Vets Victorious With Aaron’s Advantage

Aaron’s is leading the way among franchise businesses in helping military veterans find their way into franchising with ownership and employment opportunities. “The high investment level doesn’t necessarily attract veterans getting out of the military, so our primary objective is to hire veterans and provide careers,” says Tanner. “Within the next five years approximately 185,000 vets will be released from service and put on the streets. Instead of trying to find that one needle in the haystack, one prospect to buy a store, we’re looking to help provide employment to develop careers.”

For veterans who are interested in buying a franchise Aaron’s is a good fit because it runs like a military base. “Veterans are disciplined, dedicated, and follow instructions well. Aaron’s too, is all about following procedure,” says Greg Tanner, National Director- Franchising at Aaron’s, a member of the International Franchise Association’s VetFran committee, and a leader behind the IFA’s Operation Enduring Opportunity Intiative. “Aaron’s Veterans run top notch stores and have the upmost respect for the industry and what we do. They’re leaders.”

More than 1,000 Aaron’s employees and franchise owners have served in the Armed Forces. With the company’s comprehensive training and support, veterans are put at ease owning and managing their own Aaron’s franchise, or employed in an executive-level position working in an Aaron’s store.

Training begins the day the agreement is signed. Assigned a team to assist them throughout the entire process, the new franchisee spends two weeks at Boot Camp in Atlanta, GA, and undergoes field training in operating stores. When their location is ready to open, franchisees are not alone. “The corporate team stays with them until they are comfortable that they can handle running their new business,” Tanner says, adding that operations and procedure manuals are also available to all franchisees. “We don’t totally rely on the manuals because we implement a program to make sure they learn everything step-by-step. There are no shortcuts to our program and Aaron’s doesn’t have failure rates. We don’t have stores that lose because of the foundation we build our franchisees.” While training can take up to four weeks, those weeks are merely setting the foundation of continuous training for the span of a year.

Aaron’s ongoing field support is second to none, and for every 40 franchisees one field support person is assigned to be responsible for the every day support of those stores. This individual works within the stores, ensuring procedures are done correctly and overseeing where weaknesses lay to help continue growth within the business. “This person is basically the Franchising CEO. They aren’t there to train the franchisees, but rather the store managers and supervisors,” Tanner explains.

Currently experimenting with franchising in the UK, Aaron’s is opening up 30 locations to use as stepping-stones for the rest of Europe. “Rent-to-own originated in London, England, and to this day is still a very strong concept there,” Tanner says. Aaron’s is also looking to expand in key markets throughout the Northeast and California.

Setting Aaron’s apart from its competition is its 8,000 to 10,000 sq ft stores, impressive inventories, and monthly leasing program. “Unlike our competitors who lease on a weekly basis, we feel like customers prefer knowing they aren’t forced to come in and pay every seven days,” Tanner says. “Our stores are bigger, brighter, and we know why our customers are there so we give them a great selection.”

To Veterans interested in joining the franchise industry Tanner encourages you to read his book, Tannerisms, before making any decisions. Filled with wise captions and valuable information, the easy to ready book can be downloaded for free to help you be combat ready before buying a franchise. “The book explains how to avoid being trapped by a predator. There are 4000 different franchise concepts out there and people want to take advantage of vets because they are such hard workers.

Entrenched in the business, Aaron’s operates as a grassroots type of environment, and the military base is a strong customer base of the company. A strong support of Veterans, Aaron’s is committed to making it possible for them to own or operate a store. “It’s just as important that our franchisees are supportive of the military. They’re ready to hire these men and women when they’re ready to go to work,” Tanner says. “At the end of the day Veterans can put something on their resume not a lot of people can, and that is they were willing to take a bullet for their last employer. That’s commitment.”

Aaron’s, Inc. is a national leader in the sales and lease ownership of brand-name furniture, electronics, appliances and computers. With more than 2,200 stores throughout 48 states and Canada, and 21 years experience in franchising, of these locations 900 are franchises. Today over 55 million households across North America know and trust the Aaron’s name.

Founded in Atlanta, GA, in 1955 by entrepreneur R. Charles Loudermilk Sr., Aaron’s has been publicly traded since 1982. In 2009, Aaron Rents re-branded to Aaron’s, Inc to bring the company in line with the same name that all stores now operate under. Reaching $3.5 billion in sales, Aaron’s is an industry leader in serving the moderate-income customer, offering affordable payment plans, quality merchandise, and superior service. Aaron’s has been responsible for many of the industry’s most successful and innovative marketing, operational, and manufacturing programs.

At Aaron’s customers can count on a low price guarantee on every item and are prequalified as soon as they step foot into a store. The only requirements to lease from Aaron’s are a proven source of income, two references, and a home address. Customers can also choose payment terms of either a monthly or semi-monthly basis.

“Aaron’s serves an extremely underserviced clientele. Typically, Aaron’s customers’ household income is under $60,000 a year, and a lot of customers have credit restraints and are therefore unable to get the things they need to function,” explains Tanner. “We give people the opportunity to have things in their home they normally wouldn’t be able to own.”

On the other hand, Aaron’s franchising opportunities attracts high net worth individuals. “People don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I want to buy an Aaron’s.’ We’re more of a stealth franchise in that people don’t recognize, understand, or think about what we do,” Tanner explains. “People with large net worth usually haven’t been to an Aaron’s.” Aaron’s’ franchise owners don’t work in store, but rather manage a large staffing crew and own multiple units. Aaron’s franchisee Charles Smithgall is a Vietnam Veteran and owns 117 locations.

The requirement to qualify as an Aaron’s franchise owner is $500,000 in liquid cash. “An Aaron’s franchisee is typically someone who is experienced with managing people, money and cash flow,” Tanner says. “We attract individuals that are familiar with running a business and know how to balance a P&L.”  The franchise fee is $50,000.

Aaron’s franchising process takes from three months to one year to complete. The process begins when the candidate fills out the application and provides their financial information. Similar to the process of buying a house, Aaron’s application includes thorough paperwork. “We’re going to guarantee franchisees $450,000 and a line of credit to grow their inventory, so we need to make sure we’re finding the right people,” Tanner explains. After practicing their due diligence, candidates then attend a Discovery Day where they meet the internal staff. “I like to call it a validation day because by this point we’ve had a lot of conversations with the candidate, so it’s their chance to validate that we are who we say we are; a company of substance,” Tanner says. At the end of the Discovery Day candidates are given the FDD. “We put the ball back in their court. Returning the FDD to us is their ticket to get on the bus,” he adds.

Candidates who are awarded a franchise next set out to find a location. “We have a complete real estate department and construction department. Aaron’s assists franchisees with selecting the location, negotiating the lease, and hiring staff. The entire process is important and we make decisions the same as we would if we were opening a corporate store,” he adds.

-Jessica Spoto

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