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VA’s Business Accelerator Program Aids Veterans and Franchises

Business ownership will enable veterans to bypass the lack of current job openings in small firms and go into business for themselves.

In the next five years, more than 1 million servicemen and women will transition from the military to the civilian job market. Many of their military skills will be difficult to apply to the civilian workforce and may be under-utilized. Returning veterans, rather than learning an entirely new skill set or returning to additional schooling, would often rather apply their military-acquired skill sets to civilian jobs.

The U.S. veteran’s distinct spirit, willpower and reasoning abilities make him the perfect candidate for business ownership. Many returning soldiers have an entrepreneurial quality and are interested in opening businesses, which means the United States will likely see a consistent rise in the number of veteran-owned small businesses over the next several years. Business ownership can enable veterans to bypass the lack of current job openings in small businesses and launch enterprises for themselves.

However, although veterans are equipped with a distinct mind- and skill-set, even these capable individuals don’t find business ownership to be a simple process. In addition to possessing the highly regarded entrepreneurial qualities of resilience, hard work and integrity, veterans are also trained within a system, which teaches them the advantages of functioning as a part of a system, following instructions and understanding logistics. The experience blends of veterans, working as both leaders and as subordinates, working in a group and as an individual and being depended on and dependent on others has made this unique demographic a near-perfect match for ownership of one business model above others: franchising.

Veterans’ Skills a Match for Franchising

The franchise business model accounted for 66,275 veteran ownership positions in 2007, according to “The Economic Impact of Veteran-Owned Franchises,” prepared for the International Franchise Association by PwC. In addition, an increase in the number of veteran jobs and veteran-owned businesses has been consistent for many years.

Franchise unit ownership positions utilize all of veterans’ most admirable qualities, making them excellent candidates for work within these proven business models. As Mr. Rooter Corp. President Mary Kennedy Thompson, CFE, a Marine captain while on active duty and major in the reserves, puts it, “They [veterans] understand the science of discipline: discipline thinking, discipline action, discipline results. How many people can put on their resumes ‘willing to take a bullet for my previous employer’? That’s commitment.”

Pair a veteran’s distinct skill set with a solid understanding of business principles and a proven business model and it’s no wonder that veterans easily make some of the best franchisees in the United States. Although honorably discharged veterans were capable of acquiring the distinguishable military skill sets and all franchisees are given a proven method of business success, many veterans lack a basic understanding of fundamental business principles.

Enter the VA Accelerator

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs understood that many transitioning veterans would better adapt to the civilian workforce with basic business knowledge, and that many of them would like to acquire this knowledge for the purposes of owning their own franchises or otherwise adapting to a business setting. The VA recognized the veteran suitability to business ownership and wanted to fill in the gaps of the already stellar veteran skills to include business fundamentals and improve the future for veteran unemployment.

“People of the military make excellent franchisees because they come out of logistics in the military and we are in a logistics business,“ said Rick Robinson, CFE, chief operating officer at Craters & Freighters. “They understand what it’s like to work in a proven system, and we have found them to be great franchisees in our system.”

This is why the VA launched an innovation, the VA Accelerator, to address the lower hiring rate of veterans in existing small businesses and to encourage veterans to become business owners and equip them with the tools to do so.

The learning environment consists of different curricula for different needs. There is a business planning curriculum for those veterans sorting out the figures of whether they can be successful at franchising, as well as a comprehensive sales, leadership, management and hiring curriculum for those who need to learn a broad range of skills.

The program is available online for maximum accessibility and its courses can be obtained from any tablet, cell phone or device to ensure convenience and mobility. This learning environment, created to equip veterans of all education and ability levels with the business skills necessary for business ownership, is available free to the qualified veteran at www.vaaccelerator.com. It is available both for veterans currently undergoing the transition out of the military, as well as to those who have already transitioned into the civilian workforce.

Leading Industries Highlighted

Within the VA Accelerator, students can learn about the top business industries veterans often enter, such as trucking or retail, from videos of top names in those industries. These help potential franchisees determine which field they would like to enter.

An “Introduction to Franchising” video introduces the concept of franchising to veterans and also exposes students to insights regarding their suitability for franchise unit ownership.

These videos feature some of the most successful names in franchising such as James Amos Jr., CFE, Fred DeLuca, CFE, Dina Dwyer-Owens, CFE, Michael Seid, CFE, and many others, to inspire veteran franchise ownership in a thoughtful way and to explain various industries based on the insights of those who know the industries best. The curricula consist of more than 100 hours of highly conceptual content that prepares future business owners for upcoming roles as leaders with an eclectic array of duties.

Smart Business Ownership

Through these materials, VA Accelerator encourages smart business ownership that promotes franchising of veterans so that they may not only participate in franchising, but may become happy and successful franchisees that are actively engaged in IFA, VetFran and other philanthropic organizations. This is beneficial to all constituents including veterans who take the course and realize business ownership might not be for them. Franchisors will know that if they’re hiring a VA Accelerator graduate, they’re hiring a motivated individual with a solid educational business foundation and veteran franchisees will go into franchising fully capable with VA Accelerator program’s skill set and their franchisor-provided training to achieve franchise success.

The VA Accelerator fosters business leadership and ownership success for veterans throughout many channels; however, IFA and VetFran in particular have worked with the VA Accelerator to encourage thoughtful entrances of veterans into franchising.

Veterans and others who utilize the VA Accelerator’s blended learning environment can look forward to a smoother franchise startup phase, an easier transition from their respective military duties to civilian business ownership and an increased understanding of institutionalized processes that help them to understand franchise systems before learning the specific processes required of a particular franchise brand. These fundamental principles will be the education that franchise unit owners utilize daily as they start, operate and grow their businesses.

Franchisors can benefit from having their veteran franchisees, or potential franchisees, engage with these resources. By encouraging veterans to work through the curriculum prior to opening or pursing one’s brand, franchisors can determine whether the veteran is a motivated, dependable and disciplined business owner based on whether he completed the extensive and challenging curriculum.

Traditional settings of higher education do not offer resources this intensely targeted, and while VA Accelerator courses do not replace or detract from franchisor-issued process documents, they were designed to establish an educational foundation for veterans to fall back on should they experience knowledge gaps.

VA Accelerator shares IFA and VetFran’s commitment to veterans’ success. “I think there is an amazing match between military and franchising,” said Thompson, a past chairwoman of the VetFran Committee.

Phillip Selleh is president of eAdvantage, Inc., a service-disabled veteran owned small business contracted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement the VA Accelerator program. He can be reached at phillip@vaaccelerator.com.

 

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