Frank Samson, host of Boomers Today and founder of Senior Care Authority, takes on a different role and is interviewed by Marcy Baskin, Managing Director of Senior Care Authority. The company is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary in helping seniors through consultation on senior housing and a myriad of other services to help alleviate the stress on families.
In addition, Samson discusses how he has expanded through a franchise model and providing these services throughout the United States and Canada.
Frank Samson: Welcome to Boomers Today. I’m your host, Frank Samson. Of course, each week we bring you important, useful information on issues facing baby boomers, their parents and other loved ones. We have a special show for you today. It’s kind of doing a little reverse role here. As you know, I interview people all the time in the industry, but today I’m on the other side. I’m the interviewee here, and today I’m being interviewed by Marcy Baskin. Marcy is the managing director of Senior Care Authority, a sponsor of Boomers Today. Marcy, thanks for this wonderful idea and glad to have you on the show.
Marcy Baskin: Thanks for agreeing to it, Frank. Before we talk about Senior Care Authority, maybe you can talk a little bit about your thoughts on being an entrepreneur. What inspired you to go in that direction?
Frank: There’s some people that kind of enjoy working for somebody, getting that paycheck every week or every two weeks and, and having that security. There’s certainly a lot of advantages to that. Me, well, my father was somebody who spent a lot of time in his own business, totally different industry. He was in the insurance business. I guess I was brought up around that. I found out early on in my career that I was probably one of the hardest workers ever, but I was also probably one of the lousiest employees ever. I say that only because I always questioned whoever I reported to. I was in sales and I had a sales manager that would require us to put in these sales reports. Well, at that time we didn’t have even Microsoft Word. I mean, you really hand wrote your sales reports.
I just knew when I wrote those reports that he wasn’t reading them. I knew that because I would ask him questions and then he would never respond. In one of my reports, I used some choice words about him and figured I’m either going to get fired or I’ll never hear from him. I never heard from him, so I knew he wasn’t reading the report, so I refused to do the report. I was that type of a person. If I didn’t like the way something was done, I was pretty vocal about it. With that, I just felt it was better for me to have my own.
Marcy: Tell us about starting your placement agency. You and your wife started a placement agency in Sonoma, California in 2009.
Frank: I’ll tell you what led into it. I was one that was always more of a futuristic reader. I would read nonfiction, kind of boring stuff. I remember reading the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. I was always reading more futuristic type of things, like what’s going to happen when, what’s going to happen here? The boomer generation, some people are critical to boomer generation, but I always thought what’s going to happen when all of us start really getting older and aging? What’s going to happen? I was always just interested in the senior population after going through a whole lot with my own parents, who both unfortunately passed away seven weeks apart from one another and went through a whole lot with them.
Then ironically right before that happened, I had sold a company that I had started in the travel industry. I sold it because I just wanted to start doing something else. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I decided to sell it and I was going to take some time off and figure it out. Then shortly after I lost both my parents and a light bulb went off. I said, “Hey, maybe this is the industry I want to get into.” I spent a good year researching the industry and kind of here we are.
Marcy: Okay. What made you choose placement instead of another type of senior related business?
Frank: In placement, what I learned during my research was that it was more of a consultative type of role. I was consulting with families, and I’ve always been more of an advisor in anything I did in my life. I did manage a lot of people in my past, and I didn’t want to do that again. I don’t have any problem having employees and creating jobs. I’m all for that, but having a lot of hundreds or thousands of people kind of reporting, and to me, that’s not what I want to do. I felt that the placement side was just that. It was more consulting. Also, I didn’t like the fact of having… I came from the travel industry and as you know that the travel industry is very competitive price wise. You’re always looking for the best deal. Everybody’s trying to get you to come down in price.
With placement, we are compensated mostly through the assisted living facilities that we recommend. We provide options. But if that family chooses that particular assisted living location, we get paid by the assisted living location. Therefore, we’re not in a price war of the family coming to us and going, “Can you get it to me for this? Can you get it to me for that?” Certainly we’re going to try and negotiate the best deal for them, but we’re not charging them anything. Those three things, helping families, helping seniors, as well as not being price competitive, and getting paid pretty handsomely from the assisted living locations.
Marcy: Okay, make sense.
Frank: I did look at home care. Though I have respect for the people that are in the home care business, I just didn’t want to manage a number of caregivers and do that.
Marcy: Right. Do you remember the first family you helped when you opened your agency? What was that like?
