The word “veteran” has a dual definition, meaning both a person who has served in the military and a person who has had a long experience in a particular field. Appropriately, our military veterans often have experience in making dual sacrifices – both in their personal lives and in business opportunities – to serve our country.
These sacrifices are made proudly and thankfully. Veterans sign on the dotted line, making a deal with their country to give all that they have, including their life, should it be needed. When making this agreement, veterans forfeit many aspects of a civilian life, often including avenues to secure a healthy financial future for themselves and their families.
The business community is buzzing with companies espousing their support of helping veterans, yet veteran unemployment numbers remain stubbornly high. The stark reality is that many companies do not actually want to hire veterans for fear that they will be difficult to assimilate. This occurs with non-disabled veterans and even more frequently with veterans who have incurred disabilities during their service.
Knowing all of this, how can we as a society help our veterans make up for the business development they missed out on while serving our country? Providing business opportunities through franchising is a welcome approach and one that I discovered for myself.
After serving 31 years in the United States Army with multiple deployments and receiving a Bronze Star for meritorious service, I am proud of my accomplishments and the people I worked beside. Yet, when I looked back over those years of service, I saw missed opportunity after missed opportunity. For example, in 1998 I had the foresight to form a company to scan business documents, but in 1999 I was called to deploy to Bosnia. I had made a deal to go when my country needed me, so my scanning company – and a potentially lucrative business opportunity – went dark.
My military service came to an end after suffering injuries to my ankles while serving in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. Recovering from multiple surgeries, I began working – and eventually retired – as an administrative law judge hearing Social Security appeals. I saw firsthand that many employers did not want to hire disabled veterans, even if they publicly stated otherwise. I began thinking about my own missed business opportunities and was eventually led to Baskin-Robbins and its franchisee program for veterans.
As I worked through the franchising process, I quickly saw that Baskin-Robbins means it when they say they want to help military veterans. Baskin-Robbins managers and executives from the brand’s parent company, Dunkin’ Brands, made it very clear they wanted to help me into the business world and welcomed me with open arms.
Just as there is more than one definition of the word veteran, there is more than one background story and no “typical” veteran situation post-service. The business world has always excited me, and I was fortunate to be able to create many great opportunities for myself in public service after I retired from active duty. Baskin-Robbins has given me a great hand up, and I am now starting anew in the business world standing shoulder to shoulder (as we would say in Afghanistan about our military partners: Shohna ba Shohna) with a wonderful company and a great group of people.
In the spirit of extending a hand up, I would encourage my fellow veterans interested in franchising to follow a few important steps:
1 – Look carefully at the fine print of the opportunities to understand what they are in fact offering. When I began researching Dunkin’ Brands, I read through the veteran stories on the company’s franchising web page and could tell Baskin-Robbins was truly a franchise helping veterans.
2 – Rely on the tenacity you learned in the military. You must do the due diligence to investigate a company’s track record. Don’t just go with what you see at first blush. Also, the franchising business isn’t for everyone. Opening and running your own business is a laborious process, so make sure it’s a good fit for you. At every step of the way, the Dunkin’ Brands team provided straightforward information in a helpful way, which signaled to me that I was in the right hands.
3 – Work your strategic battle plan. In the military, we hone our ability to focus on an issue and come up with a plan of action. We are not afraid of hard work and 20-hour days, and we believe in contributing more than our “fair share” to the team. These are skills that translate very well to business ownership and franchising. Find a franchisor that believes in having your back in the trenches of business.
Tom English owns a Baskin-Robbins shop in the Lansing, Michigan, area with his wife April, who has a rich history of small business ownership and experience managing QSR concepts and convenience store locations throughout Michigan. Tom worked for years in the public sector, serving in law enforcement, as a cabinet secretary, and as a judge, in addition to 31 years in the U.S. Army.