This article originally appeared on Home Health Care News on February 13, 2019.
After reporting a total of 26 territory expansions in 2018, BrightStar Care plans to add even more locations in 2019, with openings slated in Minnesota, Washington and Pennsylvania, among other states.
The Chicago-based at-home care company will continue to leverage technology, build upon existing markets and use new talent to make it happen, BrightStar Care CEO Shelly Sun told Home Health Care News.
“We’re looking at about 30 territory expansions [in 2019], and that’ll be a similar number of brand new franchisees as we had in 2018 and a slightly larger number of locations that have been under development agreements that get slowly brought to their potential,” she said.
Of the 26 offices BrightStar added in 2018, 14 were new locations previously unowned, while 12 were in markets that weren’t being penetrated to their full potential, Sun said.
In 2019 and beyond, both of those areas will remain growth targets for the large franchise-based at-home care provider, which has more than 300 locations and system-wide sales of more than $400 million.
“We really had a strategy in 2018 that will also take us into 2019, [focusing] not just on markets we have not previously been in, but those markets where we’ve had development agreements that haven’t been fulfilled,” Sun said.
In Q4 2018, Pete First joined BrightStar’s executive team as the new vice president of franchise development, who now reports directly to the CEO as a result of the internal restructuring. Consequently, Sun is now more involved in franchise growth than in years past.
“We expect that to pay dividends as we give [First] an opportunity to optimize processes, lead generation and the selection process,” Sun said. “I believe it will continue to accelerate our growth, as it did in the fourth quarter of 2018, going into 2019 and 2020.”
BrightStar offers non-medical and medical services, a subset Sun says will grow in the future, especially as an increasing number of states move to increase the minimum wage.
“We are an industry unlike any other where it’s one-to-one labor to customer, so it’s difficult to use productivity as a way to offset increasing labor cost and not have to pass that on dollar-to-dollar to consumers,” Sun said. “That’s a challenge we continue to be proactively working on, shifting our business mix to increase staffing, increase skilled care, so our franchisees [aren’t as] dependent on personal care and companion care.”
One way BrightStar hopes to tackle the staffing crunch is with proprietary technology initiatives, using it as a way to substitute caregiver visits and grow service offerings.
The company has spent $4 to $5 million on technology investments in each of the past three years, and plans to spend $4 to $6 million in each of the next 2 years, Sun said.
”We’re investing millions of dollars in technology to allow our franchisees to be able to scale substantially into skilled care and into staffing,” she said. “We’re doing some pilots right now in 2019 with technology integrated solutions, and we’ll be expanding that going forward.”