Why Veterans Who Want to Start a Business Should Consider Franchising

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Andrew Eberst, Bun-D franchise owner at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Bun-D is a new restaurant to promote healthy habits for airmen. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Sari A. Seibert)

Does the idea of owning your own business and being your own boss excite you? There are many reasons veterans make excellent entrepreneurs after military duty: The commitment, discipline, resilience and other skills developed during your time in the military are paramount to success as a business owner.

If you prefer the idea of leveraging established branding, positioning and systems from known companies, a franchise could be a good option. Here, you attain business ownership, yet you aren't starting a business from scratch.

The Department of Veterans Affairs defines a franchise as "a business model that involves one business owner licensing trademarks and methods to an independent entrepreneur. Sometimes, franchises are referred to as chains." With most franchises, you're taking advantage of all the advertising, promotions, visibility and customers developed by the franchisor, and running your business under their guidelines and protocols.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, "When you buy a franchise, you get the right to use the name, logo and products of a larger brand. You'll also get to benefit from brand recognition, promotions and marketing. But, it also means you have to follow rules from the larger brand about how you run your business."

There are different types and forms of franchising, but the most familiar are franchises in the retail space, packing and shipping services, professional services industry, or food and hospitality sectors.

In "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty," I discussed the advantages and challenges of entrepreneurship, including franchising. Included were comments by Susan Scotts, a career transition coach who helps veterans pursue franchise opportunities.

Scotts shared that "there are more than 3,000 franchise brands in the United States today, spanning 85 different industries (only 10% of franchises are food related)." Franchises can be home-based and service-based, and some franchise models can be successfully worked part-time, making them ideal opportunities for transitioning service members.

Before you dive into a franchise opportunity, consider these questions:

1. Why are you called to business ownership? Simply answering, "I don't want to work for someone else" is rarely enough. Be specific about why you are drawn to entrepreneurship, and which skills, talents, connections and experiences you bring that will set you up for success.

2. Are there franchise opportunities in areas you enjoy? For example, if you love home organizing, pet sitting, catering, tax preparation or logistics services, consider franchises in those areas.

3. Do your current skills align with business ownership? If you've never managed inventory, lack basic accounting skills and hate sales, are you sure that entrepreneurship is calling you? If you need business skills, consider gaining those before embarking on business ownership.

4. Have you talked to other veterans who own franchises? Learn from those who are in the position you're working toward. Ask direct questions about their experience, what they like about their work, and what they don't like.

5. Can you invest what's needed to get launched? Regardless of whether your business is a franchise or not, starting a company takes funding. Does your lifestyle support this?

6. Have you researched the franchisor? Before you get into business with anyone, you'd need to do due diligence. Learn all you can about the franchisor's business practices, track record and support of franchises. Talk to other franchise owners about their experience.

7. Are you clear on the benefits you'd receive from the franchisor? This is not the time to make assumptions. Before purchasing a franchise, be extremely clear about what's included, what's expected of you and what the franchisor will not provide.

8. Have you explored all options around franchising? Talk to the SBA about its funding offers for veterans and take classes and courses on entrepreneurship, basic business skills and working with employees.

9. Have you discussed this idea with your family and support network? It will be important to have their honest feedback, support and encouragement as you navigate the ups and downs of business ownership. Their ability to refer your business could also be an advantage.

10. Is the time right for business ownership? It might feel like an attractive opportunity, but consider your current lifestyle and how franchising would fit in. If timing isn't ideal, you could use this time to learn all you can about the business model and opportunities and then, when the timing is better, make the leap.

Business ownership is both exciting and scary. Working with a credible and well-established franchisor can take away some of the startup risk if the business model meets your short- and long-term career goals.

-- The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A Personal Branding Guide for the Military-to-Civilian Transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication, and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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