Claire Simmons, founder of home care franchise In Home Care, explores how a natural ability to care has been fundamental in taking the company across the UK and Ireland.

Franchising has long been seen as an alternative way for the entrepreneurially-minded to fulfil their dream of starting a business without the high risk it entails. They tend to be seen as a secure investment for banks, as does the fact that 99% of all franchisees succeed beyond their first year.

Make no mistake, though, there is plenty that goes on behind the scenes into growing a franchise and making it a success.

Myself and my business partner, Paul Reynolds, started In Home Care in 2011, without having had a background in the care sector. At the time, we were running an insolvency business. It was when Paul’s mother began showing signs of dementia, and latterly, my father-in-law supporting my mother-in-law with terminal bone cancer, that we took the decision to venture on the path we’re now on.

We wanted to make information about home care accessible and the services available to everyone, regardless of their condition, age, or background. Around two years ago, we began franchising, and today, have completed deals on seven franchises across the South of England, with more to come in North London, Essex, Hertfordshire, and Dublin.

One of the many lessons we have learnt in this time is that caring for our franchisees and their respective teams matters just as much as the work our carers do in the field.

As is the case with any business, staff wellbeing is vital in maintaining morale and productivity. But there are other reasons why it is important to take care of franchisees – the first being reputation.

Demonstrating that a franchisor takes extra steps in caring for their franchisees’ welfare is appealing to new members looking to join the network and for investors. Each person’s needs will be different, of course, but it is worth keeping in close dialogue with franchisees to see how they are doing, both in terms of their daily operation and whether they would benefit from additional support.

‘Support’, in this context, means a personal, practical approach. According to the Mental Health Foundation[1] one in six people will have experienced a mental health difficulty in the past week. That means as a franchise network expands, the likelihood of a franchisee or a member of their local team being affected by their mental health increases.

It is natural that franchisees will feel nervous in the early stages of their development, especially if they have no previous background in the industry like Paul and I when we first started. Coupled with other pressures or pre-existing mental health conditions, odds are a franchisee may feel overwhelmed at one point or another.

This is where franchisors need to take responsibility. Instigating an open culture which allows franchisees to speak freely about any difficulties they are experiencing creates a sense of trust and offer reassurance for franchisees feeling under pressure. Part of this culture should also be about managing expectations, and not being afraid to broach the topic of what a franchisee would need if they do experience ill mental health.

As part of the franchisor-franchisee partnership, the former should always provide training to help the latter off the ground. Whilst it will differ according to each industry, personal support should always be considered in helping a franchisee take care of their emotional wellbeing alongside building their business. Through the implementation of a caring mindset, franchisors are in a strong position to help their franchisees overcome the experience, which in turn, helps them make their individual location a success.

At In Home Care, we have implemented our own internal mental health support programme, Beautiful Minds, to encourage our carers (and other staff members) to reach out, in confidence, about any difficulties they are having. Having this conversation then enables us to put the necessary steps in place to help that carer, and by extension, the customers they are supporting.

Franchisors cannot be passive, however. Those experiencing mental health difficulties may find it difficult to come forward, even with the promise of confidentiality. Therefore, having a regular check-in process, as part of the franchisee’s training and development programme, provides a means of beginning the discussion and ultimately, ensuring the franchisee feels comfortable in admitting they are perhaps struggling.

In addition, educating themselves on the warning signs of stress or reasons for dips in performance gives a franchisor a chance to empathise with the franchisee’s situation, even if they don’t fully understand it. This empathy opens the door to the franchisee getting the right professional support.

The Mental Health Foundation adds that addressing wellbeing issues within workplaces can increase productivity by as much as 12%[2]. For franchisees, some of which may have small teams working under them, that little extra support can go a long way for their business, and indeed, the franchisor’s.

Though it might sound like a cliché, a franchise’s strongest asset is its people. They are the ones wearing the brand’s colours, delivering its message, and ultimately, enhancing its profile both locally and nationally. Opening the door to discussions about emotional needs leads to the long-term success of everyone involved in growing a franchise network.

This post was written by In Home Care. They are an exhibitor on the FranchiseShow247 Franchise Care floor. You can visit their FranchiseShow247 exhibition stand here.