With more than 150 franchises in the United States and Canada, Nurse Next Door adds new locations frequently. But the Vancouver-based home care company is about to enter uncharted territory, with a Melbourne location set to open before Christmas and a number of domestic caregiver, technology and growth priorities for 2019.
Nurse Next Door’s Melbourne expansion marks its first international deal, with the company’s Australian master franchise going to locals Amber Biesse and Matt Fitton.
“We’ve been pretty methodical in how we’ve wanted to approach international,” Cathy Thorpe, Nurse Next Door’s president and CEO, told Home Health Care News. “We spent a lot of time looking at the different markets, and we felt that Australia was very aligned with North American, and we’d be able to adapt our system very easily there.”
After opening the corporate location, Biesse and Fitton will start looking for franchise locations in three to six months, Thorpe said. From there, the goal is gradually add locations, growing to 75 to 100 Australian franchises within the next five to 10 years.
Nurse Next Door’s international plans, which have been in the works for about five years, don’t stop there.
“We do want to be aggressive going forward and we plan to expand into three to five new markets in the next 12 to 18 months,” Thorpe said.
Targets currently include the United Kingdom, where there’s no language barrier; Germany, which offers an entryway to mainland Europe; and China, where the aging population is growing without the infrastructure to support it, Thorpe said.
She advises other agencies considering international expansion to adopt a global mindset and ensure their domestic business is secure, uniform and scalable.
While international expansion is a big priority for 2019, Nurse Next Door hasn’t lost sight of domestic goals, such as improving caregiver retention and adopting innovative technology.
“I want as an organization to disrupt how the industry sees the caregiver role as a casual job,” Thorpe said, naming career path development for caregivers as one of Nurse Next Door’s focuses for 2019.
In doing that, the company hopes to satisfy workers, thus lowering turnover, which industry-wide hovers just above 65%, and combating the industry caregiver shortage, which has long been identified as a top concern among home care agencies.
“We’re actually hiring caregivers full-time,” Thorpe said. “We’re guaranteeing hours for them, so for the first time they actually know how much their paycheck is going to be [and] how they can plan for their future.”
For most locations offering the benefit, full-time caregivers are guaranteed 30 or more hours per week.
Nurse Next Door started testing full-time caregivers at its corporate-owned location about 18 months ago, and the initiative continues to roll out on a larger scale, with franchises following suit on a discretionary basis.
By 2020, the goal is for all locations to offer some form of guaranteed hours, higher wages and benefits, Thorpe said.
“It’s not just about going in and adding hours to their week,” Thorpe said. ”What are other career aspirations people have, and how are we able to help people get to those places?”
Tech advancements, domestic expansion
Using technology to improve business operations is another 2019 priority for Nurse Next Door.
“By and large, I think the home care industry has been behind in technology, so I think it’s refreshing to see some of these companies like Honor,” Thorpe said. “You can ask, ‘are they disrupting home care?’ I think they’re actually helping us move forward, and it’s forced us to really look and say, “What does our platform look like? How do we continue to invest in our platform?”
Over the past two years, Nurse Next Door has incorporated technology into its strategy on a larger scale and will continue to do so in 2019, Thorpe said.
Finding technologies that make scheduling easier, removing client-caregiver friction and making the online user experience easier are all at the top of Thorpe’s list.
Finally, other goals include continued growth across Canada and the US.
Priorities for Canada include growth for comparable store sales, while Nurse Next Door plans to open 50 to 60 new locations in the U.S., Thorpe said.
Written by Bailey Bryant