The concept of franchising is not new in Australia, we have quite a long history and the variety of franchised opportunities seem to be limited only by entrepreneurial imagination. But many franchises are founded on the provision of low client risk services (yard work or bookkeeping) or high-cost items (car dealerships). Home care involves a clientele who are the most vulnerable – the aged and persons with disabilities. This does not assume that all of our clients (aged or living with a disability) are necessarily vulnerable, but in the wider population, they are frequently victims of exploitation.

A home care franchise therefore must operate in an environment where a business must be profitable, but not at the expense of the recipient of their services. How can the two tensions be reconciled?

In all businesses, there are obligations to employees. Franchises are no different. Fair work must be remunerated with fair pay and working conditions. In order to offer employees a fair wage, prices for services must cover employee salaries and benefits. Keeping a business (franchise) solvent incorporates a number of other financial commitments including insurance, premise upkeep, infrastructure (hardware and software) and personnel. Uniquely, a franchise also includes a financial obligation to the franchisor (usually a percentage fee) and often a fee or levy for overall marketing.

A benefit of being part of a home care franchise is not only access to ongoing support and guidance when needed, but there is an opportunity to learn with and from other like-minded business owners. The costs of developing marketing materials, access to government compliance materials such as policies and documentation, are shared through the ongoing franchise fee rather than being borne by the individual business.

For home care franchises, income is earned by the provision or services, but the greater percentage of these services are funded by the taxpayer as Aged Care Funding or NDIS funding. Therefore, there are obligations of home care providers to be accountable to the government, taxpayer and society in general. The compliance requirements are quite extraordinary, particular and time-consuming to implement and maintain. These are again the hidden costs associated with operating a home care franchise.

A good friend (who is also my legal adviser) who deals with a large variety of franchised businesses has seen many of his clients experience financial difficulties due to wage requirements and the actual costs associated with operating a franchised business. My response, based not only on experience, but with advising franchise home care operators is that this is one franchise model that is viable and profitable, provided that operators understand their obligations to their clientele and employees are offer quality services at a fair price.

Having started in home care as a franchisee nine years ago and now as franchisor, the market environment is more crowded, the regulations more complex, expectations of clients, families and owners higher, there remains great opportunities for those wishing to enter the field. But it is not for the faint at heart. It is not for those looking to change their work/life pattern to provide more leisure time. On the contrary, operating a home care franchise is a lot of work, many hours and great commitment until the business establishes. BUT the rewards are just as great. A business where your clients appreciate what you do, are happy to engage with you, the ability to provide work to your employees and support them in more ways than a wage. This may be my third career (and it will be my last), but it is by far, the most rewarding.