Franchise Marketing Radio recently sat down with our CEO and founder, Jeff Salter, to discuss the history of Caring and Jeff's bike 10,000-mile bike ride in 2021. Jeff also shares some of the trends that he has seen over his 3 decades in business and how Caring is getting ready to face the next 3 decades of service. Listen to the podcast below or read the complete transcript.
0:43: Rob Ginley
Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio. I’m Rob Ginley and I’m your host today and I’ve got a great guest with us and something that’s a topic and an industry that is near and dear to me and affects me so I’m real interested to talk to our guest. I have Jeff Salter. He is the CEO and founder of Caring Senior Service. Welcome to the show Jeff.
1:09: Jeff Salter
Hi Rob. Thanks a lot for having me today. I really appreciate the chance to share more about our brand and company and what we’re doing.
1:16: Rob Ginley
It’s great to have you. So tell us a little bit about that. How did Caring come to be?
1:21: Jeff Salter
Yeah, well we’re now 31 years in business, and I started the company in 1991 as a 20-year-old taking care of a home health company — I say taking care of. I worked in the office for a home health care company and I saw that that company provided skilled care but they didn’t provide any of the services that seniors needed and families were depending on for the other hours that they were not there. The company I worked for they would accept calls and I would answer the phone and people would say they needed a caregiver at night or someone to be with mom or dad over the weekend and I would have to basically tell them we didn’t have that service.
I started helping people by giving them a list of names and they could hire people privately and I found that issues came up and they called back and say hey that person didn’t work out. I need more people. I need more help with mom now, do you have another name? And, the idea struck me that this is a service that needs to be managed and someone needs to be in the middle to help coordinate everything going on to help families know what’s out there and to organize caregivers so that the schedules could be met and the demand could be met, and in 1991 there just wasn’t an industry like this. It didn’t exist at all. Today it is a huge industry. But, being one of the early pioneers in it, I got to see it from the ground up.
I started my first location in Odessa, Texas, and I quickly learned that the service was needed in other areas. I opened up a branch office in Midland which is kind of 30 miles away from Odessa, then McAllen, Corpus Christi, Texas, San Antonio, Texas, and then in 2002 we started franchising the business so we started expanding across the US from that point.
3:08: Rob Ginley
Wow. Yeah I can remember as I go back, my career goes back to the early 2000s for franchising at least, that part of it. I remember there was quite a boom happening in senior care and it was starting to become apparent that there was a tidal wave coming and that’s kind of where we're at. We’re underwater I think, we’re starting to be. So tell me a little bit more about, I mean the brand. I mean when I say it. You know, Caring Senior Service or just Caring, right? I mean, that says a lot to me and what you just said about how you started the brand. I mean it really came out of your heart, caring, right? So tell us a little bit about the branding aspect of that and how that sort of carries over.
3:52: Jeff Salter
Yeah we really wanted, when we were thinking about becoming more of a national company, we really wanted to pay attention to what we were trying to say just without brand and it was important for me. We had had this idea of helping seniors stay at home. To be home you had to be heathy and we know that everybody loves to be happy when they’re home. That’s their happy place, tends to be. And, we were really specific in our brand to include three words.
If you look at our logo you’ll see that we’ve got health, happy, home, and that’s really our mission statement. It’s something we were real specific about. We wanted to make sure everyone knew what our mission as an organization was, it’s to have them healthy, keep their loved one as healthy as can be by being involved with them, keep them happy in the process and most of all people want to remain home. Nobody wants to leave their house to receive services somewhere else. Nobody really wants to go to a nursing home or assisted living. They generally have to do that because they don’t have any other options or don’t know about other options so we are really careful with that. We wanted to include the heart because you know that’s where we come from.
A lot of people don’t recognize it but we’ve got a little bit of a mystery in our logo itself. The blue square that you see in our logo when you take a look at it actually represents a door and that is us entering the home of someone so it’s got real purpose behind it and the main thing with our brand is we want to make sure people understood our mission right from the start.
