U.S. Army reservist William Bruck is a lifelong military man with three tours of duty under his belt. The Michigan native added entrepreneurship to his list of missions when he developed a passion for caring for aging veterans in his hometown.
William opened a Visiting Angels franchise in Monroe, Michigan, three years ago while he was between combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Overseas, he was a member of an Army construction management team. It was his job to plan and design the bases for soldiers in the field. Now with Visiting Angels, he is planning and designing in-home care for seniors in his community. Caregivers at Visiting Angels spend hours with clients every day, helping with meals, light housekeeping, reminding seniors to take medication, and just providing companionship.
The post 9/11 G.I. Bill was a factor in William’s venture into entrepreneurship. While using the benefits to pay for his MBA studies, he started thinking about opening his own business. William knew he wanted to open a franchise, something that benefited veterans, but finding the right fit took time. “It wasn’t until I picked up an issue of Army Times and read an article about special opportunities for vets. Number one on the list was Visiting Angels,” he says. Two months later, William opened the doors to his new office.
The model offered by Visiting Angels made the decision easy for William. “It was a very low initial cost for a high value franchise,” he says. “They give you all of the nuts and bolts, then I could put it together the way I wanted, I customized my plan to fit the needs of my community.”
William’s transition from military man to franchise owner is not uncommon. When veterans return home from service, they often look for career opportunities that match the experience they acquired in the military. For many intelligent, hard-working veterans with strong leadership qualities, owning a franchise is the way to go. According to data collected by the International Franchise Association from the 2007 census, nearly 15 percent of the nation’s franchises are owned by veterans.
Why is franchising such a great fit for veterans?
- Military experience requires strong leadership skills and motivating others, improving processes and accomplishing a defined mission. Like the military, successful franchisees lead their employees to accomplish the mission as a team.
- The military has extensive training and teaches unique skills used to carry out very specific tasks. Franchising also has comprehensive training and support built into the franchise process. This means a veteran can enter a completely new field and be likely to succeed by following the franchisor’s proven business model and completing the training program.
- An established franchise business operates on proven systems and defined procedures. Executing systems and following procedures with precision is emphasized in military training, and leads to success in franchising.
William frequently speaks with fellow veterans about his entrepreneurial journey. He tells them exactly how his Army training helps him cope with the stress of starting and running a business. Williams lists passion and discipline as the key elements to his success. He has a passion to care for fellow veterans, to keep them in their homes. He turns to discipline to stay on course, to avoid either over- or under-reacting to certain circumstances and to turn seemingly impossible situations into positive experiences.
The first three years as a franchisee are proving positive for William. His Visiting Angels office currently employs more than 50 caregivers and he is constantly focused on helping fellow veterans. William worked for more than a year to get a vendor contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs in his area and he is advising other Visiting Angels franchisees about how to connect with their local VA offices. “Our contract with the VA really gives us an opportunity to work with veterans who need our services, but may not be able to afford them without the government support.” William says he gets calls when a doctor authorizes in-home care for a veteran. He says the folks at the Ann Arbor VA have become very familiar with his work; they know Visiting Angels is dependable and provides quality care.
William will tell you his growth is tied to his connections in the community, he is naturally outgoing and spends a lot of time building relationships. William understands it is important to constantly meet new people. He is doing that on two different levels. He has his civic duties, like his seat on the board of a local consortium on aging, plus he has engaged the help of a four-legged staff member. Nash the Newfoundland started touring senior homes with William about three months ago. “Nash is the perfect size. When he sits down, his head is level with a senior’s wheelchair. He loves people and they love him,” William says. His goal is to eventually take Nash on 15 visits with seniors every month.
When not at work or connecting with the community, William is at home with his wife and eight children. The kids range in age from two months to 17, five boys and three girls. He is very excited about the future; he feels the way he has shaped his Visiting Angels franchise will continue to bring him success for many years to come. “I constantly work to make sure people know who I am, if they find out what I do, maybe in a week, maybe in a year, when they see a need for home care, they will think of my name and Visiting Angels,” he says.