Right at Home Eugene
Franchise Owner Builds Marketing Skills with Toastmasters
Networking with a business card in-hand is one of the most powerful marketing tools an entrepreneur can use. Virtually every expert and any resource will tell you the same thing. Sometimes, no amount of paid advertising can bring the same results as standing in front of a group and telling your business’ story.
So what can small business owners do when they are shy, afraid to speak to an audience, or embarrass themselves every time they open their mouths? They improve their skills and get past their fears by joining a communication skill-building group like Toastmasters.
Lane Small Business Development Center (Lane SBDC) proudly hosts four Toastmaster groups on the Lane Community College (LCC) campuses.
Small business owner and Lane SBDC client Ed Mosman is the president of one of the Toastmasters groups, The Lunch Bunch. It meets every Monday at noon, at the LCC Downtown Campus, and Ed attends the meetings faithfully, and is a competent communicator.
Just three years ago 53 year-old Ed was looking for work. He had been displaced from a job in which he helped design and equip medical-facility rooms. He had done the work for 15 years and lost his job when the industry began drying up, due to cut-backs during the recession. After searching for a job for six or seven months, he decided to leave corporate America, put his Master of Business Administration degree to work, and launch out on his own by purchasing a franchise.
Ed and his wife, Carol, had been considering the notion since 2010. At that time, they attended a workshop at the Eugene Public Library that was sponsored by SCORE, the Library, City of Eugene and Lane SBDC. “Owning a Franchise,” taught by 25-year franchise veteran Blair Nicol, gave Ed and Carol things to think about as they considered various franchise options.
The couple decided they wanted to provide in-home care to seniors. On July 3, 2012 Ed along with his wife Carol, a registered dietician, signed the paperwork and started their own local franchise operation of Right at Home, providing in home care and assistance. The franchise, based out of Omaha, Nebraska, and in operation since 1995, has over 350 locations nationwide and internationally.
“We went to Omaha for two weeks of training. We found office space before-hand, located at Seventeenth and Oak. When we came back, we purchased all the equipment. We opened Right At Home Eugene on January 28, 2013.”
Ed came to the Lane SBDC for help with marketing in June of 2013. He initially met with Frank Plaisted, an advisor and instructor with marketing expertise. The couple was concerned because even though they were in business and had the support of the franchisor, they were not getting any phone calls.
Frank looked at the marketing strategy and found that even though the company provided franchisees with a shared website and a local page for the website, they offered little in the way of branding and marketing collateral.
Over the course of six free advising sessions, Frank focused on low-cost, high return on investment (ROI) options for the business. Frank explains, “We began by re-working the company provided brochure and then considered distribution options through referral partners, market segmentation, targeting and event marketing, like the Lane County Fair and free Eugene Public Library workshops.”
“I have met with Frank a lot. He helped me design a beautiful brochure, which is far better than the national one.”
“Frank also connected me with Scott Heron, adult services librarian at the Eugene Public Library. I have already done two or three talks for free for the library. It is so nice to get deep into your own community. Because the margins are very thin in this industry, I need to do marketing. I network a ton, that’s how I get my clients.”
In attending advising sessions at the Lane SBDC office, located at LCC’s Downtown Campus, Ed realized there was a Toastmasters Club meeting on the same floor as the Lane SBDC. “I remember thinking Toastmasters would be a good way for me to pick up skills. So I decided to join. At that time, I was hoping to have opportunities to speak publicly about my business; I wanted to hone my speaking skills.”
That strategy worked well for Ed. He was able to practice his marketing presentation in front of his Toastmasters’ group, prior to speaking in networking venues. “The talks were on the same topic I used for one of my Toastmasters speeches—adaptive devices for seniors, like telephones with huge buttons, hearing aids, hand-rails and such.”
“As a result of help from Lane SBDC and Toastmasters, I am more self-confident.”
Lane SBDC Director Jim Lindly, also a distinguished Toastmaster and member of The Lunch Bunch and Titan clubs talks about his experience in working with Ed, as a Toastmasters member and a business owner. “Ed came into Toastmasters highly motivated to improve his leadership and communication skills. In just a short time he has made dramatic improvement. I recently had an opportunity to observe him interacting in his business; he is now so much more concise, effective and persuasive than before Toastmasters.”
Ed explains that he doesn’t really consider Toastmasters to be marketing. “I haven’t sold to anybody in Toastmasters. One of the biggest things with Toastmasters is it is a lot of fun. There is a lot of fellowship; we all like each other. It’s a great place to come and relax and have fun. I have been in Toastmasters for a year and a half. When it was time to elect a new president, the current president and area governor approached me and asked me to do it. In eight months, as president, I have only missed one meeting.”
Another member of The Lunch Bunch club, Nick Wiley, soon to be a competent communicator is the social media marketing advisor and instructor for Lane SBDC, as well as a collaborating specialist with the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network’s marketing committee.
Ed began meeting regularly for free one-on-one advising sessions with Nick in August of 2013. Ed praises his fellow Toastmaster, saying “Nick has helped me a lot with my social media and my website (rightathome.net/eugene/). We have done some video-taping, he has done a lot to get me up to speed…Nick’s great, he will do anything you want.”
Nick was able to teach Ed how to use the blog features on his website and various social media platforms, to share relevant senior health-care articles. Nick was also helpful with local search engine optimization. Together, Nick and Ed focused on establishing local business listings for Google+ and Yelp. They also set up a profile on Caring.com, which is another resource for seniors needing in-home care. Now that the business is more visible online, they are working on implementing an automated system for collecting feedback from customers.
Nick talks about how much he has enjoyed working with Ed.
“I worked with Ed for the last two years. Ed and Carol went through a really long process, in obtaining their Personal Care License.”
“Even after their initial application was denied by the State of Oregon, Ed showed tenacity, grit, and perseverance in getting his application approved. I could see how Toastmasters helped Ed with his leadership and communication abilities, which were crucial in the licensing process. And now, the business is poised for growth. It is pretty impressive what he has done here.”—Nick Wiley
Ed admits that the challenge of getting their Personal Care License was huge. “We worked with the Oregon Health Division to get our personal Care License. You have to follow about 25 pages of Oregon Administrative Rules. There are three levels of non-nursing licensure. We earned the highest level that allows medication administration under the supervision of a register nurse (RN)”
“We got our license to provide hands-on care. Prior to that we were allowed to do companion care only; we couldn’t touch the client. We could take them anywhere, but couldn’t provide personal care and that is what the majority of the people need. They need help with all of their daily activities. On November 9, 2014 Ed and Carol received their licensure. Before we got our license, we had eight or nine clients. Now we have twenty.”
Ed and Carol get most of their clients from community speaking engagements and networking groups. The most recent group Ed has joined is APEX Professional Development Network, started by fellow Toastmaster, Robert Killen.
“Carol and I go to six networking events a month. We have never slowed down from that. We have focused on Eugene for sharing and referrals. We both belong to the Eugene Chamber of Commerce and various other networking groups.”
Ed looks back over the last couple years, saying “We sent our initial Personal Care License application in July 2012. We opened our business in January 2013. Our license was granted in November 2014.”
“It took us two years to become fully operational, but we networked and marketed the entire time. I will never stop marketing.”
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