Franchise Partner Ken Jenson, on how he became the 2nd franchise partner in the history of Amada and the events that led him to know he was making the best decision of his life.
Marcos Moura: 00:28 So I’ve probably told this story a million times, but it never gets old. Today. I’m here with Ken Jenson, who is our very second franchisee ever. So the story goes that we had a one franchise partner, Robert Christianson, who really was one of the main reasons why we started franchising Amada Senior Care and after Robert we had one franchisee and we all looked at each other going, what the heck do we do now? How do we go and find our second franchisee? So Ken Jenson, welcome to the show.
Ken Jenson: 00:56 Hi, how are you Marcos?
Marcos Moura: 00:57 Doing good. So I, I wanted you to share how the heck do we go from having one franchise partner we’re brand spanking new and you somehow found us. Can you tell us how that happened?
Ken Jenson: 01:10 Yes. So I knew I wanted to get into the home care industry. I had done some research, I’d actually gone to the, uh, what do you call it, the days where, you know, the day where they teach you all about their franchises.
Marcos Moura: 01:20 Oh, discovery day discovery, yeah discovery days
Ken Jenson: 01:23 I went to discovery day for Right at Home, Home Instead, and Visiting Angels. And I sat there and listened to those guys talk for between six and eight hours.
Marcos Moura: 01:32 All great, wonderful companies by the way
Ken Jenson: 01:34 Yeah, they’re awesome, but I owned my own business for 20 years. So I knew what I was looking for and what they were offering me was not what I was looking for. I wanted an opportunity to grow a company and make a big difference in where I lived. So I decided that that wasn’t what I was going to do. I actually bought an agency in a box and was going to do this on my own.
Marcos Moura: 01:57 And how much was that? Do you remember how much you spent on it?
Ken Jenson: 01:59 It was $999. So if you wanna buy it, it’s for sale my friend.
Marcos Moura: 02:03 You’ll sell it?
Ken Jenson: 02:04 Yes. But anyway, um, so I went and I was, I was going to start my own business and some guy came up to me one day and said, hey, I hear there’s a new company franchising out of southern California. And so I said, okay, I’m, I’m always willing to listen. So I called up Amada Senior Care and I said, hey, this is Ken Jenson. I live in Colorado. I’d like to talk to somebody about maybe franchising with you guys. And the girl that answered the phone said, yeah, I’ll let you talk to Chad. So all of a sudden I hear this voice is this Ken Jenson from Newhall, California, and I’m going, what? I had moved from Newhall about 15 years ago.
Ken Jenson: 02:40 And so after the big earthquake in southern California. And then I said, yes. He says, this is Chad Fotheringham. And I said, oh my gosh. I had been Chad Fotheringham’s scout master when he was 16 years old. And so I knew him instantly. In fact, we almost named one of our kids after him. We thought so highly of him. And so I said, Chad, tell me about what you’re doing. And he started talking to me about Amada and the difference between what I had heard before and what I was listening to was incredible. I said, Chad, I’m going to fly down tomorrow. I’d like to meet with you and talk to you about becoming a franchisee. And he said, alright. So I flew to Orange County the very next day. I stayed with Chad for three days and we talked about everything. And when I left I said I want to buy. And it was the greatest decision of my whole life. I absolutely love Amada and I love what I do and what I do is so unique and so different from every other home care company. I get people in the industry walk up to me all the time, say, how in the world are you doing what you do? And I just smile and say I love Amada. And it’s been the best company I’ve ever been involved with.
