Phil Knight of Nike, Bob Parsons of GoDaddy, Gordon Logan of Sport Clips and Fred Smith, who recently resigned as CEO of FedEx, not only share the titles of entrepreneur, founder and CEO, but they are also veterans.
These four business tycoons served their country with honor in wartime, and they represent what might be a surprising data point for some. According to the US Small Business Administration, veterans are 45% more likely to start and run a business than their civilian counterparts.
Veterans have gone on to pursue a life of service to our country, and business ownership provides a means for them to apply their talent and experiences while continuing to serve others and become leaders on a local level – giving them the opportunity to put down roots and weave their own story into the tapestry of a community.
Today, less than 1% of Americans serve in our military, making recruiting and applying their skills and abilities after the military even more critical. As supply chain disruptions and the “Great Resignation” continue to challenge the economic recovery, they also present an opportunity to inspire people to become business owners and make intentional efforts to bring the veterans in the labor market.
As a nation, we are precariously situated at the top of an economic bubble when an entire sector of the population is ready and eager to get to work – and the franchising sector in particular has emerged as a leader in the area of recruiting veterans.
It allows veterans to go into business for themselves, but not by themselves, with the backing of a successful business model, defined procedures and a strong support team. Thanks to a proactive recruitment strategy by the industry as a whole, 14% of the 770,000 franchises are owned by veterans, while veterans represent only 7% of our general population.
The relationship is mutually beneficial: Veterans come to the table already equipped with many of the tools necessary to become successful franchise business owners while simultaneously fulfilling their own desire to continue serving their communities.
Take Logan, a U.S. Air Force veteran and founder of Sport Clips, whose company has been recognized as one of the best companies in the United States for supporting veterans, a mission central to his personal life. , professional and philanthropic. One of its franchisees, United States Marine Corps veteran Cheston Syma, now owns 41 Sport Clips locations, saying, “Every aspect of my military background has helped me succeed in my professional life.”
Mary Kennedy Thompson, who served eight years in the US Marine Corps as a logistics officer, started franchising 25 years ago as a multi-unit franchisee at Cookies by Design. Mary’s Sites led the company in market penetration and sales, winning numerous top performer awards. Today, Mary is COO for Neighborly, overseeing 13 home service brands such as Mr. Rooter and Mosquito Joe.
More than 600 franchise brands offer franchise fee discounts to veterans as members of the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program. The program was started more than 30 years ago by Don Dwyer, the founder of Neighborly (then known as the Dwyer Group), to support veterans returning from the first Gulf War.
By opening new doors through franchise ownership, veterans establish themselves as valued members who contribute to the vibrant communities where their families live, work and serve alongside their civilian counterparts. It ultimately gives them a sense of belonging and helps resolve the disconnect that the vast majority of them feel.
Local businesses have been and will continue to drive economic change and with those well versed in leadership, discipline and teamwork at the helm, the likelihood of their success is even greater. Veteran-owned businesses have a payroll of more than $210 billion each year and employ nearly 6 million people. Additionally, veteran-owned franchises report average sales 3.2 times greater than veteran-owned non-franchise businesses.
In each of our careers, both in the Marine Corps and in the franchise world, we have seen the true potential of veterans embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and the opportunity to serve again as local business owners. These are the people who, at the center of everything they do, hold the hope for a better America in mind because they were, at one point, willing to put their lives on the line for it.
It is important that veterans realize their purpose and their potential here, on the home front and in the business community. It will be the same leadership, exemplified by veterans like Smith, Knight, Logan and Parsons, that will help our economy grow and our nation great again.
Matt Haller is the President and CEO of the International Franchise Association. Kevin Schmiegel is a 20-year Navy veteran and former nonprofit executive who is now founder and CEO of ZeroMils, a strategic consulting firm for goal-oriented organizations. He is also the founder and CEO of KMS Strategies.