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Veterans

Sport Clips Founder & CEO Gordon Logan addresses Bridging the Gap rally for Veterans

This week, USAF veteran Gordon Logan spoke to Bridging the Gap, a new organization in Georgia helping veterans transition between active duty and a civilian career.  On Veterans Day, he has shared his remarks with VetFran:

Thank you for inviting me to this important event to focus on Bridging the Gap….helping our Veterans integrate into today’s economy.  We are all here today for an incredibly important reason that is close to my heart—to express our support for America’s troops and veterans and to publicly let them know that they will never be forgotten, that we truly care about them.

I have been asked to speak about BRINGING BACK PARTIOTISM.  I think in order to discuss bringing back Patriotism, it will be insightful to review what Patriotism has meant to Americans over our history, then contrast that with today’s realities.

Our Veterans today face new and daunting challenges, similar yet different from those that Veterans of previous conflicts faced when they returned home. Dealing with an unprecedented level of serious injuries and disabilities, in large part due to the superior medical care our military provides to our front line troops.  Facing repeated, lengthy separations from friends and family over a number of years…..a decade of continual conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And, trying to transition into a civilian career when the country is in a serious recession with high unemployment.

What resources are available to our newly separated Veterans who enlisted after 9/11, and to those who have served for many years?

Today the mood of the country is quite different from what we experienced coming back from Southeast Asia in the 60s and 70s….it is encouraging that soldiers and Veterans are held in high esteem today by the public, yet the maze of programs that have emerged to help our soldiers can make the transition to civilian life confusing and frustrating.

Some are proving to be quite effective, while others have not….the task is to get the right resources to the right people at the right time.

I also want to review with you the role of the International Franchise Association and over 500 franchisors to make opportunities available to Veterans who want to be in business for themselves.  Working in concert with the VFW, the Veterans Administration, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Administration and many other groups many Veterans are becoming entrepreneurs, owning and operating small businesses that are the backbone of our economy, and giving them control over their own destiny.  And review why Veterans are, in many cases, ideally suited for franchising and other entrepreneurial endeavors.

And, I will use the example of our company, Sport Clips Haircuts, to illustrate how one small company can help to make a difference.

To start, let’s review what Patriotism has meant to our citizens over the past 200+ years.  Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Indepence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 – more than one in seven – fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

They signed, and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.

Eleven were merchants.

Nine were farmers and large plantation owners – men of means, & well educated – but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed.

The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

Many of us take these liberties for granted……..but we shouldn’t.  Patriotism had a very high price for these brave men, without whom we would not have the country we have today.

In the Revolutionary War, 25,000 died in combat or due to sickness, exposure or starvation.  Another 25,000 were wounded…..50,000 out of a total population of only 2.5Million, 2% of the population.  To put that in perspective, over 5 Million people live in the greater Atlanta area – imagine what impact it would have if 100,000 people in this area were killed or wounded on today’s battlefields. 

In the War Between the States, the last war fought on American soil, 625,000 died on both sides…and another 600,000 were wounded, 4% of a total population of only 31Million….not many more than today live in GA and FL.  War was real to everyone back then, and patriotism required personal sacrifices by the general public unimaginable today.

WWI, which we joined late in the war, claimed over 300,000 dead and wounded.

WWII, which lasted not quite five years for the US, claimed over 400,000 dead and almost 700,000 wounded….almost 1% of the population of 133Million.

The Viet Nam conflict claimed 58,000 dead and another 153,000 wounded.  While very large numbers, only one tenth of 1% of the population.  The percentage of dead and wounded as a percentage of the population has been going down significantly, reducing the impact on the daily lives of the vast majority of Americans.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed almost 7,000 KIA, with another 42,000 wounded, many seriously.

The ratio of wounded to KIA in WWI and WWII was a little less than 2:1; in Viet Nam it was almost 3:1.  Today, that ratio is 6 ½ to one, in large part due to the superior medical care our military provides to our combat soldiers.

Wounds that would have resulted in death in previous conflicts are treated more quickly with better technology…..which accounts for the tremendously high number of seriously wounded Veterans who are struggling to rebuild their lives in a difficult economy.

The time has come to do something more than just say a few words of encouragement that might temporarily boost morale. The time has come to actually put into motion a game plan that promises real solutions and real results.

Indeed, we must start building the bridge to effectively span the gap between active duty and a civilian career to ensure better lives for America’s troops and veterans.

Today, I am overwhelmed and seriously disturbed by statistics such as these:

Veteran unemployment has been going down, but remains several percentage points higher than the national average.

Women make up 15% of our active duty forces, and unemployment among post-9/11 women Veterans is especially troubling, now almost 20%.

National Guard and Reserve troops are even harder hit…up to 50% unemployment among returning Guard and Reservists has been reported in some states.

One out of every three Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffers from Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or a combination of the two due to combat trauma.

There is a backlog of 1.2 million claims at the Veterans Administration. 

A third of all homeless citizens in America are veterans.

These indeed are staggering and disturbing facts and in my opinion totally unacceptable. We as a nation not only need to ask ourselves “why” this is occurring but more importantly we should be urgently committed to ensure that there is a positive and immediate reversal.

Too often we hear and read these statistics, yet we feel helpless to do anything about it.  I am pleased to report to you that many companies and organizations are doing something about it:  Sears, USAA, Ryder Trucks, Aaron Rentals and CitiBank are only a few that are actively recruiting Veterans.

