Regional Home Care Player Accelerates Growth, Starts Franchising

An already fast-growing home care provider is entering a new phase of expansion, adding a fresh service line through a recent acquisition and extending its geographic reach by launching its first franchise location.

Sunny Days In-Home Care launched in 2011, and since that time, the Pittsburgh-based company has grown quickly. In 2015, it pulled in $5.2 million in revenue, and in 2016, it counted about 250 employees and ranked No. 489 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies.

Its service area extended across western Pennsylvania and about as far north as Interstate 80. Within this zone, however, Sunny Days had a gap in serving northern suburban Pittsburgh, in the area known a North Hills. Tapping this market was one driving reason behind the company’s recent acquisition of Daly Care, a provider with a strong North Hills presence, Sunny Days Director of Franchising John Bennett told Home Health Care News.

While they might be rebranded in the future, for now the Daly Care locations will continue to operate under that well-respected name, Bennett said.

“If the numbers are great but the reputation is not, we stay away,” he explained, describing Sunny Days’ approach to potential acquisition targets. “We also look at input from current clients and caregivers … you can get that through Facebook, websites [like Yelp], without going to the person directly.”

If an acquisition target offers a new line of business that Sunny Days is interested in, that also can be compelling. Such was the case with Daly Care, which serves people with intellectual disabilities.

One Daly Care program, known as travel training, teaches people with intellectual disabilities skills like how to use public transportation, manage money, and keep a schedule. This allows them to enter the workforce—in some cases, that even means joining the Daly Care team.

“Depending on the severity of the [intellectual] disability, a lot of [these clients] are in school to become a CNA, and we’re able to hire some of those individuals and have them be caregivers for us,” Bennett said. “We’re able to train them and even provide them with a job opportunity.”

With innovative staffing practices such as this, Sunny Days has been able to ensure that about 99% of shifts are covered, beating the industry average, he added. And while the company has high turnover—a pressing problem throughout the industry—it is putting a lot of effort into retention. Initiatives include bonuses for workers who do not miss shifts and who go above and beyond each quarter. The company also bestows a “superior service” award based on a variety of criteria.

Sunny Days also places a premium on hiring the right people at the outside, sometimes hiring one person for every 10 interviews.

“That puts pressure on us to advertise to find that one individual, but it helps us retain people, too,” Bennett said.

Windy City debut

With its business model stable and proven in Pennsylvania, Sunny Days also is now starting to move beyond the Keystone State. In January 2017, the first-ever Sunny Days franchise opened in Chicago.

Based in the western suburb of Plainfield, the Chicago outpost serves the communities of Bolingbrook, Joliet, Naperville, and nearby areas. It provides up to 24 hours of care for clients, with services including assistance with daily living activities, dementia care, and respite care.

By the end of the year, the goal is to have another four franchise locations in the works, Bennett said.

“We hope the pace is going to ramp up, we’d like to [do] 10 a year, but we don’t want to grow so quickly that we’re not able to support them on the back end,” he said. “We’ll grow according to what makes the most sense.”

The Windy City made sense as the first franchise city for several reasons, including its relative proximity to Pittsburgh and its “solid” demographics, with plenty of seniors to serve now and a growing population projected.

Future franchises also likely will be in the Great Lakes region, Bennett said.

“From what we’ve found, there are a lot of seniors who used to work in factories or mills, and they’re still [in this area] and their kids have moved away,” he explained. “This region makes sense for us. It’s sort of in our backyard.”

Written by Tim Mullaney