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Taking on the Challenge

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It’s perhaps not that common to hear homecare franchises suggested as the ideal option for young people starting out in business. “A lot of people do it as a second career, but it’s often overlooked as the first. I would highly recommend it for some people as their starting career,” says Hannah Drury. It isn’t really a surprising comment to come from Hannah, though – she became Operations Director of Caremark Epsom & Ewell, Reigate and Banstead at the remarkably young age of 25.

The reasons behind her Caremark venture involve both profound family tragedy, and a refreshingly go-getting attitude. “I am quite fearless!” says mother-of-two Hannah. Though, as a self-admittedly rebellious teenager, it would’ve been hard to predict her current life as a business leader. “I was academic, but I had my children very young, and left school early.” No early hint of her future career focus? “I was out partying, having fun, and looking after my kids – I hadn’t really found out what I wanted to do at that point.”

What changed things for Hannah were two terribly close, tragic events. Firstly, her younger sister was diagnosed with cancer. This led to Hannah’s first encounter with homecare, and she saw immediately how valuable it was. “Being able to have palliative care at home gave her a good end-of-life experience, as far as they go ­– and particularly when you're that young”. Her sister sadly died aged just 18. The whole family saw the worth of high-quality homecare in that period – so shortly afterwards her stepfather Simon decided to become a Caremark franchisee.

Heartbreakingly, it wasn’t long before he too was diagnosed with a terminal illness. “About six months into starting his Caremark franchise, he got diagnosed with motor neurone disease,” says Hannah. Simon’s rapid deterioration was soon going to become impossible for him to bear, and he began to plan for an assisted death overseas. Up to this point, Hannah had little knowledge of Simon’s business. When he was first considering joining Caremark, she had gone with Simon to a franchise expo and “Although I was aware of things like McDonald’s, I didn't have a very deep understanding. I was just there for fun - for a day out, really.”

Then one day, while preparing for the end of his life, Simon suddenly asked Hannah to lunch. “Prezzo in Banstead. I remember the table,” says Hannah, “And he asked me – at 23 with two babies and not much work experience – if I wanted to take it over”. How she replied is a perfect demonstration of her fearlessness. “I just said, ‘Yeah, sure’!” Simon could see the entrepreneur in Hannah. “I've got a can-do attitude and I love a challenge. He saw in me the qualities that a business actually needs, rather than just things on paper.”

In that instant, she took on the Caremark franchisee experience. “We just went for it. I moved into my mum and stepdad’s house, and I would learn everything from him.” Just a few months after Simon’s diagnosis, Hannah was undertaking the Caremark training and starting to run the operation. “The training was great. A really motivating experience, because you finish and then you're all set free to go and do all the things that you've talked about. And I'm still really good friends with someone that I did the training with.”

“My stepdad was really keen on only doing a business that was something that people needed, not just wanted. He never wanted to be in a position where you're trying to sell something that people don't actually need,” Hannah proudly remembers – so she wasn’t initially motivated by profit so much as delivering exemplary home care. However, her attitude has evolved over time, “The financial side probably wasn't even a consideration of mine when I first started out. But when you're running a business and you get to understand the numbers more, and then you see them growing, it's addictive!” Simon died in 2015 – several years on, and the franchise that he started is now prospering in Hannah’s hands. The can-do attitude that he identified in Hannah is matched by her passion for superb quality care, and business is booming.

It’s clear that the roots of Hannah’s success lie in her spirited dedication to doing good work. While Hannah recommends not “overthinking things”, she’s very thoughtful – considerate about the wellbeing of those around her and paying close attention to the smallest details of how she can best support her carers. Given that her introduction to Caremark was in her own home – Simon was even cared for by his own staff – it’s also no surprise that closeness in the team is important to her. “When you come in here, it's like a family. And however big we get we try and maintain that.” Aware of her wider family too, Hannah calls on readily-available support from the network and Caremark Franchise Support Centre – thankfully receiving the perspective of “fresh eyes” when a Caremark team member visited to help assess office premises, for example.

Hannah may have left school early, but she’s not stopped developing her talents in parallel with her business growth. She’s now a yoga teacher and, having left a psychology degree to join Caremark, is now considering other courses that focus on human behaviour – all the time passing on the benefits of her self-improvement to clients and staff. With her background, she also understands the value of homecare more than most, but modestly thinks “Even my understanding is lacking,” and recommends that “Anybody going into this industry should try and spend time on the on the frontline – understanding what you're delivering is key.”

In contrast to her initial unfamiliarity with franchises, Hannah is now an enthusiastic advocate of the business model, noting how the Caremark formula delivers a perfect mix of support from the central business, plus local-level autonomy keeping “the soul” of a company, that larger corporates can lack. “It gives you a solid base to be able to run a business, to test all your entrepreneurial ideas and spirit and see if you can do it – but with that safety net of a tried-and-tested model.”

With this in mind, it’s inspiring to see that her extraordinary journey is being recognised by the franchising industry itself. Still in her 20s, Hannah’s now been a ‘Young Franchisee of the Year’ an incredible four times – and has won other awards too. Her mantlepiece must be very crowded! While her younger days saw her partying for the fun of it, she’s still out celebrating – but now it’s about toasting her many achievements in homecare franchising with Caremark.

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