Interview with Award-Winning Bluebird Care Franchisees
With our Director's Kevin & Tracey McCormack..
- Name: Kevin and Tracey McCormack
- Location: Southend, Essex West, Mid Essex and Redbridge
- Franchise: Bluebird Care
- Date launched the franchise: First franchise launched 2009
Prior to launching Bluebird Care Kevin and Tracey both worked professionally in the print industry within Soho, London. Shortly after meeting, Kevin and Tracey had a family of 5 children, Kevin continued to work in the city whilst Tracey opted for a local Nursery job allowing her to be close to her children. During this time Tracey gained key skills such as compassion, patience and kindness and Kevin broadened his business knowledge and people skills management.
Can you also tell us about the franchise you have bought?
Bluebird Care is a UK national Franchise offering the opportunity for individuals to receive care in the comfort of their own home. Whether you need 24-hour support or a 30 minute “pop-in” visit we can provide it.
Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose the care industry? And why a Bluebird Care franchise?
We chose to buy a franchise due to the significantly reduced risk in comparison to starting as a new partnership, neither of us had prior experience in the home care industry so this felt like a risk adverse route. Whilst both having experience in branding and marketing, we still felt more confident and comfortable buying into an established brand whereby there was on hand support. We chose the care industry due to Tracey’s more recent experiences working in a nursery and raising the children – compassion come naturally to her, and we were both willing and wanting to learn more about the wider care industry as an entirety. Once completing market research, we decided to meet with Bluebird Care and some existing franchise owners, this “sealed the deal” for us.
How did you raise the finance?
A combination of personal finances and a bank loan, after submitting a detailed business plan.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
Initially we had a fit for franchisee interview, then we both attended franchise owner’s training for a week where we got the opportunity to meet likeminded franchisees that had brought into the Bluebird Care brand for the same reasons as us. Today we are part of the Bluebird Care Platinum club whereby we network with the most successful Bluebird Care Franchises and have bespoke business and compliance support.
How would you describe your day-to-day role as a franchisee
Owning a care franchise is a huge responsibility as it is a “people” business and therefore involves balancing a lot of personalities and different dynamics. The day-to-day role can involve anything from fixing a printer or IT issue, to recruiting a new senior manager and everything in between. It is full on; no day is the same and it certainly isn’t a “9-5”.
Provide information on challenges overcome as well as your key successes to date. Please also detail the steps you have taken to manage the business during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since 2009 we have seen several challenges in the process of building and running a successful franchise. Being a ‘people’ business many of the challenges we face tend to come on two legs. However, with every challenge is a lesson and we continue to learn today. COVID-19 has been difficult for all, from a business perspective it certainly did have its challenges. So many of our staff gave up so much throughout the pandemic, their commitment and loyalty to the business and our customers was mesmerising. The pandemic widened my empathy and gratitude to the team of people we are lucky enough to employ. The challenge of recruitment and attracting new recruits to the field of care remains. We are optimistic that the increased media coverage and public knowledge of health and social care will improve the outlook, however a lot more time, effort, work and money is needed to create widespread improvement.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Becoming a franchisee has undoubtably changed our life for the better.
Kevin, instead of working in the city of London spending over 3 hours commuting per day, now works locally and can be on hand for the Children. Whilst work is often brought home and spoke about around the dinner table, we now at least get round the dinner table at a reasonable time! It has also given our daughters the opportunity for a career within the family business, they are both so hard working and passionate about taking the business to the next level.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
You must learn when to switch off. When you are employed and leave the office, you can often leave work behind. Owning your own business is somewhat very different. However, when engaging in family, social or sporting events you must let go and trust the people you have employed to do a great job. Achieving a work-life balance is something that has got better with time as the business has matured.
If you are a multi-unit franchisee, can you tell us why your franchise is ideal for those looking for a scalable opportunity?
We are a multi-site franchise, however if you are purchasing a franchise in care, you do not need to be multi-site for the opportunity to be scalable. Looking at the ageing population statistics it is clear the opportunity to grow our customer base will only continue to grow in the next few decades. However, being a multi-site unit does create many positives such as healthy internal competition, economies of scale from shared resources, information translatability to name a few.
If you have staff, how do you retain your best staff and keep morale high and productive; how do you incentivise your staff and recognise success?
Being a people business, recruiting and retaining our employees is a huge part of what we do. We continually look at what our staff needs are both personally and monetary and do what we can to meet needs and expectations. We ensure our benefit and pay structure is not only on par but better than our competitors for example offering health care benefits for themselves and their families, free counselling sessions, MOT and car check’s, discount voucher’s and more. Our warm culture and kind ethos is also a key reason as to why we retain so many of our staff members.
Can you tell us about any community involvement, including any local partnerships, incentives or charity work you are involved in?
Working within the care sector we continually liaise with local government, health, and social care representatives to suggest improvements and offer up examples of good practice, these include regular local networking groups and coffee mornings. As much of our work is within local towns and cities the community and the people living within these areas are vital to our success. We attend as many local faith and school fetes, car boot sales as well as charity events. We also research a number of local engagements for elderly individuals such as dementia support groups, bereavement support groups etc. to ensure our customers are not isolated and that they are an integrated member of their local community. In addition to the above we run our own local parties twice a year inviting elderly individuals to a local hall to talk and build relationships with like-minded individuals.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
If you are passionate enough about your business, if you are good people person and you are prepared to put the time in, it might just be a success.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
You can’t only want to be the best and “win” in your industry, you must be prepared to give time, knowledge, money and energy in abundance.
What are your plans for the future?
Our plans in the immediate term include growing the business further, we believe there will be large changes in health and social care in the coming years and we want to make the best out of any opportunities come our way. Achieving growth whilst ensuring the highest quality of care remains a huge challenge that we enjoy tackling.
Longer-term as a couple we will look to step back from the business taking on “chair roles” whilst handing the reigns over to senior members of the team and to our capable daughters.
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We would have taken the “jump” earlier for sure and perhaps made some different recruitment decisions. All in all, we don’t have any regrets our biggest set-backs have always proved to be our biggest lessons.
Thank you to whichfranchise for conducting this interview with our Directors - Kevin and Tracey McCormack