Amada Senior Care

Amada IMG 528 

Amada Senior Care’s founders went from the football field

to the front office of a growing senior care franchise.

By Jim Harris

Tafa Jefferson’s path to becoming the CEO and founder of one of the nation’s fastest-growing franchise organizations was anything but typical. Although Jefferson grew up interested in entrepreneurship because of his father, who had started several businesses, his professional career began in a place far removed from the boardroom.

 

After earning his degree at University of the Pacific in California in 1996, Jefferson was recruited by the Chicago Bears as an offensive tackle. Less than a year later, his NFL career ended as the result of ankle and shoulder injuries. Although the injury came as a disappointment to Jefferson, he was prepared for the possibility of ending his athletic career early.

“When I committed to playing football in junior college, I quickly earned a starting role, became a highly recruited player and had offers to attend several Division 1 Universities with prestigious football programs,” he said. “However, my father said it wasn’t a matter of if I get injured, but rather when, so I should pick the best business school I can.”

After much consideration he decided to attended University of the Pacific, the college was piloting an entrepreneurship program. The program, plus a full athletic scholarship, cinched Jefferson’s attendance there. “It was the best decision I ever made,” he says. “[The Eberhardt School of Business] gave me insight into how to start a business, but I gained practical knowledge and application by watching my father start and grow businesses.”

Learning Lessons

At the urging of his mother, who worked as a caregiver for seniors, Jefferson first applied his classroom and practical business knowledge to founding his own in-home senior care company in 1997. Jefferson took a hands-on approach to his company, becoming a certified nursing aide and working with patients with varying degrees of dementia as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.Amada Fact Box

The company – then known as Amada Home Care – soon employed more than 200 caregivers. In 2007, the Laguna Woods, Calif., company was relaunched and rebranded as Amada Senior Care at the suggestion of Chad Fotheringham, a college teammate and friend of Jefferson’s who joined as a partner. Fortheringham – who attended the business school played alongside Jefferson as the quarterback of the University of the Pacific’s football team – was transitioning from a career in the pharmaceutical industry.

With Fortheringham on board as the company’s vice president, Amada Senior Care began to grow its internal capabilities as well as its physical footprint. The company developed a proprietary in-field scheduling software platform, which it used to manage in-home caregivers’ schedules and also allowed families the ability to monitor care and visits from staff remotely.

Amada Senior Care also opened a second location in San Diego, but that experience proved to be humbling for the partners and company. “There are many lessons one can learn from losing your shirt in business,” Jefferson says of the expansion, which lasted a year-and-a-half between 2009 and 2010. “We wanted to grow, but realized our key employees at the time didn’t have the same commitment level that we did.

“We worked diligently to establish our brand in the new market. We were beginning to experience success but ultimately, the San Diego expansion sputtered when many key employees were recruited away from us,” he adds. “It was a painful six-figure mistake. Our first lesson in expansion was costly but so valuable.”

‘Fully Vested’

The San Diego experience made the partners reluctant to expand beyond its core in Orange County, Calif., until 2012, when a mutual friend and mentor convinced Jefferson and Fotheringham to give franchising a try. “Franchisees have skin in the game, believe in the business and are fully vested in it,” Jefferson now says.

“When Chad left the pharmaceutical industry and joined us, I quickly realized his value and together we were able to leverage the years of his corporate sales training and insight.  He was ready to contribute and extremely vested building a successful business,” he adds, noting that Fotheringham invested his 401(k) into Amada Senior Care. “I’d say thigs have worked out fantastic for Chad, and having that level of commitment was the difference-maker for us.”

Amada Senior Care today has franchise locations in 34 states and recently opened its 100th franchise. “We had no intentions of franchising; we were in the right place at the right time,” Jefferson says.

The company values quality over quantity when adding franchises. “We want the least amount of franchise partners generating the most revenue in senior care,” he adds. “It is not our desire to have 700 to 800 franchisees; we want to have a close, tight-knit relationship with our partners and push each other to improve each and every day.”

New franchisees enter the company at an advantage. “The training one would receive if they come into our system is from a proven process and by operators who’ve been successful building a in-home care business,” Jefferson says. “We are the only senior care franchisor where the founders successfully operated a single location and reached $9 million in gross revenues before franchising.”

Amada Senior Care’s training program includes five days at the headquarters in San Clemente, Calif., led by Jefferson and Fotheringham, as well as three days of field training given by one of the founders or other high-ranking members of the company’s corporate team. Ongoing support systems include access to the company’s proprietary software and 24/7 access to senior care advisors trained directly by Jefferson and Fotheringham.

A Partner in Care

Although founded as a homecare company, Amada has transitioned into other services including senior housing advising, home monitoring and financial care coordination. “We are a care coordination company,” he adds. “We have worked diligently to build a reputation in the Amada 8414medical community as the go-to partner for in-home senior care. Hospitals trust that we will do what is best for the families and, ultimately, the patient.”

Another differentiating factor for the company is its focus on private pay and long-term care insurance reimbursement sources for its services. “The move by the federal government to make cuts in Medicare will fuel the demand for private pay in home care,” Jefferson says. “Hospital systems and skilled nursing facilities will narrow post-acute networks in an effort to accelerate safe discharges, focus on patient outcomes and reduce hospital re-admissions.

“The cost of care will rest squarely on the consumer,” he adds. “We are making every effort to strategically partner with third-party private insurance providers and carriers.”

In addition to overseeing the way it provides and coordinates care, Amada Senior Care’s principals also help improve the level of care provided by the company and its peers. In 2009, Jefferson became a founding member of the American Board of Home Care (ABHC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the senior community and establishing standards in senior homecare. Today, the organization serves more than 10,000 client households.

Amada Senior Care and Jefferson have earned a number of honors since the company began franchising five years ago. In 2013, Jefferson was named a “Top Entrepreneur under 40” by the O.C. Metro Business Magazine and Orange County Register. The company in 2016 ranked #4 on Forbes’ list of “Top 10 Best Senior Care Franchises to Own.” Entrepreneur magazine this year named the company one of the nation’s “Top New Franchises to Own.”

‘America’s Choice’

The company continues to improve its operations. This year, Amada Senior Care launched a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that will improve the way it communicates with case managers, healthcare professionals, insurance carriers and doctors. 

Jefferson says the company is continuing its commitment focus and direct all its efforts to strategically target medical device and pharmaceutical professionals nationwide.  “Our units are performing well above the industry average and in the coming years, we fully anticipate to bring a new level of competition to a fragmented market,” Jefferson says. “We will be the first to deploy a seasoned professional sales force with vested partners in senior care.

“We are also making large strides in terms of our ability to attract a higher caliber of caregivers,” he adds, noting Amada is working directly with Universities, junior colleges and other nursing programs to recruit exceptional staff.

Amada Senior Care’s ultimate goal is to have 200 franchise locations each generating $5 million in sales annually within the next 10 years. “Our vision is to be recognized as America’s trusted resource for care coordination, in-home caregiving and long-term care insurance claims advocacy,” Jefferson says. 

 

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