Franchising’s strength comes from unity—a collective that’s stronger than its individual members. We know that Authority Brands is made stronger through a diversity of voices and identities.
We already knew that franchising is a game-changer for minority business owners, with 30.8% of franchise businesses being minority owned compared to just 18.8% of non-franchised businesses. As proud participants in the DiversityFran and VetFran programs, Authority Brands deeply values franchising’s power to make business owners out of people who otherwise would not have had the opportunity.
What D&I Means to Authority Brands
Authority Brands is a growing home services franchisor with 12 brands, and we have worked to develop a vision of diversity and inclusion (D&I) that will carry us into the future. In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning, and Authority Brands was only three years old. “We were just getting our toes wet,” says Chief Human Resource Officer Donna Gosciej. “We were growing quickly and starting to figure out who we were. ‘How diverse are we?’ ‘What do we look like now and in the future?’”
“It came down to allowing the employees to speak on what was important, which meant creating a space or platform to host those conversations,” says Gosciej.
It helped to have a diverse executive and senior management team, with representation from different ethnicities, genders, and ages. This diversity brought in new perspectives. Silpa Velaga, Chief Financial Officer, proposed CEO Action to Rob Weddle, Chief Executive Officer, in 2020.
Weddle immediately saw the benefit; CEO Action is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“As an organization, we look for ways to enhance our recruiting efforts, expand our diverse workforce and create career opportunities for all team members,” says Weddle. “And as a franchisor, we will look for ways to promote and provide support and resources for underrepresented groups, such as minority, veteran, and women-owned businesses. In helping a person start a business, we are allowing people to realize their dreams and create wealth and opportunity for future generations,” he continues.
In the summer of 2020, Authority Brands issued a call for staff volunteers to form the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which would host its first official meeting in August.
The feedback from the meeting resulted in the D&I Committee’s mission statement:
The Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee reflects Authority Brands as a whole. Our members come from different departments, work for multiple brands, and sit in various positions. The purpose of the Community Outreach subcommittee is to focus on developing and implementing programs to enhance the lives of our employees, our franchise owners, their employees, their families and their communities at large.
The monthly D&I newsletter, Authority Brands Together, includes personal stories on employees from across the company and spotlights on individual franchise owners. It’s also used to announce events and activities like the D&I book club, volunteer opportunities, and toy drives.
One of the more successful initiatives was the launch of the first annual D&I Scholarship. This scholarship awarded 20 recipients (employees and families of Authority Brands franchise owners) a $5,000 stipend to use toward school or professional development.
Setting an Example for All Our Brands
The D&I efforts at Authority Brands headquarters inspired leadership at Homewatch CareGivers to create a group of franchise owners and support center staff called ALLIES, which stands for:
ALLIES has a mission to "advance diversity and inclusion" within the brand. In addition, they are peers who hope to learn alongside each other and develop acceptance of everyone's differences, ideas, and beliefs. In 2021, Homewatch CareGivers added a Diversity Discount of $5,000 for minorities and women that own 51% of the business or more, which led to an increase in the diversity of candidates to own a franchise.
“I love that our network is more diverse than ever,” said Jamie Lavigne, CFE, Franchise Development Manager. “I am proud to be a part of this strength in diversity.”
The home care industry is one that relies on minorities and women as caregivers to deliver the much-needed services of assistance with daily activities in the home.
“We believe that home care can and should be delivered by people of all backgrounds,” said Tucker. “This in turn means people receiving care have the opportunity to interact with someone without bias as to race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
This brand’s commitment has a ripple effect throughout the network, inspiring individual business owners to examine their own D&I practices. Breanne Stuart (owner of Ann Arbor and Huron Valley, MI offices), who is also Black, created an “advocacy calendar” with a monthly task such as writing a legislator, attending a LGBTQ event, or signing up for a specific association like a Latino group to broaden her own knowledge. “Personally, I have a very diverse team of extremely diverse individuals from all over the country,” Stuart said. “There are many more backgrounds, cultures that I want to add to my team, including refugees, people with disabilities, people re-entering the workforce. I don’t think I’ll ever be done with trying to diversify my team.”
We look forward to seeing how all of our brands work to embody the Authority Brands commitment to diversity and inclusion.