Dec 11, 2017

From Banking to Senior Care: Q&A with Owners Harpreet Singh and Amen Sandhu

When Harpreet Harry Singh decided to leave his high-stress job as a corporate banker, he and his wife, Amen Sandhu, searched for a business that would provide them with true satisfaction. They bought an existing Home Instead® franchise in Burnaby, BC in June 2016. We'll let Harry tell you the rest of the story.

What led you to owning a Home Instead franchise?

Harry: After spending 11 years with a large international bank, first in the US and then Singapore, I was feeling progressively dissatisfied with my career. Corporate banking started to feel like it was filled with very driven, Type-A people who sometimes seemed to place career progression and money over all else. It's a stressful job, and after the global financial crisis, nothing in banking appeared stable. You could be very good at your job and still find yourself laid off.

Amen and I decided this was just not the way we wanted to live the bulk of our waking hours. So I left, and we moved to British Columbia in search of some type of business opportunity that carried intrinsic rewards. We knew we wanted to buy an existing franchise business, and we narrowed the field to education – because Amen is an expert in that field – and senior care after we learned we did not need to be doctors or have a health care background to potentially be successful in that industry. Ultimately, the Home Instead opportunity opened up in our area before an education franchise did, so we jumped on it.

We investigated other senior care brands, but when we were doing our research we discovered Home Instead® had an edge in terms of brand recognition. We noticed they had more news coverage, awards and scale than their competitors. We felt this would benefit us because when you have a premier brand backing up your franchise, it enhances your image with clients and also stimulates word-of-mouth referrals. And we have found this to be true as we have moved forward during our first year.

Why did you choose to purchase an established franchise over a new franchise territory?

Harry: Our kids are 7 and 4, and we felt starting a business from scratch would be much more time-intensive. We didn't want to spend 20 hours a day just to get the business off the ground. In retrospect, that shows how naive we were, because taking on an existing business has its own challenges. I liken it to taking control of a flying airplane—you have to keep it flying even as you are learning how to fly it.

What was it like walking into an already established business?

Harry: It was a little like jumping into the fire and trying to figure it out as quickly as possible because all of your clients and staff people are looking at you as the owner and expecting you to know answers to everything. We have a good relationship with the former owners of this franchise, so we can stay in touch to verify information when the need arises. The first couple of months were nerve-wracking, but now things have settled down, and we feel more confident of our abilities.

What role has the Home Instead Home Office played in supporting you?

Harry: One thing we liked during the evaluation process was the way Home Instead encouraged us to contact as many other franchise owners as we wanted. We talked to many of them in both the United States and Canada, and they all spoke very highly of their experiences with Home Instead. It was comforting to get this reinforcement and consistent high level of positive feedback during the decision-making process.

Since we purchased the franchise, the company also has been very supportive on the process side, to train and support us on things like the operating platform. The week-long franchise owner training was very useful, and the technology support has been good. In general, Home Instead seems to be a group of people who genuinely want to improve their processes and be open to feedback, which has been a breath of fresh air compared to my former banking environment.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Harry: Amen and I have divvied up the responsibilities so that I generally work on the external side—marketing, care consultations, that sort of thing—and Amen works on the internal side, such as hiring, scheduling and office administration.

Generally, we both come in to the office each morning, look at the schedule to make sure everything is going smoothly, and then attend to our own activities. Of course, if too many issues arise on a given day then we both jump in together to problem-solve.

How is the work/life balance?

Harry: It could be better right now, but honestly some of that is due to a change on the family front. Our parents were living here with us to care for the children, and they went back to India for the winter. So, we lost our free babysitters!

Now one of us has to leave in the early afternoon to tend to the children, but I do think we do a good job of juggling family life with the stress of running a business. We manage to keep things flexible because we own the business. It's not like when I was working as a banker, and my first thought might be, "Oh, crap. Now I have to talk to the boss about needing to leave work early to take care of my sick child, and I just took time off a couple of weeks ago for something else...." Since we're the bosses, that type of stress is gone.

What is something you didn't expect about being a franchise owner?

Harry: I came from a streamlined but aggressive industry, and I've had to modify my expectations because now I'm working in a small business environment, and it's more fluid, with more of a focus on working directly with clients and meeting expectations, instead of focusing on the rigid processes of something like the banking industry.

Also, Amen and I had never worked together in a business before, so we weren't sure how it would work. We believed we had a good team relationship in our marriage and that this would translate to the business environment, and we were right. I think we also didn't expect how important having that emotional support of a co-owner spouse would be, especially in the early days. Having someone who can empathize because they're right there in the trenches with you has been invaluable.

What do you find rewarding about owning a Home Instead franchise?

Harry: Definitely the intangibles that were so sorely absent in our former life: people being appreciative of your effort, helping people in situations where there may be no family to help. You can't put a price on the feeling you get from that.

What advice would you give to prospective owners looking to buy franchise?

Harry: Don't just think of this as an industry for the future, with great demographics. If you only see dollar signs and mechanisms for making money, this business might not be for you. You really need to want that satisfaction from a job well done. If you go into it with that mindset, you will find this business rewarding.

If you would like to follow in Harry and Amen's footsteps by exploring franchise ownership within a mission-driven company, contact us to learn more about your options within the senior care industry.

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