Since the second half of the 20th Century, the UK population has been steadily getting older. A trend that is predicted to continue in the future.
Projections from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in 50 years’ time, there are likely to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and above – a population approximately the size of London.
Unsurprisingly, the requirement for quality elderly care services across the UK is growing. The NHS and local authorities currently provide home care to numerous people, however there is ample opportunity for independent care agencies to offer services to private individuals who require them.
The following guide details how to start a care agency that supports individuals in their own homes and will cover the following:
- Designing Your Dream Domiciliary Care Agency: Business Plan
- Setting Up the Finances: Funding and Financial Management
- Abiding by the Rules: Registration, Regulation and Insurance
- Promoting the Agency: Marketing
- Growing the Agency: Recruitment and Premises
As with the creation of any new business, before you start a domiciliary care agency, it’s recommended to write a detailed business plan.
You might have an enthusiastic desire to provide exceptional, compassionate care, but you’ll also need to plan out the finer details of your business to ensure long-term success. A thorough business plan will also help you to secure funding, focus your attention, organise your time, and keep you on track later down the line.
A business plan should include the following:
1. About you:
- do you have the required qualifications for adult care (and if not, how you plan to train to acquire them or hire qualified staff)
- your career background and experience in the industry
- do you have any prior connections you can utilise (e.g. with suppliers or potential clients)
2. Overview summary about the business:
- how you plan to operate
- what services you plan to offer
- who you plan to target (target market)
- how you plan to staff the business
- your mission statement and business vision (e.g. your SMART goals and plans for future growth)
- your unique selling points and what sets you apart from your competition
- how you plan to finance your business and fund the start-up investment
3. The service in more detail:
- the home care services you plan to offer (e.g. nursing, companionship, domestic or housekeeping, personal care or emergency care etc.)
- how you’ll carry out the services (e.g. 30-minute appointments, eight-hour shifts, 24-hour live-in care etc.)
- how much the services will cost you to deliver (e.g. equipment, training, travel, business software etc.)
- the prices you plan to charge for the services and your pricing strategy
- how you’ll sell these services to customers (e.g. customers can book a package of home care visits online through your website, in-person at a physical office, or over the phone etc.)
- the legal and insurance requirements you’ll require to provide these services (see Abiding by the Law below)
- growth potential for your services (e.g. expanding into new locations, upselling or cross-selling to existing clients etc)
4. The market in more detail:
- who are your target customers (e.g. age, gender, location, needs and desires, lifestyle and hobbies etc.)
- how many of these customers will your business potentially be able to reach
- any existing relationships with these target customers that you can leverage
- why will these customers buy your services over the competition
- desk research into the market you plan to target and your customers
- field research findings (e.g. talking to your potential customers, conducting questionnaires or gathering first-hand feedback on proposed offering)
5. The competition in more detail:
- identify direct competition to your business and map out their strengths, weakness and differences (e.g. operating in the same target geography, offering the same services, offering similar prices etc.)
- identify indirect competition (e.g. residential care homes or nursing homes)
- how you plan to differentiate from this competition
6. Initial set up costs and sales forecasts:
- start-up budget that includes all set up expenses (e.g. premises rent, utilities bills, website development, travel, insurance, printing business cards etc.)
- sales forecasts that include the income you plan to make in the coming months and how much you’ll need to cover monthly expenses
There are many online resources to help you develop your business plan. You can also search online for templates to download and complete.
Your business plan will help to focus your attention on how to start a care agency. Your finances are one of the most important aspects to consider next.
Starting a business requires significant upfront investment. You might be able to cover this privately, or you can apply for a loan from your bank or a specialist business loan provider. Alternatively, you can apply for a Government-backed start up loan from £500 up to £25,000.
Create a budget which includes all your initial expenditures. This will help you understand the amount of funding you’ll need. Then plan out a forecast for the next month, next quarter and first year. This will include known and predicted expenses and the amount of sales you’ll need to make to cover these expenses – and make a profit.
Successfully managing your cash flow from the start will help set your business up for success in the future. You can read more about this here: ‘How to Calculate Cash Flow: A Startup Guide’.