5:24: Rob Ginley
Yeah. I think that’s brilliant. I mean it’s important. It’s a transfer of feeling and that is an important distinction what you’re talking about is home, right. Because I think about my mom. My mom’s 84, my dad passed away not long ago and that’s why I can say, you know, what I meant earlier when it’s near and dear to me because of some of the things we had to go through. And I think all of us when we get to a certain age it starts to become a reality and it’s becoming more of a reality for so many. That kind of brings me to my next question. I know you did a bit of an excursion a couple of years ago and wanted to bring awareness to this idea of senior care and just folks like me maybe in their 40s, 50s, have older parents. A lot of us are being quiet about our challenges and there is just not enough awareness that there’s help out there. Anyway, tell us more about the bike ride. I want to learn more about what you did there and how that is playing over now.
6:25: Jeff Salter
Yeah, it turned out, we wanted to, we were celebrating or about to celebrate 30 years of business. And that is an amazing accomplishment for any business. And we recognized that we wanted to do something. We came up with some different ideas in kind of a workshop and said how do we want to celebrate 30 years. The genesis of it. I had started riding my bike. I have an electric bike and I had started riding it to work. It’s about 20 miles each way, and during one of these meetings one of the guys just said a joking comment, "Jeff you should ride your bike and visit every location." And I immediately said at the onset that’s the silliest idea I’ve ever heard. No way, I’m riding my bike to every location.
But because I’m entrepreneurial, because I’m always solving problems, I thought what would it take to ride a bike that many miles to go visit every location. We’re in 21 states so how could I get to each location, and what would it take? So I started actually working on my electric bike, learned a lot about the electronics that go into it, battery technology, things like that and I came back about a month later and said, "Guys I can do this. I can make the distances that I need to every day. We can plot out a course on which I can ride to every office." With that we thought okay, that’s cool, that’s fun, but why? Just to celebrate 30 years, and we thought yeah that’s true, and so we really wanted to bring some purpose behind it not just celebration. But also we decided to start a movement and we called it the Close the Gap in Senior Care, and what we would do is use this as our platform for really showing everyone that the needs of seniors are great and that we have gaps in every community that exists be it funding gaps, housing gaps, care gaps that might exist, and we really want to bring awareness. With that awareness, also bringing attention.
During the ride I hoped I would encourage people to really focus on three things.
First is people that might want to become caregivers. We could see that there is an opportunity in this industry and we need a lot of caregivers. There is just a huge shortage, there’s going to be shortages for many years to come so we want to bring more people into the field. Also, I wanted to kind of highlight technology. I was doing this on an electric bike. I wanted to say, "Hey if this guy is able to do an electric bike ride and using technology to assist him is there some way that I can be inspired by that and develop technology that can help seniors in some meaningful way?" Finally, the other thing was just to bring caregivers into senior care. Yes, if they became a Caring franchisee that would be fantastic but we just need so many people involved in senior care in every level that we hope to raise that awareness and really drive it, and even with those two missions, celebrate 30 years and raise awareness, we decided to add a third thing and we decided to start raising funds during the ride.
We are excited to say that by the end of the ride we raised $170,000 and we are using that money now to install grab bars into senior’s homes that couldn’t afford it on their own. So, to date, we have done 160 installations and we’re continuing to do installs. We’ve got 400+ to still do and we are still seeing people donate money to our cause so it was really a cool thing and it really helps our franchisees at the local level because they have now a nonprofit they can be involved with. We took our movement and turned it into a nonprofit so it’s something that everyone can get behind and it’s a positive message, and it really spoke to our mission and purpose as a company.
