Skills Learned in Military Service Transition Well Into Franchising
Each year, somewhere between 240,000 and 360,000 personnel leave the ranks of the U.S. military, and over the next few years, over one million veterans will be transitioning out of the service. The U.S. Army, which has the largest presence in Maryland of all service branches, has announced an additional reduction in force, resulting in approximately 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilian positions. The Army, which had 490,000 soldiers before Sept. 11, 2001 and 570,000 by 2010, will soon be reduced to about 450,000. This would be the smallest number since before the United States entered World War II.
In the past, many of these veterans would have found jobs in state or federal positions. Many more would have gone on to work for government contractors. The great recession, coupled with budget cuts through sequestration beginning in 2011, have dramatically changed the post-military employment environment. Many veterans are getting out of the service but not finding the traditional job opportunities they may have in the past. This is particularly true for more senior and more specialized service members. Availability of higher-end government jobs and positions with government contractors has decreased significantly with much more competition from fellow veterans competing for the same positions.
These veterans, along with their families, have made great personal sacrifice by moving repeatedly, often serving multiple deployments resulting in missed moments with the family like baby’s first steps, birthdays and anniversaries. In many instances, the trailing souses have had to make sacrifices in their own career because of the frequent moving and the need to be both parents during long deployments. Everyone in the family has made sacrifices. As a result, they are looking for something that can provide a better lifestyle for them and their families than a traditional job. They want more control and flexibility in their next career. The ability to work from home or work a schedule around their kids’ school schedules and events can be a big factor in deciding what is best for the entire family.
The new job economy for veterans not only creates a tougher environment to get a job, but also provides none of the security they have come to expect from the service. While most civilians have come to understand there is very little job security anywhere today, this can be a harsh realization to the freshly separated veteran.
This is where franchising comes in. Although most people think of fast food when you mention the word franchise, the reality is that there are over 5,000 franchise models available today, and the vast majority of franchises are not fast food. In addition to a wide scope of industries, franchise business models include formats that are full-time/part-time, absentee/semi-absentee and even virtual. Some franchises can be run from home or even with a laptop and cell phone. There are franchises that can be started small and scaled up over time to match the owner’s goals and financial capabilities.
Successful franchises are based on three things: a successful business model, a good training program and ongoing support. Franchising appeals to many veterans because of their service experience – franchising feels very familiar when they look at how it is organized and how it works. They understand the advantage of being in business for themselves but not by themselves.
At first, starting one’s own business can feel very risky because it is unknown and outside of the comfort zone. Once veterans take the time to fully investigate and understand how franchising works and how it can serve them and their family, they realize they can create a business that provides more security and satisfaction than a traditional job ever could.
Investment levels can range from a few thousand dollars to several million, although most veterans who do buy a franchise do so for less than $250,000. While this sounds like a lot of money, veterans with decent credit and some net worth can often qualify for an SBA loan to fund their business. Many banks in Maryland offer SBA loans and are eager to work with veterans. In most cases with an SBA loan, the veteran needs to come up with approximately 20 percent of the funds needed and can borrow the remaining 80 percent. Veterans are often surprised to discover that they can afford a business they thought was out of reach.
Franchisers Love Veterans
A franchiser makes money when their franchisees are successful. The typical franchiser is looking for a franchisee who is highly motivated with a good work ethic. They want someone who can follow a proven system and work within the system. They want an individual open to learning new things and capable of following instruction. They also want a franchisee that can think and act independently when necessary. They want an individual who understands leadership and how to manage and motivate people. Military people have spent their entire career perfecting these attributes.
The opportunities extend beyond ownership. Many franchisers and even more individual franchisees have programs to recruit veterans as employees. The same skills and talents that make them potential owners can often make then attractive as employees. There are a multitude of good career options in franchising, and franchising has contributed significantly to our lowering unemployment rate.
A word about our perception of veterans: While there are many good and appropriate programs to help our veterans who have been wounded or suffer from PTSD, it is easy to get the wrong idea from all the coverage those programs get. It is easy to forget that the vast majority of our veterans suffer no ill effects from their time in the service, and we should be careful not to fall into the trap of seeing our veterans as victims. Our veterans represent some of the best potential business owners and employees available. While we may owe them a debt for their service, it is in our own best interest to involve them in our businesses at every level. I95