Frank: It was rewarding. I learned a lot. Let’s put it that way. It was a very difficult situation. I was dealing with a daughter whose father had Lewy body dementia, was already in a memory care location, and it was extremely expensive. I learned early on because she told me that when he was diagnosed they were sitting on close to a million dollars. When they contacted me, they were coming close to running out of money. It was really an eye opener for me.
The place that they were at said, “Hey, you’re going to have to pay the bills, right?” I’m always going to do what I think was right, and I thought what was right is I first just tried to renegotiate on behalf of the family a better deal for them at where they were staying. That’s what I did.
Marcy: You were an advocate for the family?
Frank: I was an advocate for the family.
Marcy: I think we find that a lot in this business that we are advocates more than anything.
Frank: Fortunately, they were able to keep their father there. He passed away six months later, but they didn’t have to go move them and go through the pain of moving again and putting the family through more stress.
Marcy: You must have felt pretty good about it.
Frank: I felt good and it just made me want more. That’s why I tried to build Senior Care Authority on is just doing the right thing for families.
Marcy: Any aha moments you can share during the last 10 years related to the business?
Frank: Yeah. I started out doing a radio show for Senior Care Authority before adding a podcast to it. I still do the radio show, but I started doing the radio show in 2010. I started the business 2009. I made a proposal to a local radio station here to do this show. They accepted the proposal because I felt it was important to educate listeners and let them know resources. What the aha moment was is I thought that by having the show I’d have a bunch of listeners who would then call me up and go, “Frank, I need your help.”
What really happened was that I ended up getting a lot of my business from were the people that I interviewed. Those doctors or those lawyers or those home care companies or the people within the senior services and healthcare industry, they were so appreciative that I took the time to interview them that they wanted to work together and give referrals to one another. That aha moment was that’s where I’m going to get my business from. Not marketing direct to the consumer, which is kind of a needle in a haystack in our business, but build relationships with those in the industry and refer back and forth to one another. That’s how I started building the business.
Marcy: Well, and that is the model of Senior Care Authority.
Frank: That is a model.
Marcy: Which will lead me into the fact that we have many franchises now across the country.
Marcy: I want to ask you if it’s a simple enough answer for this show why did you decide to franchise?
Frank: Well, I spent the first four years, so from 2009 to 2013, building the local business here in Northern California. I do have a background in franchising. In order to franchise, you have to make sure that the model works, first of all. There are people that just start franchising before they see if it works, and that’s not a good thing. You want to make sure the model works. That’s what people buy into. I thought about doing the Starbucks model. Starbucks model, going out and hiring people and setting up around the country. That’s a big expense and also a lot of time.
One of the greatest thrills that I got when I franchised before was helping others succeed in their own businesses. I said, “Here’s a business that’s working. I was proud of it. Could I help others and teach them this business so then they could make it successful in their own markets?” That’s really what I did. I mean, we talk about it all the time, how much we enjoy working with families and helping those families. Though I don’t do as much of that as like you do on a day to day basis, I really get a thrill out of having our own franchise owner say, “Hey, you know, I’m helping families and I’m building my business and I’m profitable.” It’s a wonderful feeling. That’s a way to build the brand and build it in a way where others are helping you do that.
I think that for somebody who is looking to set up their own business, franchising is a wonderful way to go if the concept is what you want to do. Because if you buy the right franchise, they’ve already built the model. They built the template. We always use the term to our franchise owners, just follow the yellow brick road. Now, we’re not a McDonald’s. Sometimes the perception of a franchise, McDonald’s comes into people’s heads. We’re not a McDonald’s. We don’t tell people like they do saying, “Hey, when you throw the french fries in there, cook it for so long. Flip the burgers after this amount of time. You have to buy all your buns from us.” You can still be a franchise and not be that rigid. I have to say and I think you would agree that we’re not that rigid.
However, we have guidelines. We have templates. We have a system that works. If people kind of follow it, they have a much greater chance of success.
Marcy: Who buys a franchise from Senior Care Authority?
Frank: I’m going to give it a two part answer here. I’ll tell you who I thought would be buying a franchise from Senior Care Authority when I started and then I’ll tell you how that’s changed. Who I thought would be buying a franchise were going to be people within the healthcare industry, like a nurse. Many nurses are overworked and underpaid and they’re burnt out, or a social worker who’s already working with families. That’s who I thought our market was going to be. We do have some nurses, as you know, part of it. But what I learned is that we find people who come from Corporate America. They have great marketing skills. Many of them with great sales skills. They know how to network.
