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A Military Veteran’s Story of Franchising: The Battle of Business

The Brambles appreciate many things about being part of a franchise; one of the greatest was being a part of an extended family.

By Chris Loudermilk, CFE



Ray Bramble’s story of his journey into franchising starts when he signed up for the delayed entry program in 1982 between his junior and senior years of high school. Although Bramble didn’t know it at the time, he was signing up to be part of the biggest franchise in America, the U.S. Armed Forces.  Bramble shares something we’ve heard many times now in franchising: “The military shares so much in common with franchising, the biggest part being that you have a set of systems outlined that you follow, as they are proven to work either in battle or in business.”

Bramble entered active duty in 1984, starting his military career as so many others had at Fort Benning, Ga.  Shortly after, he was recruited to the “Old Guard,” the Army’s official ceremonial unit and escort to the president, and was immediately shipped to Fort Myer, Va. to join the 3rd U.S. Infantry Presidential Escort Unit. He finished training at Arlington National Cemetery and was then permanently stationed with the Delta Company, 2nd platoon. While there, Bramble performed many retirement ceremonies, two reef-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with then-Pres. Ronald Reagan, and was involved in more than 1,000 burial ceremonies.

Bramble received the Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Special Certificate of Achievement for leading his team for The Best Funeral Ceremonies for the year.

“The ability to follow a system that makes sense and works, being where you say you are going to be and be there on time every time were things that have definitely helped me in my franchise today that I was able to really learn and understand in the military,” said Bramble. “They may seem like very simple things, but it’s amazing to me how often these things I see aren’t done on a day-to-day business. All the way down to uniform requirements in the military, we were taught to take pride in our appearance. In our Aire Serv franchise today you will see every team member not only in the required uniform, but each one looks just as good at the beginning of the day as at the end.” In the heating and air conditioning business this is not always an easy task.

After Bramble retired from the military, he and his wife Tina decided they wanted to start their own heating and air conditioning business. Things weren’t easy for them, but Ray always believed that if you are ready to earn your living and ready to reap the rewards, it will eventually happen. He said his life changed after having multiple conversations with franchise developer Eddie Baker of Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning of Waco, Texas. Although he never thought about franchising, the conversations sparked his interest. Bramble said after coming to Waco for discovery day, meeting the Aire Serv team and upon learning that Aire Serv was part of The Dwyer Group, he immediately knew things were going to change for him and his family.

“After meeting Dina Dwyer-Owens and attending her design-your-life class, I immediately knew that I was in the right room,” said Bramble. “I still feel as much like family as I did on my very first visit to the world headquarters as I do to this day.”

Putting the Systems to Work

Ray and Tina immediately went home after training in 2008 and put into practice what they learned into Aire Serv of Bull Run, based in Front Royal, Va.. “I didn’t question anything they told me,” said Ray. “I knew The Dwyer Group had a proven track record of helping and growing businesses, to me it was an absolute no brainer. This is the advice I give to any veteran when exploring a franchise opportunity.”

The Brambles felt that the leadership of the corporate staff, as well as the fellowship with other owners, was exactly what they needed to take their business to the next level. Since aligning with Aire Serv, taking their business to the next level is an understatement. Not only have they had double-digit percentage growth every year, but they are now among the top dollar gross sales earners in the system.

They also have stepped up to take leadership positions within the brand. As part of the advisory committee, they have been instrumental in taking the brand promise to new heights. They pride themselves in doing exactly what they say, and doing everything they can to make the brand as good as it can be. They recently filmed a commercial that takes the core of Aire Serv that easily shows the consumer what makes the brand different. In fact they have been so successful with it that many other franchisees have adopted it as their own.

The Brambles appreciate many things about being part of a franchise; one of the greatest was being a part of an extended family, as well as the tutelage that they get from other owners and the corporate staff. “It’s a lot like the brotherhood I have from being in the Army; I could go anywhere and immediately bond with someone I met that served. I can go to any part of the country and meet a fellow franchisee or their staff, and immediately have that connection,” Bramble stated.

Lessons Learned

When Ray was asked about the biggest lesson he had learned from owning a franchise that he could share with other veterans or civilians alike, he said:  “Listen closely and work exactly what is being taught, it’s obviously worked for others. Always stay as involved as you can with the franchise group and corporate staff to keep up with everything new and what’s working. Business, whether franchised or not, isn’t easy; if it were we would all be millionaires 10 times over. But a franchise helps take a lot of guessing out of the picture and helps you not make mistakes you would otherwise probably make. Good, bad or indifferent mistakes in small business usually cost time and money.”

The Brambles shared that they love that The Dwyer Group is so passionate about helping veterans, and appreciate that the VetFran program helped them save money that they could use as working capital to invest into the business that they wouldn’t have had without it.

Since the inception of VetFran in the early ‘90s, The Dwyer Group founder Don Dwyer made it a point to do what he could for military veterans to make a better life for themselves and their families. Dwyer started VetFran with a very simple mission, help as many men and women who have served our country better their quality of life. He saw franchising as the best avenue he knew to do this. The Dwyer Group has helped more than 200 veterans by providing more than $1 million in discounts over the past two decades.

Chris Loudermilk, CFE, is a retail sales manager for The Dwyer Group.  Find him at





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