Returning home from duty, veterans face a new battle once their time of service has passed - finding a new career. To assist these men and women, Don Dwyer Sr., founder of The Dwyer Group, created the VetFran program. Run by the International Franchise Association (IFA), the program was initiated in 1994 after the first Gulf War ended.
“The franchising industry not only recognizes the challenges faced by veterans, but demonstrates its commitment to making their return to civilian life more meaningful by providing a path to the dream of small business ownership,” explained Matthew Shay, president of IFA.
According to information gathered by the program, approximately 250,000 active duty service members transition out of the military every year, and according to the 2002 Census, the total military veteran population in the United States is estimated to be about 26 million.
This population of soldiers looking for new careers is growing as the nation becomes more heavily involved in global conflicts and the size of the military grows. Seeing this postwar need continuing to develop, The Dwyer Group initiated the Program for Assisting Veteran Entrepreneurship (PAVE), in March of this year, to further assist veterans in building their own businesses.
SOLDIERS NO MOREPAVE offers multiple benefits to military personnel returning to civilian life and is open to all veterans who have been honorably discharged by a DD214 or similar documentation.
“We are excited to build on the program my father created because we see the potential in our military personnel returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world where they have served unselfishly,” said Dina Dwyer-Owens, chairwoman of The Dwyer Group.
“We are looking for people who want to take charge of their own destiny, want to be in business for themselves, and want to capitalize on their military experience. They have worked so hard to protect the American dream, now we want to help them live the American dream.”
The program supplies participants with a 25 percent discount on the purchase of an initial base franchise territory for any one of the six franchise companies in The Dwyer Group: AireServ Heating and Air Conditioning®, Glass Doctor®, Mr. Appliance®, Mr. Electric®, Mr. Rooter®, and Rainbow International Restoration and Cleaning®.
PAVE also provides partial company financing for qualified individuals, future franchise resale opportunities, and additional discounts with preferred vendors to help reduce daily operating costs. One of the more pivotal benefits of PAVE is the individualized support from Chris Loudermilk, The Dwyer Group’s new director of military development, who guides veterans through the first phase of the startup process.
“Because I come from a military family, I’m passionate about carrying out Don Dwyer’s vision for The Dwyer Group and the VetFran program,” said Loudermilk. “My role is to help recent veterans transition to a new chapter in their lives that will mesh with the previous chapter.”
Loudermilk assists participants with the franchisee qualification process and applications for the Patriot Express Loan program through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
“I am the VetFran expert for them,” he explained.
Among his other duties, Loudermilk promotes the VetFran program, which currently has more than 300 franchise companies that are offering financial discounts to veterans who wish to run their own business.
“What veterans bring to the business world is a win-win,” said Loudermilk. “We’ve witnessed it at The Dwyer Group and in the many veterans who are now successful franchise owners across the country.”
The Dwyer Group and PAVE, however, view their responsibilities to be more than franchisee education. According to Loudermilk, “Our larger goal is to educate America’s business sector at-large about the benefits of veteran-owned businesses.”
HVAC FRANCHISE SUCCESSAccording to The Dwyer Group, one out of every eight veterans who purchased a VetFran franchise bought a Dwyer franchise. Mike Anderson, for example, is a retired Navy lieutenant, who, following his 10 years spent as a pilot, entered corporate America. He worked for companies such as G.E. and the former York International Inc. When Johnson Controls Inc. purchased the company in 2006, Anderson was offered a new position in a new state. Not wanting to relocate, he began exploring the possibility of purchasing a franchise consistent with the HVAC experience he had gained while working with York.
Anderson is now the owner of an AireServ franchise in Denver, and his company is growing in its second year of business.
“I like the fact that The Dwyer Group franchise system is well-defined,” said Anderson. “A lot of the procedures and policies are already defined. You have to make it your own, but the tools are there to reduce a lot of the initial trial and error of starting your own business.”
Anderson’s franchise initially began in the residential market, but as his business is growing, he is beginning to diversify into the light commercial market as well.
Jack Mooney, a retired master sergeant of the U.S. Air Force, spent his first two years out of the service working as a service manager for Airtron, an HVAC company in Dayton, Ohio. Moving to Knoxville, Tenn., in 2001, Mooney spent five years as a maintenance manager for an aftermarket parts manufacturer. When a competitor purchased the company, he began working for the government sector again, this time as an internal auditor.
“I had always thought about starting my own business, but I never took the chance,” explained Mooney. “So, I began looking into three different franchises - handyman service, window treatments, and HVAC.”
Mooney chose the AireServ franchise for multiple reasons. The first was personal experience.
“I had a lot more exposure and experience with the HVAC trade, especially with having spent two years at Airtron,” said Mooney. He also considered the economy and what business would best remain afloat even in tighter financial times. “I decided that people can do without buying certain things at Wal-Mart, but they can’t do without heating and air conditioning in their homes.”
Mooney was also careful what company he picked to represent his name. “I was picky because it represented my name,” he said. “The Dwyer Group was just as picky because I represented their name.”
What both contractors at- tested to was that owning a franchise and running a business takes hard work and perseverance. The Dwyer Group’s standard operating procedures and its PAVE program, however, make this challenge a bit easier, especially for veterans.
Sidebar: Franchise or Not?With business changes and economy uncertainties, many are seeking business safety in franchising opportunities. When considering whether or not to invest in a franchise business, contractors should examine the facts closely and weigh the pros and cons. The following facts, as supplied by The Dwyer Group, provide information for potential franchisees to consider:
• Franchising creates almost $2 trillion yearly revenue worldwide.
• The average yearly income for a franchisee is $91,630, with more than 30 percent of them earning over $150,000 per year.
• Franchise businesses account for about 50 percent of all retail sales in the United States.
• Ninety-three percent of franchisees report that a franchise gives them an advantage.
• Eighty percent recommend a franchise over a nonfranchised business.
• It is estimated that up to 3,000 franchise companies operate in the United States.
• One in 12 businesses are franchises.
• According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, franchise businesses are exponentially more likely to succeed than individual new startups, particularly if the figures over a five- or seven-year period are examined.