Q: What is VetFran?
A: VetFran was founded in 1991 as a strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association (IFA). VetFran includes over 650 IFA member companies offering financial incentives, training and mentoring to veterans interested in franchise ownership and/or a career path in franchising.

Q: Why was VetFran founded?
A: VetFran was founded in 1991 by the late Don Dwyer, Sr. (USAF, Ret.), founder of The Dwyer Group and IFA Chairman, to support veterans returning from the Gulf War as they transition to the civilian economy.

Q: What is Operation Enduring Opportunity?
A: As hundreds of thousands of young men and women return from Iraq and Afghanistan, including many wounded warriors, the International Franchise Association and franchised businesses launched Operation Enduring Opportunity, a campaign to hire, and recruit 80,000 veterans, wounded warriors and their spouses through 2014.

Q: How does it work?
A: The IFA has partnered with the White House Joining Forces Initiative, MOAA, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others in this unprecedented recruitment effort. Members set company targets through the VetFran program, which offers recruitment tools and solutions as well as outreach to veterans.

Q: How many veterans have chosen franchising as a career path?
A: One in seven franchise businesses are owned and operated by veterans of the U.S. military, according to a recent study conducted for the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation based on U.S. Census data. More than 66,000 veteran-owned franchise businesses in the U.S. directly provide jobs for 815,000 Americans, and generate more than $41 billion in GDP. Since the November 2011 launch of Operation Enduring Opportunity, over 151,000 veterans started careers in franchising, including over 5,100 new franchise business owners.

Q: Why are veterans successful in franchising?

  • Veterans come back with strong leadership skills and a thorough understanding of teams. Military experience includes leading and motivating others, improving processes and accomplishing a defined mission. Similar to the military, successful franchisees and employees accomplish the mission with a team.
  • An established franchise business operates on proven systems and defined procedures. Executing systems and following procedures with precision is emphasized in military training, and leads to success in franchising.
  • Franchises provide training. The military has extensive training and teaches very specific skills used to carry out very specific tasks. Franchises also have comprehensive training and support built into the franchising process. This means a veteran can enter into a completely new field and be more likely to succeed by following the franchisor’s proven business model and completing the training program.
  • Franchises are team-orientated, for which he or she is part of a larger system that is focused on a collective mission larger than him or herself. You’re in business “for” yourself, but not “by” yourself.

Q: Is the Wounded Warrior component distinct from the effort to assist non-wounded veterans?
A: The Wounded Warrior component focuses on industries that may be particularly suited to disabled veterans, such as franchises in information technology, tax preparation and home-based businesses. Yet, given the range of disabilities and warriors’ ability to work through them, the VetFran program has a history of placing disabled veterans in a wide variety of franchise roles and companies.

Q: What should veterans consider when exploring franchise opportunities?

  • Educate yourself on the industry and how it is different than being an entrepreneur. A good place to start is to complete the VetFran Toolkit at www.vetfran.com/toolkit-sign-up/. 
  • Seek out other veterans in the business you are interested in and ask questions about their experience.
  • When ready to pursue a franchise opportunity, veterans can request a mentor through VetFran’s mentor network, and start to build a network of support within the industry.
  • Prioritize what is important to you, then seek a franchise opportunity that matches your priorities. Your priorities may be having passion for the product/service, independence, aligning your values with the franchise system, financial rewards, etc.
  • Write down your overall objective and have goals that will help you achieve success. Consider different models (home-based vs. office-based, capital requirements, service-based, etc.) to find franchises that will be a good fit.
  • Do extensive research to understand the history, the terms of agreement outlined in the Franchise Disclosure Document and what is expected of the franchisor and as a franchisee.

Q: How can VetFran help with franchise ownership and find incentives/discounts for Veterans?
A: The VetFran Toolkit includes online courses, financial resources and access to the VetFran Mentor Network. You can also find a searchable database of all VetFran companies with incentives or discounts in the VetFran Directory at www.vetfran.com/vetfran-companies.   You can learn more about the franchise you are interested in by completing the contact form located on the company’s profile in the VetFran Directory.

Q: What are the steps to take if the veteran knows which business he/she wants to get into?
A: You would need to contact the franchisor directly to better understand what their process is for franchise ownership. Each franchise system has a process to complete before an agreement between the franchisor and prospective franchisee is realized. If the veteran needs a loan then there would be a separate process for receiving a small business loan, and the timeline varies. In some cases, the franchisor will have in-house financing available that can help streamline the process.

Typically the steps for becoming a franchise business owner are as follows:

1. Introductory phone call.

      Normally, there is an introductory call with the sales representative at the franchisor’s headquarters. The purpose of the call is to get an understanding of what the prospective franchisee’s goals are and to answer any preliminary questions about the franchise system.

