Caring Founder and CEO, Jeff Salter, was recently a guest speaker on the Winning on Main Street podcast. Jeff shares his journey of founding Caring Senior Service and discusses the opportunity in the senior care industry today.
Listen to the full conversation here or read the complete transcript down below.
0:00: Intro - Jeff Salter
As a person in this industry that knows the numbers and understands the numbers we do not have enough individuals involved in business ownership, in just our small segment of health care. The senior population continues to grow. Look at any statistic that shows the growth of the senior population and that alone says your market pie is almost exponentially going to be growing in the next 20 years, and there are not a lot of business that can say 20 years in the future we are going to be double the size or triple the size we are today just in market growth alone.
1:05: Gordon Henry
Hey, hey this is Gordon Henry at Winning on Main Street and this week we are fortunate to spend some time with Jeff Salter. Welcome to the show Jeff.
1:11: Jeff Salter
Hi, thanks a lot for having me.
1:13: Gordon Henry
Great to have you. So quick intro on Jeff. Jeff began his career in senior care in 1991 working for a home health care agency in Odessa, Texas. He started his own company just four months later serving seniors that needed additional non-medical care to remain at home. He then expanded the business to include other locations in Texas, Midland, McAllen, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin. In 2003 after operating the business for 12 years, he began opening franchises and today there are approximately 47 locations in 20 states, so quite a story Jeff. This is effectively a business show really. What’s the business of senior care, like how do you look at it from a business perspective, and what’s the business model?
1:58: Jeff Salter
Sure. What we do is we provide a caregiver to go into a senior’s home and provide hourly service to that senior. We create a service place just depending on what their needs are and then based on that service plan we provide a caregiver that is there for any length of time, from four hours to 24 hours a day. We charge the individual a charge rate based upon the market and then we have a pay rate. So, from a business model it is really about generating as many hours as you can serving your community.
2:28: Gordon Henry
Okay, and it’s always in the individual’s home?
2:31: Jeff Salter
It’s really wherever they call home but probably 90% to 95% of our service is done in the senior’s home but they might be residing in assisted living, they might be in a nursing home, so we would go there as well.
2:43: Gordon Henry
Got it, okay. Why did you decide to start your own company?
2:48: Jeff Salter
Well, at the time there just wasn’t a service. I worked for a company that would give out a list of names for free and I saw the people struggle with trying to manage this on their own. If the individual’s kids were living somewhere else, they were hundreds of miles away trying to coordinate care, make sure mom and dad had someone. If someone didn’t show up they were left without service, and then come back with another free name. I saw that there might be an opportunity there to coordinate that because they definitely needed help with it. It wasn’t something that was easily managed by an individual and today it’s the same. Even though we can dial and get a new referral easily on our phones, getting service and consistent help at home is really a challenge even with all of the websites and technology that is available, so people still need our type of service, some man in the middle, if you will, to help coordinate that process.
3:43: Gordon Henry
So as you evolve from those early days where you were just starting out to you know four decades later, when you think about the growth of your company, how did you expand? What was that journey like?
3:57: Jeff Salter
I often say, I refer back to that 20-year-old because most of us at 20 aren’t thinking about building a business and I certainly wasn’t initially at 20. I didn’t say, "let’s wake up and do this." But as I started the business and it began to become successful, I really felt that it was something I could do anywhere, and I had an offer to go work with a company consulting in McAllen, Texas, which from Odessa to McAllen is about an 8-hour drive. So I went to McAllen and saw that the market existed there as well, so I started an office there. So I had two locations. Then I realized that working at those two places I wanted to try in the mid-size metropolitan city of Corpus Christi, Texas, and then finally in 1996, I wanted to test it out in a metropolitan city with over a million people because I still didn’t know if it was just something I got lucky doing, if I just had a knack and met the right people. And I knew going to San Antonio meant that I would go to a place I had never lived before, never really been except driving through and see the work. We had tremendous success that first year in San Antonio. At that point I knew I could really do this anywhere, I just had to figure out how to expand and grow the business to add locations.
5:11 Gordon Henry
Okay. And when did you get into franchising?
5:14: Jeff Salter
Well in 2002 initially, I thought that I could expand the business through just growth as an entity, add additional locations, add staff. I quickly found that that was going to require a lot more infrastructure costs than what I was expecting and it put all that burden on myself to be able to raise the capital to be able to do it and all the risks that was there. I knew the concept worked. I had proved it over and over again. I actually opened up a location in Austin, Texas ,and Forth Worth, Texas, but still thought that there’s got to be a better way. A few years earlier I had heard of a company who was doing franchising in our space and looked at that and found that there were multiple companies doing franchising in this space so then I said maybe that’s the route to go.
