From Physical Therapist to Franchise Executive and Vice President with Ian Klaes PT 051

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About Becoming a Franchise Owner

Have you ever considered a leap into franchise ownership? That’s exactly what Ian Klaes did, transforming from a fresh PT graduate to a vice president of a thriving senior care franchise. Join us as Ian shares how he got to be a franchise owner, offering inspiration and guidance for professionals considering a similar leap.

The episode begins with Ian entering the professional world as a PT graduate. His first real job at a sports med clinic seemed aligned with his interests, but it was just the starting point of an uncharted career trajectory. Ian’s subsequent shift to managing rehabilitation services at skilled nursing facilities marked the start of his pivot away from traditional physical therapy roles. Working long hours to optimize patient care, he realized the potential for greater personal and professional fulfillment by running his own business.

The process of becoming a franchisee is not straightforward, as the episode further explores. Prospective franchisees must navigate a rigorous qualification process. Ian’s transition underscores the necessity of adaptability, as franchisees often undertake unexpected roles such as sales, which was initially outside Ian’s comfort zone. The comparison between operating a franchise and an independent business highlights the unique advantages of franchising, particularly the strength of a proven business model and a supportive community.

In conclusion, Ian Klaes’ story is an example for aspiring entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector and beyond. The episode encapsulates the essence of professional evolution, driven by personal motivation.


Transcript From Physical Therapist to Franchise Owner

Intro 00:01

Welcome to the Rehab Rebels podcast. Are you a rehab professional ready to transition to an alternative career? Hear inspiring stories from others just like you and learn the best ways to bridge your career gap. This podcast has you covered. Now here’s your host, doctor of physical therapy and podcaster, Tanner Welsh. 

Tanner Welsch 00:21

I’m really excited to have you come on the show and hear about your journey and your story as a vice president, the franchise division of carrying senior service. We’d love to hear your journey and how you got there. But first what we’ll do as we do with all the guests that come on is I’ll have you introduce yourself, maybe where you went to PT school, what you’re doing now, and then we’ll lead and fill in the gaps with how you got there. 

Ian Klaes 00:49

Okay, I am Ian Klaes, I went to PT school at UTMB, so the University of Texas Medical Branch, in Galveston. The program had recently converted to master’s degree, so I was there from 95 to 98. From there I went on this weird journey to end up in the franchising world. 

Tanner Welsch 01:10

Yeah, it’s so wild. I think this episode three or four there was a PTA who did the same thing. She branched off and did a hot works franchise, I think with some support from her husband. But this franchise that you’re in is it’s a senior care facility and we’ll get into the details of that here in a little bit. But how did you go from graduating from a PT school and then eventually finding your way into where you are today? Normally what I’ll ask people is what made them shift or change their job or their career. They knew something wasn’t right and we dive into that. So let’s start with you from the beginning. Can you talk a little bit about what you were doing right out of PT school and then we’ll lead up into how you got where you are now? 

Ian Klaes 01:58

Sure, I sort of stumbled into my first real job in PT. I’ve played rugby for a very long time and had some teammates back in El Paso Texas where I’m originally from who were on the rugby team and also happened to be PT’s. And one of them had an opening at a sports med clinic that he was managing. He had a need for some part-time help and I jumped on him because I’ve always been interested in, participated in various athletics and felt that I wanted to do sports med or at least an ortho focus, and so this was a great opportunity for me to get my first real job. Of course it wasn’t enough hours, it was part of a larger system, so I was able to work part-time there and then also part-time at another outpatient clinic that the system had. I eventually transitioned to the hospital setting, also within the same system, and from there it was a cool experience. There was three PT’s and three PTA’s and we rotated floors within the hospital. So one month I’d be on in the general hospital, the acute setting. They had a sniff in the hospital, so one month I’d work in the sniff and then one month I’d work in their outpatient clinic, which was very heavy wound care work. It was a really great experience for me. I got to you know, even though I was in the same building. I got to work in a lot of different settings, and different patient populations. 


From there I moved to San Antonio, worked outpatient clinics, got married, moved to very northern California actually on the border of Oregon it was Crescent City, California and there I was working for a company that staffed sniffs with the rehab departments. My role there was rehab director for a sniff in California. I went in Oregon, so now I’m so far away from sports med, but I’m loving it. I’m learning so much. The patients were awesome. They were just super grateful that I and the people I was working with gave them so much attention and that they were hard workers. 


