Posted on Nov 06, 2010
Franchise Financing for Veterans
Military veterans are one of the most successful groups of small business owners in the country, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. They own proportionately more small businesses than the general population, plus their gross income is more than twice that of non-vet owned small businesses.
Developers of franchise opportunities have long recognized that veterans fit the ideal profile of a great franchisee. The parallels in background and orientation between veterans and franchises are clear. Veterans are disciplined, understand the importance of teamwork, and are willing to follow the rules to execute a proven system. It is no surprise that VetFran, a program created to help veterans become franchise owners, is one of the most poplar programs in the history of the IFA.
VetFran, originally known as the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, was spearheaded by the late Don Dwyer shortly after the Gulf War ended in 1991. It was re-initiated in 2003 with the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Corporation, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. VetFran now boasts more than 200 participating franchise companies and has enabled more than 600 former military personnel to become franchise owners.
VetFran is a simple voluntary program designed to be a win-win. It provides franchise companies with a pool of exceptional potential franchisees while offering very real help to veterans who want to acquire a franchise. There are two basic areas of tangible assistance that VetFran offers as far as franchising for veterans:
1. Information: Through VetFran, the information available to veterans goes beyond what is available to the general public. The program provides specific information about financial and other assistance available from specific franchises.
2. Financial: Participating franchise companies offer special financial incentives to qualified veterans that are not available to non-vets. Incentives typically total tens of thousands of dollars worth of aid through reduced initial franchise fees, scholarships, additional training and support, or material credits.
We thought it would be interesting to talk to a real life veteran who actually took advantage of VetFran to get the real scoop. So we interviewed Lenny Geibel, owner of Spring-Green Lawn Care in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Lenny came out of the Airforce in 1993 after spending four years as a ground radio maintenance technician. He returned to corporate America and worked as a cable technician for Bell South - until an injury kept him from returning to work. He decided that owning a business was a good alternative and proceeded to research business opportunities. That's when he came across the Spring-Green Lawn Care franchise, one of 200 VetFran participants.
Q: How did you learn about the VetFran program?
A: Spring-Green made me aware of it. One of the reasons I decided to go with Spring-Green is because they do take care of veterans.
Q: What did the program do for you?
A: It gave me a 25% break on my $35,000 franchise fee, which is not too shabby. I was able to use that money to turn back into the business, which helped me ramp up a little quicker than normal.
Q: What did you learn in the military that has helped you run a successful franchise?
A: The discipline and diligence that the military will instill in a person is number one. Attention to detail has really helped me, too, especially in the lawn care industry where it's critical to have an exacting eye. And perseverance and a determination to win, to succeed. Before I went into the military I'd have to say that I was your typical shiftless teenager. The military helped me get my priorities and my morals straight and that has translated well to running a business.
Q: Would you recommend franchising to other veterans?
A: Absolutely. It's a great system and following a system is definitely something that translates from the military. It's just a natural fit.
Q: Any advice on finding a good franchise that works with veterans?
A: Go to the VetFran websiteand look at the list of providers there. Try to find the kind of business that you think would suit you, your personality, and your market. It's a great resource that can give you a nice little leg up that your common (civilian) person doesn’t enjoy.
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