Written by Stephen J. Caldeira, President and CEO of the International Franchise Association (IFA)
On November 10, 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and the International Franchise Association (IFA) announced Operation Enduring Opportunity as part of the White House Joining Forces Initiative. It’s an industry-wide campaign to recruit and hire 75,000 veterans and 5,000 wounded warriors as franchise business owners by 2014, represents the largest veteran hiring commitment to date.
Operation Enduring Opportunity builds on IFA’s VetFran strategic initiative, founded in 1991, which includes more than 460 IFA franchisor member companies offering financial incentives, training and mentoring to veterans interested in small business ownership and/or a career path in franchising. Since the program’s inception, more than 2,100 veterans have become franchise business owners.
With its rapid training opportunities, unique organizational structure and need for team leadership and operational excellence, franchising has proven a successful path for military veterans. One out of every seven franchise businesses is owned and operated by veterans, according to a recent study conducted for the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation. More than 66,000 veteran-owned franchise businesses in the U.S. directly provide jobs for 815,000 Americans, and generate more than $41 billion in GDP.
There are many reasons veterans thrive in franchising. As in the military, missions are accomplished by the team, not individuals. Military training centers around the idea of accomplishing the mission and leading and working with others. Through their time in service, veterans develop strong leadership skills and a thorough understanding of roles and responsibilities within a team environment.
Franchises run on systems. They have comprehensive training for specific skills used to carry out specific tasks. Implementing systems and improving processes are key in the military, and this directly translates to the franchise world. There is no better prospect than a veteran to enter a new field, follow a franchisor’s proven business model and utilize any guidance or support offered to become a successful franchise owner. A veteran would again become part of a large family that offers a viable support structure by joining a franchise. This is a familiar world for the veteran to work within, having come from a similar structure in the military.
IFA’s Operation Enduring Opportunity campaign also offers support for veterans by seeking passage of the Help Veterans Own Franchises Act (H.R. 2888 and S. 1540), which provides franchise small-business start-up tax credits of up to 25 percent of the initial franchise fee (not to exceed $100,000) to veterans. The IFA also supports measures to enable veterans to use GI Bill funds for franchise and business training.
These opportunities exceed those available to veterans of previous generations. “When I came back from Vietnam, there was nothing for veterans,” says IFA past chairman Jim Amos, now chairman and chief executive of Tasti D-Lite. “We can’t let that happen again.” With measures like these now in place, the future is brighter for veterans.
Though it cannot be the entire solution, introducing franchising as an avenue for transitioning our veterans into leaders of the civilian economy is an important part of the answer.
Stephen J. Caldeira is president and CEO of the International Franchise Association (IFA). Find out more about veteran opportunities in franchising by visiting www.VetFran.com, a strategic initiative of IFA.