One of the first things you’ll need to do is set up a business bank account. You can shop around to find the most attractive package most suited to your requirements. A business bank account allows you to keep all your personal and business finances completely separate.
It enables you to easily keep track of income and outgoings and to pay recurring payments or suppliers securely. A business bank account will also allow you to collect regular payments from your customers using Direct Debit.
Before you start a home care agency, you’ll need to understand all the industry rules and regulations to ensure you do not break the law.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is England’s independent regulator of health and social care. Every business looking to provide home care for the elderly must first register with the CQC. This is a requirement of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.
As well as registering the business, you must also log your Registered Manager. This is the person who will manage the care services in your business and they must have the relevant training, skills, qualifications and experience. They must also understand the legislation and know how they will provide services in accordance with the law.
Once registered, your business will need to set up the required procedures and policies that will ensure you pass all future inspections by the CQC. There is a cost for registration, so ensure this is factored into your financial budgets and forecasts.
As your service requires coming into close contact with clients in their own homes, administering medication and being responsible for their wellbeing, you’ll also need the relevant insurance.
Insurance could include:
- public liability insurance
- professional indemnity insurance
- employers’ liability insurance
- medical malpractice cover
- treatments liability insurance
- any other relevant cover
Research to find an insurance company that specialises in care agencies. And shop around to see if buying policies separately might be more cost-effective than an all-in-one package.
You shouldn’t start a domiciliary care agency without first considering how you plan to promote it.
A strong brand will ensure you stand out against your competitors. And a marketing strategy with a range of tactics will ensure you communicate your offering to your target audience and generate customers.
Branding should include a memorable company name and a professionally designed, recognisable logo. Use this logo on all your company materials such as business cards and other stationery, plus on marketing assets including your website.
An excellent promotional tool is to place the logo and contact details on your company vehicle or fleet of cars. And if you, and your team of carers, wear a uniform, then these can also be branded with your company name and logo. Utilising your logo in appropriate places will ensure immediate customer recognition and brand recall by potential new clients.
Your marketing strategy should include a significant campaign at the launch of your business to generate new customers and to quickly raise awareness. After the launch phase, you’ll then need to plan for continual marketing to ensure your brand is always front of mind with your target audience.
Marketing tactics to attract new clients could include:
- website (to ensure a digital presence when customers search online)
- advertising (using social media, in local newspapers or radio)
- leaflet drops (in target geographical areas or at relevant events)
- referral schemes (e.g. discounts for existing customers if they refer you to another, or at local GPs and hospitals)
You might plan to start a home care agency with just you providing the care. If this is the case, then it’s likely that you can efficiently run it from your home.
However, if you plan to take on more private clients than you can manage on your own, or if you tender for larger public sector contracts from local authorities, then you’ll need to recruit staff.
Hiring reliable, qualified and passionate care professionals will need a dedicated recruitment strategy. This strategy should include what you’re looking for in a candidate, a clear job description with roles and responsibilities, and the qualifications required. You also need to plan for new staff inductions, ongoing training and forecast salary expenses.
To attract the right people to your business, advertise the job vacancy where the appropriate candidates will see it. This can include local media (newspapers, magazines, radio, websites), job listings websites, and industry-specific media. You could also hire specialist recruitment agencies and approach local universities or colleges with students who are training for the relevant care qualifications you require.
Finding the right premises also requires preparation. Note down precisely what you’re looking for including:
- accessibility (e.g. with a car park or near public transport)
- opportunities for branding
- the different purposes for the space (e.g. if you plan to invite potential new clients to the office then you might require a meeting room)
- storage requirements
- safety requirements
- opportunities to expand
- costs including deposit, rent, expected utilities bills
Once you have a thorough list of what you require, look for available space in local newspapers or by scanning online listings websites. Drive around the area you’re interested in as vacant offices might be advertised with boards outside. Also ask your personal and business network, as a contact might be able to recommend somewhere.
You can use commercial property agents or approach the property owners directly. Look around to find the most appropriate space and the best deal for your budget.
Start a Domiciliary Care Agency Today
The UK’s population is getting older, and many people want to stay at home rather than move to a residential care home or nursing home. It’s therefore inevitable that the demand for home care for the elderly is set to skyrocket.
Now you know how to start a care agency, why not begin today?