Veterans organizations such as the VFW, the American Legion, DAV and others are actively working with Veterans and employers to assist with the transition to civilian life.

The International Franchise Association has a well-established program to assist Veterans who wish to own their own business to get into franchising.  The Veterans Transition Initiative, known as VetFran, has been in place since 1991 offering reduced franchise fees and other assistance to Veterans.

In cooperation with the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the US Chamber of Commerc, the VFW and others, the program continues to expand.  Over 150 new franchisors have joined VetFran since last Veterans Day, now totaling over 530 franchisors who have committed significant financial and people resources to assisting Veterans own their own business…..in business for themselves but not by themselves.

Last year the IFA announced Operation Enduring Opportunity, an unprecedented commitment by the franchise industry to hire as team members and recruit as franchise business owners 75,000 veterans and military spouses, plus 5,000 wounded warriors, by 2014.  This will be critical given that over 1 MILLION troops will transition out of the military by 2015.

This year we established the IFA’s Veterans Mentor Program, of which I am proud to be Chairman.  This program enrolls top executives of franchise organizations to coach and counsel Veterans who are considering franchising as an option.  Very strict guidelines are in place to ensure that mentors do not gain financially from their relationship, making sure that Veterans receive unbiased input to help them decide if franchising is right for them.

As of today, over 64,000 veterans, military spouses and wounded warriors have started careers in franchising, including over 4,300 who have become veteran franchise business owners,  since the 2011 launch of Operation Enduring Opportunity. 

This is especially significant given that Veterans hire veterans. Veteran franchise owners are 30 percent more likely to hire a veteran than non-veteran-owned franchise businesses.  95% of Veteran franchisees surveyed believe that veterans are a good fit for employment within their franchise business.

How have Veterans done in franchising?  In a recent independent survey, 83% of Veterans reported that they enjoy operating their franchise business;  81% enjoy being part of their franchise organization; and, 79% would recommend their franchise brand to others.

Why are franchises making this effort?  In addition to feeling a sense of responsibility to show our gratitude to our Veterans,  we have found that Veterans make outstanding entrepreneurs and franchisees. Some of the attributes of military leaders that are beneficial and contagious in an entrepreneurial environment include:

  • Emotional control in stressful situations. Veterans are trained not to over-react to bad situations, which can keep you from making good decisions during that critical time. On the other hand, controlled emotions can provide motivation and adrenaline to keep you or your team willing and eager to work when times are tough due to stress from lack of sleep, limited funding, client issues, etc.
  • A focus on the team, not on yourself. Officers and NCOs are trained to support their troops; not the other way around. Successful leaders achieve their goals due to their ability to build and support a successful team.
  • Knowing your limits and pushing them, but not going too far. Despite the military’s “G.I. Joe” image, soldiers are told “Don’t be a hero,” cautioning that they not bite off more than they can chew. When dealing with combat situations, lack of self-awareness of your own capabilities can lead to injury or death. In a business, this mentality can lead to failure.
  •  No fear of failure. In the military, certainty about anything is a rare luxury in battlefield decisions; the same applies to making significant decisions as entrepreneurs. It’s critically important to be able to effectively plan, execute, delegate, supervise and review the outcome of an operation or initiative, and not get bogged down in the pursuit of perfection before you take your first step.
  • Strong ethical convictions. A moral compass is essential when you have absolute authority in a situation that could have life-or-death outcomes. As challenges, technical issues or other stresses creep into reality, some leaders can choose an unethical “easy wrong” over the “hard right” which erode the fabric of integrity and destroy morale, if not an entire organization.

What can a small business do to help?

Sport Clips has been franchising 17 years; we now have almost 1,000 locations in 45 states.  We have been strong supporters of the IFA’s VetFran program: Over 12% of our franchisees are Veterans, many of whom are among our top performers.  Since 1997 Sport Clips has been the official haircutter of the VFW.

Each year in support of the VFW’s “Operation Uplink,” Sport Clips locations across the country collect donations and hold fundraisers for our “Help a Hero” campaign to provide free and readily accessible telephone calls between U.S. troops overseas and in hospitals and their families back home.

The VFW uses 441 access points in Afghanistan and Kuwait to provide this service for our troops. Since 2007, Sport Clips has donated over $1.3 million dollars to this effort, providing over 2 MILLION free phone calls so our troops can stay in touch with their loved ones while separated.  We are in the process of raising another $500,000 this year to continue this much-needed program.

This morning we have reviewed what sacrifices Americans have made over the history of our country to ensure our freedom, going back to the brave signers of the Declaration of Independence.

We discussed that today a much smaller percentage of our population is directly impacted by military service and sacrifice than in times past, making it all the more important to make the effort to say “Thank you for your service” to our soldiers and Veterans.

We noted the extremely high ratio of wounded today, making re-entry into the civilian work force a more daunting task for our Veterans, especially in these economic times.

We reviewed the high unemployment rate among our Veterans, especially among women and National Guard and Reserve forces.

And we discussed how many companies, Veterans organizations, the IFA and over 500 franchises are making the effort to give our Veterans a shot at a better life.

President John F. Kennedy said:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Today, we need to say “Ask not what your military and Veterans can do for us, but what can we do to express our gratitude to those who serve and who have sacrificed so much, to help our Veterans transition into a meaningful civilian career after they have served us so well.”

These young men and women have fought for us.  Now it’s our turn to fight for them.

God bless our troops and veterans! God bless America!