Barney Freiberg-Dale on What It Takes to Run a Home Care Franchise
Along with his wife Eileen, Barney Freiberg-Dale has been a part of the Visiting Angels family for over a decade. Barney and Eileen opened their home care franchise in 2004 following careers in rehabilitation and social work. Since then, Visiting Angels Newton has been providing compassionate care to seniors throughout the Boston area, a mission that both Barney and Eileen have taken to heart.
Recently, Visiting Angels spoke with Barney about how he and Eileen became involved with Visiting Angels, the ups and downs they’ve experienced as home care franchise owners, and where they see the home care market heading. Barney also shared his advice for potential franchisees and the qualities that set a successful agency apart from the pack.
Buying a Home Care Franchise
A lot went into Barney and Eileen’s decision to purchase a Visiting Angels franchise. Before making the switch to home care, Barney and Eileen had been working in care-adjacent fields for over three decades. Barney had served as a rehabilitation counselor for disabled individuals, while Eileen split time between her job as a clinical social worker and as a faculty member at Simmons College School of Social Work.
In the early 2000s, Barney and Eileen began to explore the home care market, with plans to open their own home care agency. In short order, the couple realized that a franchise agency would be their best option.
Says Barney, “Eileen and I could have made an effort to do it on our own. But we decided that we were people that liked to be part of a larger organization. We don’t like to be lone wolves. And we thought that a franchise would enhance our likelihood of success.”
After exploring their options, Barney and Eileen decided that Visiting Angels offered them the best home care franchise opportunity. Barney says that Visiting Angels’ focus on franchisees was what set the company apart from other franchise opportunities.
“We considered other franchise offerings at the time and several of the franchises that were in existence at that time had no available territory to our liking. Others didn’t seem like the upfront, franchisee-oriented organization that Visiting Angels was. I was impressed that Visiting Angels was not just in the business for the good of the franchisor. I felt that they were much more oriented toward the success of the franchisee.”
Opening Visiting Angels Newton
Barney and Eileen purchased their franchise in November of 2003, and it didn’t take them long to get up and running. In fact, the pair found their first client a mere two months later, in January 2004. Barney credits their record-setting start time to two main factors: “At the time, the regulatory environment in Massachusetts was fairly benign,” he says. “And I worked very hard and very fast.”
But those first months were not all smooth sailing. Barney reports that early on both he and Eileen had real worries about the viability of their agency. “We had growing pains for sure. It was rocky,” says Barney. “We had to learn a lot of things the hard way.”
That’s where the Visiting Angels franchise network came in.
“I would have made many more mistakes, and many of them would have been far costlier. Head office helped us avoid those mistakes that might have been killers,” Barney explains. “I feel sure that we would never have been as successful as we have been if it hadn’t been for the help of the home office.”
At the end of their first year, the Freiberg-Dales’ agency wasn’t yet profitable, but it was about to turn the corner. By comparing their numbers against figures from other Visiting Angels agencies, Barney and Eileen knew they were on the right track.
“I would say by the end of the first year, it was pretty clear that things were going to work out… Because we were part of [the Visiting Angels] franchise network, we were able to compare our growth curve with other franchisees. That gave us a lot of confidence.”
The Future of Home Care
It’s been more than thirteen years since Visiting Angels Newton opened for business, and Barney and Eileen are still going strong. Eager to stay on the cutting edge of home care, Barney and Eileen have recently developed a specialized Dementia Care program for their agency. This program was put in place after Barney realized that a higher share of his agency’s clients may require dementia care in the near future.
“The population, of course, is getting older, and they assume that that is going to mean a proportionate demand in senior care in general. I don’t necessarily think that that’s the case. I think the seniors of tomorrow will be healthier than seniors of today. They will need home care for physical difficulties in smaller proportion than they did before. Instead of serving people between the age of 75 and 85, we’ll be serving people between the age of 80 and 95,” Barney explains.
“That is true for people with physical difficulties needing home care. But it will not be true for people with cognitive disability. Dementia has been stubborn in the face of medical treatment.”
In response, the Freiberg-Dales have hired a dementia care specialist to help oversee their program, which includes dedicated training and resources for caregivers. Barney believes his agency’s program is now the best in-home dementia care program of its kind in the Newton, MA, area. He says that the next step is to educate his local market about the positives of dementia care.
“Specialized dementia care can really have an impact on the ability of seniors to stay at home and be happy,” Barney says. “It’s not simply sitting with grandma.”
Care for Clients & Caregivers
So what’s the one quality that Barney believes has led to his agency’s success more than any other?
“We really care about the people we deal with — both the clients and the caregivers. That shows.”
Barney says that when it comes to working with clients, that caring connection makes a big difference. “We’re emotionally affected by the situation that they find themselves in,” he explains. But just as important is the way he and Eileen care for their staff members — something he believes is crucial in a market where caregivers are always in demand.
“We have a sufficient supply of caregivers here. I have never spoken with another franchisee or competitor who had sufficient numbers of caregivers, and we do. People ask us why we do, and I think it’s because we sincerely care about them.”
Your Own Home Care Franchise
As for what advice he would give to entrepreneurs thinking of purchasing their own home care franchise, Barney says that potential franchisees should consider what motivates them.
“Every agency is a direct reflection of the owner and of the personality and the value system of the owner. That’s what makes an agency develop the character that it has, good, bad, or indifferent. So do they have the sincere interest in making people’s lives better? Is that what drives them? Or is it something else.”
If you’re the sort of person who thrives on caring for others, Barney believes that few other fields hold the rewards offered by home care. Now 67, Barney continues to love his work and the difference it makes in people’s lives.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had. I’m beyond the age that I originally intended to retire,” he says. “I find it enjoyable, and it keeps me involved in life and with other people. It’s just been a great experience.”
Thinking of purchasing your own home care franchise? Contact Visiting Angels today to learn more about our franchise opportunities.