Homewatch CareGivers President: There Continues To Be So Much White Space, Opportunity For New Franchise Units

Todd Houghton, the brand president at Homewatch CareGivers, has always been passionate about helping people get into business for themselves. As his career evolved, he also became passionate about helping the aging population grow older in their homes with dignity.

In his role at Homewatch CareGivers, he combines these two passions. Houghton oversees and executes the overall growth strategy for the franchise, while ensuring that franchisees in the Homewatch CareGivers network have the room to thrive as business owners.

Denver-based Homewatch CareGivers is a home care franchise company that operates in over 30 states and seven countries. The franchiser employs over 4,500 caregivers at its estimated 230 total locations.

Houghton recently sat down for the latest episode of Home Health Care News’ Disrupt. During the conversation, he detailed the company’s aggressive franchise growth plan, its innovative workforce strategy and his predictions for the home care space.

Highlights of the conversation are below, edited for length and clarity.

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HHCN: Homewatch CareGivers has seen some pretty steady growth over the last several years. How have you been able to put your growth strategy into practice?

Houghton: There are two pieces that have really helped the growth. One is focusing on our existing franchise network and providing them the appropriate resources day in and day out to grow their business.

One of the biggest challenges they face, day in and day out, is having enough staff to service that demand. The space needs to continue to evolve and find other technology aspects that can improve efficiencies. That’s part of what we’ve been focusing on. Also, there continues to be so much white space and opportunity for new franchise units to open up across the United States and beyond. We’ve been heavily focused on that. Every day, more and more people desire to get into business for themselves, and our space is very passion-driven. People at the height of their career or mid-executive career start wanting to get into this business for themselves – their parents are aging, or whatever it might be. This helps our segment and Homewatch grow.

What are some of the near-term growth goals the company has in the early stages of 2023?

From a unit growth, we’re very focused on how we’re going to fill the gaps across the country this year. I personally have a goal to open up 30 new offices across the U.S., specifically. We did 18 last year, almost doubling what we’ll do this year. We’ll look into 2024, 2025 and 2026 — doing the same type of growth. That’s from the unit growth. From existing franchisees, we’ve experienced for the last five years double-digit revenue increases across our brand. We have that same focus for the next five years.

When it comes to expanding franchises today, what are some of the challenges Homewatch CareGivers is trying to overcome? What’s top of mind for you and the rest of the company?

Looking back maybe 14 or 15 years ago, there were only a dozen, or so, franchise companies in the home care space. Today, there are over 70 franchise companies. That’s one of the biggest challenges. There are just so many competitors out there that are franchising home care services. That’s a big obstacle. Another one is just really nailing down that labor challenge as well, so that when new franchisees come into the space, they can get out there and hit the ground running.

Also, the world changed a few years ago, and it’s getting people’s mindsets to what is life like post-COVID, and getting back out and focused on their business, and growing their business. As they grow their first territory, we get them to do expansion, which will help us grow as well.

What about opportunities that are most exciting to you and the company?

I think it’s a great time for innovation and a little disruption in the space. How can technology drive that? It’s time to evolve the space and get more people access to home care. We’re working on some exciting things that I’m looking forward to revealing a little bit later this year.

Why is training such a focus for Homewatch CareGivers?

On the training aspect, it’s all about the quality of care and the delivery of care. If the caregivers are not trained appropriately, there could be safety issues, or other challenges that can happen in the home. That can be damaging to the brand. That’s why we have such a strong focus on that training piece for people that are coming on board with Homewatch.

It also is a differentiator in the fact that we require our offices to provide many different classes to their caregivers before they even enter the home. The other piece that ties into the training aspect is there are a lot of non-traditional caregivers out there. With the solid training program that we have, we can take the best barista at the coffee shop and turn them into a caregiver.

We want to be able to have the best training in place to recruit them to come on board with us.

The last time we talked with Homewatch CareGivers, the idea of a workforce strategy committee, made up of the company’s franchise owners, was a relatively new thing. Tell me about how that’s going and what you’ve learned from that process.

We’ve made great strides with that. We do have a working group of franchise owners, and I actually have a workforce strategy manager on my support team. They meet monthly. The theme is workplace excellence, so it’s all about recruiting and retention of caregivers that come into our space and into our brand. We’ve seen tremendous improvement in our retention of caregivers as a result of this committee, meeting on a monthly basis, sharing out the best practices to our entire network and having the best caregivers out there.

Conversely, on the recruiting standpoint, they’re the ones that have come up with the idea around this turning non-traditional caregivers into Homewatch CareGivers. This group has really been innovative, and a great resource for our network to bring those things to life.

What are you guys doing with technology when it comes to recruitment and retention?

We do a lot of fun video snippets on social media, as one example. Simplifying the application process through technology, by using applicant tracking systems that certainly improve that process. Days aren’t going by before they get a call back on the recruitment process, which helps tremendously to shorten that window from application to hire to start. Also bringing in technology to simplify the caregiver process once they’re on board with us, so the practice management platform that we use really helps them reduce the amount of time for documentation, which can take significant time. Also, just being able to have easier visibility to electronic care plans, communicating with family through technology. All of these things have really improved the process for caregivers in the home.

Finally, Todd, do you have any prediction for home care?

The segment is going to continue to grow tremendously. We have a huge opportunity to take on higher-acuity patients in the home, which will help us grow. Technology will become a bigger player day in and day out. In the next nine to 12 months, we’ll see a lot more AI coming into home care that will provide that feedback to practitioners, to understand what’s going on with their patients at home.

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