If you’re considering investing in a franchise, this report is an ideal place to start your research. All the franchises featured are ranked highly by their franchisees. You’ll also hear from franchisees who are veterans and franchisors about their experience and learn how to find the best franchise for you. While most of the content of the report is pasted below, in order to to see the list of 2016’s Top Franchises For Veterans, you must click on the full report above or download the PDF of the full report and go to page 6. The full report contains a lot of helpful information that is not featured below such as how the veterans we surveyed in general feel about franchising on page 12, what the most profitable franchise sectors for veterans are on page 6, and more advice from franchisees who served in the military.
From Active Duty to Business Ownership: Why Franchising Makes Sense for Veterans
A Look at the Top Brands and What it Takes to Be Successful
If you are a veteran seeking a way to continue serving others and regain autonomy over your life in a supportive environment, franchising could be the answer. The franchise business model enables you to apply your leadership skills to running your own business while helping you overcome any lack of business skills you may have by providing you with a proven business model and a detailed operations plan to follow as well as support from the franchisor and fellow franchisees. This may explain why one in seven franchises is veteran owned according to the International Franchise Association (IFA). Over 66,000 veteran-owned franchises directly provide jobs for 815,000 Americans and generate more than $41 billion in GDP.
“Quite a few retiring military struggle to find quality jobs. Franchising enables them to hand pick a career opportunity for themselves,” says Eric Stites, who was a First Class Petty Officer with the U.S. Navy and is CEO of Franchise Business Review and the current Chairman of VetFran. VetFran is an IFA program that encourages franchisors to provide financial incentives, training, and mentoring to veterans interested in franchise ownership and/or a career path in franchising. Over 650 IFA franchisor members participate in VetFran.
“As I prepared to retire from my career in the army, I viewed franchising as a way of achieving my long-term goal to be a business owner,” says retired U.S. Army Colonel of Engineers, Jud Cook, who owns a Christian Brothers Automotive franchise in Riverview, FL with his wife, Jennifer. “I wanted the advantage of having a great team that focused on my success that assists me with training, required equipment recommendations, and the acquisition of property. I felt comfortable paying for this advantage which freed me from having to reinvent the wheel.” Cook also cites how having a network of other trusted franchisees who willingly share advice and counsel is very helpful. He says Christian Brothers Automotive structures franchisee peer groups and assigns a coach/trainer from the corporate office to facilitate franchisee goal setting, accountability, friendship, and moral support.
“I believe that it would have taken me much longer to gain the experience I have now and likely cost me a lot more money in mistakes or missed opportunities had I gone out on my own than I spend as a franchise owner,” says retired U.S. Army Infantry Major, Keith Roberts, who owns a HomeVestors of America franchise in Bryan/College Station, TX with his business partner, Jeffrey Mazzolini. “We benefit from the nationally recognized and trusted name of HomeVestors and the ‘We Buy Ugly Houses’ brand. Additionally, and probably more importantly, the HomeVestors team is protecting my brand, building my brand, optimizing my website, developing my software, training me on my software, designing my logos and business cards and ads, managing my marketing budget, and much, much, more for a fraction of what it would cost me to do on my own. Not having to manage all these things allows me to focus on running my business. HomeVestors also creates and hosts numerous forums where its franchisees share cutting edge ideas.”
If franchising sounds like it could be an ideal way for you to finally be your own boss, this report is a wonderful place to start your research. It helps you understand what franchising is like by featuring insight from both franchisees who are veterans and franchisors, and guidance regarding how to select the right franchise for you. The brands featured on page 6 of the full report were identified as 2016 Top Franchises for Veterans based on the franchisee satisfaction survey feedback Franchise Business Review obtained from current veterans in the system.
WHY VETERANS MAKE GREAT FRANCHISEES
Franchisors are increasingly recruiting veterans because they understand the value of their service experience.
“Veterans make good franchisees because they are results-oriented and have the discipline from the military experience to set and achieve goals. They’ve also learned to persevere through difficult times,” says John Powell, Chief Development Officer at Help-U-Sell Real Estate.
“Our experience with veterans has been very positive, largely because they have experience that translates well and they understand the importance of following a system,” says Mosquito Joe CEO, Kevin Wilson. “Veterans tend to have natural leadership skills and understand the importance of setting goals and never giving up.”
Traits franchisors value in veterans include:
Familiarity With Systems: Top franchise brands develop, teach, and support systems that allow for franchisees to operate as efficiently as possible. While serving in the military, you became accustomed to operating systems and understand why not deviating from them is important. The most successful franchisees follow a brand’s systems.
