Each day, George Kok divides his time between the two Mr. Transmission/Milex auto repair stores he owns about 15 miles from each other in Louisville, Kentucky and Clarksville, Indiana. He is one of the longest tenured franchise owners in the system, having purchased the store in Louisville in 1983 before adding a second location 15 years ago. He credits much of his success as a business owner from the experience he gained during his three and a half years teaching operations control for Chinook helicopters in the United States Army in the early 1970’s.
“I received excellent training in the military about the hydraulic systems in helicopters, which I now apply to automotive transmissions,” said Kok. “I also learned the importance of discipline, accountability and chain of command, which has been the core of my operations as a franchise owner for more than 30 years. There is a business hierarchy with customers, employees, vendors and others, and it is my job as franchise owner to oversee this interworking system and make sure it runs correctly.”
There are many other examples of veterans such as Kok who have transitioned from their time in the military to find success as franchise owners. A 2007 Census Bureau Small Business Owner survey showed there are more than 66,000 veteran-owned franchises, which equates to about 14 percent of all franchises in the United States. According to a 2014 study conducted by the International Franchise Association, 203,890 veterans started careers in franchising between 2011 and 2014, while 5,608 veterans became franchise owners over that same period of time.
Why is franchising such a great fit for veterans? Consider the some of the following reasons:
- Military experience requires strong leadership skills and motivating others, improving processes and accomplishing a defined mission.Like the military, successful franchisees lead their employees to accomplish the mission as a team.
- The military has extensive training and teaches unique skills used to carry out very specific tasks.Franchising also has comprehensive training and support built into the franchise process. This means a veteran can enter a completely new field and be likely to succeed by following the franchisor’s proven business model and completing the training program.
- An established franchise business operates on proven systems and defined procedures. Executing systems and following procedures with precision is emphasized in military training, and leads to success in franchising.
Franchisors recognize the skills and experience gained in the military translates to business ownership, and have been aggressively pursuing veterans for their companies. Sixty-five percent of franchisors surveyed in the 2014 IFA report indicated that the total number of veterans being recruited into their company had increased in the previous 12 months from the time of the study. Of the franchisors surveyed, 97 percent felt that veterans are a good fit as franchise owners within their company.
“Many of the veteran prospects we meet with have the work ethic, discipline and leadership we look for in franchise owners,” said Pete Baldine, President of Moran Family of Brands, and franchisor of Mr. Transmission/Milex. “One benefit franchising offers is the opportunity to become a business owner without having a background in marketing, accounting or sales. Franchise companies offer comprehensive training in all areas of business operations, and provide an established business model to follow. That often helps veterans overcome any lack of experience in a given field gives them guidance on what they will need to do to become successful.”
Moran Family of Brands assigns experienced owners in the system to serve as mentors for first-year franchisees. Baldine also noted that as veterans entering the workforce during slow times may find it difficult to find high-paying job, business ownership can be a great alternative. Moran counts 15 veterans among their total of 120 franchise owners in the system.
While many of Moran’s owners received technical training while in the military that they have applied to their careers in automotive repair, others get into franchising to achieve entrepreneurial success in their careers.
U.S. Army reservist William Bruck opened a Visiting Angels franchise four years ago in Monroe, MI between a tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Visiting Angels provides in-home senior care to disabled and senior clients, helping them get dressed daily, organize medication, shop for groceries, and plan meals. Although he did not initially plan for a career in home care services, he developed a passion for keeping aging veterans in their homes and decided to pursue a field that allows him to serve fellow veterans and their families.
Many franchises like Moran Family of Brands and Visiting Angels are members of VetFran. The initiative provides U.S. Veterans with a 10 percent franchise fee discount, mentorship and training programs to assist any honorably discharged transition to civilian life.
The transition from active duty to civilian life can be a challenge for veterans. However, as Kok and Bruck have shown, there are many great entrepreneurial opportunities for veterans through franchise ownership. This Veterans Day we can all thank those who have fought for our country as well as celebrate the success they have gone on to experience in the business world.
For more information on the VetFran initiative, please visit www.vetfran.com.