After serving their country in the military, it can be daunting for veterans to determine the next step in their lives. Franchise ownership can be a great opportunity for veterans to apply what they’ve learned in the military while working for themselves.
U.S. Air Force Reserve Capt. Eric Friedrich II knows how military service can help prepare someone for business ownership. After separating from active duty, he became the owner of FirstLight Home Care of Southeast Georgia.
“If you can survive and be successful in the military, you can succeed in running a business on the civilian side,” he said.
Friedrich started out training as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force but became an intelligence officer. While stationed in Germany, he served as a collection manager for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance division (ISRD) for the United States African Command. He later served as an ISR liaison officer at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before separating from active duty after a leg injury prevented him from further deployments.
Setting Up Success
Running a business is challenging, but veterans are taught the skills to be successful. “The franchise gives you the tools, but it’s still overwhelming,” Friedrich said. “That’s where the military really does set you up for success. It provides structure, teaches you leadership skills and gives you the confidence to tackle tasks that seem too big to handle on your own. This experience can be very easily translated into business ownership.”
For Friedrich, franchise ownership was appealing because, like the military, the franchisor provides the structure and a system to follow for success; however, you still get to be your own boss, “If you can survive in the military and deploy and come out on top, the challenges of owning your own business seem like nothing,” he said.
Finding the Right Franchise
Joining a franchise requires a significant investment of time and money. It’s important to find the right fit before signing on the dotted line. That’s why good corporate culture and relationships matter.
“During my initial conversations, most of the homecare companies blew me off a little bit due to the fact that I was still active duty,” Friedrich said. “When I called FirstLight, it was the total opposite. They are super military friendly there. From the get-go, I got the feeling it was the right move. They couldn’t have been more helpful.”
It pays to look for a franchise network that supports veterans by offering them franchise fee discounts. Another aspect to consider is whether the franchise offers corporate donations to nonprofit organizations that serve veterans.
Serving Other Veterans
Owning the franchise gives Friedrich a chance to help other veterans, from those suffering with traumatic brain injuries to others dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. “We have several veterans that we serve,” he said. “I work a lot with the VA out of Lake City, Florida. They have case managers out there who work with veterans. If they see a need for home care for them, they’ll contact us and we’ll set up care in that veteran’s home. The greatest part is when I go to do a sign-up with them and they realize I was in the military, too.
“Veterans love sharing their stories. When they do find that out, they get almost a sense of comfort, knowing they have another veteran looking out for them. At the end of the day, it’s that camaraderie and that brotherhood and sisterhood that no matter what branch we were in, we all share a common bond.”
Keeping a Foot in the Door
Franchise ownership can offer another advantage to veterans: flexibility. Owning his own business gives Friedrich the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. “That’s another piece of advice I would give them,” he said. “If you love the military, you don’t have to get rid of it completely. I still get to throw on the uniform 8 weeks a year. I have the freedom to go do my reserve days. That’s one of my best decisions.”
Trusting the System
Franchises have been described as suiting the kind of entrepreneur who wants to work for themselves but not by themselves. Franchise owners have access to proven business systems and procedures developed by the franchisor.
In order to succeed, franchise owners have to be able to embrace the guidelines set by the franchisor, Friedrich said. “A lot of people find the franchises and then try to do things their own way, but I bought into the franchise because I needed a path to success.
“When I opened my FirstLight, I did everything exactly like the franchise corporate office laid it out. They have a model for a reason. If you stick to that model and work hard, you’re going to succeed. It’s worked out well.”
Eric Friedrich II is owner of FirstLight Home Care of Southeast Georgia. FirstLight Home Care is a top-rated non-medical home care provider with a network of offices that provides more than 93,000 hours per week in care for more than 4,300 clients in over 33 states.