Franchising Today - Summer 2016 - 95
AMERICAN FAMILY CARE
Irwin turned down every franchise
offer he was presented with over the
past decade until four years ago. "So
what changed?" he asks. "We grew
over the years and saw more and more
investment groups getting into our
space and they weren't doctors. We
saw rapid growth going on and I heard
in 2009 a doctor opened one clinic
and started franchising it under the
brand name Doctors Express."
In 2012, The Ensign Group, based
in Mission Viejo, Calif., acquired
Doctors Express, but quickly realized it wasn't a good match for their
core business. They reached out to
DocuTAP, AFC's electronic medical
records provider and asked who they
thought would be a logical acquirer.
DocuTAP suggested that Ensign approach AFC.
Irwin says at first he was flattered,
but told Ensign no. But Ensign was
persistent, and after taking a harder
look at the Doctors Express franchise
business, Irwin was excited with what
"They had a network of about 60
clinics that were maybe not the best
designed, but in good locations and
were being run by smart business
people," Irwin says. "We quickly saw
franchising in urgent care does work
and it's no different than a hospital
that has good business people paired
with good medical people.
"Franchisees understood the business and provided quality care and
customer service," he continues.
"They were doing well and we bought
it to expand our geographical footprint. We bought it in 2013 and never
After acquiring Doctors Express,
AFC wanted to immediately rename
every clinic under its own brand, but
Dr. Bruce Irwin became a pioneer in the
healthcare industry when he opened the
first American Family Care location.
a consultant suggested co-branding
first with the understanding that they
would be rebranded at a later date.
Today, the company is in the process
of rebranding AFC/Doctors Express
locations to simply AFC.
To make the clinics uniform after
the acquisition, AFC modified the
floor plan of Doctors Express to in-
leased spaces so we have to modify
that. We also provide the franchisee
with a basic business model, equipment, supplies, IT support, training
and staff recruitment."
AFC is selective when it comes to
new franchisees and locations.
"We are firm believers in core values and we have made certain the
FIRM BELIEVERS IN CORE VAL-
UES AND WE HAVE MADE CERTAIN THE
NEWER FRANCHISEES SHARE THOSE."
- DR. BRUCE IRWIN
crease the number of exam rooms
and allow the practice to run more
efficiently. "I am involved in everything, including who we allow to be a
franchisee, the site, the construction
and design," Irwin says. "We have a
prototype design and many go into
newer franchisees share those," Irwin says. "We monitor their services,
complaints - which are very few - and
in each region we have a regional manager who calls on those facilities twice
Irwin says urgent care clinics are