In 2002 I worked hard to create our franchise offering and really package the business up, and we found it to be relatively straightforward to become a franchisor mainly because we were running multiple locations already. We already had systems in place that most companies didn’t have and we had processes to get the job done in a way that was very efficient, and it just made a lot of sense for our early franchise owners as it does today.
6:24: Gordon Henry
Right, so who are your franchisees and what’s the process of becoming a franchisee?
6:29: Jeff Salter
So the great thing about a business like ours is that there’s not a specific mold that fits perfect with an individual that says if you’ve done this you’re going to be a perfect Caring Senior Service franchise owner. It is really individuals that have a heart and desire to impact other’s lives. That is a little bit of a calling but also about people that want to do that have an impactable business but also want to look at an investment that makes a lot of sense.
So, just like I, as a 20-year-old kid, didn’t have an infinity for the elderly. I would not have some reason or something that happened, I just saw the business opportunity that could be had. The same thing for people today. They are able to look at this and say it is a business opportunity and if they want to really invest and put their time into it we have a system that allows anyone to operate. Either they can operate in the business directly as an HC director, a marketer or they can work on the business and be hiring staff and have that staff implement the business model. Today I still own and operate five locations. One of our business partners has an additional two locations so we are truly living that model which is owning a business, having other people manage it day in and day out for us yet insuring that we are delivering a high quality of service to the seniors in those markets.
7:43: Gordon Henry
What’s the economics of being a franchisee? Say one of our listeners hears this and is interested in becoming a franchisee. How much money do they have to be able to put down in order to get the franchise and what is the expected income in the first year or second year, and so forth?
7:56: Jeff Salter
Yes, this was an initial investment. The franchising involved $45,000, and we have a spin that is expected in the first six months of the business. And then from there it is really about them obtaining clients at the local level. We teach them how to do all of the marketing in the business. We have a tremendous online presence that help really generate referrals that way but then also they network with their local communities and we teach them how to network in that local community, who to spend time talking to, so they are not wasting their time going out to people that aren’t going to send referrals, and really laser focus them on those efforts so they are able to quickly get up to speed by gaining new clients, getting referrals, and generating billable hours. That’s really the main goal. We’re holding their hand the entire way. We have online training that happens at the very beginning, and there is in-house training coming to San Antonio spending some time with us and then after that we go out in the field with them to help teach them how to run the business at that local level, and then we have just ongoing support. We are really proud of the fact that we have done all of that but also in our technology we have developed our own software to be able to help them manage every aspect of the business and give them all the tools they need to really do what we want them to do which is being out focused on clients, and focused on their staff, and not worrying about the inner workings of the business. We have kind of taken all that and resolved most of it through the software.
9:25: Gordon Henry
You recently made a major journey to call attention to the senior care industry. You did it on an e-bike, right? So tell us about your journey.
9:35: Jeff Salter
Yeah, so I in 2021 decided to celebrate 30 years of our business being open and I decided to ride by electric bike to every location in the system so I rode to over 49 locations to each office and visited the office, met the teams and staff there, and along the way we raised money and raised awareness about the needs of seniors in general, trying to encourage individuals to get involved in our industry, get involved in senior care, focusing in that area. I was really trying to get people to think about technology and how they could advance technology to help seniors age in place but also about people that want to start their own business and understand that we are going to need a lot more business owners in the future just to serve all the seniors that are coming into the market and that is something that was really an important part of the message. It was really good for the company, good for us to get out and good for me specifically as a CEO and founder to meet and see everybody. That was a fantastic personal journey on that side but just to see the enthusiasm in all of our organization and just the general public. I met so many people just along the ride that were encouraged and really excited about what we’re doing that were willing to give and help out but just raising that awareness was fantastic.
10:54: Gordon Henry
Terrific story. So when we come back we’re going to hear about Jeff’s thoughts on what he would tell future entrepreneurs. Stay with us.
12:04: Gordon Henry
And we’re back with Jeff Salter of Caring Senior Service, and we just were talking about your journey and inspiring people about getting involved in either franchising or the senior care industry, and I am curious, what’s your recommendation, when you think back to yourself at you know 20 years old, what would be your recommendation for an entrepreneurial person thinking about starting a business or joining a franchise that you’re passionate about? What would be your words to them?
12:31: Jeff Salter
Well I think it has been said over and over again about individuals and when they’re deciding to work for themselves is to find the thing that they actually can get behind and believe in, and if you can believe in it, you might be compassionate about it if you’re not necessarily yet passionate about it. But, if you believe in it then you can get there. If you don’t believe in it you’re never going to get there. There are a lot of people that say do things you’re passionate about and I definitely agree with that except there are some things that I am passionate about that I don’t think would ever gain me the wealth that I might feel like I need or the legacy that I want to leave so for me it is about really building a business that is something I can build for my family but I am super passionate about what I do. I love what I do and I think that everyone if you’re going to be an entrepreneur and you’re going to go into business ownership, don’t do it in anything that you’re not really excited about or believe in because then you’re just buying yourself a job.
