I handle operations for my franchise business, so my focus when counseling other small business owners, especially veterans, tends to focus on the logistics. Lots of the advice I have for new business owners can apply to all entrepreneurs, but veterans in particular may experience additional challenges as they transition to civilians. It’s especially important for veterans to have clear expectations of the franchise process, so they can launch with momentum and establish themselves in their communities.
I served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2001, and when my wife Veronica and I recently opened our Image360 center in Lewis Center, Ohio, I discovered many of the skills I learned in the military were useful when launching a small business. One of them was planning, doing my best foresee complications, and anticipate challenges as we worked to open our franchise location.
With that experience in mind, below are some things I think all new franchisees should keep in mind when opening a franchise business, especially veterans:
The SBA process may take longer than you expect.
In the Air Force we pride ourselves in working smarter, not harder. However, when it came to the SBA loan process, there was no replacement for grinding it out. In our case, obtaining the SBA loan was a marathon that we had to push through. This was a challenging ordeal as our purchase of the franchise, the lease for our location, the timing of the builder, and finally the date we wanted to open our doors was all on the line. It even got to the point where we were not sure if the funds would come in time and our plans were at risk. It was a challenge and something I make sure all new franchisees I meet are aware of is a possibility.
If you can anticipate and plan for a potential delay caused by the SBA process, you may be able to build a little padding into your opening timeline. With a little worst-case planning, you can potentially save yourself a major headache.
Finding and settling on the right location takes a long time
Much like the SBA process, if your franchise is a brick-and-mortar concept, hunting for the perfect property for your business is not to be rushed. We worked hard with both the Image360 corporate team and our local networks to find the right facility, and while at times it made us throw our hands in the air, it ended with us finding the perfect location for our business.
Similar to the SBA process, take your anticipated timeline for finding and signing for a location, and try to make an alternate plan for what will happen if the lease signing is delayed. How might you need to adjust other components of your opening plan? Take the time to plan for a worst-case scenario. Even if your location-scouting process ends up going off without a hitch, it’s never wasted time to plan for the alternative.
Use your networks wherever you can
All new franchisees, but especially veterans who may be familiarizing themselves with the local business community for the first time, should lean on the people they know to make their new business launch as effective as possible. Chambers of commerce, local BNI groups and other community business organizations are all essential for building local buzz and awareness for your new business.
As a veteran, even if you haven’t leaned on them before, now is also the time to take advantage of any local veterans networks in your community. See what kind of resources or word-of-mouth support they might offer entrepreneurs. Many veterans are also business leaders in their communities (as you will soon be too!) and make a point of supporting other veteran-owned organizations. Tap into those networks to give your new business a leg up.
You should expect to be extroverted
To effectively launch a franchise, you have to be sales-focused. If you do not think you can do sales, you will have to reconcile that in your head, because selling is a major part of running nearly any successful franchise. A business needs someone who can sell and someone who can produce and, as a franchisee, both those people may be you, especially early on when you won’t have a huge staff.
In my case, I’ve been lucky enough to lean on my wife’s skills for marketing and sales, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had to learn to push myself to be more outgoing and personable with customers than I ever thought possible. Over time, you will develop those extroverted muscles, to the ongoing benefit of your business.
Even with the tips above in mind, opening is a hectic time for any new franchisee, no matter your background. You may be working long hours and doing what needs to be done. Eventually you will find efficiencies as you grow your new business, but in the beginning, it will take energy and commitment to see it forward.
Owning any small business is not for the faint of heart, but it’s also what makes franchising such a good fit for so many veterans. We’re able to overcome challenges to do what needs to be done, and your background as a veteran will likely help you better plan ahead and smooth out a path for a successful launch of your new franchise business.
To learn more about products and services offered at Image360, visit www.image360lewiscenter.com or call 614-438-7446.