Marcos Moura: 03:49 We’ve told this story so many times, but to me it never gets old because a lot of people look at us now and we have today at the time of this recording around 120 or it might be 130 locations throughout the United States, but it started with just this crazy idea of franchising back in 2012 and the fact that you showed up that you knew Chad and that all that came together and I don’t know if you’re religious, if you’re not, doesn’t really matter to me, but when that happened it was sort of this, this fuel to us. So we said, hey, we’re not only onto something great, but we have amazing people who are interested in the concept. Let’s go, let’s do this. And so it was kind of this new lease on life and we went on and, and in fact, in 2012 the only two franchise partners we brought on were you and Robert. Uh, and then we continue to grow from there. And Ken, I don’t believe Amada today would be Amada without you. I think we would have grown, I think we would’ve had a team, but something happened because, and I really believe this because of you and Robert, the way in which you shepherded in and helped other franchisees after you being number two. Do you know why you did that? Why were you taking the phone calls? Why were you willing to have people come spend a day or two with you in the field? What was it about what you were doing? Why would you do that?
Ken Jenson: 05:04 Well, I want to build an amazing brand and I know that if I can help my fellow franchisees grow and be stronger, it just makes me stronger and so it’s been awesome. I love it. I invite every new franchisee to come spend a week with me and it’s been a great experience and I love being able to have that relationship with them because I love when they call me and say, Ken, we just got this great idea. This is what we’re doing, and it’s been unbelievable to help me build my own business by having these relationships with these other guys and women that are franchisee owners.
Marcos Moura: 05:37 Yeah, and I think that’s one of the biggest things about our company today that was not intended. When we started franchising. We thought, let’s find the right people. We want to find people that would be great at building relationships and I’ll ask Ken here in a little bit to tell you why that’s so important, so you have to be great at building relationships. You have to really love, love, love working with people in stressful situations and there’s a lot of different things that we wanted, but what we didn’t realize is that by searching for that type of individual, our community is an amazing community. Our annual conference, for example, is comprised of content that we from the Home Office provide, but most of the conference is Ken Jenson and other franchisees talking about their experience and their business. I’m so thankful to you Ken. I’m telling you Amada would not be what it is today if you had not been that second franchise partner.
Ken Jenson: 06:26 Oh, you’re very kind, but I. You know what? It’s been a great experience all the way around. I have loved every minute of what I’ve done. I remember sitting with Chad one afternoon or evening after dinner and saying, Chad, I want to build one more great big company and I mean I’m 59 years old now. I started when I was 53 and I knew I had it in me to go out there and bust my butt and make this work and it’s been a great experience. And the support from Amada has been amazing.
Marcos Moura: 06:52 Hey, so tell me about, uh, you start your business, you have zero clients, and here’s what’s interesting. I tried to go back to when you first started and you had questions, but there was really no doubt in your mind about what you’re going to build. I think that’s interesting about entrepreneurs. There’s a difference sometimes you have questions about, yeah, but am I going to be able to find the caregivers? Is there are clients out there? Your questions were never that. Why is that what, what was it about your makeup that you are so certain about the business you’re going to build?
Ken Jenson: 07:22 So people always ask me all the time, were you involved in the industry? How did you know about all this stuff? I have been a stock broker. I owned my own lighting company. I owned my own construction company. I’ve always taken new opportunities with a positive attitude of, yeah, I can do that. In fact, we were doing the military construction here in Colorado and the base came to me and said, can you do plumbing? And I said, Oh yeah, I can do plumbing. We became the largest purchaser of plumbing tubs and toilets and sinks west of the Mississippi for three years.
Marcos Moura: 07:54 And you had never done plumbing?
Ken Jenson: 07:56 I had never done plumbing before. So I mean, it’s all about, you know, this can do attitude of can you do this? And so when I started I knew what I had to do is build relationships with people who gave out referrals. And so that’s what I’ve spent my whole six years doing is building relationships with people that know seniors or seniors trust. And I’ve built these relationships with them. My favorite thing is when one of my referral sources calls me up and says, Ken, my mom needs help, or my uncle needs help, or my dad needs help and I know you will take care of them, and that’s kind of the relationship that I’ve built with all of these people. I had zero medical experience, zero. I knew nothing about hospitals. I knew nothing about SNFs or skilled nursing facilities. I knew nothing about eltat. I didn’t even know what they were and now they’re second language to me and so it was just the willingness to go out and introduce myself and tell people what I did and how I did it. It made a huge difference and the program that Amada brings is so unique. That’s why we’ve been successful.
