As a military veteran, I am one of many who had the desire to own my own business upon leaving the military. Each year, nearly 200,000 U.S. military personnel return to civilian life and nearly 10 percent will start a business. In fact, military service is recognized as one of the leading indicators of entrepreneurial success. According to a report by the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans are 45% more likely to be entrepreneurs than non-veterans, and over 13% of veterans have been self-employed in recent years.
There are many characteristics those with military experience possess that make them successful entrepreneurs such as organization skills, resourcefulness and confidence to take strategic risks. However, the thought of starting a business on your own can be daunting to many. Because of this, I chose to pursue business ownership by purchasing a franchise due to the support and guidance provided. Having a trusted team behind you when taking on a new venture is immeasurable, something else I learned during my time in the military.
Franchising is a great option for veterans as franchises often provide training, proven operational excellence, and a great support system from your franchisor and peers in the franchisee community. If you have decided to pursue franchising, there are a few tips I would give to veterans considering the plethora of options.
Do Your Research
It is important to choose the right type of franchise that will be the best fit for you. The business you choose should fit your personality while also taking into account your training, interests, and passions. There are many different segments within the franchising sector such as food, home service, healthcare, technology, fitness and more.
My advice is to first follow your passion and then your training and experience. If you find a franchise concept that matches your expertise but you have no interest in the field, it will be much harder to be successful as you will not find the experience to be fulfilling and may burn out easily. Whereas if you follow your passions, take your time to research and find a franchise that makes you feel fulfilled and also aligns with your training, you’ve found the ‘sweet spot.’
In addition, research the resources that are available to you as a veteran. The U.S. Small Business Administration has partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to offer a national entrepreneurship training program for transitioning service members. The Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup program offers entrepreneurship training to service members.
Take Your Time and Plan Ahead
If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing regarding starting my business, it would be to start sooner. As I mentioned, the thought of starting a business can be daunting. Because of this, I delayed pursuing my dream when I first left the service. However, once I discovered the possibility of franchising and the support that comes with it, I realized I should have taken the opportunity sooner.
If you are still serving in the military but are thinking about the possibility of business ownership after service, it’s not too early to start your research now. Attend multiple franchise expos to learn what is out there. This gives you time, if you find a number of concepts that are of interest, to gain the appropriate intel to insure short- and long-term success for your future business.
Take into Account the Training and Ongoing Support Offered
When you find a franchise that you think is a good fit, I recommend assessing the type of training the franchisor provides to franchisees.
When I consider the parallels between my military career and the success I’ve had in running my business, the most important is the training I’ve received. When you are in the military, you go through extensive training to define your specialty and accomplish successful missions.
When I decided to buy a franchise, my ‘mission’ became to run the business as successfully as possible. To do this, I knew I needed the proper training. One of the main reasons I chose the specific franchise I did was because of the training program put in place for franchisees. From the beginning, I felt that I was set up for success, which was critical. As you operate your franchise business, the ongoing support is critical to success, giving you critical and timely information that you will need to address issues in specific situations. In regards to training, some things to take into account are: does the training measure up to what is offered by other franchisors, what backgrounds do the franchisors have, and what are the experiences of current franchisees regarding training and support?
Starting a business is both rewarding and challenging, but taking the right steps before choosing a franchise can lead to the same kinds of opportunities for growth and work satisfaction found in the military.
U.S. Navy veteran Don McClenney worked in the corporate world for 20 years in B2B sales after retiring from the Navy in 1994 where he served nine years as a Naval Flight Officer. McClenney now runs a successful and growing Fastest Labs, the nation’s leading drug-testing franchise, location in Texas.