They wouldn’t mess around and it was really fun. But I was as the rehab director. We had to optimize all the acuity levels for our patients and make sure we were maximizing the dollars for the sniff, which wasn’t too terrible. But I was working a lot 50, 60 hour weeks on the regular. I was still enjoying it. It wasn’t terrible, but I was beginning during that time to think, man, if I’m going to work so hard, I might as well work hard for my own business. That’s where the franchise opportunity, or dream, first started percolating. 

Tanner Welsch 04:37

For sure. So what page? You decide to take that role, that director role in the northern part of California and manage the sniffs and all that? What was the initial backstory or reason behind making that decision? 

Ian Klaes 04:51

The guy who recruited me was a neighbor of my aunt and uncle in California. This company was based, I think they were based in Portland, so they had contracts along the northwest coast. But really it was for the adventure. I’d been born and raised in Texas, spent all my time there, and why don’t I go to the ocean and the redwoods and try it out? It was also a new opportunity, a more higher-level management position. I use management loosely because I worked with some great therapists and really they just gave me their schedule and I just tried to optimize that, so I wasn’t doing anything. Super amazing management style. But really it was for the adventure. 

Tanner Welsch 05:33

Okay, that’s fair. I love that. So, from there, what was the next step to getting to where you are now? 

Ian Klaes 05:40

We came back for a holiday vacation and while we were here I knew that caring senior service was headquartered here. I had made arrangements, let them know that I had an interest in learning more about their franchise opportunity and that I wanted to come in and see them, and so I was able to arrange really a day where the leadership here were able to walk me through what the heck it was that they were doing, because I knew it was care in the home, but it was non-medical and there wasn’t insurance involved, and that was about the extent of it. I didn’t really know many of the details as to what they were doing. 

Tanner Welsch 06:17

Before we dive into that, what exactly they do do in their services? How did you even hear about them in the first place? 

Ian Klaes 06:24

That was through rugby. 

Tanner Welsch 06:25

You and your rugby man. 

Ian Klaes 06:27

Me and my rugby. It’s like beer the cause of and solution to all life’s problems. Rugby is also the cause of and solution to many of life’s problems. But yeah, actually the CEO and founder of Caring Senior Service was on my rugby team and his partner, the one that really helped establish the franchise component, was also on the rugby team. I knew that they were doing something in-home care. It wasn’t home health. That’s how I knew to reach out to them and shame on me, I didn’t look at any franchise opportunity because there were a few others in our space. Obviously, I was comfortable with them, but also, as I learned more and did my studying up on it, I became comfortable with what the business was. 

Tanner Welsch 07:09

And it helps, without a doubt, that you already have a rapport or any connection with the founder and the partner. That totally makes sense. What exactly are the services that they provide? And it’s still not insurance at all. It’s not Medicare or Part A or Part B. Let’s dive into that. What exactly do they offer and don’t they offer? 

Ian Klaes 07:32

It’s assisted living support services, but in our clients’ homes, wherever home is. We do provide caregiver services to our clients who might reside in an SNF, or they might reside in an assisted living facility, or they might be in a hospital for some amount of time. But it’s support for all the tasks that one might need help with in order to be able to stay home and stay home safely. We do an assessment with a client and their family members to try to determine where their pain points might be, what challenges they might have currently and what fears they might have. 


Of course, falling and fear of falling is an epidemic really. But our caregivers then are going into the home and they’re helping with whichever of those challenges we’ve uncovered. So it might be hands-on assistance for bathing, dressing, grooming, transferring in and out of a bed, in and out of the restroom. Then, throughout the day we help keep the home neat and tidy, make meals, and make sure that our clients are getting their nutritional requirements met through food and water. We can assist with transportation-type services, so either running errands for our client or ideally, if they want to and are able to, helping them get out in the community and go about their business. And then the companionship component. Many of our folks are alone for a majority of the time, and so having the ability to get a good match with a caregiver that they like is a really cool thing. 

Tanner Welsch 09:12

That is very cool. I don’t know y’all did so much. That’s great. 

Ian Klaes 09:16

Yeah, I mean there are some nurse-delegated tasks that we can do when appropriate and when state licensing regulations allow, so we can assist with G2 care, and feeding components. We’re pretty limited on the medication side of things and it’s more about reminders and making sure that they’re taking them, but it’s a pretty wide range of things that we are able to help with. 