Marcos Moura: 08:59 We want to talk about the relationship and and how we are unique, so there’s lots of younger companies out there. In fact, sometimes when we do calls with folks that are looking at the franchise, I’ll usually tell them, hey, let me tell you something. There is no need for more home care companies in the United States. It’s not like if somebody needs a caregiver tonight that they’re not going to have 20 phone numbers to call. Like there’s plenty of companies, plenty of caregivers. So why would you say that there is something unique here?
Ken Jenson: 09:24 Well, when I first started, I remember there was a guy I wanted to meet. I’ve been doing this for a month and he ran one of the federal agencies locally and I walked up to him and I said his name was Kent. I said, Kent, I would like to meet with you. And he looked at me and he totally blew me off. Marcos, I mean he shut me down and turned around and walked away from me and I looked at him like, whoa dude, nobody does that to me. I want to meet with you.
Marcos Moura: 09:50 And did you know him before? A cold call?
Ken Jenson: 09:52 I had no idea. Basically it was at, it was at an event. There’s a million marketing events for seniors. Yeah. So anyway, I was blown away that he totally walked away from me and so about two months later or three months later, I cornered him. I said, Kent, I really want to meet with you. I want to introduce you to my company. He said, Ken, there are a hundred and 32 home care companies in Colorado Springs. I will give you 15 minutes tomorrow morning in my office at 9:00 AM, do not be late. And so I said, oh wow. So I showed up early. The next day I was all excited and I, and, and he came in and he said, all right, tell me about your company. And he was not happy. He was not impressed that I was there.
Marcos Moura: 10:34 Arms folded, staring at you like okay, here it goes.
Ken Jenson: 10:40 I have no interest in talking to you Dude. It was hilarious. So anyway, I started and start talking about Amada and why we were different and what the difference was. An hour and a half later, Marcos, an hour and a half later he looked at me, said, Ken, you’re going to blow this thing up. And he’s right. We did. We have absolutely exploded and he is one of our biggest referral sources because he gets to talking with people and he always refers us and when I thought it was really interesting, he’s called me a couple of times with personal requests of help and we’ve always stepped up to the plate and it’s been a great relationship, but I knew we were onto something when he looked up at me, first of all, when he let me talk for an hour and a half and it had all these questions and then when he said, okay, you guys are going to be amazing and that’s the difference. It is literally what we do and how we do it.
Marcos Moura: 11:29 Yeah, and so that’s the thing. If, if you are listening to this and you’ve been interested in home care, you gotta realize there’s so many parts of this. You need to be able to be good at building relationships because that’s what this business is about. In fact, Ken, I think we were talking about this, there was that company that started like an online registry, right? Remember that one that was funded? They had a VC capital and they’re going to be the software that was going to help families connect to the caregiver and they were going to take the middle man.
Marcos Moura: 11:53 Right? Right. And I remember the CEO of that company came out, this was about a year ago now, and he wrote this open letter saying we are discontinuing the program. They had raised tens of millions and he said, we’re going to put the money towards something else, and he talks about the business is not being done online referrals. That’s not how the business happens. And so that company went away. It was going to be like the software that was going to connect caregivers. So why is the business being done through relationships? Why are relationships so, so important in our business?
Ken Jenson: 12:25 Well, the interesting thing about our business is today, the peer person that I sign up tomorrow may not even know that my industry exists and that’s a really weird statement, but the daughter or the son, the gets that call from the hospital that says, your mom fell and broke her hip and we’re going to release her in four days. You need to get home care involved. They’re going, what is home care, and the first thing they do is they call trusted sources. About three weeks ago, I was in the house of the gentleman and one of the first questions I ask is how did you get our name? And I’d asked that question and he smiled. He says, actually, Ken, I got your name from three different people and I said OK, my marketing is working. I’m doing what I’ve been asked to do and I thought that’s the perfect client. When they get my name from different sources, it’s like, oh my gosh. So obviously when I’m sitting in the home of a person like that, my chances of signing them up are about a hundred percent. I very seldom whiff. I sit down with a family and they always say the same thing, okay, let’s get this thing going
Marcos Moura: 13:28 In fact, you talk about if you get in front of the family, because of this referral source marketing that we do, you almost never lose the deal, right?
