Military veterans take multiple routes to owning a franchise
‘Failure is not an option’ for an Always Best Care franchisee, a veteran who applies the slogan to her business. She is one of many answering the call to buy a franchise after military service, each for different reasons.
After working in the corporate space for several years, Tammy Taylor activated her military expertise and training.
Dave Davis, a U.S. Army and Air Force veteran, owns a Mosquito Squad franchise and says he enjoys the work and the independence.
She became an Always Best Care Senior Services franchisee in November 2011 in Marlton, New Jersey, providing in-home non-medical care and assisted-living placement services. She made the change after working in corporate procurement and contract labor staffing and services for 13 years. Before that, she was a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman for six years.
She and her husband, Robert, invested $130,000 to launch the business and expanded it shortly after opening. Taylor has built a strong base of new and existing customers. In 2012, Taylor’s first full year in business, she was named Always Best Care’s “Rookie of the Year” winner. Revenue in 2013 totaled $953,000, nearly eight times higher than in 2012. She projects 2014 revenues of $1.2 million.
Taylor attributes the rapid growth to her military experience, which she says gave her traits like integrity, honor, commitment and tactical savvy to become a franchisee. “‘Failure is not an option’ reigns true on a daily basis and has provided my team the foundation necessary to succeed,” she says.
Their own bosses
Many of the nation’s veterans like Taylor are their own bosses. There are around 22 million veterans in the country. U.S. military veterans owned 2.4 million businesses, or roughly 9 percent of all businesses nationally in 2007, the most recent data available, according to the Census Bureau. Further, there are now 640 member companies of the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program, up from roughly 250 in 2011.
Kevin Blanchard, a U.S. Marines veteran who runs IFA’s VetFran program, says the demand for franchisors that actively recruit veterans as franchisees is increasing, with about a million veterans transitioning out of the military during the next five years. Veterans are viewed as good franchisee prospects or new hires because the military’s culture and operational procedures are often parallel to franchise systems.
An industry-wide survey conducted in October 2013 by Franchise Business Review showed gains in veteran franchise ownership and career participation. The number of veteran franchise owners was 5,192 and the number of new veterans and military spouses in franchising totaled 151,557 since 2011.
The IFA in 2011 launched a VetFran campaign known as “Operation Enduring Opportunity” to hire 80,000 veterans, military spouses and wounded warriors as employees and recruit franchise business owners through 2014. More than 250 new franchise companies have joined VetFran since the campaign was launched.
Other survey findings showed veteran franchise owners were 30 percent more likely to have hired a veteran than franchises not owned by veterans. The most popular franchises for veterans include automotive (16 percent), general services and food (both 15 percent), residential/home services (11 percent) and business services (8%).
Incentives also lead veterans into franchising. Some veterans can receive discounts or waiver of franchisee fees that are not typically offered to civilian franchisees through VetFran. A list of participating companies and the discounts they offer is available at www.franchise.org/veteran-franchise.aspx. Veterans and military spouses can learn more about the franchise industry through a free VetFran Toolkit at http://www.vetfran.com/vets.
Veterans helping veterans
After serving a combined 43 years in the U.S. Air Force, Dawson and Tonya Baker invested an estimated $43,000 in savings in January 2013, to open a Next Day Access franchise in Columbia, South Carolina. The business sells aluminum wheelchair ramps, wheelchairs, stair lifts, pool lifts and other products to seniors and veterans with disabilities to help them achieve independent living and overcome mobility challenges.
Posting revenue of $200,000 last year, Dawson expects to more than double that amount this year. He projects the gain will come from serving a larger pool of individual customers, expanding into the Charleston, South Carolina, retail market and selling items to vendors.
The Bakers retired as master sergeants in 2010. Dawson spent 23 years in multiple positions, including serving the last four years as a first sergeant working with airmen on professional and personal development. Tonya served 20 years handling duties ranging from supply and logistics to overseeing human resources activities.
Dawson says the Air Force taught the couple core values such as integrity, service before self and how to apply excellence in what they do. “Our military experiences really gave us the necessary focus and skills to manage our business, move forward and know how to be successful,” he says.
