Yes, you did just see former Ontario premier Mike Harris in a pink, flower-covered car. Earlier this month Harris and his wife Laura launched the Toronto-Central franchise of Nurse Next Door, adding to the Vancouver-based company's 50 Canadian and six U.S. locations.
Canada's homecare industry is growing and shows no signs of stopping. Statistics Canada says nearly 5.2 million—14.9% of the population—is 65 or older. Half of all Canadians are at least 40 years old.
Laura Harris will oversee the location's daily operations, but neither entrepreneurship nor healthcare is new to the location's managing director. She left a career as a registered nurse 20 years ago to run her business, Stadium Hosting Services Inc., full time, which she still owns. The Toronto-based company provides more than 200 service staff to the Rogers Centre's VIP areas and corporate suites.
"At this point in my life I didn't want to start all over again building a business," she says. "When you're out there on your own, it's all 14 to 18 hour days, 7 days a week, 12 months a year." As a franchisee, Harris can spend more time with her university-aged children and travel with the former premier, while continuing to run her other business.
She was inspired to return to healthcare after reading a newspaper article about Lucy, a Nurse Next Door franchisee, in March 2012. For Harris, the company's concierge approach to homecare was a major part of its appeal.
Instead of calling the Toronto Central location directly, clients and caregivers dial a toll-free number to reach the company's 24-7 call centre, staffed by in-house agents. Each handles a specific geographic area and has access to clients' files to set appointments, update caregivers and handle scheduling changes. This lifts the burden of administrative tasks off of franchise partners. The company estimates it saves franchisees about 240 hours per month.
Harris still has the article that launched her interest in becoming a franchisee. She keeps it on the cover of her binder to stay inspired. "Seniors take so much pride in their homes," she says. "Whether they came to Canada as immigrants or worked two jobs to pay off the mortgage, they really deserve the dignity and respect to live out their lives at home."