Tanner Welsch 09:42

For sure. What would you say is maybe the main source that this gets paid through? Do people have some sort of long-term care insurance or something that mostly covers this, or is it mostly out of pocket? How are your services paid for usually? 

Ian Klaes 09:59

85, 90% are probably all private pay. So out of the clients’ funds that they’ve saved over their lifetime, long-term care insurance does cover our service, which is great. It’s just not tons of people that have that. For you and all your listeners, get it while you can, because our care is super expensive. 


I mean, I still don’t know how our clients accumulated enough wealth to be able to cover the services, but two years ago Medicare allowed their Advantage plans to start covering the service. The problem with that is that it’s very limited in the reimbursement rate as well as the hours that they authorize, so it’s still not a viable pay resource to really go after Playing with Medicaid. They do cover provider-type services, but they for the most part have pretty poor reimbursement rates and low authorization of hours. So we do really focus on our private pay clients, including those with long-term care insurance, and then a lot of us will work with VA as well. They’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last three to five years that have made them much better to work with, because, I mean, our clients are super neat to take care of and learn from and spend time with, but there’s just a little extra when they’re a vet. They’re just a little kookier, I think. 

Tanner Welsch 11:22

Definitely, definitely Nice way to say it yeah, so let’s talk about what was the process of basically getting signed up, so to speak, and starting the initial process, and then how did you get to be the vice president of the franchise division? 

Ian Klaes 11:37

The process that I went through, that really anyone who’s interested in any franchise opportunity, whether that’s a caring senior service or a McDonald’s. There’s a pretty standard process of initial conversations with the franchisor. It should be a two-way qualification type process because you know a franchisor wants to make sure that you have the various qualifications that they’re looking for, whether that’s, you know, a specific experience in your career or, in the McDonald’s example, they require a pretty hefty initial investment. So the ability to fund that thing is part of the qualification process. 


But for you as a potential franchisee, you want to learn all you can about the franchise or company. You know what their training process is like, how they support their franchisees in the initial startup, but also in years three and three and beyond. And then it’s really important to understand what the real day-to-day is like in that franchise system. The example where you love golf and you want to make a career out of golf and so you open a golf retail store and then you learn, oh no, I can’t golf anymore because I got to, my store needs to be open during golfing hours. So there’s certain things that you need to really understand about the day-to-day to see how it fits with what you like to do and how you want to spend your time. 

Tanner Welsch 13:03

Absolutely. That’s really great insight. The best way to find that out is by connecting with the franchise that you’re doing research on. He thinks a good fit and then I’m assuming the franchise will also allow you to contact some of those individuals that are franchise owners and talk a little bit about their experience and you can maybe do a Q&A or something with them and get some feedback. 

Ian Klaes 13:27

Definitely, and I skipped a really big, important part, which is the franchise disclosure document, which is really two parts. The first part is, in plain English, a lot of the background on the franchise that you’re speaking with, and then the second part is the actual franchise agreement, and so within that document, you can learn about the fees, what is the cost to get into this thing and then what ongoing fees might I encounter. There’s information on the background of the franchise or what specific people are involved in it and what their roles might be. Every franchise system will have specific requirements in order to be part of that system. And then also within the document is the list of all the franchise owners, their contact information. So franchise or will often try to connect you or at least assist in that connection, so you can speak with the other owners. But you’ll also have the ability to just go down the list and start calling folks. 

Tanner Welsch 14:22

I knew with a lot of them there was an initial investment and or you have to have a certain amount of assets to be able to qualify because, again, the franchise owner wants to make sure if, for whatever reason, this would fail, you would be able to back up, being able to get out of it and come out okay. But I didn’t realize some of these other things where, with the agreement that you’re talking about and they want to connect you with other people, and the different fees associated with different franchises and seeing the pros and cons there a lot to dive into and do some research on what would you say your day to day is like. 

Ian Klaes 15:00

I’ll start with what it was like as a franchisee because that’s how I first got into this. Our system has very specific job duties and roles that need to be fulfilled. They can be fulfilled by employees, but often, when you’re first getting up and running, you’re the owner and you’re filling one of those jobs. My job was to be basically the salesperson, which is not my cup of tea. I don’t wake up in the morning and say, oh, I got to go do some networking and sell some things. I do enjoy being with people and talking with people. 


