Following Military Appreciation Month, it is important to continue keeping our troops and veterans top of mind by aiming to understand their unique experiences. According to George J. Hart, Army Veteran and multi-unit Dunkin’ franchisee, he found his military training and experiences taught him everything he needed to know about business. However, that realization did not come until his transition back to civilian life, which proved to be tricky as he navigated the routine of daily life and finding a career path.
After serving 25 years in the U.S. Army as a Paratrooper and Reconnaissance Helicopter Pilot, starting over in a new career seemed daunting to George but proper preparation was vital in order to integrate back into civilian society. When he retired in 2004, George followed a comfortable path staying connected to the military by working as a consultant for the Department of Defense for 10 years, specializing in a military familiarization course for Department of Defense civilians and contracting education for new government contracting officers. “While fulfilled through my duties, I was ready for the next great challenge – pursuing the entrepreneurial itch I carried with me my whole life” said Hart. In 2015, he brought to life his dream that he had aspired to for quite some time, opening a Dunkin’ on a military base at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“Throughout my many years of service, I desperately missed a decent cup of coffee and, as a New Jersey native, Dunkin’ was the only brand that could hit the spot. Unfortunately, Dunkin’ was hard to come by in the military so, I was determined to change that for our troops once I retired. In fact, I vowed to open a Dunkin’ across every military base in the country!” Currently, George owns 11 military base Dunkin’s, including four combo locations housing Dunkin’ and sister brand Baskin-Robbins under one roof, across U.S. military bases in Colorado, Wyoming and Kentucky. The future is bright while he plans to open restaurants on military bases in Texas, Ohio, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Kansas, including six locations slated to open within the next year.
“What fuels my ambitions is the support system I found through my franchise network and the support system that remained as I kept close to my military network. As a veteran and a business owner, I can share what kept me going, allowing me to find my passion and aiding my transition to civilian life.”
Veterans Benefit Franchise Systems…
Franchises heavily encourage veteran recruitment. In fact, according the Franchise Business Review’s 2014 Progress Report, 49% of franchisors surveyed indicated that they had successfully recruited at least one veteran/spouse of a veteran as a new franchisee in the past 12 months.
We see a large push behind veteran recruitment due to the fact that veterans tend to be highly skilled and well-trained leaders who bring a tactical perspective to their teams. They also possess operational skills with people, security, planning, logistics and communication. George suggests that, together, these skillsets shape the type of leader who thrives in a franchise system, where they are backed by a brand name.
…& Vice Versa
Simultaneously, franchising seems to check a lot of boxes for veterans to put their disciplines to work. Through franchising, veterans are provided with the flexibility to be business owners while connected to an established brand with a proven system. George found that the guess-work and risk of starting a business from the ground up, was taken out of the equation, so he could hit the ground running.
Paying It Forward
Veteran employers are likely to pay it forward, typically hiring veterans just like them. As a matter of fact, 14% of franchisees surveyed in the Franchise Business Review study showed that veteran franchise owners are nearly a third (30%) more likely to hire other veterans, or at least be more aware of a person’s veteran status.
“As for me, about 50% of my workforce is made up of veterans or active duty family members,” said Hart. “Not only is it helpful to the veteran and military community, but it is also helpful to a veteran business owner to surround themselves with a dedicated workforce who shares their experience and vision.”
Finding The Right Fit
When it comes to franchising, it is most important to find the right company that is a cultural fit. Take a look at George’s story. Growing up in New Jersey, Dunkin’ was a household name and he knew the brand very well. Beyond that, he had a passion for owning his own business, paired with a brand he believed in and a vision to bring that brand to a place he knew and loved. According to George, veterans should research the franchise systems that offer veteran incentives in order to get their business up and running. Some franchise networks may even provide special franchisee training programs for veterans.
George J. Hart, Army Veteran and Dunkin’ Brands multi-unit franchisee, entered franchising after 25 years of service as a Paratrooper and Reconnaissance Helicopter Pilot for the U.S. Army. In less than five years, George has grown his franchise network to 11 Dunkin’s, including four combo restaurants with Baskin-Robbins, across military bases in the Western United States.