For newly retired military personnel, managing the transition from the rigorous, structured lifestyle the armed forces provides back into a civilian role can be challenging. Many companies are still reluctant to hire young military veterans; consequently, armed service members are increasingly utilizing the various skills they learned during their service by starting their own small businesses or purchasing into a franchise. Purchasing a franchise has been one of the best decisions for one such veteran, Cpt. Andrew Wilson.
Soldier to Franchise Owner, Making the Change
After his first stint in the military ended in 2003, Wilson purchased into the rubbish removal franchise 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, and then after retiring from the military in 2012, he founded a local moving company EZ Move. When GOT-JUNK founder Brian Scudamore discussed the possibility of creating a moving franchise, Wilson jumped at the opportunity and used his new company as the franchise’s base model. The end result is You Move Me, where Wilson’s Tulsa, Okla., business made nearly $1 million in revenue within its first year.
“I wanted a career where I wasn’t stuck in a cubical manning the fax or copy machine,” said Wilson. This reason led him to join the military and purchase a couple of franchises. He stated that his success in running his day-to-day business operations directly correlates to the lessons and skills he learned in the army.
Franchise vs. Starting Your Own
In the military, Wilson says he became used to having an proven system, which if followed, almost guaranteed success. Veterans who want to open their own business will discover the tried and tested business plan established franchises can offer eliminates a lot of the stress, legwork and mistakes.
The majority of businesses fail within the first few years of opening, but franchises can have a much higher success rate when operated properly.
Wilson says he knew this was a perfect transition from military to civilian lifestyles for him since he didn’t have to come up with an idea and business—he just had to make it grow. Veterans have the capabilities to make awesome franchise owners. While they may lack some business knowledge, the ongoing support and training that many franchises offer help them to quickly learn the ropes.
Know You Strengths and Weaknesses
Running a business requires wearing a lot of different hats, some you’ll excel at, others, not so much. Wilson knew that his strengths rest in building relationships and driving sales. He isn’t into creating marketing materials or designing processes; that freedom is one of the main reasons he decided owning a franchise was a perfect choice. The leadership, communication, and team building skills he learned in the military easily transferred into running a franchise. Knowing your weaknesses and assigning other’s task you’re not good at eliminates roadblocks and learning curves that can stall your business’s growth.
Wilson knew his business would falter or fly during his first year of franchise ownership. The moving company franchise he purchased was still young, and he needed to build brand name recognition from the ground up. He networked and leveraged his relationships to get clients and build recognition.
Soon his franchise took off and customer demand necessitated hiring new employees. “Hiring good employees is key in any service-based business,” Wilson said. “Experience isn’t the biggest factor when it comes to hiring decisions; making sure [employees] are passionate about providing great customer service is key.”
Hundreds of franchises exist, and choosing the correct one to buy into can be daunting. The good news is that veterans have several resources to locate a proper match that takes into account interests, skillset, connections and finances.
Veterans can visit The Department of Veterans Affairs on franchising and Vet Fran, a group dedicated to assist veterans in researching and finding the right franchise, as well as helping veterans find funding.
Wilson says planning ahead before choosing a franchise is important. He saved money for nearly two years in order to fund the You Move Me venture.
Franchising is a big investment and commitment. Just because you have a big name behind you or a proven model doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. With any successful business, hard work is required. Wilson knows this first hand. His military career prepped him for the challenges he has faced being a franchise owner. His hard work and determination has helped him close over $1 million in revenue the first year of business and he has high expectations to continue growing.