Ken Jenson: 13:36 Almost never. In fact, I was training a guy to try and become a salesman. It didn’t work. He was a great guy, but we’re in this house and I’m sitting with a daughter and on the desk are two other brochures from two other major, major, long term companies from, you know, Right at Home, and Home Instead, and I gave my spiel and the daughter said, okay, let’s do it, and this guy looks at me and he was an engineer. He says, can I ask her a question? I said, yeah, that’s a great question. He says, okay, why did you pick him? Why would you pick him over these other two companies?
Marcos Moura: 14:07 He couldn’t believe what had happened, right?
Ken Jenson: 14:09 And he said, can I ask you some questions? He said, sure. The first question he said was, is he the cheapest? And she said, no, actually he’s more expensive than both the other companies, and he looked at her with this question, why in the world did you choose Amada and she said, because he makes it so easy and he owns the company. That makes a big difference when I can sit there and say, you know what, if something happens in the middle of the night, you call me and I can make miracles happen. Two days ago, Marcos, I got a call at 2:47 in the morning and it was a daughter in Kansas City and she said, Ken, my dad just fell and he broke, hey something’s wrong. What can I do? And I called the facility. We called 911. We got him to the hospital. She said, my mom has dementia. I need somebody there to take care of her. I called the on call line. We got a caregiver over there to sit with mom while dad was in the hospital and the daughter drove from Kansas City and she got here the next day, but we were able to totally take care of the situation because I never turn off my phone.
Ken Jenson: 15:07 Now people say, oh, you’re crazy. How can you not turn off your phone? I get one call in three months in the middle of the night. Right. You know what? It’s that one call when that daughter knows, oh my gosh, I called at 2:47 and not only did he answer his phone, but he got my dad to the hospital and he got a caregiver there to help my mom. That’s what we do. That’s why we’re so amazing Marcos.
Marcos Moura: 15:26 And you know, listen, I think is very important for people to understand that if you don’t thrive on that story, if you can imagine yourself taking that call and starting your day, Ken I know you, that day you started that day and you had one of the best days you’ve had in your life because you got the help they needed. You thrive on that. Absolutely. You have to thrive on stuff like that to be successful in this business. Right?
Ken Jenson: 15:48 Right. So Marcos a typical situation for me is I get a call from a family and they’re in crisis mode. They are in total crisis mode. I got a call on Sunday, just two days ago. Um, it was a son. He’s here from California and he says, Ken, I really need your help. I’m here. My sister’s here from Hong Kong and we need to meet with you and so I met with him 1:00 on Sunday and I walk in and the family is in crisis mode, dad just got diagnosed with brain cancer and they don’t know what to do and by the time we were done, everybody smiling. Everybody knows exactly how this is going to roll out. Everybody has a plan. The son left for California, went back home today. The daughter’s going to be here for three more days and then she’s going to go back to Hong Kong. They’re both completely out of state and yet they know that they’ve got somebody they can call that will totally take care of their dad and whether it’s four hours a day or eight hours a day or 24 hours a day, which we’ll do all three of those cases over the next year or six months. It doesn’t matter if the family knows that they have a plan and they know who’s going to take care of them and they know they can call me 24 hours a day, seven days a week if they need help in the middle of the night. Makes a big difference.
