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New Tools Provide Veterans More Access to Careers in Franchising

Veterans now have more tools to access opportunities in franchising, including a free online Veterans Franchise Toolkit and a new VetFran Mentor Network to connect veterans to business leaders and jobs. The International Franchise Association, partnering with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, announced the new tools in 12 cities in time for July Forth as part of Operation Enduring Opportunity, the industry’s campaign to help veterans start careers in franchising.
“As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s remember that our freedom comes at a price–the service and sacrifice of our veterans,” said IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE. “Now it’s our turn to help veterans fulfill their dreams and become leaders in the civilian economy. Only franchising can offer this opportunity on such a large scale.”
The IFA partnered with the White House Joining Forces initiative to hire as team members and recruit as franchise business owners 75,000 veterans and military spouses plus 5,000 wounded warriors by the end of 2014. “This represents the largest private-sector commitment to date,” said Joining Forces Executive Director Capt. Brad Cooper (USN). Since the launch of Operation Enduring Opportunity last year, nearly 7,000 veterans have started careers in franchising, including over 4,200 new veteran franchise owners.
The VetFran Toolkit includes a skills and attributes assessment tool developed by Caliper, a finance assessment that lets veterans enter their financial details and a Franchising 101 online course to provide individuals with a comprehensive introduction to franchising.
A VetFran Mentor Network led by franchise leaders, including Sport Clips, Inc. Founder and CEO Gordon Logan, (USAF, Ret.), and Two Men And A Truck Chairwoman of the Board Melanie Bergeron, CFE, will provide counsel and develop relationships to assist veterans in the transition to civilian careers. “The VetFran Mentor Network will provide important connections for veterans interested in becoming members of the franchise community,” said Caldeira.
During the D.C. media conference, IFA partners provided additional insights.
Kevin Schmiegel, executive director of Hiring Our Heroes at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a 20-year Marine veteran, offered that “in just 15 months, the chamber and its partners have connected more than 140,000 veterans and military spouses with over 7,000 different employers through hiring fairs in 211 communities.” Nearly 10,000 veterans and military spouses have found employment through the program and that small and large businesses working together can grow by hiring “talented and highly capable veterans and military spouses,” he said.
SIGN-A-RAMA President Jim Tatem, CFE, outlined qualities such as tenacity that military veterans bring to U.S. businesses. “Folks from the military who get into franchising are willing to take that same tenacity, to fight for our economy,” he said. Tatem said veterans “improvise, they adapt and then they overcome.” Veterans make great franchisees because a good franchise is all about systems, the veterans know how to mentor and get the most from their mentors and “they’ll take the hill.” When it comes to carving out a piece of market or territory or part of the economy, “taking the hill and that tenacity is what’s needed,” Tatem added. Today, 31 percent of SIGN-A-RAMA franchises have “either veteran ownership or veteran employees,” said Tatem.
New SIGN-A-RAMA franchisee Robert “Buzz Saw” DeGroff of Fayetteville, N.C., a Marine, said he was attracted to franchising because “he wanted to run his own business” and be “my own boss.” “Most importantly, I wanted to provide a service that I’m proud of,” he said. DeGroff commended the company’s mission, core values and support systems.
Abrakadoodle Remarkable Art Education President Rosemarie Hartnett, CFE, described how a call from Iraq, which first sounded like an inquiry about master franchising, would lead to a successful husband-wife franchisee team in Oklahoma City, Okla. There were many questions on both sides, especially since the couple was serving in Iraq. “What I did learn was about the operational excellence and the leadership skills that our veterans have” and the potential that they bring to a franchise system, said Hartnett. “I was to learn about how much value they bring with their abilities to implement systems and processes, their value for teamwork and their dedication to mission and know-how for accomplishing goals.”
The UPS Store franchise owner in Arlington, Va. Wade Franklin, a Navy veteran, began looking for the way to best use his military-acquired skills to his greatest advantage. “I actually went to Google and Googled veteran opportunities, franchise opportunities,” which lead him to IFA and VetFran. The UPS Store caught his attention with its Operation Enduring Opportunity commitment to waive the franchise fee. Franklin expects his store to be up and running by October.

First Franchising Pavilion Creates Good Will and Good Business in Detroit
Some came because their boss is a military veteran. Others made the trip because a son or daughter served. Many franchise companies participated in the VA’s National Veterans Small Business Conference and Expo for the first Franchise Pavilion in Detroit because, with the region’s unemployment rate over 16 percent, and thousands of veterans seeking work, it was just the right thing to do.
The hiring fair of the unprecedented event, which included Two Men And a Truck, Aaron’s, FASTSIGNS, Big Boy, the Moran family of franchise brands—about two dozen IFA members bringing in hundreds of opportunities—represented a franchising platoon of sorts that made up 10 percent of the total number of companies involved in the event drawing nearly 10,000 veterans.
“Veterans have the discipline, the core values, the work ethic and the passion that make great franchisees,” said Two Men And a Truck Chairwoman and IFA Secretary Melanie Bergeron, CFE, who brought a team to both the hiring fair seeking team members and the Franchise Pavilion to meet potential franchisees. “This is a highly qualified, diverse and exceptional group of candidates,” Bergeron said. “It is higher-level than we’re used to seeing at expos. It’s a whole new audience for franchising.”
Earlier this year, VA officials including Sec. Eric Shinseki and Executive Director of Small Business Development Tom Leney asked the IFA to participate in the Detroit event. Traditionally a small-business conference run by the U.S. Army, the event never before included a hiring fair or “Open House” where franchisors could meet candidates. Until the end, no one was sure how many veterans would attend.
As TV trucks lined the streets around Cobo Center starting at 5:00 the first morning of the three-day event, veterans started to stream in. By 8:00, still two hours before doors officially opened, thousands of veterans were waiting to register. In the end, nearly 10,000 veterans met potential future employers at Cobo. 
Beth Solomon is vice president, strategic initiatives & industry relations for the International Franchise Association. She can be reached at 202-662-0789 or bsolomon@franchise.org.

Visit www.vetfran.com and www.ifafranblog.com for more in-depth coverage of the IFA’s veterans’ programs.

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