By Michael Haith
From boot camp to business owners, veterans make such great franchisees. Their unique skillsets, experience, and training make them uniquely qualified to run successful businesses.
Veterans are a different breed. Committed, driven and resourceful, they’re also independent and rebellious in their own right. The “go get ‘em” attitude is in their DNA, so it’s no surprise they make for awesome business-owners back on the homefront.
Russell McCray, an Air Force vet and aforementioned awesome Teriyaki Madness franchisee, feels that his time in the service prepped him pretty well for running his own business:
“One of the greatest things that the military teaches soldiers, especially those in leadership positions, are applicative concepts like flexibility, attention to detail, situational awareness, risk mitigation, and different types of leadership styles for different types
McCray served six years of active duty with the Air Force and four years of reserve duty. He was inspired to serve by his family’s commitment to service; his father served 27 years in the Army and his uncle served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War. McCray’s inspiration for starting his own business, however, came from his incredible drive.
“I remember being a young officer driving along the beach, I would see these huge homes on the ocean, and I assumed those homes were all owned by either movie stars, or senior ranking military officers… to my surprise, I found out eventually that most, if not all, of the homes were owned by business owners with very few being senior military officers. So, I began the process of researching the types of businesses that would allow an individual to live on the beach.”
Teriyaki Madness, a fast-casual Asian concept based in Colorado, may not be handing out beachfront homes, but the growing chain shares a lot of traits with veterans like McCray. One in particular — their ability to have some fun while getting things done — drew him to the company.
“I first came into contact with Teriyaki Madness while vacationing in Las Vegas,” McCray said. “I believe there are lots of similarities in their goals, which appealed to me. Couple that with the fact that Michael (CEO Michael Haith) and his team are down to earth and know how to have fun… that’s something I didn’t really get from the larger franchise opportunities I looked at.”
McCray currently lives in Atlanta and has plans to open three locations. We assume he took this interview from his top-secret, beach side compound.
But Russ McCray isn’t the only one looking to get the Madness in more locations. The company saw a 45 percent increase in units from 2015 (24) to 2016 (35) and is expecting an 80 percent growth rate in units opening 2016-2017. Because of Teriyaki Madness’ scalability and simplicity, nearly 55 percent of its owners are multi-unit operators.
Cleveland and his wife Robin opened their first shop in Marietta, Ga. in January. He says the transition from Navy to franchise owner was pretty seamless. After all, he’s been doing this management thing for a while.
Serving in the Navy Supply Corps for six years, Cleveland worked in the Navy’s Business Management Program. He was responsible for everything from finance operations, supply inventory, and logistics, to retail operations and food. Needless to say, Joe holds some rank when it comes to business experience.
After his stint with the Navy, Cleveland has continued his passion for business, working for General Mills as a senior operations manager, and even opening a startup helping fellow veterans secure loans and find financial assistance. But, it was Teriyaki Madness that enlisted him back in the world of food. And he couldn’t be happier.
“It’s like the military in that you get some semblance of a road map, but you get to make it your own,” he says. “There’s great corporate support… the organization is very progressive in terms of thought and direction.”
If there’s one piece of advice Cleveland can give other veterans (or anyone) looking to become a franchisee, it’s this: do your homework. “Do your due diligence. Look at organizations that have benefits for veterans, whether it is a reduced franchising fee or financing. Make sure they have the support to help you and make sure you’re successful,” he said.
Most franchises in the food industry offer a discount for veterans, and Teriyaki Madness is no different. The chain offers 15 percent off the base franchising fee, something that gave veterans like Cleveland a great
Statistics show that veterans are, indeed, getting into the franchise game. As of the 2012 census, one in seven franchises in the U.S. is owned by veterans. That’s approximately 9 percent of all business owners. That’s a whole lot of math, but it basically means this: veterans are finding success with the franchise formula.
Frank Giuliano is an Army veteran who served three years with the 101st Airborne and four years in the Reserves. Since his time in the service, he’s definitely scratched his
He owned his own restaurant, Frankie’s Red Hot Restaurant, and sold it for a profit. He’s worked as a carpenter and found success. Heck, he even started his own chimney sweep company. And in his new venture, he’s finding the one thing that makes franchising different than any other business he’s been a part of: support.
“You don’t have to go out there on your own. You have back up in the franchising system. At Frankie’s (his restaurant), I felt like I was drowning because I was there by myself. Now I can put the pieces of the puzzle together. If I follow everything then I know it is going to work. I don’t have to experiment to find the perfect things.”
Giuliano currently owns a location in Cape Coral, Fla. Like Russ McCray and Joe Cleveland, he’s looking to open more locations in the near future. For Teriyaki Madness, that’s a few good men doing a lot in their communities.
Teriyaki Madness’ brand purpose is simple: “To provide opportunities for success for all.” They even serve their food with cutlery called “The Chork,” a fork/chopstick hybrid with a slightly suggestive name. In short, the chain is giving others who think outside of the box enough freedom and structure to be successful. Those are all things guys like Russ, Joe, and Frank could get on board with.
From boot camp to business owners (and hopefully to beach front house for Russ), it’s easy to see why vets make such great franchisees. Their unique skillsets, experience, and training make them uniquely qualified to run successful businesses. And they are living proof the idea of service goes well beyond any one industry, category, or company.
Thank you for your service, Russ, Joe, and Frank. And thank you for showing that vets make some damn good business owners. We’ll see you out there.
Find out more: www.franchise.org/teriyaki-madness-franchise.
Michael Haith is CEO of Teriyaki Madness, a growing fast-casual Asian food concept based in Denver, Colo.