What’s it really like to be a Walfinch franchisee?
Existing franchisees share their stories
SPOTLIGHT on Sarah Wickham
Managing Director, Walfinch Suffolk Coastal
I could have set up a care business on my own, but I chose a Walfinch franchise
Asked to step into a management role with a nursing and care provider, Sarah Wickham fell in love with the passion and variety of the care sector.
After moving from a head office role to managing branches, Sarah was head-hunted by another care provider. Her dedication to high quality and responsive care combined with business development, led her to win Branch of the Year for 13 consecutive years.
A major change prompted Sarah to leave, and she is now the Managing Director of Walfinch Suffolk Coastal. What led her to make the move from employee to business owner with a franchise?
She says: “I love care. I still feel the same passion for the sector that I did when I started.
“No day is ever the same and you never know who will be at the end of the phone or how you’ll be able to help them. I get such a buzz from working out what we can do to make someone’s life better, and then setting up and ensuring delivery of the care they need.
“It was a difficult decision to leave my employer, but a takeover changed the company’s culture and I no longer felt able to deliver the standard of care I was committed to, or to run with any autonomy the successful branch I had developed.
“I’d spent so many years building up businesses for other people, I knew it was time to do it for myself.
“Initially I was unsure, but as I investigated Walfinch, visited their offices, and learned more about the business, I was blown away by their standards of training and the calibre of the whole team.
I had a choice: I could go it alone or I could buy a franchise.
“I decided that though I did want my own business, I still wanted to be part of a team. I knew that I didn’t know everything but people within the business would have the answer.
“Once I’d gone over everything with my husband Billy and we agreed I should pursue the franchise, we started taking care of the legal and financial technicalities around December 2019.
“I was Walfinch’s first franchisee, and I got masses of support with everything from how to source finance to fund the investment, to navigating the Care Quality Commission (CQC) registration process.
“Within a week of having the registration certificate in April 2020 I had my first client! I already had staff on board and there was a real buzz among everyone about being part of something new. By week nine we were delivering 171 hours of care to different clients.
Support and training
“While we waited for my CQC registration, Walfinch CEO Amrit Dhaliwal and Head of Operations Carla van Wyk trained me on all the business processes and systems I would need.
“They also took me through staff recruitment, getting my branch fitted out with branding, running adverts, getting business cards. They were all over it, and nothing was too much trouble!
“I knew about care but invoicing and payroll were all new to me and they made sure I felt confident with all of it. They are so committed to your progression and success as a franchisee that they willingly give as much of their time as needed.
“Amrit believes that the relationship between the franchisor and franchisee should run very much both ways. I can testify to that, at Walfinch, it does. I’ve got more than 20 years’ experience in care which means I have plenty of ideas and opinions on how things should be done!
“Amrit and Carla listen and take on board what I suggest and make sure we apply everything that supports better service and an efficient business.
Thoughts on running a care franchise
“We have to acknowledge the care staff. The training, qualifications and commitment that care staff must acquire before they even start is incredible. Carers never know what will face them when they go through the door to see a client, but they deal with it responsibly, professionally and with compassion.
“We carry a great responsibility to people in our local community who need our help, but there comes with that a great sense of pride. It’s a very rewarding business.
“The franchise package gives you everything you need to run the business well. We all have strengths and skills; we all have weaker areas. Being part of a franchise means you can get support where you need it – you’re not on your own. You can pick up the phone to someone and your life as a business owner is made so much easier.
“It’s been so easy and straightforward to get my own business up and running with this model – I just wish I’d done it years ago!”