I was young, right out of high school, when I decided to join the United States Air Force. I spent my four years in the service in the crypto graphics unit, which is a high-level engineering field, and worked my way up to the rank of Sergeant. I spent my first year of service in school learning the ropes of crypto graphics and found myself traveling to South Korea soon after. After my military career, I began doing government contract work with my high military clearance from my time in crypto graphics. Later on, I realized that depending on someone else for my livelihood was not my ultimate career goal, so I decided to go into business for myself.
When considering becoming a business owner, I soon realized that my time in the Air Force better prepared me for a life as franchise owner than I had expected. I had acquired a knowledge base and mindset that they don’t teach business students in college. My real-life experiences prepared me for business ownership and taught me the true meaning of responsibility and discipline.
Don’t Make Excuses
While in the Air Force I was often at a disadvantage due to my height, I am only 4’11, and when I had difficulty completing certain tasks, I was told that I should grow. What my commanding officers meant by “grow” was not in the physical sense, but that I should find other ways to combat the difficulties I was experiencing in my field due to my height challenge and any other disadvantages.
Looking at business ownership, it is important to utilize the same mindset. When things don’t work out, or you find yourself facing problems with your business, you don’t sit around and make excuses for why things are going wrong. Instead, you figure out how to resolve them and get to the end result you desire. It is important to ask yourself, as a business owner and leader, what your weaknesses are in order to find solutions. Your weaknesses are not your defining moments, your defining moments are when you push through those weaknesses and find the solution or strength that you didn’t know was there.
Utilize Your Support System
In the military, you are always focused on the team. Each person has their own tasks to complete, but everything you do is collaborative. You have a group or family behind you that teaches and guides you through your responsibilities and tasks, which is the same for the franchise industry.
Having this background of group effort and strong support systems made the franchise model attractive to me. Everyone within the franchise is working towards the same goal. The success of other franchisees in the system does not mean that you are not successful as well; it means that you are all succeeding. Both the corporate team and fellow franchisees are striving towards a collective goal and they all put forth a positive effort. There are always people behind you to support and help you, which is what veterans are accustomed to from our time in the military.
Have Tough Skin
Throughout my military career, I was constantly being moved around to different military bases. I quickly inherited the ability to adapt to my new situations and surroundings, which is a powerful skill to have. Adapting to new situations also makes you equally brave and versatile. I was suddenly able to make hard decisions because I was put into situations where I needed to be brave and decisive; it was never something I could run away from.
When first opening my business, I was nervous to take the leap and knew it was both a huge responsibility and a great blessing. In 2011 when I decided to take the plunge and channel my bravery, I found that I quickly fell into my role as a business owner. There were challenges and difficulties along the way as expected, but overall, I know that I credit my military background for training me to take challenges head on and quickly adapt to new roles.
Whether you are beginning your journey as a franchisee or have been in the role for a period of time, remember to listen to your instincts and utilize the skills that were drilled into you throughout your time in the military. The lessons you have learned and the skills you have adopted will help you lead your business to success.
Randi Samuels is an Air Force veteran who specialized in the technology of crypto graphics while serving. She is now the owner and operator of the Mountain View, Calif. Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More®, a locally-owned, high-technology garment decorating retail franchise where customers have the freedom to design their own apparel, which she opened in 2011. To learn more about franchising with Big Frog, visit www.bigfrogfranchise.com.