13:38: Gordon Henry
Yeah great point. So, I am curious are there still big opportunities in senior care? You know, is this an area where you think it is still growing and there are still opportunities like you had 20 or 30 years ago?
13:52: Jeff Salter
Yeah, as a person in the industry and knows the numbers and understands the numbers, we do not have enough individuals involved in business ownership in just our small segment of health care. There are such huge numbers. Just the processing of the number of people that we are going to have to have in the employment field to serve these seniors, there is just not enough today. We will never have enough locations as a single company even to do that so we think there is a huge amount of space. The market right now is still very, very fractured by the individuals that are in the space with a lot of small operators that exist and not that that is not a great place for some people but that just means there’s a lot of market share to be taken in just about every market in America. We look at places where there is competition already and we’re happy to go into those markets because we think there is just enough room.
The senior population continues to grow. Look at any statistic that shows the growth of the senior population and that alone says your market pie is almost exponentially going to be growing in the next 20 years. And there’s not a lot of businesses that can say 20 years in the future we are going to be double the size or triple the size we are today just in market growth alone. So, that’s for me, yes, it is absolutely something people should get into and there is no saturation.
15:28: Gordon Henry
So we just have a couple of minutes left. I would like to know a little bit more about you personally, so I am going to ask you a couple of questions. I like to call it our lightening round. So first of all, do you have a mentor or a person you feel you have learned from who you could say, hey, this person really helped me along the way to become who I became?
15:48: Jeff Salter
Yeah, um I have been a member of an organization called TAB and John Deeney is my local TAB owner and he has worked with me for over 10 years now, and it has been a great relationship. I am really able to ask him a lot of questions. He has got just an amazing experience and able to talk through just about any situation. He could tell me about someone who has been through that situation, here’s what they found to be helpful, and guide me through how I might make a similar decision, so it has been instrumental. I think everyone needs to have some sort of mentor if you’re a business owner, especially entrepreneurs because it can feel like an island. That’s the one thing I tell my franchise owners, it’s great because for 12 years I didn’t have anyone to go to, to say hey, here’s some ideas. If I did I was speaking to the competition and I didn’t want to do that so, franchise owners have a group of people to talk to and for me a mentor is super important.
16:50: Gordon Henry
Yeah. You’re a busy guy. You’re running a big operation, what’s your secret to managing your time? How do you think about your time, organizing your day, making sure you get everything in that you want to?
17:06: Jeff Salter
Yeah, I’ll fully admit that I don’t have a great system for that personally. I have some weaknesses and that’s one of them as managing my time really well. It’s what I try to make sure what I do is look at my calendars in the morning and make sure I get prepped for the day, and then throughout the day try to make sure I am going though and making sure I have met those.
17:31: Gordon Henry
Do you have a favorite hobby or pastime when you’re not working?
17:36: Jeff Salter
Well, biking has become a hobby lately. I’m doing a lot more of that, still trying to continue, but prior to that and I hope to get back to it but I turned 50 a couple of years ago so rugby was my passion for many, many years, a local rugby team here, spent a lot of time playing rugby and enjoying that. I got to do a lot of traveling with that sport so for me activity wise that but just pretty much anything that gets me outside is what I enjoy doing.
18:06: Gordon Henry
Last question. Do you have a favorite famous person or celebrity, anybody you sort of think is, you know, who you model yourself after or just who you think is a great person?
18:20: Jeff Salter
I’d say no. I don’t really tend to look up to celebrities in that sense. I definitely try to see what people are doing and model what I see in the good. I get often stopped along the day if I’m out and about at the cash register, on a plane, on a train, people often tell me I look like Kevin Costner. I’ve been stopped multiple, multiple times so that’s not my favorite celebrity but I happen to look just like him or so people say, so that’s my only ....
19:02: Gordon Henry
That’s a pretty good compliment I would say, so you should take that and feel good about that one.
19:04: Jeff Salter
Yeah. It’s not bad, especially since his career lately has been doing really well.
19:13: Gordon Henry
He has, he sure has. He’s got that Yellowstone going. So just to finish up, Jeff, how should people who are interested in maybe getting involved with you or Caring Senior Service or just in this field, how should they learn more about you and what you’re doing and maybe get in touch with you?
19:30: Jeff Salter
I think it’s best to learn more about our company is to go to caringseniorservice.com or caringfranchise.com. Either of those two sites to learn more about the franchise opportunity, learn more about what we do as a company, I think that is easiest and both those websites have all our contact details and they can reach out to us. I am often available to people also if they want to find me on Linked-in and I am happy to talk to anybody directly.
19:58: Gordon Henry
Awesome. Well thanks for coming on our show, Jeff. It’s great to hear your story and really appreciate having you here on the show.
20:05: Jeff Salter
Yeah, I enjoyed it. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the time.