Operating a niche business with a growing demand from customers, Dave Davis invested about $40,000 to open a Mosquito Squad franchise in March 2012, in Dothan, Alabama.
He did so because it met his longtime desire to run his own firm. Mosquito Squad focuses on eliminating mosquitoes and ticks outdoors. Davis says the franchise allows him to build a nest egg for retirement and perform work he enjoys.
Revenue has grown since he opened the seasonal business, coming in at $30,500 in 2012 and $77,000 in 2013. This year Davis expects to reach $150,000. “People know that this product works and how effective it is,” he says.
Davis became a franchisee after serving 27 years in the U.S. Army and Air Force, where he did everything from flying helicopters to managing and working as a mechanic.
Some perks for veterans go above and beyond
Marking its biggest recruitment promotion ever for retired soldiers, sailors and marines, Always Best Care Senior Services is giving away franchises to veterans.
Tonya and Dawson Baker bought a Next Day Access franchise, which sells products like aluminum ramps to help disabled veterans and others get around.
The Roseville, California-based franchisor has launched a contest to award 51 free franchises to military veterans in every state and the District of Columbia, a deal valued at over $2.6 million. Veterans have until December 31, 2014, to complete entries, and winners will be announced on or around February 1, 2015.
“Veterans make outstanding franchisees and business owners,” said Michael Newman, founder & CEO of Always Best Care. “Their leadership abilities and get-it-done attitude perfectly reflects the style and culture we look for in prospective franchisees.”
For winning franchisees, Always Best Care will waive its initial franchising fee of $44,900 and another $6,300 in royalties, marketing fees and staffing fees for six months. For more details, visit www.abc4free.com.
Always Best Care is not the only franchisor offering veterans extraordinary perks. Other brands are providing beyond-the-basic discounts hoping to build their franchise roster and offer the military clan an extra push to become entrepreneurs. Here’s a sampling:
CruiseOne, promising 25 percent of its franchise system will be military veterans and military spouses this year, has launched a new veteran employment program. The franchisor is offering discounts for franchise owners who hire former members of the U.S. military or active-duty military spouses as associates. A $495 training fee will be waived for franchisees who hire or contract with at least one military veteran or military spouse. Further, CruiseOne for the third straight year in 2014 will have a giveaway contest of five franchises to veterans through “Operation Vetrepreneur: Be Your Own General” beginning mid-May. For more information, visit www.cruiseonefranchise.com.
TCBY Yogurt and Mrs. Fields Cookies, both owned by Famous Brands International, is waiving the $35,000 per unit franchising fee for the first 50 qualifying military veterans who join the brands. The program was launched in March 2014, and will continue until the veterans are awarded the franchises. The franchisor says the program’s special giveaway is worth $1.75 million in free franchise fees. For more details, visit http://franchise.tcby.com/
FlipFlop Dogs, a canine business that’s an alternative to kenneling, is waiving the $37,500 franchising fee for one qualified military veteran. The giveaway contest is geared to folks looking to pursue small-business ownership after service. The contest will launch in mid-2014 and the winner will be announced following the selection process. For more details, see http://flipflopdogs.com/franchising/.
Baskin-Robbins is offering new development incentives for U.S. veterans who open new franchises. The franchisor will waive the 20-year initial franchise fee, worth $25,000, for honorably discharged military servicemen and women who sign a franchise agreement this year. Baskin-Robbins also will offer those franchisees a 0 percent royalty rate for the first two years and reduced royalty rate for years three through five. Baskin-Robbins is a unit of Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. For more information, visit firstname.lastname@example.org
Signal 88 Security, through its “Operation American Dream,” granted $5,000 to a male or female veteran to start his or her own business or $10,000 to open a franchise under the brand’s name. In its second year, the contest called for Army and Air Force veterans to submit a video explaining why they wanted to become business owners. A winner was announced in late May. Signal 88 Security plans to offer such an incentive for Marine and Navy veterans in October 2014. See www.signal88.com.