A homemaker and companion service provides personal and home care to people who require assistance that family or friends may not be able to provide. Such services often make it possible for people to remain in their homes instead of being placed in institutions. Both nonprofit and profit-making companies provide these services. Creating a homemaker and companion business requires planning, a marketing strategy, the hiring of personnel, and adequate funding. You must know federal, state and local laws that affect your business, and meet any required bonding, insurance, permit and license requirements.
Develop a thoroughly researched business plan. You will find it hard to succeed if, after starting, you are made aware of regulations you are violating or you are sued and have inadequate insurance. Research the geographical area you intend to serve to determine the extent and nature of the services people require. Identify your competitors, determine the availability of in-home aides and the training they require, and explore the regulations, permits and licenses under which you must operate.
Seek out successful similar businesses in other communities -- you'd get resistance from your local competitors -- and explore how they handle such activities as payroll and taxes, personnel, turnover, transportation of workers and clients, supplies, client billing and payments, relationships with families, and physical safety in clients' homes.
Develop a realistic marketing plan. Keep in mind that older clients may develop the need for more intensive care and no longer need your services. Your success depends on finding a steady supply of new clients. If you have a person or a company as a competitor, decide how to compete. Can you provide better or less expensive service, do more effective advertising or establish a more efficient referral system than theirs? Your marketing plan's underpinning should be an understanding that you must convince family members as well as clients that your services are valuable and fairly priced. Also experiment with ways to get physicians who serve children or older adult patients, hospital discharge planners, geriatric care managers and school personnel who work with disabled children to recommend or refer clients to your service.
Investigate how you can get the financing needed to start and operate until you become profitable. If you incorporate, you may be able to get investors. Consider creating a partnership and/or seeking bank financing. If you borrow, try to obtain a Small Business Administration-guaranteed loan. Explore state and local funding that may be available if you incorporate as a nonprofit organization. Use a library to find grant opportunities in the Foundation Directory.
Test the effectiveness of your business plan constantly. Decide whether decisions you made about transporting clients, staff pay scales and relationships with referral sources need revision. Decide whether and at what point you may need billing, accounting or other types of assistance.
Always carry the right types of insurance in sufficient amounts.
- Always carry the right types of insurance in sufficient amounts.
Roy Sylvan has a Ph.D. in communication studies. He directed a large city department of aging, was COO of a consulting company and provided management training to companies and nonprofits. Writing for more than 40 years, Sylvan has authored articles in trade journals, magazines and blogs, and wrote a how-to book on starting a business.