VFC Puts Veterans in Business – for Themselves |
Published in the July/August 2012 issue of print Search & Employ® |
One option for veterans not only puts them in charge of their careers, but also makes sure they have the backing of a solid organization. That option is franchising.
Most people associate franchising with the fast food industry, but there are actually franchises for just about every business you can think of. Whether it’s cleaning office buildings, painting houses, financial planning, or selling Italian ice, there is a franchise for it.
Franchise owners who give a 110 percent effort tend to succeed. And, even though the franchise owner is his or her own boss, the franchise provides the benefits of name recognition, training, marketing, and other resources that might not be available to an owner who goes it alone.
But it’s tough to know what franchise is right for a potential franchisee, and tough to know how and where to get started. Veteran Franchise Centers (VFC) can help. VFC provides free guidance to veterans and military families entering into franchise opportunities that are available through the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program and other franchise channels. RecruitMilitary, publisher of Search & Employ®, is affiliated with Veteran Franchise Centers.
Rich Ashe, a Marine veteran based in Houston, is the owner of Veteran Franchise Centers and a certified franchise advisor. His military experience and civilian career have put him in a great position to help veterans find – and run – successful franchises.
“I enlisted in the Marines right out of high school and served seven-and-a-half years,” he said. “My first three-year tour was in the infantry as an 0311 (rifleman). I was a fire team leader and a squad leader. I completed tours of duty in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. I re-enlisted in 1979, and went to school at Naval Air Technical Training Command Memphis for electronics. After achieving my certification, I was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro on a joint Navy, Marine, Air Force project in which I was responsible for a maintenance team for a newly developed air-to-ground digital photo targeting system. I separated as an NCO in 1984.”
His civilian experience is just as varied as his military career. “After serving in the Corps, I started my career as an electronic technician for an international communications company,” Ashe said. “I worked my way through the ranks to professional services engineer for key accounts in the New York City metro area. I moved on from there to IT architect at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City, and held positions in the computer and software field over the next 25 years. My last role was vice president of global marketing for a German software company.”
His experience with start-up companies comes in handy when discussing franchises with prospective owners. “I have always been an entrepreneur,” Ashe said. “During my 30-year career, I have participated in four software start-ups and started a couple of businesses of my own – including a consumer computer training firm ComputerTutor and network consulting firm LanDyzn.”
Though he’s had successful careers wherever he’s gone, Ashe knew that he wanted to end up in a position where he could help veterans the way he needed to be helped when he left the military. “What led me to Veteran Franchise Centers is remembering the day that I was discharged from the Marines,” he said. “I was so happy to have completed my tour, and then it hit me. I was standing looking down the long road in between the strawberry fields outside the base with the gate behind me and a long empty road ahead me. What happens now? What’s next?
“When I look back at that moment I wish I had someone next to me to advise me and say ‘Hey, Rich you’ve got options. Let me show you some of the things that you can do.’ Today, veterans have lots of options that weren’t available to me back then. I chose Veterans Franchise Centers because I wanted to leverage all the lessons learned about what it takes to achieve a successful life and business and help veterans fulfill their dreams.”
VFC can do that because it’s a franchise advisory firm and broker. “We focus on helping veterans get into business using franchising as the vehicle,” Ashe said. “Franchising has a much higher success rate than entrepreneur start-up businesses because there are a lot fewer variables involved. When you purchase a franchise, it comes with the owner’s manual and standard operating procedures. Franchising fits well with the characteristics and skills that veterans attain during their tour of duty.”
He believes that veterans make great franchisees because being a member of the military and being a member of a franchise have many things in common. “The thing that attracts veterans is that the franchise model is similar to a military model,” Ashe said. “A franchise model provides a lot of that structure in a way that is similar to what someone who’s served in the military is used to. Before joining, you research options to determine which opportunity is right for you. You make a commitment. Training comes next, where you learn all about the system. This includes how to walk the walk and talk the talk. And then you learn your selected occupational specialty in the classroom and in combination with on-the-job training.
“When training is completed you start your assignment, and you are expected to perform. If you have questions you check with your team members, and if they don’t have the answers you go up your chain of command to ensure you are executing properly to achieve mission objectives. When you to boil this down the lessons learned are simple; Follow the system and you are rewarded; don’t follow it, pain and consequences follow.”
Veteran Franchise Centers does a lot more than point veterans in the right direction. “A VFC Advisor interviews veteran candidates to assess their capability to enter into franchise opportunities,” he said. “We provide financial and skills assessment, franchise education as well as guidance on financing. We also recruit and vet franchisors, review their FDD to ascertain their suitability for veteran candidates.”
Ashe said that franchises love to have veterans join them as franchisees. “Many of the skills and characteristics that make successful veterans – dedication, loyalty, perseverance, leadership, teamwork – make them excellent franchisees,” he said. “On average, veterans outperform other franchisees across industries.”
Ashe understands exactly what it takes to be a franchisee because he is one himself. “VFC is a franchise,” he said. “The experience has been both challenging and rewarding. Challenging because I was actually the founding franchisee. Rewarding, because I have the opportunity to chart my own destiny and have control over my financial freedom. There are only three ways to become wealthy in the United States. Win it, inherit it, or own your own business.”
Now is a great time to think about franchising. Franchisors are offering great incentives, and bankers are rolling out express loans.
But while the drive to sign veterans ramps up, the fit still has to be right. Even if a VFC assessment doesn’t lead a veteran to franchise, VFC can still help the veteran find success. “While VFC mainly focuses on helping veterans find a franchise to own, we also realize everyone is not in a position to make the investment required today,” Ashe said. “Once we understand what stage of life they’re at, we try and provide guidance to get them to where they would like to be in the future. Guidance on education needed, business planning resources like the local Small Business Development Centers, SCORE, etc. Our goal at VFC is to help veterans succeed no matter which path they choose today and where they want to be tomorrow.”