10:07: Rob Ginley
Yeah, yeah man. That guy’s a marketer. I listen, I think and I see how all the dots can act. So having that kind of tool, as a local owner, would open many doors, and the concept in today’s marketing of getting behind social causes and companies getting behind social causes is so important to marketing. It is important just for humanity, right, that’s why we really do it, but it’s great for marketing. It’s what the younger generations will expect, right, from our leaders and our corporate businesses to really hook in and say what can I do in my world, you know. I love that, installing grab bars in homes. That’s a real benefit, a real helpful thing and it translates, right? It’s great to talk about but what an amazing story. So that kind of leads me to my next question. When you start a franchise brand it’s all about local ownership and entrepreneurship and partnering, and what does your vision look like? You’ve been in business 30 years. What does it look like for the future? I know senior care is all about the population getting older and there is nothing but demand increase in what I can see, but what’s your plan for the future? What does it look like do you think?
11:35: Jeff Salter
Well, I think I’m a little — I don’t know if it’s unique necessarily — but there are very few brands in our space that have leadership that ran and operated locations before becoming a franchise company. The biggest brands in our industry all got into it with the decision to start franchising right away. They opened a location as a test model and then they became franchisors kind of immediately, and that’s great. A lot of franchises are very successful doing that but we came from a very different aspect so my vision of what the future is is really rooted in truly helping seniors. I want to see that seniors can live longer, can be at home more comfortably and want to do whatever we can to make that successful and not strictly driven by a profit motive. We, of course, if we do well, if we serve our clients well, we’re all going to be compensated for that but it’s all about looking for what seniors need today and tomorrow with care. That’s led us to be very different as an organization.
First and foremost as a franchisor, our goal is not to be the biggest franchisor in the country in senior care. Our goal is to help each of our franchisees be the biggest in their market that they’re in. If I have five franchisees, 50, 150, that will always be our goal to help them be the best they can be in their local market because, and I‘m sure we’ll talk about marketing, but it just really requires the owner to be involved but they have to have a great product to sell. They have to have something that is needed and wanted. So, we have done things like develop our own software along the way because we wanted to tap into technologies that would be available today and in the future. Ad you can’t do that when you’re beholden to a software vendor and they might not want to integrate that into your systems. And there are just some flaws that exist there that we recognized over 8 years ago. We knew it early on but we just weren’t to the point where we could develop our own software, and we have since done that.
You know, the future of senior care is changing. A lot of people don’t realize it but we went through two previous decades of kind of stagnant growth in senior care. It was expanding rapidly but the growth rate itself was very steady. When we started in 2000, we went from the previous decade 2 million people turned 85+ and that’s an important distinction because 85 is kind of the age that people really start needing our types of service. We had a decade of growth that was only about 2 million people entering that age range but starting in 2000 that number doubles to almost 4 million people and then from 2030 to 2040 that’s going to double again. It’s over 8 million people will be aging. What a lot of Americans don’t realize and the talk about a silver tsunami and that was really people aging 65. Those people don’t turn 85 until you know it’s 20 years later so we’re going to see this huge growth that is unprecedented in society of seniors needing help and we’re really trying to look at any possible way we can evolve as a company to meet that demand.
15:00: Rob Ginley
Yeah. I love that you have such an eye on technology too because clearly with some of the advances in AI and even Blockchain, but all these things hopefully 5G makes ubiquitous communications easy so hopefully, and a guy with an eye on tech, you can keep helping. I know helping seniors at home tech is something that could certainly play a role and is now. You know, simple things like grab bars but then there’s other things, monitors...
15:36: Jeff Salter
That’s something people don’t realize is that technology isn’t always about electronics and technology is assistive devices. It is grab bars because the number one leading cause of death among seniors is a fall and over 80% of all falls happen in the bathroom. So, something simple technology, like a grab bar, can help prevent those falls but we’re looking at things like motion sensing devices, audio sensing devices in which they can be involved. We’re launching a program that allows us to have an audio data device in the home that recognizes patterns and sees changes in those patterns and alerts us far in advance than what the consumer might actually tell us so you can imagine someone that is starting to develop an infection in their bladder and they are now urinating more frequently. They won’t notice the change in pattern themselves, they just say I got to go to the bathroom more, but our systems will allow us to recognize that and intervene days earlier than the infection has time to take hold. And we can help get them the help that they need therefore avoiding a hospitalization, which is disastrous for many seniors and get them the treatment they need and be able to again remain home. That’s what is so important for us. It’s just those sort of things and there is so much out there that is still to come.