“I became interested in franchising after a friend of mine talked to me about the benefits it offers,” says Miguel Macias, who served as a Naval Supply and Logistics and Human Resources Officer and owns an America’s Swimming Pool Company franchise in Reno, NV with his wife, Melissa. “Being a military man, I was used to taking plans of action and executing them. A franchise is very similar in that you have an operations plan and as long as you follow it, you can be successful.” Macias also appreciates the support he receives from his franchisor. “America’s Swimming Pool Company has a 10-week start-up plan where we would meet once a week over the phone to plan the week and discuss strategy to build the business. This yielded amazing results! Half-way through 10 weeks, I had to cut the meetings short because I had to attend to new clients!”
A Strong Work Ethic: Veterans are not afraid to work hard to get what they want. Successful franchisees understand they must put in the time and effort required to make their business thrive.
“The Army Rangers taught me how to operate on my own, to figure out what I don’t know, and seek out the knowledge I need to succeed. I learned the value of hard work and doing routine things correctly,” says Roberts of HomeVestors of America. “Even without a boss now, I still leave the house early in the morning and spend most days in the office or out looking at or buying houses. I plan out key business events and appointments on my calendar and follow checklists before, during, and after my HomeVestors appointments. The Army also taught me that if I want to be good at something, I need to evaluate it. We spend time analyzing our Buying and Selling statistics so we can get better.”
Leadership Skills: To build a successful business, franchisees need to have a vision and clearly convey it to team members. While in the military, you learned the leadership skills needed to do these things.
“In the Navy I learned decision making and attention to detail. These principles were ingrained in me since the beginning of my naval career,” says Macias of America’s Swimming Pool Company. “As a naval officer you often have to make decisions with incomplete information, and you have to trust your decision. Then you may have to make corrections, but the important part is that you made the decision and kept the ship moving forward. The attention to detail piece balances the decision. As a business owner, these principles translate directly. So far, our clients have commended us for this attention to detail that is often lacking in our competitors.”
An Appreciation of Teamwork: The military instills teamwork. You trained for countless hours and lived with your unit. Successful units followed orders and worked together. At strong franchise brands, the franchisor and franchisees work together for the greater good of the system including improved franchisee profitability and unit economics.
Perseverance: One of the primary reasons new businesses fail is that their owners become overwhelmed by challenges early on. Military training taught you to strive to overcome obstacles and not give up. Although the franchise model removes many challenges a start-up business typically faces, you will still face challenges all small business owners do and the drive to persevere will help you be successful.
“My military training has made me be resilient,” says retired U.S. Army Captain, Communications Officer, Larkin Frazier, who owns a CruiseOne/Dream Vacations franchise in Nashville, TN. “The first year was a challenge and I learned a lot of lessons.”
A Desire to Serve: You likely chose to serve because you wanted to make a positive difference in the world. As a franchisee, you’ll be serving your community by providing a needed service or product. Pinch A Penny’s Franchise Development Manager, Adam Heflin, believes veteran franchisees bring another benefit to the table. He says, “The public likes patronizing veteran owned businesses, so Pinch A Penny promotes our veteran franchisees in marketing materials that are distributed to customers in relevant markets.”
HOW TO FIND A FRANCHISE THAT IS A GOOD FIT
With so many franchises to choose from, it’s important to narrow down the options to ones that are the best fit for you. It helps to ask yourself a few questions and then see, based on your answers, which franchises are the best match.
What are my personal short- and long-term goals? How much money do you need or want to make? How many hours do you want to work? When do you want to retire?
What role do I want to have in the business? Do you want to handle the day-to-day operations or have a manager do so? Most franchisors offer a hands-on opportunity, while others offer more of a management one.
How much can I afford to invest? Franchise start-up costs vary greatly, depending on the industry and business model. You should look at the initial investment versus the expected return, along with your income, lifestyle, wealth, and equity goals.
Do I have the necessary basic skills? Many franchisors look for franchisees who have basic business know-how, while others look for specific expertise or require no business experience at all. All look for an entrepreneurial drive to succeed.
Can I see myself doing this for years to come? Do you have a passion for the concept? Does it have meaning to you?
TO IDENTIFY A STRONG FRANCHISE CONCEPT
After narrowing down your options to franchise concepts you’re most interested in, it’s time to do your due diligence prior to investing in one. Doing so will help ensure the franchise you select will be able to meet your financial and personal objectives.
One of the best ways to know if a franchise opportunity is really as good as it appears is to look at its third-party franchisee satisfaction data. Franchise systems that don’t provide third-party data may have deeper issues than just not being transparent. Many of the brands featured on page 6 of the full report share their company franchisee satisfaction survey results within the Franchise Reviews section of FranchiseBusinessReview.com. The results provide insight into how current franchise owners rate their brand in several areas that are important to the health of the system including franchise support, franchisee-franchisor relations, franchise operations, and financial opportunity.
You should also be sure to call current franchisees, visit franchise locations, meet with the corporate team, and carefully analyze the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). An in-depth breakdown of the FDD, which provides information about the franchisor, the franchise system, and the agreements you will need to sign, is presented as on-demand video segments within the FBR Franchise Buyer’s Toolkit at FranchiseBusinessReview.com.
