Thrive: Senior Helpers Franchisee Steadily Acquiring New Territories

After catching a brief glimpse of the value home care offers, entrepreneur Ross Goodson purchased the rights to his first Senior Helpers franchise territory in 2009. But unlike many older, more well-established franchise owners, he was only 26 years old at the time.

As of April 1,2019, Goodson had a total of five Senior Helpers franchise territories in his ever-expanding portfolio. The list includes three Florida locations, in addition to two other territories in the Cincinnati market.

Educating clients and caregivers alike has been the key to that growth, Goodson told Home Health Care News.

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“A lot of our potential clients don’t know what home care is until they need it for themselves or loved ones, so I believe strongly that providing education before those needs arise helps them in terms of preparation and learning how Senior Helpers is a trusted leader in their communities,” Goodson said. “Then with caregivers, I believe the more you give to your employees, the more you get out of them.”

Founded in 2002, Baltimore-based Senior Helpers has more than 300 franchise locations worldwide, caring for tens of thousands of older adults combined.

The total estimated investment to launch a Senior Helpers franchise is between $103,300 and $142,300, a range that factors in three months of working capital and staffing funds, plus the standard $39,500 initial franchise fee.

Instead of looking at his age as a limiting factor, Goodson viewed it as a differentiator. That outlook — combined with his educational focus — has helped the entrepreneur and his diversified Senior Helpers business thrive.

“There are several challenges with starting any new business, regardless of your age,” Goodson said. “I think that being young kept me naive to a lot of concerns. I didn’t think of it as a problem that I was young. I thought being a younger guy in an older senior care business model would be an opportunity to have a different perspective.”

The value of home care

Similar to other owners and operators, Goodson’s passion for in-home care originates from personal experience.

As the story goes, Goodson’s grandfather invited a woman named Karen — a relative stranger — to the funeral of his grandmother. During services, Karen gave a speech reflecting a close bond between herself and Goodson’s grandmother, piquing the young entrepreneur’s interest.

“There’s all these family and friends at this funeral, but this woman who I had never really met got up and spoke,” Goodson said. “She was a younger woman who I wasn’t familiar with, but it turns out she was the caregiver for my grandmother.”

After inquiring, Goodson found out Karen had been hired to help his grandmother with laundry for only a few hours per week. In their brief moments together, the woman and his grandmother formed a deep connection built on companionship and basic human interaction.

After learning about that bond, Goodson decided he wanted to eventually go into the home care business for himself, working to help other seniors find the same level of care and comfort as his grandmother in her final years.

“She was this person hired once a week to do laundry, but what ended up happening is she would come, put a load of laundry in and then engage with my grandmother,” Goodson said. “When my grandmother passed away, my grandfather believed Karen, the caregiver, should speak at her funeral, which was amazing to me. It showed how important the services home care providers offer really are.”

Acquiring territory

While he’s still under 40, Goodson’s home care history is long and winding.

Three years after opening his first Senior Helpers franchise location in Palm Beach Gardens Florida in 2009, Goodson acquired the territory rights to a second location in nearby Stuart, slightly to the north. Goodson — who served as the CEO of the Palm Beach Gardens location — brought in outside help to grow and manage the Stuart Senior Helpers location.

“What I believe in is setting up a system that can be duplicated or replicated across the country,” Goodson said. “That’s where I am today.”

After seeing success in both markets, Goodson promptly acquired yet another Florida Senior Helpers location. However, the wheeling and dealing wasn’t even close to being finished.

In October 2017, Goodson sold his original Palm Beach Gardens operation, which the entrepreneur ultimately grew to about $6.5 million in business, he said.

“We were able to achieve a little bit better multiples upon sale because we built it up and had a structure in place,” Goodson said. “That was something we always had in the back of our minds — building the team to where, if the company was being sold, a new owner could come in without being an essential part of day-to-day operations.”

It’s after selling the Palm Beach Gardens Senior Helpers location that Goodson decided to expand into Cincinnati — his hometown — and elsewhere in Florida.

“I know I’m all over the place, but at the end of the day, I have bought and sold the Palm Beach Gardens location, currently own two territories in Cincinnati, while Stuart now has two territories, in addition to the [most recent] location in Sarasota, Florida.”

In many ways, Goodson has turned his initial franchise investment into a mini-franchise of its own. Besides education, maintaining a higher quality of care standard has been a key focus, he said.

“This industry needs good providers,” Goodson said. “There are so many providers out there trying to come up with the next way to get rich, so to speak. There are providers all over the place that don’t provide quality care or quality education to their clients and employees. I believe we do. So that’s what I look for.

Education and the future

The caregiver shortage in the U.S. continues to be one of the most pressing challenges facing the home care industry — with no end in sight. Between 2016 to 2026, 7.8 million direct care worker job openings will be created due to seismic demographic shifts, skyrocketing demand and other factors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, the home care industry is marked by a turnover rate estimated to be as high as 65%.

“When we opened the business in 2009, the economy was not in a good place,” Goodson said. “It took the better part of four or five years to get it into a good place. The market for hiring employees, in general, is significantly different than it was five or six years ago.”

To recruit and retain caregivers, Goodson has invested in training and finding ways to encourage upskilling. The strategy is in line with what Senior Helpers is doing on a national level, reflected by its specialized dementia training for clients, their family members and caregivers alike.

“The education Senior Helpers assists us owners with is crucial,” Goodson said. “The better you do in terms of training and educating, folks end up being loyal employees because you’re not just paying them, but you’re also broadening their horizons, treating them with respect.”

Thrive is a HHCN series that explores the successes, struggles and strategies of home care owners and operators on the local level.

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