Freedom in Franchising
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If you’ve performed your military duties to the letter, you already know the drill of adhering to a system, which makes you a perfect candidate for franchising. And franchising may be the perfect career option for you, too. After all, the “secret sauce” for franchise success is a formula of procedures dictating the creation and delivery of product and services.
“My company, Edible Arrangements, gave me anything and everything – all the tools to be successful and the blueprint to be successful,” says former Army SGT Maurice Welton. His business has grown to five locations in the southernmost tip of Texas since 2007.
“The secret is that you listen, you follow. The formula is easy. Veterans are great for this, because you don’t ask questions. Someone tells you to hitch a plow to a mosquito and says, ‘Don’t ask me how; just hook them up. Don’t question me. Just do it.’ And you do it,” Welton says.
Veterans like Welton bring a stick-to-it-iveness to their businesses and are natural growth strategists, says Robert Cresanti, CEO of the International Franchise Association (IFA). They also are adept at networking to solve problems, a key factor in franchising success, he says.
“Military members accomplish missions. They get together and say, ‘How did that work when we took 300 trucks across the desert, and what are the things we should have thought about?’ That’s how the franchisee network works,” Cresanti says. “You talk to dozens, if not hundreds, of others that have the same business you do, except maybe they’re in another state with a similar-sized city that has two high schools and a minor league baseball stadium.”
Of the 750,000-plus franchises in the United States, veterans owned about 66,000 of them in 2007, the latest data available, Cresanti says. A veteran is 30 percent more likely to hire another veteran. Veteran-owned franchises see average annual sales of $2.1 million each.
Like any military mission, franchise ownership requires detailed planning and shoring support before you see successes like Welton’s, however. Here are some lessons that veteran franchise owners have learned along the way, plus tips from companies that are actively recruiting and helping military members buy and operate franchise businesses.
You can still launch a business even if you’ve already taken a full-time job.
He had exited the Army in 2003 after serving six years as a cook and food inspector. At home after a tough day at work in 2006, he flipped on a Donny Deutsch show and saw a report about Edible Arrangements.
“I never had an ambition to open my own business originally. I’m a traditional guy who thought I would work for somebody and get a pension. That was my mindset. But I had that one day at work that made me want to get off the corporate treadmill,” Welton says. “After I saw Edible Arrangements on Donny Deutsch, I thought, ‘I can do that!’ I went on the Internet, did my homework, and one year later, I opened my first one.”
Veterans can be put off by franchising fees and other start-up costs, and Welton agrees that financing was a challenge. “Everything has to be in line with your credit score and history,” he says, adding that the franchise company itself must be a known entity to lending institutions. He was eligible to put down 10 percent for his loan due to his veteran status.
Edible Arrangements is a member of the IFA’s VetFran program (http://www.vetfran.com), in which about 650 companies offer special incentives and financial aid to veterans. Through its “Hero’s Welcome” program, Edible Arrangements offers veterans specialized training, a franchise fee discount and mentoring from existing franchisees in the system who are also veterans, says Edible Arrangements President Rob Price.
“We work closely with prospects to make sure they not only meet all our specific financial qualifications to become a franchisee, but that they also have the right personality profile to be a successful business owner,” Price says.
In addition to the aid from Edible Arrangements, Welton reinvested profits back into the company. “Originally, I wanted three stores, but as I was strategizing, I scrapped my old plan and put new plans out and created five stores so that I would have saturation domination of the local market,” he says.
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