16:55: Rob Ginley
So much, right, exactly. And from a business standpoint we want to help seniors and there’s a lot of demand coming our way but from a business standpoint it sounds like it will really open future doors for new income streams, new ideas for helping, so that’s all exciting. So when we look at franchise growth, like you said, your goal is to make every franchisee successful in their market. There’s two components. One, they get started and that first year you really want to get them off to a good start, that’s one way of looking at it, that launch phase, the training phase, and then ongoing is the scaling, the ones that get bigger and bigger. I’m sure some of it is up to them how big they get and in those two phases what are some of the must-haves either from a technology or marketing point of view that you’ve discovered in your 30 years?
17:48: Jeff Salter
Yeah and you know being in this career for 30 years it’s something that not a lot of people have the chance to stay within one segment the way that I have, and I’ve seen a lot of things that have changed but then I’ve seen a lot of things that stayed the same. And for us, the marketing, one of my biggest surprises is that 30 years into this industry that I meet people every day that I talk to about what I do and they say to me, "Wow, I didn’t know that service existed." And as much messaging as we do I would have thought, and then all of our competitors out there, we would have thought this would be something that is commonplace but today it’s still not. So, we learned early on that to be really good in a market you’ve got to get out and make connections with people that are interacting with seniors every single day. So, we focus and we train our owners how to make those connections and how to say the things that matter to those connections, what really matters. It’s not dropping a brochure off. It’s not taking donuts. It’s really about helping understand what the issue is and how we help them.
And Caring has an amazing way of delivering service that is different. We call it our GreatCare® method and that focuses on first and foremost about the employees, the people that we hire, about the services that we deliver, and then our active involvement that we keep going on and on. So those things really help our owners connect with the referral sources and drives their business forward in those early, early months.
19:24: Rob Ginley
Yeah, yeah, I mean the referral sources are so many and it is becoming, as you said, there is more of them right? Because there are more services being created. Even the technology companies that are going to create these services would be who knows with those partnerships. That is sort of the grassroots, old-school way of looking at marketing. It’s not high-tech. It’s not talking about Google ads or Facebook ads, or those kinds of things. Are there other things that you feel are important now with the digital side of marketing?
20:00: Jeff Salter
Yeah, yeah. I tend to focus, I tend to stay a little old school in that sense but with that what we recognize is validation occurs, right? So validation happens somewhere else. Validations happens on the internet. They want to go to a website that is robust, has the information they need. And we spend a lot of time with social media making sure that we’re focusing on the positive interactions that we have, getting not just the likes themselves but the testimonials from seniors and insuring that they’re doing that.
We’re trying to reach out more because this service is still not an easy service to mass announce or mass advertise because people don’t realize that we make a decision to buy lunch every day. We eat three times a day so we’re making an eating decision all the time so it makes sense for food companies to advertise doing this all the time. We buy a car every three to four years, so it makes sense for a car company to advertise to us all the time. But you make a decision to bring someone into your home for care one time in your life, so this segment really limits how you can do outreach to people because it’s such actually a small segment of society that needs our services.
The senior population is about 10% of the whole population typically, it’s growing to 12% and 15% in some markets, but then the people that can tap into our services who actually need it are even smaller, so it really limits some of your mass advertising that you can do. Radio and TV some people try and do it but it’s very limiting so digital though is where it’s at because you can really target those people. You can target the daughters of seniors who, and I mention daughters because far and away they’re the ones that are helping make these care decisions, so we focus on those kind of ways really looking at who that target market is. A lot of people think it might be the senior but then the problem with the senior 85-year-olds of today they’re starting to but as this next wave comes in to 85 but the 85-year-olds of this past decade have not been internet users. They’re not on the internet so again it makes it difficult to tap into them.
