Ask for Help! Find a Mentor!
With Limited Experience with Franchise Acquisitions, How Can Veterans Improve Chances of Success?
Identifying yourself as a Veteran lately can sometimes help open doors. The initial reception most times is cordial, and of course in franchising it typically gets a Veteran a discount. Not a bad start, but at that point you’re still at the same starting gate as any entrepreneur examining and then trying to perfect an opportunitiy.
One great way a Veteran can get an edge is to find an advisor who can help with their due diligence, give unbiased suggestions for examining a franchsie idea, or maybe even act as a strategic advisor to help leverage additional support for their business ideas. This type of advice can come through a mentor, and if the relationship is approached properly, it can offer terrific advantages to any business idea.
In business, your market is your market, there is no getting around that! Whether you start an independent business, acquire a franchise, or even build a nonprofit business, it’s all about knowing your market and then executing a product/service delivery process to get and satisfy customers. Mentoring programs can help you accomplish both.
During the next several years the number of Veterans transitioning into civilian life is expected to exceed 250,000 per year. Realizing that a smooth transiton to employment or self-employment is essential, a few forward thinkers at the Department of Defense, the SBA, and VA developed what is known as the Boots to Business Program for those Veterans seeking entrepreneurism as a way forward. The program is free to transitioning Veterans and offers a staged introduction to entrepreneurship with the last stage, offering specialized mentoring for any business plan, including a franchise acquisition. The program is relatively new but is expected to be in fully implemented by nationally 2015. Use it!
Many Universites now offer Veterans entreperneiral bootcamps to help jump start their business ideas. Some of these bootcamps were spearheaded by the Whitman School of Business at Syracuse University, and now comprise a branded network of Universities using “EBV,” which stands for Entrepreneural Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabliities. Others like Oklahoma State are independent modela. All of these are essentially specialized mentoring programs but have limitations. Although they’re without cost, you must apply and enrollments are limited and not always in sync with required timing. If you have a disability, apply and use them to build a mentoring network!
The granddaddy of all small business mentoring operations is SCORE, which used to stand for Service Corps of Retired Executives. It been around for over 50 years and is partially funded by the SBA. But make no mistake, the new SCORE brand and services are not your father’s mentoring program. It’s a sophisticated network of over 350 Chapters that covers all of the United States. Mentors can now be active younger entrepreneurs with many mentors still participating in business by themselves or as part of social entreprises they construct for public good, including Veteran mentorship. Over 15 percent of SCORE mentors are Veterans and they know how to connect other small business resources with Veteran priorites. Around 80 percent of SCORE mentors have direct experience in sales and marketing, which can directly relate to a prospective franchisee’s need to examine his market and compare and contrast others as well. Where else can you find free due diligence assistance and someone to help challenge your franchise business assumptions? Interesting, the best Score Chapters are judged by their rate of return of initial mentees. As the Veteran entrepreneur refines his/her franchise acquisition plan the SCORE mentor can bring in a number of free collateral resources like Veteran Business Outreach Centers and unique financing sources to assist.
Ideally SCORE mentors and mentees spend considerable time getting to know one another but don’t inflate your expectations, as 80 to 90 percent of SCORE mentors are primarily interested in one-on-one business conversations. Be patient and learn how to reach out to the other 10 to 20 percent at SCORE who will help network an develop comprehensive strategy plans that involve different resources. No one at SCORE will tell you that you can’t have more than one mentor.
Veterans should try to set realistic expectations and definitively share responsibility for the mentor relationship. If the Veteran and the mentor establish concrete goals and develop a plan of action with deadlines, respect can evolve quickly for the overall mentor relationship.
The best advice for Veterans is to explore all of the above and also evaluate participating in mentoring networks like American Corporate Partners for both career and small business knowledge and support. And of course VetFran now offers a direct franchise mentoring program. If you can’t the right fit or connection, give VBS a call.
To accomplish its mission VBS requires a steady hand who relates well to Veterans. VBS’ Founder and Managing Director, Jim Mingey, is a decorated Vietnam Veteran raised from a proud military background. An entrepreneur for more than 35 years, Jim can relate on a personal level to the needs of the Veteran small businessperson, and possesses the practical knowledge to implement his experience in today’s market. Jim participated in the EBV Program at Purdue University, is a mentor at American Corporate Partners, developed the first approved franchise training program for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program at Veterans Administration, and was instrumental in forming the first equity fund in the United States exclusively for Veteran owned small businesses and franchises: The Veterans Opportunity Fund. Jim intends to keep on ‘advocating’ for Veterans in franchising.
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