Marcos Moura: 16:57 Yeah, and guys, I think that’s what this business is and if you thrive on this type of information, if you can’t wait to do things like this, then this might be the business for you. If you’re looking for something that is going to be more, you’re on the sidelines and you’re just kind of calling the shots from afar, then this is probably not the right business. Ken, we’re just about coming up to 20 minutes, but I wanted you to share real quick about the caregivers that you’ve hired. How many caregivers do you have on staff today?
Ken Jenson: 17:20 Three hundred and sixty.
Marcos Moura: 17:22 Three hundred and sixty, I can’t remember when you said this to me, but you said I also was looking for a business where I would be able to provide jobs and I think that’s a big distinction as well. You thrive on that because listen, it’s not the easiest thing in the world. At least. A lot of people would say, man, having that many people have a new hire that many people. That’s a lot of work. Can you talk about the satisfaction you get and what does it like to run a company with that many people.
Ken Jenson: 17:49 When I did the military construction, one of the things I learned about myself was that I loved working with families and I love being able to give anybody a job that I want it to and so it has been the greatest experience sitting down and working with families, but then also when somebody comes up to me at church or wherever, a waitress at a restaurant and I look at it and say, hey, why don’t you come work for me? And of course they have to pass a background check. I don’t hire anybody that doesn’t pass the background check, but giving people the opportunity and ability to make a wage and we pay our caregivers more than anybody else in the city. And we love what we do and our caregivers love what they do and you know, they’re on the front lines there on the firing line and they’re the ones that get attached to these families. We had a gentleman passed away last night. He was 100 years old and what made me so happy is when I called the son this morning, he told me that every one of my caregivers had stopped buying the last 12 hours to say goodbye to the dad and, and console the mom. And that’s, that’s an amazing thing.
Marcos Moura: 18:49 That is amazing. Wow.
Ken Jenson: 18:51 I love what I do. I love both sides of it. I love hiring the caregivers. I don’t, I don’t personally hire the caregivers anymore. I used to do that when I first started, but it’s the greatest thing in the world on both sides.
Marcos Moura: 19:01 That is, it’s just amazing. And how much staff do you have now, speaking of you don’t do some of those things anymore?
Ken Jenson: 19:07 Well, I have about 20 people in my main office and they run basically the inside of the business. They do all the scheduling. They do all the background checks, they do all the hiring, they do all the billing, the, um, payroll, they do the HR functions. Um, I have three case managers that go out and visit every one of my clients every single 60 days. So they make sure that we’re doing the right job, have the right fit with as far as caregiver versus client. It’s just a wonderful company. My staff loves working with us and it’s just been awesome.
Marcos Moura: 19:37 That’s so cool. In fact, your son is your, your operations guy, right? He’s my office manager. He graduated with his doctorate in neurology and he was sitting on a boat in Galveston harbor when my office manager quit and I said, Danny, come back. I need you to run my office. And, after some severe negotiations. He said, all right. I’m in. Yeah. So he drove back. He’s been here for almost three years. It’s been awesome.
Marcos Moura: 20:01 That is so cool. Ken, I can’t thank you enough for who you are and what you’ve done for this company. Going back to how we started the call, I really do believe that there’s a power greater than us that, that brought us together to this great company and you may think that that’s, I dunno, Hokey or something, but there’s something special about what we’ve built and something special about the franchise partners that we have
and you feel it every year when we go to our annual conference and everybody’s together and I mean it Ken, I really do believe that Amada bleeds Ken Jenson as opposed to Ken Jenson bleeds Amada. Amada bleeds Ken Jenson, you are such a big part of this company and we’re so thankful for who you are and what you’ve done to help us get to the point that we are at.
Ken Jenson: 20:42 You’re very kind. Thank you. Marcos Moura: 20:44 You are welcome. All right everybody. Thank you very much for joining us for this episode of We Are Amada. Ken, thank you for your time.
Ken Jenson: 20:51 Bye!
Marcos Moura: 20:51 To learn more about launching your Amada Senior Care business, go to amadapodcast.com again, again, Amadapodcast.com. Thank you for listening.