Health

How Home Instead Senior Care founders Martin and Sarah Warner built a network of 25 franchises and brought compassion back to aged care

Dinushi Dias /

More than a decade ago, Martin and Sarah Warner decided to open a small aged care business giving Australian seniors freedom to choose who and how their ageing needs are serviced.

“The response was why are you doing this? The government provides it free and you’re charging for this,” Home Instead Senior Care co-founder Martin Warner told SmartCompany.

It was an innovative idea at a time when most seniors were simply told by government if, when, how and what their aged care would entail.

The government funding allocated to aged care would be directed straight to providers at the cost of choice, freedom and dignity to many senior residents.

“We didn’t want to go through government because we wanted to deliver the quality of care which is really about relationships first and tasks second,” he says.

Equipped with a masters degree in health services and a background in hospitality, Warner and his partner, who worked in federal government at the time, decided to bring some change to the aged care sector.

“There were a lot of people with unmet needs out there,” he says.

“We could provide additional services to meet client needs that couldn’t be fulfilled by government.”

The Warners began their first operation, dedicating every effort to build and run it.

“We ran the business for two years to show the system worked,” he says.

Differentiating the business from government services, they started figuring out how the industry worked and the people who were making decisions about the lives of seniors.

“It was very much going out there and saying look we’re new to all of this but we’re willing to learn,” he says.

From small business to franchise

Today, Home Instead Senior Care has 25 franchises with more than 1600 employees across the country.

Warner says their national network has been growing exponentially at more than 30% year on year.

The company’s services are delivered to seniors living at privately owned homes, retirement villages and other aged and assisted care living facilities.

“The key to that [success] has been making sure we have the right system in place,” Warner says.

“We had all systems, appropriate manuals and documentation in place before taking new owners on board.”

With every new business owner they take on, the founding duo work to ensure that the compassionate spirit of their first operation lives on.

“It relates to the particular owners themselves and the culture of their organisation stems from the top through to the bottom,” he says.

When selecting franchise owners, Warner says he always look for the right values, integrity and standard of service.

“It isn’t about ‘I’m going to get into this business here and I’m going to make heaps of money’,” he says.

“You need to want personal rewards and make a difference in people’s lives.”

This sits close to Warner’s heart as he is also the primary carer of his disabled mother.

“She lives in the granny flat next to us, she lives independently,” he says.

“When my father died she needed some security and support.”

Focus on better senior care

The aged care sector today is almost unrecognisable from when Home Instead Senior Care started with government policy changes, consumer trends and the rise of higher quality, independent seniors living developments, says Warner.

“[Our main goal now is] ensuring everything is in place for the new regime ahead of government making it an open market where any client can choose any provider and service,” he says.

Looking back at their journey, starting as industry “outsiders” through to where they are today, Warner says being open to learning, doing their research and staying focused on the bigger picture is what kept them on track through it all.

“Prepare yourself to learn about yourself. When you’re going through a journey like this you have your ups and downs,” he says.

“Try to understand and have the frame of mind you can get through any challenge including very big challenges.

“We try to pass that advice on to all our owners [and] if you keep focused on the difference you’re making in people’s lives that kind of keeps you sane.”

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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