5 top tips when starting a care agency
OnCare’s software platform provides everything that new start-up care agencies might need to manage care delivery, and avoid having to resort to paper or complex spreadsheets and internal systems from the outset.
Because we’re so start-up-friendly, we end up speaking to a lot of brand new care agency owners from across the country, and learning about how they started out and how they’ve grown their businesses.
In this article we wanted to share 5 top tips for brand new care agencies based on what we’ve learnt during these conversations, in the hope that these tips can help you with your own business if you’re thinking of starting out or if you’re already going through the registration process.
There are some items intentionally missing from this list, for example ‘Register with your local care regulator’ or ‘Set up a business bank account’ because these are obvious things you need to do to get a care agency off the ground. Rather, we wanted to focus this list on the things many care providers forget, and which can have a huge impact on the survival and growth of the business.
Here are our 5 top tips…
1) Watch out for some pitfalls when choosing your company name
Try not to make your company name too long or complicated. Consider that if you ever register a website or email addresses, this name will need to feature somehow, so making it too long will cause problems later, for example if someone ever needs to write down your contact details. If you want to include an area name, sometimes shortenings or abbreviations can help, eg. Instead of ‘Buckinghamshire Care’, try ‘Bucks Care’.
It’s often a good idea to include the word ‘care’ or ‘home care’ somewhere in your company name, so people know immediately which services you provide. We’ve come across some companies with names like ‘Trust Us’ or ‘Alternative Approach’ which get some of the idea across, but don’t really explain to a prospective customer that it’s a care company.
Make sure the company name doesn’t mean anything unexpected when written as a website address, or when read by a foreign-language speaker. We were originally looking to register ‘oncaresearch.com’ as a part of our business helping consumers to search for local care, however we were worried that some people might read it as ‘Onca Research’ rather than ‘OnCare Search’ and become confused. Not even the big companies gets this right all of the time – the car company Vauxhall branded one of their models the Vauxhall ‘Nova’ which is fine for the UK market, but in Spain ‘No Va’ translates as ‘it doesn’t go’.
2) Set up a Facebook page for your business
You may ultimately choose to create a website for your business, but when you’re first starting out this can be daunting, expensive, and time-consuming.
Creating a Facebook page for your business takes just a couple of seconds, there are no hosting costs, and it has a messaging/chat feature built-in so customers can message you and get a response easily.
Furthermore, Facebook pages can be seen by Google, so if people search for your company name or for care providers in your area, you may be discovered and generate interest from new clients, without having to spend any money on advertising.
If you do choose to advertise online, Facebook also has an in-built ads tools, so in just a few clicks you can steer local Facebook users to your company’s page.
Do also make sure that you’re listed on www.oncarelocal.com. This website has been created to help you to get more visibility and more customers, also without needing to create your own website. If you want to change any information on your listing, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to help.
3) Register your business on Google Maps
Many care providers forget this simple but hugely beneficial step. Registering the location of your business on Google Maps is a really easy and effective way to be discovered by new clients, and possibly also by local care workers searching for extra work.
Just like having a website or Facebook page, adding yourself to Google Maps means you can be found and contacted really easily. Another reason to include ‘care’ somewhere in your business’ name is so that Google Maps knows to highlight your company if someone is searching for something like ‘care providers near me’.
This page explains how to register your business on Google Maps and how to make your profile look its best: How to add your business to Google Maps.
4) Hire great local care workers from potentially unexpected places
People who make the best care workers may not currently be working in care at all. They may be working in totally different sectors such as retail, travel, hospitality, catering, events; and they may even be friends or relatives of people you already know or work with. The best care workers may even have a range of incredibly valuable informal care experience, and may not currently own a decent computer, so asking for a CV to be sent over digitally might deter some people from applying for care roles that they could be perfect for.
These are some of the main findings of the book Saving Social Care which is all about recruitment into the social care sector. The book provides tips on the hiring process as well as where to find the best people.
The book was so successful that the author, Neil Eastwood, has now launched a smartphone app called CareFriends which helps care providers to grow and reward their teams through referrals and incentives.
