Moving Left: Reaching the Veteran Before Transition

By George G. Eldridge

*This story originally appeared on, a website highlighting the positive impact of franchising on communities around the country.

Marriott event serves as a launching point for an initiative that helps military veterans find career opportunities in small business.

On May 5, as part of National Small Business Week, TownePlace Suites kicked off its new military community-focused initiative with an intimate networking event and seminar. TownePlace Suites Clinton at Joint Base Andrews (Clinton, Md.), hosted a group of veterans and spouses to provide insight on becoming a small business or hotel owner from executives representing Marriott International, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the International Franchise Association (IFA) VetFran program. Military service members can spend a lot of time away from their families on the road. The inevitable hotel stay is something many American patriots are accustomed to, as relocations and military duties spanning the country are part of the job. This is where partnerships such as the one with Marriott International come into play.

“We are very pleased to partner with the SBA and TownePlace Suites on this very important initiative,” said IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE. “Programs such as this serve as a great platform for our military members to find career opportunities that allow them to serve in a different and meaningful role.” Barbara Carson, acting associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development, added: “Veterans have the experience, courage and determination to become successful entrepreneurs, and the United States and the franchise industry is investing in them.”

VetFran is aiming to help provide military membersinformation on employment and ownership opportunities in franchising through efforts such as the TownePlace Suites event. Some of these opportunities may be in the short-term, while others may stretch several years down the road. VetFran is working in cooperation with several other organizations, such as the SBA, to help provide information on small business ventures. VetFran also takes an active role in the Boots to Business program that the SBA offers throughout the country. This two-day program introduces military members to aspects of small business and contains specific details about the franchise industry.

VetFran is also teaming up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in order to be able to attend several of the Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes events at military bases and the surrounding communities. This is an excellent opportunity for current military members to learn about the prospect of franchising while still serving in the military. Lastly, VetFran is beginning to work with military family resource centers to provide literature and other materials so that military members can research on their own. This effort will also include working to become more involved with the mandatory transition classes that all services provide to separating personnel.

Much has been written about veterans transitioning from the military to the private sector. Several sources state that several hundred-thousand members will be leaving the ranks of the military as a result of the drawdown from Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to the thousands of expected separations due to the end of an enlistment or contract.

Members of the military often project when they will retire and have a fair amount of lead time before separating. These members will also have the benefit of a military pension to help ease them into the transition from the military to the private sector. Current statistics state that only 17 percent will stay long enough to earn a full pension from the military. That means that 83 percent of military members will transition from the military at some point on their life.

I separated from active duty in the U.S. Air Force in 2010. Members are bombarded with many sources and programs before they separate from the military. My situation was no different. Having so many different programs available is a great thing, but it comes with several challenges.  I had several months to begin searching for a new career, but the amount of resources was intimidating. Knowing where to start in the hunt for my next job was difficult. The challenge was further compounded by the fact that I was stationed overseas as I was transitioning out of the military. This specific scenario helps demonstrate that there are multiple aspects of life pulling at the member as they begin to transition. There are family and current job requirements that cannot be ignored while the member is attempting to look for a new job and, in most cases, a new place to call home. This challenge is exacerbated if the member lives overseas and cannot afford the travel or the time off from the job to visit the United States for an interview or job hunting. The aforementioned challenges, along with many others, makes it obvious why it is so important to reach out to the actively serving military members regarding possible job or ownership opportunities within franchising sooner, rather than later.

Many of the transition programs have improved and continue to advance since I left active duty only five years ago. At that time, there was little information aimed at separating military members regarding franchising. Rightfully so, the military can be hesitant to allow the promotion of other career opportunities because of a vested interest in keeping such highly qualified men and women. However, since 83 percent of those members will not retire from the military, the earlier they can learn about opportunities outside the uniform, the better chance they have for a smoother transition into the private sector.

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