Senior Helpers franchisee sea-change

How one Senior Helpers franchisee embraced a sea change and brand new business

Sarah Stowe

When Paul Ngo discovered the Senior Helpers business, everything fell into place. The physiotherapist looking for a sea change and new career found it all in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.

Paul and his partner settled about 100km from Adelaide, in the heritage river port of Goolwa, where the Murray River meets the ocean.

“I knew I could keep doing the same job when we moved to Goolwa, but I saw this as an opportunity to have my own business in a new field,” explains Paul. “And it was important to me to continue doing something that people really need because that’s how you make the most impact.”

He came across the Senior Helpers brand and immediately got in touch with the franchisor, Leonie Williams. 

Sea change leads to Senior Helpers franchise

“In Goolwa there is a population of about 6,000 and many of them are older people. Leonie told me there was an opportunity right there – it was perfect. I had the right skillset, it was the right time, the right location!”

Paul says it took about four months to get all the paperwork sorted and he opened his business in September 2021.

He had been immersed in the clinical aspects of physiotherapy in his previous role; now there was a new challenge.

“It was a steep learning curve,” Paul says. “Suddenly my day was about more than just the people and treatments. I was having to manage the business.”

Thanks to the training provided by the franchisor, opening the doors to his brand new franchise was easier than if he had been going it alone.

“The initial franchise training was wide ranging, the team guided me through as a complete beginner. They assume you have no knowledge, and show you how to set up a business, what structure you need, how to recruit and to know when to get more staff.”

Training crucial in setting up brand new business

Paul says the training also focused on the essentials of the ever-growing home caring industry.

With support from the franchisor always on hand, Paul set up his business with just three or four care staff. He admits the first year was a financial challenge – just relocating involves big costs, he points out. 

But he was well prepared. 

“I had come in to a new territory with no clients, and I had plenty of working capital. Now we are starting to make money,” he says.

Another challenge was getting the balance right with the correct ratio of staff and clientele.

“I was starting up in a new area. I had to tell new staff, “we are finding work, but it will take time to build up the hours’.”

Genuine engagement builds up community network

Paul says it took six to eight months to get traction and build up the brand in the local area.

“In a small community it is all about putting faces to names. So I visited local businesses, health centres, community centres, libraries, introducing myself and the business. 

“Working directly with community makes it very personal. If you just hand out fliers or place ads, you can’t connect in the same way. You need that face to face interaction.

“It was of course even more challenging as I didn’t have a ready-made network, as we had just moved to the area!”

Paul’s commitment to genuine engagement with community paid off. Now 89 per cent of the client base is sourced from referrals. With some brand advertising to boost demand for the services, Paul was able to build up the staff levels. As a result, the team is now about 18 people.

New franchisee sees plenty of growth potential

“Once you hit the critical point you start to see the growth. Now we face different challenges, managing staff and clientele, and resolving issues.

“Being part of the franchise, people assume it’s all done for you. But you do have to guide yourself, and take responsibility.

“It’s like moving from high school to uni. You get rough guidelines, the support is there, but you’re expected to learn as you go,” he says.

He is happy with slow and steady progress; it’s important the high standards of the brand and its services are not compromised, he says.

“We set ourselves up pretty successfully and we’re doing very well. Eighteen months is not a long time, and I have achieved what I set out to do. We will continue to grow and achieve even more.

“The biggest change for me as a franchisee is the freedom. Running your own business can be stressful but the trade off is you have control over how you work and what you are doing. You can build your vision, and your business.

“This was a really good opportunity and I was very fortunate to come across it. Looking back I’d definitely do it again. There is a huge need for what we do and Senior Helpers provides anyone that platform to get into this industry.”