“The best advice I received before investing in my franchise was to call as many franchisees as possible,” says Frazier of CruiseOne/Dream Vacations. “I found out the good, the bad, and the truth. The feedback from each franchisee helped me make an informed decision on entering this business.”
If you are currently deployed, doing the required franchise research can be challenging. Many franchisors, however, are rising to meet this challenge.
“We have a very thorough franchise development website with a lot of information, including videos, an active blog, and lots of content to get a feel for what it’s like to be a Mosquito Joe franchisee and how to decide if it’s the right opportunity for you,” says Wilson of Mosquito Joe. “We also have an e-brochure that is provided by our franchise sales team and when necessary arrange virtual meetings or Skype sessions to give veterans the opportunity to still meet our team and have face-to-face interaction with us. A large part of our sales information is available through a series of online webinars that can be accessed anywhere an internet connection is available.” 20% of Mosquito Joe franchisees are veterans.
VetFran will also be making identifying quality franchises easier in early 2017 by implementing thresholds for franchisors to be able to participate in the program. Franchisors will have to apply to qualify for membership in VetFran at three “Star Levels”—one, three, and five—which will be awarded to them based on the maturity and strength of their system.
HOW TO FINANCE YOUR FRANCHISE
The largest barrier when it comes to opening a franchise is typically access to capital. As mentioned earlier, franchise brands that participate in the VetFran program offer various financial incentives to veterans to become franchisees.
“As a member of the VetFran program, we offer a $2,500 discount on the franchise fee,” says Wilson of Mosquito Joe.
Some franchisors that do not belong to VetFran also offer general financial incentives to join their systems. “We offer financing with only $2,500 down and 0% interest, along with a start-up kit that contains much of what a new office needs to get off the ground. It includes everything from yard signs and postcards to a website and coaching,” says Powell of Help-U-Sell Real Estate.
Many banks and other financial service companies offer discounts/fee waivers for veterans. Be sure to identify yourself as a veteran and specifically ask what special incentive programs they offer veterans.
Financial vehicles you can use to fund your franchise investment include:
SBA Loans: One of the most common forms of financing, these loans—up to $5 million—are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and lent by banks. In addition to being a source of funding, the SBA offers mentoring, training, and educational materials to veterans. It also has a list of regional Veterans Business Outreach Centers, which may provide useful training and counseling on small business and franchising for veterans. In addition, its Office of Veterans Business Development is another helpful resource.
Low-doc SBA Loans: An alternative for those searching for lower amounts of capital, $150,000 or less, these loans offer you the same benefits as SBA Loans with a shorter turn-time.
Rollovers for Business Start-Ups: Rollovers for Business Start-ups allow you to utilize your retirement funds without taking a taxable distribution to start a franchise.
Portfolio Loans: If you own bonds, mutual funds, stocks, or other securities, you may be able to leverage those funds to open your business—without liquidation.
Unsecured Loans: You won’t need collateral to qualify for these loans, which can happen in just three weeks’ time. They are a great option if you need a fast funding solution.
For more information about the above funding options, visit the Franchise Financing section of FranchiseBusinessReview.com.
A good way to reduce the financial burden of starting your business is to look at ones that are more affordable to get off the ground. There are many franchises that cost $100,000 or less in addition to those on page 6 of this report as you’ll see if you read Franchise Business Review’s 2016 Top Low-Cost Franchises report, which is available at FranchiseBusinessReview. com.
For a detailed walkthrough on funding your franchise, check out the FBR Franchise Buyer’s Toolkit, which provides a lot of helpful information.
AN EXCITING NEW CHAPTER
Starting a new life after active duty is an exhilarating time. When thinking of whether you want to work for someone else, start a business from scratch, or enter franchising, consider that 89% of franchisees who are veterans say they enjoy operating their business.
“I just have to say it, I like being the boss. I get great personal reward from charting a course and then watching our team reach the goal. Second, I love serving. It’s why I loved the military,” says Cook of Christian Brothers Automotive when asked what it is he likes most about franchising. “Finally, owning my franchise allows me to be a generous provider for my family and my church. I make a great living doing stuff I like to do.”
“I am blessed to own a business that allows me to have fun, help people out of bad situations, support my family, and actually be there to enjoy my kids growing up,” says Roberts of HomeVestors of America. “I enjoy the challenges of figuring out which directions to expand in and love being able to lean on the tried and true systems either built into the franchise or gleaned from fellow franchise owners at the HomeVestors summits and conventions.”
Just like any business, franchising is not a get-rich-quick endeavor. Success requires time and effort. Also, franchisees’ level of success is dependent on a variety of factors including their innate business acumen, the location of their franchise, and marketplace conditions. Your familiarity and comfort with systems, teamwork, and following a step-by-step protocol combined with selecting the right franchise, will certainly improve your chances of succeeding. A good place to begin your search is our List of Top Franchises for Veterans on page 6 of the full report.