ActivOT is Australia’s first and currently only occupational therapy (OT) franchise business. While franchising is relatively common in the business world it is definitely not something that you’ll see often in the healthcare arena. So why is ActivOT a franchise business?
We know that franchising has certain connotations, so this article aims to clear up why our franchise model helps our occupational therapists to become private practitioners and supports them to provide great care for our clients.
How ActivOT became a franchise
ActivOT’s founder, Helen Whait, had been a sole practitioner for nearly a decade when it became apparent, in 2011, that many occupational therapists held both a strong desire for working independently and a need to belong to a community of like-minded and supportive practitioners.
Occupational therapy is a profession which is client-focused and hands-on, so it’s essential to the wellbeing of therapists – and their ability to serve their clients well – to stay balanced, healthy and supported in their work.
Solo practitioners find it difficult to take the kind of work breaks that are necessary to their sustained wellbeing. Professional support is often limited as industry peers (who consider themselves competitors) do not readily share knowledge or experience. Access to information technology and marketing is expensive and time-consuming.
Employing relief staff is challenging. Keeping staff engaged and committed to a client base while ensuring they meet billable hours targets requires significant time and energy. The added load of overhead costs involved in employing staff can be overwhelming.
Still, in spite of these challenges, many occupational therapists want to move away from traditional employment to become private practitioners.
The experience of ActivOT team members has shown that employment often comes at the cost of their values as therapists.
Their other reasons for wanting to become private practitioners are:
- the need for better work-life balance
- a desire to do more diverse and satisfying work
- a long-held desire to own an OT practice but no opportunity or confidence to start one
- a great desire to experience the satisfaction of complete control over their career
- the need for flexibility in their work lives in order to achieve both personal and professional goals
- frustration with bureaucratic constraints applied in workplaces that limit their OT practice and hence achieving the best possible client outcomes.
In order to find a business model that would help OTs to become private practitioners while also offering genuine support and flexibility, Helen Whait explored a number of options. In the end, even though there were obstacles to overcome, Helen was sure that a franchise model would fit the brief.
The ActivOT franchise model was formalised in 2012 and by the end of the year there were three ActivOT franchises.
The business has continued to grow and flourish. As at July 2020 there are twenty-five thriving ActivOT practices in South Australia, Queensland and Melbourne, with two more in the process of signing.
ActivOT’s culture of support is what sets it apart
The ActivOT model enables all of its franchisees to enjoy the best of both worlds. They are private practice owners with truly flexible working conditions combined with a supportive team environment to ensure they succeed.
ActivOT operates as a “co-operative” of therapists who pool resources so that everyone involved benefits. Each therapist is invested, financially and emotionally, in the business in order to uphold the high standards of practice and the strong professional reputation of the ActivOT brand.
With the introduction of the franchise model, more clients are serviced with excellent levels of care, skill and professionalism. ActivOT practitioners also experience the freedom of core practice without unnecessary bureaucracy in a truly flexible working arrangement.
Extreme care has been taken to only “on-board” like minded therapists. Those who are client focused; who aspire to best practice; who are willing to contribute to the group for the benefit of all involved.
The ActivOT franchise is a values-based proposition. Our culture is what makes the franchise model work. Integrity, honesty and sincerity are at the core of all we do. ActivOT practitioners genuinely care for others whether it be a client or a fellow therapist.
ActivOT is about inclusion, acceptance, assistance, understanding, compassion, helping, guiding, valuing. It is about helping all whom we come into contact with to become the best version of themselves they can be. It is about building people up, giving them self-belief and promoting their confidence. Whether it be a client, franchisee, friends, colleagues or family the underpinning values are the same.
We’re a family. If one of our therapists falls down, we are all there to pick them up.
ActivOT’s success highlights
- Since 2012, 25 occupational therapy professionals transitioned from employees to private practitioners, with more in the process of signing.
- Clients in three states, including regional and remote areas, now receive life-changing occupational therapy services with the expansion of the business from South Australia into Queensland and Victoria.
- In the 2019-20 financial year, the team welcomed three therapy assistants who now carry out occupational therapy programs in metropolitan Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills and other regions via telehealth.
- Two early on-boarders with ActivOT have signed franchise agreements for another five-year term.
- In 2020, our digital presence was expanded to include an online referral form and our new website – to improve accessibility and ease of use for our clients. We also have a growing following on our social media accounts.
- Leadership coaching has been undertaken as part of our ongoing commitment to professional development and improvement.
- All ActivOT franchises have maintained their practices throughout the pandemic with the introduction of protective Covid-19 measures, including telehealth, PPE and risk assessment procedures.
- We now participate in shaping of the future of occupational therapy via active roles in national reference groups that aim to affect changes in government policy. We’re also actively involved with our local universities in both an advisory capacity in relation to new courses and with research programs.
- We provide consultancy services to Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) to assist long term hospital patients to leave hospital.
ActivOT’s overall performance success stems from recognising the skills, experience and expertise of each individual franchisee and from facilitating their input into the business as whole as well as their own franchises.
ActivOT practitioners succeed through their strong focus on best practice. Ongoing learning and professional development is paramount to the success of each ActivOT practice. Collectively, we stay abreast of system and funding/policy changes as well as changes in occupational therapy practice and the latest options available in assistive technology. By sharing our knowledge, expertise and resources, time and costs are reduced for each individual therapist within the group. There is currently well over a hundred years of clinical experience shared within the ActivOT group.
The ActivOT business model works for therapists in regional or remote areas. We serve our regional communities, with choice in occupational therapy services, with practitioners on the Eyre Peninsula and the Yorke Peninsula. We’ve also made therapy services available in other regions via telehealth.
Learn more about franchise opportunities
More information about franchise opportunities is available on our franchise page.
Alternatively, you are welcome to contact Helen Whait directly on 0404 497 965 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential discussion.