Caring Senior Service
Caring Senior Service reduces the burden on its franchisees with its back-office services and software.
By Mark Lawton, Knighthouse Media
Business is good at Caring Senior Service (CSS), which helps senior clients with at-home nonmedical care and continues to see year-over-year growth. CSS added new locations in 2018 and has already seen growth at each of them. “That’s been going on for 28 years,” founder and CEO Jeff Salter says. “Any statistic you look at, when individuals get to an advanced age, they want to live at home. There has been an increase in nursing homes but people prefer to live at home.”
There is competition in this fast growing market. In any of the 50 markets where CSS has corporate or franchise locations, Salter estimates there are 10 to 15 local franchise brands plus standalone companies. “That is driven by the fact that the senior population is expanding and has a long growth curve,” Salter says.
CSS separates itself from other companies in three main ways. First it aims to provide the highest-quality caregivers. “We are the only company that does national background checks across our entire organization,” Salter says. “Each interview includes a series of questions to make sure individuals are qualified for the position. There is a training program to provide a level of service that is standardized and a knowledge of client conditions.”
Second, CSS creates a customized plan for each client that fits that person’s needs. “We do an assessment so we understand the best way to help them,” Salter says. “It’s very thorough and covers many aspects of their daily living. We understand their condition, health history, social environment and other factors so we can develop a plan of care to help them in their daily lives. Our supervisors meet the caregivers and introduce them and help them understand the needs of the client.”
Third, CSS stays involved in client care. That includes weekly check-ins by supervisors with clients to make sure services are being delivered and a list of vendors to help seniors with plumbing repairs, lawn mowing and other household tasks.
To help its franchisees CSS has been working on two projects to help its franchises. The company has developed its own proprietary software called Tendio, which it recently also introduced as an app. Tendio helps franchise owners more easily handle administrative functions including sourcing, onboarding and managing employees, admitting clients, gathering health information, scheduling, billing and payroll.
Clients are issued a tablet computer where caregiver can check in and record the duties they perform for a client. “It gives complete visibility to the client’s family members if the client chooses to share it,” Salter says. “Caregivers don’t have to travel back and forth to drop off paperwork. Franchisees can focus on care rather than administration.”
About eight months ago, CSS began offering back-office services to franchise owners, particularly when it comes to hiring. “They can hire our team to do a lot of the advertisement placement, phone screenings and scheduling interviews,” Salter explains. “It results in a much higher completion rate and it reduces their costs.”
As part of its franchise support effort, CSS has a national intake center to help take callers through the initial part of the process. “A caller might say, ‘I think mom needs help but I don’t know what she needs,’” Salter says. “It takes the burden off the franchise owners and results in a higher sign-up rate.”
CSS charges an initial franchise fee of $41,500, plus an ongoing 5 percent royalty fee and 2 percent marketing fee. New franchisees receive a quick-start guide to help with initial business set-up tasks including insurance, workers compensation, tax identification numbers, registering with local and state authorities and other policies and procedures for operating in their state.
Next is two weeks of online training followed by a week of in-person training at the company’s San Antonio headquarters. Staff help the new franchisees create a 16-week marketing plan and then coach the franchisees weekly on their marketing efforts.
CSS staff visit the new location after the grand opening for three days to help out with operational practices including onboarding caregivers, marketing and other aspects of business.
For ongoing assistance, CSS has a phone support line, which allows anyone in the franchisee office to talk to a CSS representative who can answer any question, Salter says. CSS also holds an owner’s conference and three franchise owner events per year and CSS pays for the hotel and airfare. “A lot of good information is shared owner to owner,” Salter says.
The biggest challenge for CSS is gaining enough caregivers. “The numbers are staggering for the number of caregivers that have to be hired in the next 10 years,” Salter says. “Our challenge is being the company that caregivers want to work for.”
With advertising and a recruitment center, CSS gets lots of applicants. “But finding qualified people who you actually want to represent your company is the real challenge,” Salter says. “Also, if you have work for a caregiver, they will probably stick with you. If you have a break in service, that caregiver can’t wait around. The challenge is to keep them busy.”
This is not a new challenge. Salter recalls attending an early meeting of the Homecare Association of America in 2002. Even then, a major topic of discussion was employee retention. “I went to a meeting 18 years later and the big topic is [still] employ retention,” Salter says. “My take is, retention is dependent on supplying jobs to those caregivers. It is impossible to retain someone if the job they are working ends and they have unemployment.”
For the next couple years, CSS will concentrate on helping franchisees with day-to-day operations as they grow. “The industry is dominated by single-unit operators,” Salter explains. “We want people to be able to have multiple locations.”
Longer term, CSS will focus on efficiency. “There might come a time where there is more pressure on profit margins for the business,” Salter says. “If we can continue to improve our highly efficient model, if there is pressure on margins, we will be able to survive better than others.