Aug 08

Marine on a Mission: Franchising as Post-Military Career

Mary Kennedy ThompsonAs you assess the many options of a second career following military service, Mary Kennedy Thompson, a former Marine Corps officer, wants to be sure that you consider joining the thousands of American veterans who have become successful owners and operators of their own franchise businesses. In addition to serving as President and CEO of Mr. Rooter, Mary serves as Chair of the VetFran Committee of the International Franchise Association (IFA.)

VSB: Why is the International Franchise Association reaching out to connect with veterans in transition?

MKT: As a Marine Corps veteran, I know from experience that military service is a great asset in a civilian career, but making the transition requires mission-focus.  As one million service men and women return from deployment in Southwest Asia and leave the military by 2015, our industry has stepped up to offer opportunities to assist in the transition.  Not only is this critical for the economic and social stability of veterans and their families, but it is an important component of the U.S. economic recovery as well as the future of our nation.

VSB: What specific skills are needed to be a successful franchise owner and how do those dovetail with the talents of those currently leaving military service?

MKT: Franchising provides an ideal structure to enable returning veterans to become leaders of and productive participants in the U.S. economy because of its systems, training, support and need for team leadership and operational excellence. These are skills honed in military training.  According to the U.S. Census, one out of every seven franchise business owners is owned and operated by a veteran.  More than 70,000 veteran-owned franchise businesses in the United States provide jobs directly for 815,000 Americans and generate more than $41 billion in GDP.

To sum it up, veterans are good for franchising, and franchising is good for veterans. In fact, for many, it’s a perfect fit.

In 1991, the IFA launched VetFran, a strategic initiative to help Gulf War veterans access business ownership opportunities in franchising. In 2011, as hundreds of thousands of service men and women began to return from Iraq and Afghanistan, the IFA and franchised businesses launched Operation Enduring Opportunity, a campaign to hire and recruit as franchise business owners, 75,000 veterans and their spouses, and 5,000 Wounded Warriors, by 2014.

VSB: Is purchasing and operating a franchise an expensive proposition? If so, how can military members do this without putting their family’s savings and retirement income at risk?

MKT: Franchises come in all sizes and investment levels. Through Operation Enduring Opportunity, over 480 companies are offering incentives. Some companies are waiving franchise fees altogether. Lenders and other sources of financing have stepped up. For example, my company has two programs that financially help honorably discharged U.S. and Canadian veterans. Through the VetFran and Program for Assisting Veteran Entrepreneurship (PAVE) we provide a range of incentives and discounts. These include, but are not limited to, a 25% discount on the purchase of the initial base franchise territory as well as in-house financing for qualified veterans.

VSB: Would you share an example of another military leader who retired from the Armed Forces and is now a successful franchise owner?

MKT: Since the launch of Operation Enduring Opportunity last year, over 7.200 veterans have started careers in franchising; over 4,200 of those as franchise business owners used discounts offered by VetFran.  Many of our industry leaders and past IFA Chairs are U.S. military veterans.

Robert “Buzz Saw” DeGroff became a SIGNARAMA franchisee in February 2012 with the help of the VetFran program. Prior to becoming a business owner, DeGroff served in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 2011, most recently holding the title of Special Operations Command Sergeant Major.  As part of its Operation Enduring Opportunity program, SIGNARAMA is offering significant discounts, as much as 50%, to veterans interested in opening up their own business. The savings are estimated at up to $40,000.

VSB: Where can military leaders learn more about special franchising opportunities for veterans?

MKT: The IFA Veterans Franchise Toolkit can help veterans access and explore franchise opportunities with skills and attributes and financial assessment tools, an online course, a catalogue of opportunities offered by over 480 VetFran members, and access to the VetFran Mentor Network, staffed by franchise business leaders. For more information, we encourage transitioning veterans to visit: www.vetfran.com




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