I just had to get over my years, I guess, of just walking in and starting to talk to. Referral sources is who we get the majority of our clients from, people like a hospital discharge planner or intake coordinator at a home health agency. Obviously, I was taught by the franchise on how to do it, what things they say, what questions to ask. You’re just going to start showing up basically on a weekly basis and you’re going to work to build a relationship with these potential referral sources and then, of course, once they refer someone to you, you got to deliver One. I did, of course, want to succeed, but I was really driven by a fear of failure. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m going to keep going because I cannot make it. 

Tanner Welsch 16:21

So what were some things, I guess, at that time that were really helpful for you for getting through that initial fears and stage of really doing something that you really didn’t have experience doing and you weren’t initially comfortable with because you’ve never done it before? What were some resources that helped you get through that? 

Ian Klaes 16:39

Really, the majority of it came from the franchisor reviewing my efforts to try to generate referrals from the community in El Paso. 


They came to El Paso on two different occasions to ride along with me and help me further those relationships and in those visits there we’re able to give constructive feedback on really it’s so much as asking questions. When you’re first starting, it takes time to be skilled enough to be at the point where you can still have that goal in mind but you’re also open to listen and truly hear what that individual is speaking about. Aside from being a business owner and having the flexibility that provides and the income, all the money opportunities, the learning has been really the greatest thing that I’ve gotten from joining this system because when you become a franchise owner or really any small business owner, you have to learn everything about all the stuff that’s involved in running one of these things. It’s daunting but it’s also really cool from selling to how to use different softwares, to HR, how to interview people, and how to manage but also lead social media. It goes on and on all the different stuff. 

Tanner Welsch 18:02

So how did you go from there to getting to where you are now?. What was the process there? What was the journey? 

Ian Klaes 18:10

So I got tricked there. I fell for it big time. No, around month 10 and 11, we were doing well, we really felt, okay, I know how this thing works now and I can do more of it in other places. So reached out to Jeff and his team here at the franchise or and said I want to add another location. It was during those conversations that they said essentially no, why don’t you come work with us? And really, if I’m being honest, they didn’t want me. They wanted my wife to come join the team because we she and I had done this franchise together. So they recruited her to come be in a general manager type role to oversee corporate-owned locations, because she’s really strong operationally and great at getting stuff done. And they said we’ll find something for you to do. Sounds awesome. Well, that sounds pretty wild and we fell for it, yeah for sure. 

Tanner Welsch 19:16

So you had your first franchise for almost the whole year talking 10, 11 months in, and they want you guys to fit into the overall, I guess, corporate structure a little bit differently. Where did they end up putting you? We know you weren’t cleaning up the toilets in the back office, so where did you end up going? 

Ian Klaes 19:36

So it was actually a pretty good setup because we opened in August and our son was born in October when we moved to San Antonio. 


He’s still a baby, really, and so I got to spend two months with him as we got settled in and found daycare and all that stuff. But the company was really looking to pursue its own expansion, meaning not so much franchising but more opening company locations and specifically looking to do that in partnership with home health agencies, because home health agencies to this day, they all, I shouldn’t say all many of them want to or think that they can provide this same service because they’re already seeing these patients and they’re already seeing them in their home. The problem is they typically will not adjust their business model to what is needed. They’re used to working one to many model where one skilled individual goes and sees multiple patients throughout a day, whereas for us, every client needs at least one caregiver and sometimes, if they’re 24 hours a day, seven days a week client of ours, they’re going to need five to seven different caregivers and so that’s an entirely different demand on the business and it’s something that a lot of home health agencies fail at. 

Tanner Welsch 20:53

That’s interesting. I never thought about that. I do have experience working in home health and I will say, usually the services that you guys provide often the home health company doesn’t provide and usually there’s another third party or somebody like your guys’ self that comes in and does those services. 

Ian Klaes 21:11

So that’s what we knew that home health companies wanted to do home care and they were not good at it and so we were going to target those companies and try to form even formal partnerships within. Where you focus on the skilled care that’s what you’re awesome at Let us open a caring senior service home care agency. You send your referrals to us and we’ll also look to generate additional clients from other referral sources. 

Tanner Welsch 21:38

It completely makes sense. It’s like a really great partnership, right. 

