Discipline. Teamwork. Leadership. Strategy. It’s no surprise that veterans often seek to leverage their experience in the military to pursue a career in some form of entrepreneurship. They are statistically more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans, according to a study by the Small Business Administration. In the world of franchising, the characteristics that allowed veterans to excel in the military make them ideal franchisees. Why? Because franchising is a unique combination of individual entrepreneurship, organizational structure and the personal discipline to follow a set of steps to execute a plan. Franchising is great because it provides opportunities for every level of military-trained individuals, and has proven systems, processes and support in place. Franchising takes the guesswork out of starting a business.
Transitioning into a franchise business owner can be exciting, yet overwhelming. There are countless franchise opportunities, and, of course, all of them claim to have the best business model, but here are a few things to keep in mind as you narrow down your choices.
Owner-operator versus multi-unit
Something to determine early on is how you want to be involved in your business. For the most part, franchise systems can be divided into two models: the owner-operator model and the multi-unit model. In my experience, vets who were on the front lines or in field work do extremely well in the owner-operator model because they like the active and direct work of being in the “fray” and “getting their hands dirty” on a regular basis. Owner-operators are active in the day-to-day operations of their business, and oversee either only themselves or a small team – likely family or individuals close to them. On the other hand, vets who accumulated more rank, sometimes transition more easily to the multi-unit model. The logistics can be much broader and the team larger. There can be multiple locations, concurrent development of new locations, and the constant challenge of recruiting, training and developing your team.
Start-up costs and military incentives
Navigating the financial requirements of franchise opportunities can seem daunting, but it should be exciting. The fact is, franchising is saturated with an unlimited number of opportunities across a wide-variety of industries and segments, so it is absolutely possible to find one that fits your financial status. Even if the financial requirements of brands you are most interested in seem too high, look deeper into the details. Most franchisors identify military vets as ideal franchisee prospects and have either compelling financial incentives to reduce upfront costs, or exclusive access to special financing. Even better, some brands do both!
When evaluating a specific brand, you should not only look at the financial incentives they offer, but also how much support they offer to their franchisees. Are training programs in place (for both franchisees and employees)? Are there proven business-building programs for new locations? How about real estate site selection assistance, construction, etc.? When it comes to your future business, who actually finds the site, negotiates the lease, selects the construction contractor? How much support is available – is it advice or active on-location help? How much do you need or want? If more is offered, are they charging extra for that support?
For example, at Pinch A Penny, we do all those activities for you (or less of them if you don’t need our direct help) and won’t charge extra for those services – this is an important factor to consider. Many brands may charge an extra “training fee” or “real estate services fee” or “technology fee.” Another big support is the franchisee network itself – those who are already in the brand. You should talk to them. Are the franchisees supportive of each other? Do they help each other succeed in the business? The best brands have recruited franchisees who understand that helping each other makes everybody stronger. The best brands also cultivate that culture by providing regular meetings and annual conferences to share best practices. Having a strong foundation of support is crucial for your business success.
History of the brand and veteran involvement
The franchising industry is full of shiny, new brands capitalizing on the latest trend of the moment. However, being in business for a significant amount of time demonstrates a brand’s stability and the strength of its business opportunity. A company that’s experienced fluctuating economies, consistent evolution of tech and consumer preferences, and continues to relentlessly grow – showcases this stability and strength, and relevance in the marketplace. These are key attributes of all successful businesses.
While I never served in the military myself, if I were honored enough to be a veteran, I would look at what a company was actively doing for the military and veteran communities, beyond simply being a VetFran member or just offering an incentive. Is it sponsoring events, does it employ veterans, partner with veteran organizations, give back? Many companies talk the talk, but look for those who actually walk the walk.
Most importantly, thank you. The contributions and sacrifices of our military are truly immeasurable. Your service has made it possible for companies like Pinch A Penny and countless others to thrive. I feel privileged to be part of an industry that has continually created a viable path for veterans to transition from soldier to successful business owner.
Michael Arrowsmith is the Chief Development Officer of Pinch A Penny Pool Patio and Spa, the world’s largest swimming pool, retail, service and repair franchise. Throughout his career, Arrowsmith has held senior level executive positions at several leading franchise brands, including Denny’s, Gloria Jean’s Coffee, Checkers & Rally’s, and most recently serving as chief development officer of Captain D’s. With more than 25 years of experience, his extensive understanding of the franchising industry has allowed him to achieve exceptional and sustained growth and financial results for each company’s franchise system.