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Guest Blog: James M. Wilson on Franchise Opportunities for Veterans

This week, we are delighted to feature a guest blog from James M. Wilson

Veterans and Franchising

When leaving active duty, veterans often first look to finding a job in the defense industry or in aviation or other career that is strongly related to their active duty experience. This is appropriate because there are plenty of adjustments in moving from the military to the civilian world without adding completely unfamiliar work requirements to the mix.

One area that veterans traditionally give little attention to is owning a business through buying a franchise. Generally, the first reaction a veteran has to the idea of buying a franchise is either that they don’t know anything about or don’t want to get involved in fast food or they don’t have the available cash or net worth to qualify to own a franchise restaurant. While there are many fast food restaurants franchise opportunities available, numerous other industries use franchising to expand and those opportunities are worth considering. Some may be very similar to the active duty experience of the veteran.

Franchise systems in the US have always recognized the special attributes that veterans can bring to their systems as franchisees. Veterans are comfortable working in a system that requires them to follow rules and to take charge. Veterans are generally more independent and therefore more comfortable with doing their work independent of oversight but within guidelines that the franchise system lays out.

The striking thing for veterans about owning and operating a franchise is that they do not need to be experienced with making pizza, for example, to own a pizza franchise. The franchise system provides methods for that. What a veteran brings to a franchise is an ability to follow the instructions of the franchise in effectively operating the business. Franchises are operated according to an Operating Manual that spells out all the operating procedures of the franchise. Veterans are familiar with having such a manual that details much of what the need to do to fly a plane, drive a tank, set-up and operate a field hospital or kitchen. Using and following those manuals as well as being comfortable with the idea of having this reference to refer to, to solve problems is subtle skill set that veterans have from their military experience that civilians may be unfamiliar with and have to develop. But more importantly for the veteran considering buying a franchise, the operating manual is a source of familiarity with the new business world that he/she is entering by buying a franchise that is not available if he/she starts a business on his/her own.

Recently veterans have gotten some assistance for acquiring franchises. The International Franchise Association re-launched the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, or VetFran, by which IFA member franchisors provide special deals for veterans. The offerings under VetFran stem from reduced franchise fees to special financing deals. You can get more information on VetFran at the International Franchise Association’s website, Additionally, in the past year the SBA announced a special loan program to assist veterans with financing for buying franchises and other business needs. The Patriot Express Loan program provides loans of up to $500,000 to veterans at reduced interest rates. Additionally, Patriot Express loans are processed more quickly than normal loans so they can be closed and disbursed in less time than other SBA guaranteed loans.

James M. Wilson is Contributing Editor to Operation Franchise. Operation Franchise is a quarterly magazine focused on helping veterans research, buy and run franchises.

He is a retired Navy Commander (O-5) and a business attorney in Richmond, VA. He is also a graduate of the US Naval Academy (1980) and the University of Richmond Law School (1992).

To find out more about franchise opportunities for veterans, visit our information portal which features a series of articles on franchise opportunities for veterans.

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