The one common thread that we’ve seen with the far majority of them is they’ve gone through working with a family member. They’ve gone through it themselves with a loved one, whether it be a parent, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle. They’ve gone through it. They’ve seen how difficult it is. During the research, they come across us and say, “God, I didn’t realize there was a business that does this, a franchise that does this.”
To reiterate, the bulk of them, they came from Corporate America. They’ve got tired of Corporate America. They want to do their own thing. They have gone through this with a family member. They have great networking and people skills. Those are our franchises. Those are our most successful franchises.
Marcy: Agreed. Okay. I want to make sure that I mentioned the fact that you published a book.
Frank: Yeah. I published the book because somebody said to me, “I listened to your podcast, and it’s just a wealth of information. Have you ever thought about kind of transcribing them and turning them into a book?” I said, “It’s kind of interesting,” but I thought it would be kind of boring to just transcribe them question, answer, question, answer and put them in a book.
I used one of my experiences with a client to serve as the basis for the book. I didn’t use this person’s name. It was a very difficult case, it was a very difficult situation, and I kind of went through the process of helping her find various resources in the industry. If I introduced her let’s say to an attorney, well, the question and answers of that attorney from that podcast was what we incorporated in the book. It was a story that incorporated a lot of the questions and answers in the book. We called it The Aging Boomers and it was fun. I enjoyed doing it. We’ve had a lot of great reviews on it.
Marcy: Well, it helped people to see that making senior care decisions is not a straight line from A to B. There’s many decisions and opportunities that require a lot of thought. And I think that that’s something we do very well; we help people make decisions every step of the way.
Frank: Yeah. Yeah. It was pretty exciting, I was approached by an organization that did some research and came across our company and says, “We’d like to get some more information from you because we’re thinking about including you and the company in this book called Dynamic Founders of the 21st Century.” I was taken back by it but I thought it was interesting. They interviewed me and myself and the company ended up being included in the book, which was very exciting.
Marcy: Do you have time to tell us about some of the recognition you’ve gotten from the Franchise Review Board?
Frank: The Franchise Review Board reviews our financial information. They review our contract, which is called a franchise disclosure document. They actually talk to our franchisees. And they do a very detailed review each year called Franchise Business Review and we’ve gotten some pretty good accolades from them as one of the top low cost franchises, top women-owned franchises. The area that makes me most proud is showing that we’re one of the top franchises based upon the surveys that are done from our franchisees saying that we’re doing well. They’re happy with us. That’s pretty exciting. Most recently we were also honored to be part of that entrepreneur 500 lists. That was pretty exciting.
Marcy: These are pretty big accomplishments. I know we don’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to ask one more question. So you’ve had a lot of success in more than one business. You know how to do a lot of things. You’re really creative. What’s next? Retirement?
Frank: Well, first of all, I want to say if I had to do this alone, we wouldn’t be here talking. You know? People like yourself and we have a tremendous team of people. We have great franchise owners who also provide us wonderful ideas. Yeah, okay, I started it, but you still have to surround yourself with the best people and I think we do a pretty good job with that. Thank you personally for that.
Marcy: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Frank: We’ve got a great team of people on that. As far as what’s next, I love what I’m doing. I’m healthy, so I plan on doing this for awhile. But I think if it did come a time that was time for me to move on to something else and hand over the reigns, and you see this too, we see so many families that have a challenge of finding housing for their loved ones and care for their loved ones and they can’t afford it. The United States is a wonderful country, but also it’s pretty challenging with medical costs and all of that. I would love to be able to maybe set up a nonprofit one day to be able to help those people that can’t afford housing. I think about that all the time, but don’t have any plans, but…I’m staying put. You have to put up with me for awhile longer. All right?
Marcy: I think everybody in the network will be glad to hear that.
Frank: Yeah. Thank you. Certainly anybody that wants to learn more about our company, they could go to our website at www.seniorcareauthority.com. If they’re interested in a franchise, there’s a section there that they could go to, but that’s the same a web address, seniorcareauthority.com/franchise. They can learn more about maybe owning a franchise in their area as well. But thanks for your wonderful idea. By the way, happy anniversary.
Marcy: Oh, happy anniversary.
Audio: You’ve been listening to Boomers Today with Frank Samson. To learn more about today’s show, visit boomerstodayradio.com and join us next time for another edition of Boomers Today.