Many veterans enter the civilian world not looking to work to make someone else rich, but to branch out on their own through entrepreneurship.
One way to have a business with fewer hassles is through a franchise.
Much goes into the decision to go the franchise route. Before jumping in, do your research and make sure owning a franchise is a good financial fit for you.
Franchises vary on how much startup capital is needed, so your current financial situation will likely play a large part in this decision. You will be required to fill out a franchise disclosure document (FDD) when applying for your franchise, but this document will help you estimate potential earnings, to decide whether it will be worth it for you.
To further delve into this topic, we had the opportunity to speak with two franchise owners and asked them to share their experience and lessons learned.
Ramon Morales is the owner of a Mr. Transmission/Milex store in Highland, Indiana, which specializes in repair and installation of a vehicle's transmission systems as well as overall automotive repair services.
He has been a member of the National Guard for the past 15 years. He also served in the active-duty Army, twice being stationed overseas for a year. His most recent deployment came from 2007 to 2008, when he was stationed in Baghdad and worked as a mechanic on military vehicles and assisting with recovery services.
John Blanton served as an E-4 in the Coast Guard from 1992 to 1996. His Alta Mere franchise store offers a complete selection of aftermarket high-tech automotive accessories and driver safety products. It provides premium automotive features such as security and radar detection systems, remote starters and keyless entry, and hands-free Bluetooth phone systems. It also specializes in exterior services such as custom, state-of-the-art window tinting and paint protection applications.
An Interview with Two Franchisees
Q: What was it about the idea of owning a franchise that appealed to you? How about this specific franchise?
Ramon Morales: "I liked the idea that the startup costs were minimal as well as the shorter amount of time it takes to start seeing a return on investment. With the Mr. Transmission/Milex franchise, I liked the idea that they were willing to work with me on having a limited amount of funding."
John Blanton: "I have owned an independent business for five years, and I was looking for a way to expand and diversify my business holdings. One of the most appealing aspects about owning a franchise is that most of the important legwork is done for you. The corporate partners build the brand, negotiate with the vendors, have market research and have the resources you need to leverage your potential success.
"The primary reason I was excited to open an Alta Mere franchise through the Moran Family of Brands was because the products and services offered through Alta Mere complement our existing business. I thought that by adding Alta Mere to our automotive shop, we would have a loyal customer base to start out. As both businesses grow, so will the potential. My wife and I own Alta Mere together, and we appreciate the support we receive from the corporate partners and the other franchise owners."
Q: What early steps did you take toward owning a franchise, and what hurdles did you face?
Morales: "The main hurdles I faced were mostly financial, but I was also faced with learning how to operate a business. I took steps toward ownership by doing a lot of research and due diligence."
Blanton: "I did years of research before I purchased Alta Mere. I also used a franchise consultant who helped identify appropriate opportunities for me. I would highly recommend a franchise consultant. I would also recommend utilizing the small business resources in your area, and building a business plan based on your interests, expertise and finances."
Q: For other veterans considering the entrepreneur/ franchise route, what high-level advice do you have?
Morales: "I would say not to underestimate how much money you will need to start with. Whatever number you come up with, add 10% more."
Blanton: "The best advice I have for anyone, no matter the career path they choose, is to be disciplined. No business grows overnight by wishing it to be so. The only way to be successful is to be disciplined, determined, strategic, consistent and patient."
Q: How do you feel owning a franchise has been different than if you had pursued a traditional career? How about compared to your time in the military?
Morales: "The difference would have to be in accountability. You are responsible for the success or failure in every single aspect associated with the business. It's like raising a child, in that everything you do reflects upon yourself and no one else."
Blanton: "I appreciate that I get to be my own boss -- master of my own destiny. I also like being able to offer people jobs and create a good work environment for our employees. It gives me pride to offer secure jobs for people, especially other veterans.
"Just like in the military, you devote your life to it because others are counting on it. If you eat, breathe and never stop being dedicated 100% to business, you have a greater chance of success."
Q: Based on your experience, what did you learn in the military that has set you up well for this career choice?
Morales: "The military taught me about dedication, even through the toughest of times. It also taught me what the reputation this industry has and gave me ideas on how to change it for the better."
Blanton: "When I was in the military, I was a mechanic so I learned a lot about what is relevant to the industry I am in now. I also learned a great deal about organization and discipline."
Q: Do you have any other general advice for veterans who are still trying to figure out the right path for them?
Morales: "I would have to say think about it a lot. It takes a special type of dedication to run a business. It is definitely not for everyone."
Blanton: "My best advice is to follow your heart and find a way to do what you love. If you ... absolutely love what you do, you won't mind working so hard to make great things happen."
Be sure you know what you are getting into and consider whether the franchise route is best for you. Maybe you have your own ideas for a startup or prefer the typical 9-5 job; both are perfectly great options. But if you're ready, consider these seven tips to building a first-time franchise.
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