2. Submit franchise application.

      The prospective franchisee will submit an application to see if they qualify based on the franchisor’s criteria.

3. Meeting in person.

      A representative will meet with you in your local market to discuss the franchise program and go over the Franchise Disclosure Document.

4. Discovery Day.

      This is a day to conduct formal meetings with the corporate headquarters, and have a more detailed review of the Franchise Disclosure Document and business opportunity.

5. Create a development agreement.

      This agreement is typically where your territory of operation is defined, timeline for execution and payment structure are discussed.

6. Select the location of business.

    In many cases the franchisor will assist you in finding a viable location for your business.

Q: How many months out should I start planning for a franchise venture?
A: The amount of time it takes to plan for future franchise ownership depends on the franchise system and the veteran. Some franchise systems may take six months to be approved, while others may take 12 months or more. It also depends on the veteran’s financial situation and territories available for franchising.

Q: If a veteran is considering opening a franchise, how should he/she evaluate the various companies before deciding on which one is right for him/her?
A: This all depends on the veteran’s goals. Veterans can start with first defining what you are passionate about, and aligning your values with a business that has the same values. This could mean defining which business you see yourself running and would be happy with long-term. The veteran can narrow this search down by industry, business type, and investment level. When evaluating any franchise opportunity it is important to interview other franchisees within the franchise system, and to fully understand the Franchise Disclosure Document.

Some other things you may want to keep in mind when evaluating franchise businesses are:

  • Required net worth and liquidity
  • Total startup capital needed
  • If the company is a member of VetFran and what the company is offering veterans
  • If the territory you wish to operate in is available
  • How many years the company has been franchising
  • The terms and conditions outlined within the Franchise Disclosure Document

Q: What are the typical start-up franchise fees and costs, and where can a veteran go to get loans or financial backing?
A: Franchise fees normally range between $40,000 -$50,000, but it depends on the franchise business. There are over 650 VetFran member companies that offer discounts to veterans on the franchise fee. These discounts can be viewed here.

It is wise to research lending sources that understand the franchise business model, and that know the difference between a purely startup operation and established franchise brand. The success rate tends to be higher in a proven franchise business model. Funding sources depends on the type of funding one would require. Some banks are less likely to lend small business loans for small amounts. Depending on the state, there are nonprofit micro-lending institutions designed to provide small levels of startup capital to veterans who want to start a business. The Small Business Administration has veteran specific loans that help to streamline the loan process and waive many of the loan fees. There are also small business development companies that waive loan fees for veterans. Veterans should always ask the franchisor about in-house financing and any benefits in veteran financing.

Q: How many months on average will you be in business before starting to turn a profit?
A: This would depend on many factors such as: type of business, success of the operator, local market conditions, and the structure of the small business loan. Very broadly speaking, the breakeven point is typically 1-3 years. The prospective franchisee can get a better idea of profitability by looking at the expenses/fees in the Franchise Disclosure Document, talking to other franchisees, and creating a financial pro forma before franchising.

Q: What are some of the main challenges new franchise owners overlook?
A: The primary challenge to consider is to fully understand the Franchise Disclosure Document. This document helps the prospective franchisee better understand the expectations during his or her term as a franchisee. It is wise to have a franchise attorney review all documents with the prospective franchisee before anything is signed. The prospective franchisee should understand they are going into a model that has operational procedures, and success depends on his or her ability to follow the system. Franchisees are largely operators, not inventors. For startup companies, the number one challenge is undercapitalization. This is also true for franchise businesses. Before pursuing any franchise business opportunity, you should have a clear understanding of the amount of capital required to open, operate and excel in the business.

Q: On average, how many new franchise owners per year are military veterans?
A: Based on the VetFran progress report in 2012 there were 4,314 veteran franchise business owners. The 2013 progress report found that there were 5,192 veteran franchise business owners.

Q: How does the VetFran mentorship network work?
A: After veterans complete the training in the VetFran Toolkit they may submit a request to be assigned a mentor through the Toolkit. VetFran works to match veterans with mentors that are close to his or her location and similar industries. Industry executives and other experienced veteran franchisees can also apply to become a mentor through the Toolkit.

Q: What is the International Franchise Association?
A: The International Franchise Association (IFA) is the world’s oldest and largest organization representing franchising worldwide. Celebrating over 50 years of excellence, education and advocacy, IFA works through its government relations, media relations and educational programs to protect, enhance and promote franchising. Through its media awareness campaign highlighting the theme, Franchising: Building Local Businesses, One Opportunity at a Time, IFA promotes the economic impact of the franchise industry, which supports nearly 18 million jobs and $2.1 trillion of economic output for the U.S. economy. IFA members include franchise companies in over 300 different business format categories, individual franchisees and companies that support the industry in marketing, law and business development.

Download a copy of the FAQ document here