the franchise arena helping and supporting each other. One of my team is out tomorrow with other major franchise brands and if you take somebody like McDonald’s who you just mentioned, they are a great business. They created their own degree for their restaurant managers – I want to emulate that at Home Instead with something along those lines and I have been speaking with them about how you do that. Sometimes social care and the home care sector is insular and a lot of the technology or solutions are in other sectors. The beauty of franchising is that it gives me the opportunity to learn from other brands.
You said earlier that Home Instead Senior Care is likely to surpass 200 franchise offices this year. What can you tell us about your longer-term targets?
The capacity for the UK is around about 285. But obviously within each territory there is no glass ceiling as to the number of possible clients. That is growing all the time. Our market penetration has still got a long way to go in terms of where we could be, so even when we sell all the franchises there is still massive opportunity because our growth is 20% like-for-like. That just shows our momentum and it has been like that now for quite a few years.
And as far as industry challenges go, what keeps you awake at night?
The only thing that keeps me awake at night is the care of our clients. In terms of broader challenges, I think the recruitment of great people is always going to be a challenge, as I said before. You have got to look at where we are going to be in 10 years time – it is the complete coordination and planning and future-proofing for our ageing population. We are driving towards a wall and most people in this sector know we are going to hit the wall but no-one’s willing to have the conversation. The public purse is going to get squeezed and squeezed, so unless we have a government that is going to put 5p on income tax or whatever there is always going to be the challenge of where the money comes from.
Just lastly, The Green Paper for social care keeps getting delayed. What is your view on that?
It is really hard because the fact that it keeps on getting kicked into the long grass kind of speaks volumes to me. But if you were Theresa May, what would you do? Unless you want to leave a legacy about you as a person you aren’t going to do anything about social care. It is not a vote winner, you aren’t going to be there when it comes to fruition – because it is going to be 15 to 20 years hence in terms of what you have done – and it is going to cost a lot of money. So when you are only thinking of the next four to five years, why would you bother, and that is the problem. You kind of need someone who is mission-driven – like Bevan who started the NHS and who wanted to do something not just about the here and now, but for the future of the country from a legacy point of view. The Green Paper is good and it needs to happen. My worry is that even if the Green Paper progresses, all the focus will be on Brexit for quite some time.