Brian Roh spends about 55 hours each week caring for two clients as a caregiver for FirstLight Home Care in Charlotte, North Carolina, a franchise owned by Mary Ellen and Ken Fleming. Roh, a retired flight attendant, was recently named Caregiver of the Year by FirstLight corporate office. He was first introduced to caregiving when he moved to care for his parents five years ago. Through helping his parents, he recognized he had a knack for helping people navigate through their health challenges.
“I wasn’t familiar with dementia or any medical care other than what I’d learned as a flight attendant, but I loved my parents so much it hurt me more to think about taking them to a nursing home,” he said.
FirstLight Home Care provides non-medical, in-home care services, helping seniors and people recovering from illness, injury, or surgery; adults with disabilities; veterans; and anyone over 18 who requires in-home support. The FirstLight Charlotte franchise is one of 200 FirstLight franchises in the United States. The brand is proud to set itself apart from others in the home care space by “leading with a franchisor’s head and a franchisee’s heart.”
After Roh’s parents passed away, he thought about what he might do next. His heart led him back to caregiving, specifically to the FirstLight, Tampa franchise, where he worked for 18 months before transferring to Charlotte more than two years ago.
“Their business model is incredible. They’re kind and so appreciative; they blow me away every day,” he said.
One of the remarkable ways in which FirstLight recognizes caregivers is through its annual Caregiver of The Year Award. This award can only be given to one caregiver, and that caregiver must be nominated by the franchisee for whom they work. All of the nominations are voted on by a select committee, and the caregiver and winning FirstLight office gets celebrated in several different ways throughout the year. Nominees are evaluated on service excellence, quality of caregiving skills, and bringing the FirstLight culture of care to life.
In February 2022, Roh was flown to FirstLight headquarters in Cincinnati, where he and a friend spent four days. He was recognized as Caregiver of the Year at a banquet hosted by FirstLight CEO Glee McAnanly and featuring guest Matt Paxon from the public television show, Legacy List with Matt Paxton, which explores the struggle between holding on to the past and embracing the future and stresses the importance of sharing family stories above holding on to objects. (FirstLight Home Care sponsors the Emmy-nominated series.) Not only did Roh receive a beautiful handblown sculpture and a check, but he had time to enjoy the area kayaking and attending a Cincinnati Reds game.
“I was shocked! I just about fell out of my chair,” he said. “I’m a private person. I’m not in this for the accolades.”
Making a Career Out of Caregiving with FirstLight Home Care
Mary Ellen and Ken Fleming, the franchisees who hired Roh, were personal caregivers and in-home care clients themselves for their son, Joe, who lives with cerebral palsy and requires assistance with daily tasks. While some of Joe’s caregivers were amazing and made a big difference in the family’s life, others fell short, which was distressing. Alternatively, the Flemings also saw employers fail to support their caregiving employees. Through these experiences, the couple learned firsthand that the caregiving sector required more care and attention.
Looking to switch careers, the couple sought franchise opportunities that aligned with their values and experiences. They wanted their efforts to make a difference. Mary Ellen had worked in various healthcare roles, and Ken had worked in executive leadership roles for financial services companies. Thanks to its strong culture, commitment to attracting the best caregivers, and systems to help franchise owners become successful, FirstLight stood out to them immediately.
“Even before the hiring crisis everyone is experiencing now, FirstLight has always put the caregiver first,” Ken said. “Other companies were treating their employees as expendable. They didn’t care for or offer them any rewards or recognition.”
At first, the Flemings invested in an existing franchise with just one client. Today, they’ve grown to employ 90 caregivers and serve 70 clients in four locations. They credit some of their success to the massive influx of retirees moving to the Carolinas, many of whom fit the 65 and older demographic.
The couple attributes the bulk of their success to the quality of their caregivers. For the past five years, the Flemings have consistently earned a 95% client satisfaction rating, thanks to on-time caregivers who genuinely value their clients and take the time to know their clients’ interests and preferences. One of the goals the Flemings set when they began their business was that one of their caregivers would be awarded Caregiver of the Year. They had an inkling that Roh would have the opportunity to receive that coveted award someday.
“We saw Roh’s application come in, completed his phone screen, and immediately said, ‘Wow, this guy is great!” Ken explained. “The owners in Tampa loved him, he had been taking care of his parents, and he already loved FirstLight.”