With these resources you shouldn’t need to post hundreds of job ads on multiple job boards, and you can make sure you’re attracting the right people to deliver outstanding care to your clients, rather than just those who fit a perceived care worker profile.
And our final tip…
5) Go digital from day one with the right software for a start-up business
It’s best to set yourself up with a digital care management system from the word go, rather than start on paper, and then try to move to digital later. Not only should a digital system keep all of your team communicating well, and your client’s data safer, it should ensure that you’re running your business efficiently from the outset and don’t get into bad habits that slow you down, and are harder to break later on.
As a new care agency, you need something that’s simple and low-cost. You don’t want your software system to drain all of your cash before you’ve taken on clients, nor do you want something that’s packed with features you neither need nor understand.
If you decide to shop around and look at the different care management systems available, we recommend choosing a home care software company and package that:
- Does have pricing transparency:
If a company’s website doesn’t give you a clear indication of the price you’ll pay, it may be the case that prices are invented by each salesperson you speak to, and you may end up paying a lot more than a similar customer who negotiated harder.
- Does have a quick and easy to understand demo
If a company needs much longer than 30-45 minutes to give you a tour of their system, or you’re still confused about any features after the demo, chances are your team will also find it confusing. If a system is too complicated, you may need multiple calls with customer services, your staff may become disengaged and frustrated, and it could end up creating more problems than it solves. If your frontline care workers can’t understand how to use the platform the whole system falls down, regardless how many bells and whistles the admin interface has.
- Doesn’t require a mandatory training package
If training is mandatory, it highlights that the software is not intuitive or easy to understand on your own, hence why you have to be trained on how to use it. It also represents another cost you’ll have to pay, and money you’ll be losing whenever your frontline care staff are in software training rather than out working.
- Doesn’t price per client or based on hours delivered.
While this might seem like a fair way to do things, with the cost going up based on how much you use it, it makes your costs fluctuate each month and become unpredictable. Furthermore, these pricing schemes often start out as low-cost, but can increase fairly sharply as you enter into the next tier up, or if your business grows due to landing a new contract.
- Doesn’t require you to purchase from multiple companies.
You may find that the company you’re speaking to has an amazing software platform, but only covers half of the job you need it to. For example, it may include call monitoring but not medication management, or scheduling but not care worker alerts, and you may be told you’ll have to purchase the missing parts from an integrated partner. In these cases you might have to learn how to use two totally different systems; you may have two separate bills to pay; your care workers might need to use two different apps for each visit; and if the integration between the companies fails or one company has an outage, you’re left stuck with half a system.
- Doesn’t have additional hidden costs.
Some providers will quote one cost, but then as soon as you sign up they throw in other costs that may not have been discussed during the sales process. These could include things like admin fees, set-up fees, training fees, software update fees, device fees, or support fees. Always ask if there are any other fees you may be charged with aside from the monthly costs, and challenge why they’re needed. For example – will it cost anything extra for the latest version of the software, or if you need to contact Customer Support to report an issue?
- Doesn’t have a long contract that locks you in.
Beware of contracts that tie you in for many months or sometimes years. Who knows what the future holds? You need a software system that will be flexible as your needs develop and change, and a platform you want to stay with because it helps you to streamline your business, rather than one you have to stay with because you’re locked in and have no other choice.
For all of these reasons we’ve created OnCare, and the way we charge, to be different from other providers and start-up friendly. OnCare’s care management software is:
- Simple – designed to be used even by non-tech-savvy people without the need for training.
- All-inclusive – containing everything a new start-up care provider should need from people-management and care-planning, through to call-monitoring and medication, and even scheduling and finance.
- Reasonably-priced – our pricing tiers are clearly displayed on our website pricing page, we offer rolling month to month contracts, we have no other hidden costs, your price doesn’t change for the first 12 months, and we even give 1% of everything we earn to The Care Workers Charity as our way of giving back to the sector we rely on.
We hope you found this article about tips for start-up care providers useful.
Do you have any other top tips for brand new care agency owners? If so, email them to us at www.weareoncare.com and we’ll add the best ones to this page.