Wrencare takes aim at a tough bird

Saturday, April 30, 2005

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- HME franchise operations have generally found the going pretty tough, but Ric Wren believes he may have discovered a formula for success.
Earlier this year, Wren and his partner, Brian Martin, opened their sixth franchise operation to go along with five company-owned branches. All 12 locations are called WrenCare.
The ideal franchise candidate, Wren said, doesn't need HME experience, but must have strong relationships with local referral sources. That way, WrenCare doesn't start from scratch and can expand faster and less expensively into new areas. For franchises, WrenCare handles billing, inventory and other back end functions. That allows the franchisee to build the business by focusing on marketing and customer service. At least that is the plan.
"Our expectation is that once we have our first 10 up and running and successful, that will be our sales force for the next 50," Wren said. "People are going to want to know: Do they work and how do they work, and they are going to want to listen to the people who have gotten into the franchise -- not us."
So far, WrenCare operates four franchises in Ohio, one in Seabring, Fla., and one in Ft. Wayne, Ind. Four of the franchises are run by pharmacists, one by a home healthcare company and one by a former independent HME.
Ginger Ziegler opened a WrenCare franchise about three years ago. Previously, she and a partner operated Oxygen Plus, a small independent in Wellston, Ohio.
"We couldn't get a network with insurance companies; we had difficulty getting and affording equipment and that is when we met Ric Wren and we decided to franchise," she said.
Ziegler now services 300 respiratory patients; about 60 of them are on oxygen.
Over the years, HME franchise operations have failed to thrive for a number of reasons. Wren calls structuring an equitable profit-sharing formula key to success. "If they have the connections in the community to get referrals, they have the opportunity, if they listen to us, to make some money and provide good service," Wren said.