Ken said that being part of a franchise system is critical in the in-home care space, particularly if you’ve never owned an in-home care business. Fleming said that when you buy into a FirstLight franchise, you suddenly have access to other owners experiencing the same challenges and experiences. He said that if you need advice on recruiting and motivating caregivers, adding and retaining clients, managing your finances, or any other operations issue, FirstLight franchise owners and corporate office leadership are ready to assist you.
“The leadership at FirstLight is fantastic, and they continue to listen to us as owners, take our feedback, and provide referrals,” he said.
Success Starts With Recognizing Your Caregivers
The leadership team at FirstLight Home Care continues to recognize the impact its caregivers have on their business daily. They serve clients in more than 200 franchise locations across the United States. As the company continues on its growth path—with plans to double over the next four to five years—it understands that successful franchise owners can only be successful if they’re able to attract the right teams. Adopting a “caregivers first” mentality, FirstLight regularly shines a light on its caregivers who provide companionship, meal preparation, and other activities of daily living to clients. The company’s commitment to its front-line caregivers has allowed FirstLight to attract the best caregivers in the business, allowing their franchise owners to maintain a robust and happy clientele.
“Our caregivers are the heart and soul of our company. They are on the front lines every day, and we do what it takes to ensure they are recognized and appreciated,” said Kimbrough Taylor, Executive Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy for FirstLight Home Care. “This level of commitment inspires them to do more by creating meaningful relationships that provide help, comfort, and peace of mind to our clients and their families.”
FirstLight believes in hiring caregivers who have a genuine desire to enrich the lives of others. The company encourages its franchise owners to look for empathetic, kind, trustworthy people who are loving, caring, and service minded. By taking a systematic approach to hiring each caregiver – from thorough onboarding, training, and development to regular check-ins and ongoing recognition–franchisees have an easier time retaining caregivers and building lasting relationships with their teams. Taylor explained that when caregivers are engaged and feel valued, they stick around.
“One of our franchisees recently told me that they can ‘teach skills, but can’t teach love,’ and I think that’s exactly the type of folks we are looking for,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to have prior caregiving experience, but having a compassionate heart and a desire to help others is so important.”
As part of the FirstLight family, franchise owners don’t have to hire and train caregivers on their own.
- They benefit from toolkits, checklists, and guides to assist them with recruitment and retention in their local markets.
- Franchise owners also receive corporate assistance with job postings and industry research that helps them better understand what caregivers want in a position and why caregivers leave.
- The company takes great pride in its retention efforts through ongoing recognition for outstanding service, employee appreciation events, referral bonuses, and other rewards programs.
The FirstLight Home Care franchise continues to expand its network by awarding franchises to people who align with its core values:
- Give Joy
- Grow Together
- Act with Integrity
- Focus on Relationships First
- Make a Difference Every Day
Are You Ready to Invest in a Culture of Caring?
FirstLight is not only a leading senior care business with heart, but it can also make good business sense. FirstLight’s most recent Franchise Disclosure Agreement reports location open for at least 16 months reported an average gross revenue of $1.09 million, and locations open for at least 82 months reported an average gross revenue of $1.5 million.
While you don’t need a healthcare background or experience working with seniors to own a FirstLight franchise, you must be passionate about serving older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their families and meet minimum financial requirements. These include:
- Net worth of $250,000
- $100,000 cash on hand
- A $49,500 franchise fee, with discounts for veterans
- An initial investment of $113,000 to $197,000 (including franchise fee)
In addition to your franchise fee, you should expect to pay monthly royalties on your gross net revenue, including:
- 5% royalty
- 2% royalty on local marketing, advertising, and promotions
- 1% royalty to a national advertising fund
FirstLight franchise owners must also have the appropriate licensure to operate an in-home care businesses in the states where they operate.
FirstLight has open territories throughout the United States and looks forward to talking to professionals with diverse backgrounds who want to join a business with heart.
About FirstLight Home Care
FirstLight Home Care is a leading provider of home care services, helping individuals achieve the quality of life they deserve. The company has set a new standard in home care by creating an unmatched Culture of Care that drives industry-leading client and employee satisfaction. FirstLight is a lifeline for seniors and people recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, adults with disabilities, veterans, busy families, and anyone 18 and older who needs personal or companion care services. FirstLight Home Care’s mission is to deliver exceptional, compassionate care that is provided by extraordinary people so that all who are served may age with comfort, dignity, and independence in the place they call home. FirstLight is also proud to champion the family caregivers who give countless hours of care to their loved ones daily by providing the resources and support needed to help them maintain balance in their lives.