VetFran Chair Ralph Yarusso on Nurturing Veteran Entrepreneurship
Veterans make some of the best and most successful franchise owners. According to the International Franchise Association, veterans make up only about 7% of the population, but they account for an impressive 14% of all U.S. franchise owners. Those stats are not surprising, given the qualities that veterans bring to the table: leadership, tenacity, drive, and the ability to follow a system, just to name a few. Because veterans excel at franchise ownership, more than 500 franchise brands offer discounts to recruit these stellar heroes.
One amazing success story of a veteran in franchising is Ralph Yarusso’s. His journey from the military to franchising is a prime example of how veterans are making a big impact in franchising.
Yarusso has seen and done it all. Since his service in the U.S. Air Force, he has worked on every side of franchising. He spent 23 years as a multi-unit franchisee of Meineke Car Care Centers (above, with his family), growing his business from one unit to 15. From there, he moved to the corporate side of franchising, in top leadership roles for major brands. It’s safe to say that Yarusso understands what it takes to be a successful franchise owner.
Yarusso is a champion of veteran entrepreneurship and serves as the chair of the IFA Foundation’s VetFran Committee. The organization’s mission is twofold: to educate franchisors and veterans about the opportunities in franchising and to encourage franchisors to offer discounts and incentives to recruit veteran franchisees.
Yarusso, along with fellow members of the IFA Foundation’s VetFran Committee, are dedicated volunteers united by their commitment to assisting veterans. These individuals, including CEOs, senior franchise executives, and multi-unit franchisees, share the belief that the franchise business model offers exceptional opportunities for veterans.
Being a good franchisee means being a good leader.
According to VetFran’s website, 65% of franchisors have increased veteran ownership and nearly half have recruited at least one veteran franchisee in the last year. Also, 99% have reported that veterans have proven to be a good fit as corporate employees, and 97% said the same thing about their veteran franchisees.
Yarusso attributes his effective leadership skills to the training he received in the military. “As a franchisee, the most important elements came from the initial training I received. This in turn allowed me to utilize the management style I learned in the Air Force. Being a good franchisee means being a good leader,” he says. “As a servant leader, you have to provide the tools necessary for your team members to carry out the mission and standard operating procedures set forth by the franchisor. To lead your team and create a culture in your organization with transparency, honesty always prevails. Regardless of the widgets you sell, clear communication with all stakeholders is of the utmost importance.”
Now, as a Franchise Consultant, Yarusso draws from his knowledge to advise veterans and aspiring franchise owners on how to find an ideal franchise that suits their lifestyles and personal goals. “Financial independence means something different for everyone,” he says. “If you’re miserable at work, it really doesn’t matter how much money you make. I believe that you achieve financial and personal independence when you can find happiness, own a business and grow net wealth for your family with a legacy to leave behind.”