Meet Tennessee Touching Hearts Owners Steve & Donna Smith
Serving veterans and other clients is fulfilling and a way to grow the reach of their franchise’s public awareness and client base
When Steve and Donna Smith opened their Touching Hearts At Home in-home senior care franchise seven years ago, they were literally exploring new ground. They live in Milan, Tennessee, a small community midway between Nashville and Memphis. Their six-county territory was largely rural, and a service like Touching Hearts At Home was unknown.
So right away, they set out to make people aware of what Touching Hearts At Home is and how it can help ease the burden for seniors and their families. They’ve also helped to connect veterans and others with government services and worked with partners to address quality-of-life issues for their clients. Now they can look back on solid growth, as well as ahead to even more success.
What did you do before opening your Touching Hearts At Home franchise, and what led you to small-business ownership?
Steve: We came from different backgrounds. I worked in business for 37 years, doing sales, management and customer service. We had an opportunity to do something different, to run our own business, and decided we wanted to get involved in something that helped people. We started out with one of our daughters working for us, and now we have another who’s with our team. That is something we are really happy about.
How was your learning curve after you made the decision to own a Touching Hearts franchise?
We had a lot to learn, so it took a while to get it off the ground and it took a lot of effort. We always want to do better, so we’re still working on finding ways to be more effective. It’s challenging to maintain and find new staff in our area, and it’s always a challenge to make sure we’re maintaining quality care. We have grown to five people in our office and a staff of about 60 caregivers.
How have you helped connect Touching Hearts to the community beyond your client base?
We have done some work with helping veterans. We help them get the government assistance they need to pay for our services. We worked with a local officer in our county, and he has been helpful to us. It’s an ongoing campaign for us, and it began when we found that a lot of veterans are on fixed incomes and are not aware that there’s funding available to help them with expenses. It’s really an education and outreach process that we do.
There’s just so many people and they need help. We try to be a resource for everybody. We try to connect with people, so we network and partner with a lot of groups. That’s probably what I enjoy most about my job, just working with all the agencies and centers, working as a team. We’re one solution of many.
You opened in an area that was new for Touching Hearts at Home. What kind of support did you get for marketing?
They started out providing quite a bit and still respond when we need them. We go to national and regional meetings, so we can work with the corporate staff there and share information with other franchise owners. We also benefit from ongoing website and collateral material support.
How does interacting with other franchise owners and the leadership team help you?
Donna: We’re a close-knit group. We meet within our region, and also nationally, every year. We also have the home office. They’re wonderful. I can pick up the phone and call the CEO, and she’ll talk to me. I’ve had to lean on her quite a bit. She’s wonderful about reassuring me that we know what to do and that we’re doing the right thing.
You’re a Top 10 revenue-generating franchise, even though you’re in a rural location. What advice do you have for new owners, or any owner who’s looking to improve their financial performance?
Steve: We learn from other owners and put those best practices into place. We were told early on that the lion’s share of our business would come from having good referral partners. We’ve had to cultivate those over time. They don’t just happen, but we do have them, and we work with them on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. We visit them, they visit us, and we have network meetings with several partners when we can. We do health fairs together with them. Also, we share leads with them, so it’s a beneficial relationship for everyone.
We also sometimes work with our competition. That might not seem to be good business, but there are situations where we don’t have staff available to cover a client, or they may not, and we can help each other out. That’s not going to be the case for every owner, but it doesn’t hurt to know who you’re competing against and have some kind of relationship.
We do advertising and marketing; we are in the newspapers, and we’re also on the radio. We don’t get a lot of work that way, but it keeps the name out there so people recognize us. Most of our work comes from referrals, and that’s due to those partnerships we have. We also benefit from social media and website marketing, and we are ramping that up. We also are getting clients from our existing clients — their children or siblings or grandchildren.
What advice do you have for someone considering becoming a Touching Hearts at Home franchise owner?
Make sure if you’ve never run a business before, which we had not, that you get all the education you can from the leadership and training team. You will need to hit the ground running, and you will need that knowledge.
What have the rewards been for you?
Donna: We definitely feel like it’s a ministry. We help a lot of people in more than one way. And our seniors have so much to offer and so much knowledge, They’re living history. We just worked with a gentleman who was a dive bomber in World War II.
No matter how old a person gets, they’re still a person. One thing I’ve learned from being around elderly people is to recognize that they still have something to offer. We know we’re not alone in this business; we work with a lot of other organizations. And we want our clients to know that they’re not alone, either.
Now is the time to join Touching Hearts at Home franchise family. We are a pioneer in the non-medical, in-home senior care industry, and we anticipate rapid growth for our company as the baby boomer generation ages. A Touching Hearts at Home franchise business is an opportunity to make a living doing meaningful work as you serve members of your community.