22:12: Rob Ginley
Interesting, yeah. It is, you know it’s a challenge right? Which being part of a franchise network that is always innovating, always exploring has a large network of business owners doing and testing different approaches but the net-net of it is being interacting with folks that are interacting with seniors or families that have seniors and now that number is increasing, increasing, increasing. And I know as a marketing consultant as well that even that space for senior care it is about awareness. You know that bike ride you did was amazing because you can get in front of almost any audience I’ve found and there are people in there that would raise their hand and say, "I need help!" But you’re right, how would you know which ones? And you can’t do that in a cost-effective way unless you do some partnering and some localized you know research on who is working with your audience.
23:06: Jeff Salter
And everyone’s care journey is different. That’s the thing is we all have parents that experience a challenge for a momentary challenge and then they get past it. They have multiple episodes but when do they really need someone to be with them for hours in the day, and that’s when the challenge really is a step up at that time, be present in that moment, and that’s why we focus a lot and it’s important that our branding though people understand that we’re here for a solution. We’re here to be there when family can’t be there, we can is what we often use as tag lines so it’s important people know that.
23:42: Rob Ginley
Yes, yes. The whole home idea, right, staying home. Home is where the heart is. And that’s just being real. That’s what everybody would want for mom or dad or mom and dad to be at home, and that’s sort of the best path to start with. And then you have to take it where it goes but well that’s amazing. So, again you mentioned a few times in our conversation that you’ve been in business 30 years. I think that’s an amazing story. I love talking to guys like you because it’s always a little different but did you say 20 years old, I think you said 20 or 22.
24:15: Jeff Salter
I was 20 years old when I started, yeah.
24:18: Rob Ginley
So you started and you’ve got 30 years under your belt. You’ve built this company. Is there one thing, before we wrap things up today, I love asking every day when you get up when you’re leading your team is there sort of one driving thing? I kind of think your brand is sort of that but is there a principle or something you want to share with everybody that you just think is really important that would help them?
24:39: Jeff Salter
You can always be better. You can always do more. You can always do better than you did yesterday. I was a track athlete in high school, and I never finished my college years but I did two years of a junior college. I was a hurdler, long jumper, and high jumper. And I accepted that my coaching would help me get better and I was able to every single year get better and that attitude that I developed from middle school, it’s so easy when you’re in an individual sport that is timed or measured because you know how I’m doing this time. You know what your height was. You know what your distance was. You know what your time was.
That attitude has always stuck with me. It drives some of my team crazy because they just produced something that is fantastic and I’m saying, "Let’s make it better." That is something that I think really drives me in everything that I do. Again, it’s tough because it makes people feel like we’re always changing. I believe change is great. I love change but people don’t always like change so it can be a little tough for teams but I try to instill that in them and get them to understand right away that that’s the way this company works, that’s the way we’re going to be and change is important that we keep striving for it. We can always be better.
26:04: Rob Ginley
I love it. I immediately thought of my son who is a track athlete. He started in high school and he’s in college now and we’re hoping he will get a good four years in. He was injured last year. But one of the things about that sport and about him getting tied to it, it changed his life. I can’t believe, he’s a great student (laughs) because he never was very interested in grade school and middle school but it kept him on track and there’s that concept in running of always looking at your personal record, your PR, and knowing where you stand, and it’s really about a personal journey a lot of the time. it is about a team thing too but what an amazing set of skill he’s learned. I always tell him it’s just that, that there will take you so far in everything you do. (laughs) Always getting better right? That’s great to hear. Is there a website or something you want to share with the audience that they could check Caring out? Any opportunity?
27:04: Jeff Salter
Yeah. Easy on the opportunity. It’s caringfranchise.com so people can learn more about what we’re doing as a brand and where we’re going as a franchise system. If people are looking at services and need that, caringseniorservice.com, easy way to contact us and get hold of us for either opportunity.
27:21: Rob Ginley
That’s great. Well Jeff I really appreciate your time today. Thanks for being on the show.
27:26: Jeff Salter
Yeah Rob thanks.