Ian Klaes 21:42

Every patient who receives care in the home should at least have the opportunity to talk with a company like ours, but especially for home health, and even more so today, where they’re financially penalized for any hospital readmission. We’re not going to stop all of those, but we can definitely help eliminate some of them just through basic stuff making sure their patient makes doctor’s appointments, making sure they eat well and drink water and take their meds on time. I’m really basic things. That was my first role and then just over time, we had an opportunity to partner more specifically on opening additional locations, Jeff and myself and then, as I proved myself and as we worked more together, it just came to the point where I’m now a minority partner in the franchise or a company and he and I share a lot of the just overall leadership components of running our franchise company. 

Tanner Welsch 22:40

If somebody is interested, if a listener is interested in venturing off and starting their own business, who do you think will be good at, or good for, the franchise route Open up a franchise and who do you think would be good for not doing the franchise and doing their own business without a franchise? 

Ian Klaes 22:58

Both sides need to have that entrepreneurial spirit and drive and willingness to take risks but also be self-starters and accountable to to themselves, the folks that do best in franchising. They have that, and when they see a business model that works and are trained on it, they implement it and execute it. When results don’t come out as expected, they don’t necessarily say the way you’re doing this is wrong. They first say let me evaluate how I went about this and see if there was something that that I could have done differently. If you’re going to invest in a franchise, exert all your effort and energy and learning all you can about it and how to do it and what the folks that are thriving at it are doing, and exert your effort there, because you still will have opportunity to try different things. It’s just making sure you talk through those different things with the folks who have been there before you so you don’t make those the same mistakes they make. 

Tanner Welsch 24:01

I’ve heard what you’re saying similar from the guy that we interviewed Kerry, from three, I think. If so, three or four, I’ll have to put it in the show notes. But it was instead of having to go out and figure everything out on your own and discover what business models work, what doesn’t, and trial and error If you’re starting something new that maybe nobody’s done, the franchise route allows you to. There’s already support built in. There’s already a bunch of things that are there to help you succeed and help you be a success. That goes with the franchise background. They got everything already figured out for the business All the legal documents, anything that you could probably think of. They have already done and have. It’s really just what you said about finding the right one for you and learning what it is that they do, the business models and then figuring out how to best implement it and learning those new skills to make it happen. 

Ian Klaes 24:55

Franchising, there’s been some bad ones out there and I’m sure there’s still going to be more bad ones, but when you’re in a good system it’s so cool. I could spend all my time trying to figure out how to build out these forms, or I can spend my time doing the value add work, which, in our field, is spending time with your clients, obviously, but also spending time with your caregivers and your referral sources. The more that we can physically interact with these people, the bigger difference we’ll make, both in their lives but also for the business. Then you have the support of the franchise, or that’s, make it as efficient as possible and eliminate as much of the headaches as possible, so you can do those things. 

Tanner Welsch 25:38

For sure, Absolutely. What would you say is an open-ended question. What have you realized from this journey? You’re graduating from PT school. They’re getting where you are today. What have you realized that you didn’t know before? 

Ian Klaes 25:52

I think it’s mostly that, even though I feel I’ll be contradicting because I’ve been talking this whole time but the more you can ask questions and listen and learn from folks, the better things will be. Both personally and professionally, learning to really be a great listener is priceless. 

Tanner Welsch 26:11

For sure. Do you have any book recommendations for listeners? That can be how to start your own business, or maybe something about franchises or life or managing people. It’s open-ended, whatever. If you don’t have anything, that’s okay. 

Ian Klaes 26:26

I’ve read a lot of the business-specific books and there are nuggets in all. Simon Sinek’s “Start With the Why” I think is a really good book and it gets to just speaking about listening but then also speaking to those things that really matter to people as opposed to what you think might matter. I thought that was a pretty powerful book For sure. 

Tanner Welsch 26:50

Ian, thank you so much for taking the time to come on and talk and show your journey. Really appreciate it. Thank you so much. 

Ian Klaes 26:58

Thank you, that was awesome. Thanks for leading me. 

Outro 27:00

Thank you for listening to the Rehab Rebels podcast. If this podcast was useful, make sure to hit that subscribe button and leave a review. For more information about transitioning to alternative careers, head to or follow us on Instagram at Rehab Rebels podcast. We’ll see you next time. 

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