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Setting Your Franchise up for Veteran Success

 To align your brand with veterans for the long term, you must make a cultural shift to become a veteran-committed company.

 By Bryon Stephens

The United States military has 1.4 million active duty servicemen and women and approximately 850,000 reserve personnel. As millions of veterans have returned home hoping to seamlessly assimilate back into civilian culture, many are instead returning to communities that don’t always recognize their talent, which can keep them out of a job market that is already difficult to navigate. With veterans’ unemployment rate around double the general population, franchises have the power to shrink the unemployment gap by putting a greater focus on veteran-focused initiatives.

It is well known that military personnel have many transferable skills to the world of franchising including strong leadership, incredible work ethic, ability to work well under pressure, function effectively in a team environment and hold an outstanding sense of responsibility. The military provides training and gives an opportunity for individuals to develop skills through real-life experience. Military personnel learn how to manage people, budgets, analyze data, understand how to adapt to different cultures and people, have self-discipline, punctuality, exceptional planning and goal-setting abilities, and are flexible enough to adapt to change.

However, knowing veterans are a great fit for franchising is not enough. Companies need to take command and engage their brand in system-wide veteran-focused initiatives. For example, in celebration of Marco’s Pizza’s milestone 500th location, opened by military veteran and multi-unit franchisee Joe Walker, Marco’s Pizza began its 500 Strong campaign. The campaign goals were to raise $50,000 across 500 locations to help 500 veterans find employment. Based on experience executing the 500 Strong campaign, here is some advice to help other franchise concepts kick-start their own veteran initiatives.

Identify Veterans in Your System

Taking a look at how many veterans are in your system and in what capacity will help you evaluate goals for veteran recruitment. Know how many veterans work in the system, how many are in management positions, how many are franchisees, how many are multi-unit franchisees and what the success has been for veteran employees. By creating a library of data and identifying the extensive involvement of veterans in the system, your franchise will better understand the importance of actively recruiting veterans not only as franchisees, but also into other leadership positions where they can get to know the company, prove themselves and then become franchisee partners. This library of data will become particularly important for communication with interested veterans to help understand their concerns, challenges, how to provide custom support and communicate better overall. Collecting data and identifying goals leads to Step Two: exploring philanthropic partnerships.

Explore Philanthropic Partnerships

With hundreds of nonprofit organizations supporting worthy veteran initiatives, it can become an overwhelming task to select the one perfect fit for your franchise. Having a military-focused philanthropy there to support your goals is crucial, but it is important to do your research before jumping into a partnership. Be sure to set up several initial exploratory calls with the leaders of the nonprofit organization to understand in what capacity they will be able to provide support, if your visions align, and if the identities of both of your organizations are a match.

One of the ways Marco’s reaches out to veterans is through USA Cares’ Job Assistance program, a national nonprofit that provides financial and advocacy assistance to post-9/11 U.S. military families. This partnership was selected because of the unparalleled amount of support USA Cares provides throughout campaigns, the goal of raising money for veterans seeking employment support, and both organizations’ overall drive to provide the American Dream to the men and women who make major sacrifices for us to enjoy our freedoms. Finding an appropriate nonprofit partner lays the foundation for any campaign.

Veteran Campaign Development

Executing a campaign can be a challenging task, especially when it comes to getting the entire franchise system on board. What do you need for a campaign?

  • Define the campaign goal: The most important aspect of campaign development is defining a clear and concise goal.  Whether it is raising funds, volunteering or recruitment, the more specific you are when setting your goal, the greater chance you will have of actually achieving it.
  • A call to action: A call to action is a phrase intended to result in action. The campaign call to action should be attached to all elements of the campaign including marketing materials, public relations efforts, social media promotion, etc.
  • A plan of attack: The campaign’s plan of attack should result in a production schedule that includes all relevant details: marketing material creation, franchisee communication, benchmark check-ins and event execution. Creating a schedule will ensure the campaign is on track and moving toward reaching the end goal.
  • Evaluation: The way you measure the success of your campaign will vary, but you always want to know the return on investment. For example, if your goal was to drive attendance to your event, you should measure the amount of attendees you received due to the campaign. If your goal was to hire a certain number of employees, be sure to track your applications. It does take a considerable amount of time and effort to evaluate a campaign, but this step should not be overlooked as it will set you up for even greater success moving forward.

Become a Veteran-Committed Company

To align your brand with veterans for the long term, you must make a cultural shift to become a veteran-committed company. This involves a company-wide understanding of military culture and values, creating programs to attract, recruit, onboard and retain veterans. For example, Marco’s Pizza is developing an apprenticeship program that will include specialized training designed to develop the knowledge and ability needed for veterans to succeed within the brand. The program will be a combination of in-classroom and on-the-job training with an overall goal to develop a store ownership path for all members of the program. The program plan is under development and will include the financial backing to make ownership possible for veterans. While aligning your brand with veterans begins with internal communication, veteran-committed companies show consistency to their commitment through various campaigns, fundraisers, employment initiatives, etc.

While the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program, in conjunction with the White House and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has helped more than 151,000 veterans, military spouses and wounded warriors enter the franchise industry since 2013, there is still more franchises nationwide can do. It is time for industry leaders to band together and take the steps necessary to align our organizations with veterans for the long term that will make a significant impact to our businesses and the lives of veterans, their families and the community.

Bryon Stephens is president and COO of Marco’s Pizza. Find him at

 Marco’s Pizza Presents $50,000 check to USA Cares



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