Christopher Seman, the newly appointed president of Caring Transitions, spent the last ten years of his career with Mr. Handyman International, a home maintenance, repair, and improvement franchise based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the last four years, Chris held the position of vice-president in charge of franchisee operations for Mr. Handyman.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Caring Transitions is known as the country’s first national franchising concept specializing in senior relocation and transition services. Can you be more specific about the services that you offer?
Christopher Seman (CS): Caring Transitions is involved in a variety of services that help with relocations, moving, and other transitions. These services are in such areas as estate liquidations, which can involve an estate sale, an online auction, or a clean out; relocations; downsizing; de-cluttering; and any other service involved in transitioning.
When performing relocation services, we floor plan the new location, help organize and pack, and then resettle the person in their new home according to the client’s desired layout, which often mirrors their past home. When we leave after a resettlement, everything is in order — the dishes are put away, the clothes hung up, and the bed made.
Another area that we are heavily involved in is the professional organization segment, which involves de-cluttering and organizing the existing home. Often called downsizing, we make the current home more manageable and easier to navigate.
Caring Transitions’ main goal is to act as the “Lead Project Manager” on behalf of the family, or client, addressing how to properly and successfully complete the transition at hand. Caring Transitions takes the emotion out of these difficult processes, taking care of all the steps and procedures so families and clients don’t have to deal with them.
FC: What are some of the key milestones in Caring Transitions’ history since its inception in 2006?
CS: Caring Transitions started franchising in 2006 and its first owner, Bruce Treadway, opened in March of 2007. Caring Transitions opened its 100th location in 2010 and we launched our online auction site, CT Online Auctions, in the same year. In 2011, Caring Transitions was ranked “Top 10 New Franchises” by Entrepreneur magazine. In 2012, Caring Transitions was ranked in the “Top 75 Fastest-Growing Franchises,” “Top 30 Low-Cost Franchises,” and “Top 50 Home-Based Franchises” by Entrepreneur magazine.
FC: Congratulations on being named the new president of Caring Transitions. What convinced you to accept this new opportunity?
CS: Thank you! There were a couple of reasons, but opportunity and personal experience convinced me that this is the segment that I wanted to be involved in. Trends in business are pointing to the aging population of the United States, often referred to as the Age Wave. With the Baby Boom generation turning 65, and with the influence that generation has had on our society, you can see that the senior marketplace is going to be a dominant area for the foreseeable future.
There are demographics and there are trends, and then there are personal experiences. My personal experience with my father highlighted the need for this type of service for me. Caring Transitions’ early market position places us ahead of the curve and gives us the opportunity to define the segment in a way that I can believe in.
FC: Based on your initial assessment, what are some of the strengths of the organization? What areas need to be focused on?
CS: A couple of key areas of strength are our national presence, both in our physical locations and online capacities, which give us the coverage and access to a consumer base that no other company has. Our front line franchise owners are such dedicated and caring individuals that the services we provide are second to none. The breadth of services that we offer gives us an advantage in that we are not just an estate sales company or a senior move company. We can tailor our solutions to our clients’ needs instead of trying to force a pre-packaged product upon them.
As a fairly new concept and a new brand, it is our task to continue to develop awareness not only for our services but also the brand.
FC: What kind of background and/or skills set do you look for in a prospective franchisee?
CS: One of the key attributes you would want in any franchise owner is the ability to interact and work with other individuals. This is a social based business that requires a strong effort in networking and thoroughly communicating the brand and services. We need the franchisee to be comfortable with that level of interaction, as well as the ability to delegate and manage multiple projects and multiple staff members.
FC: What kind of training and marketing support do you offer your franchisees?
CS: Our franchisees receive a multi-platform training program. They receive guidance in a pre-training module that we call Jump Start, and then head into a five day training program at headquarters in Cincinnati that will give them a foundation in the services we offer. From there, they will be assigned to an onsite training center where they will work with an existing franchisee to get real world experience based on the five days spent at headquarters in Ohio. They will then experience the next stage of training which involves detailed online webinars designed around delivering the services that they will need to provide. Another key piece to the launch phase is having their assigned Franchise Business Consultant travel to their location after opening to help them with all aspects of the business – primarily networking and in-home consultations.
In addition, there are other areas of support that we provide such as the National Accounts Program, which we head up to develop relationships and alliances with organizations that can help drive clients to our locations.
FC: Does each franchise come with an exclusive territory? Is there an ideal geographic territory or neighborhood for a Caring Transitions franchise?
CS: Each franchise comes with an exclusive territory that is defined with you as you go through the process. A main advantage of Caring Transitions is the breadth of clientele that potentially needs the services. The main areas that we look at for locations are the number of seniors, the number of those facing disabilities, the divorce rate, and the relocation rate of the population. As you tie those numbers together, looking at the various economic segments in most of the country, we have found success in such areas ranging from Joplin, MO to Manhattan, NY.
FC: What can you tell us about the estimated initial investment, royalty fees, and profit potential for a Caring Transitions franchise?
CS: Caring Transitions is an in-home business that operates on low overhead, as most of our marketing is not cost-based but time-based. This allows someone to get into the business for about $35K. We then work with you based on your expenses to determine the capital you will need to achieve profitability based on your goals and timelines. We believe that we have one of the fairest royalty structures in franchising with a 5% royalty and a fixed contribution to the National Branding Fund of $250 a month.
Caring Transitions does not provide earnings claims at this time. However, we strongly encourage our franchise candidates to discuss profits directly with current franchisees. We strongly believe in the earnings potential of Caring Transitions, as long as our potential franchisees are dedicated to the programs and systems in place.
FC: Can you name a few franchise personalities (insider or outside your category) that you admire, and why?
CS: I could name a ton of franchisees in our segment that I admire for their abilities and personal stories of success. I want to be careful and not miss anyone though so I will go outside of the category and name someone from my past career and that is Dave Lavalle, from Mr. Handyman. He is really the person who gave me my foundation in franchising and taught me how to focus on metrics and behaviors that drive franchisee profitability. This has embedded in me a focus on success that is directed and measured by the profitability of each and every franchise owner that I have the honor to work with.
FC: What are your growth targets for 2012 and beyond? Do you have any plans to offer new services and/or enter new markets?
CS: Caring Transitions is in aggressive growth mode, as we add over 50 units in the United States in 2012 and expect to more than double consumer revenues in the same time period. We are currently looking to expand our executive relocation assistance programs, as this is an excellent fit with our senior move expertise, and we are also looking to expand internationally in the next few years, targeting Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
To learn more about Caring Transitions, please visit their website.