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WASHINGTON — The International Franchise Association, a trade association that largely represents the interests of franchisors, announced this month that it is partnering with the U.S. Army Reserve to “broaden employment opportunities for reservists by including franchise ownership as new career options.”
Stephen J. Caldeira, president and CEO of the International Franchise Association (IFA), and Daniel Allen, executive director of the Employer Partnership Office of the U.S. Army Reserve, met to sign a certificate that shows an intent to funnel franchise prospects from the Army Reserve towards franchise opportunities. These franchises are sold at a discount to veterans through IFA’s franchising members.
Overseeing the signing ceremony was Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.). “I applaud this initiative to help veterans transition to civilian life through business ownership,” said Rep. Skelton. “Our military personnel deserve all the support we can provide to help them achieve their career goals after they have completed their service.”
The problem is while the U.S. Army Reserve is seeking employers in its new partnership, the IFA and its franchisor members are seeking something else — buyers of franchised stores.
“We are pleased to enter into this partnership with the Army Reserve to further help veterans buy franchises,” said IFA chief executive officer Steve Caldeira. “Today, almost 400 companies are participating in the VetFran program and to date have helped nearly 2,000 veterans get [buy] into business for themselves through franchising. This new partnership will help us introduce franchising as a post service career option to even more honorably discharged military men and women.”
Nowadays, Reservists may be honorably discharged from duties only to later find that they are being recalled to active duty.
Bob Purvin, chair of the San Diego-based American Association of Franchisees and Dealers, thinks that linking with the Army Reserve Employer Partnership is largely a public relations maneuver by the IFA. “There is no charity here,” he states. “The industry is playing the patriot card.”
A Mismatch of Goals
The Army Reserve focuses on jobs for its Reservists and returning veterans rather than franchises.
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Leonard, the strategic community officer of the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, thinks that veterans can become franchisees without the Army’s Employer Partnership. “Our focus is to help find employment opportunities for National Guardsmen, Reservists, their families and veterans,” he emphasizes to Blue MauMau.
His hope in partnering with organizations like the IFA is that the word to hire will catch on with employers – namely, franchisees and franchisor-owned stores.
Leonard explains his key problem: “Ultimately, if the Reservist or National Guardsman is unemployed, or having a hard time finding employment, he’s not worried about going to his weekend drill. He has a bigger problem to resolve. If we can help these Reservists stay employed, then we provide value to them and to their families.”
A quick glance at the Employer Partners web page over this past weekend shows that there are employers looking for a local cook, a mechanic, a driver, a network technician and other positions. “Our population consists of 19-year olds who may have just finished high school, up to the senior Army Reserve or National Guard officer who has a lot of management experience,” declares the lieutenant colonel.
There are a lot of out-of-work Reservists who could use a helping hand. Lt. Col. Leonard observes that all seven Reserve components of the military that he oversees for job placement have a total of approximately 850,000 Reservists. If unemployment figures for them match the national average of 9.6 percent, that means there are over 81,000 Reservists in need of a paycheck and a job. That doesn’t even begin to figure in those who are underemployed.
Steve Ellerhorst, a past Hardee’s franchisee himself and president of a new franchisee group, the International Association of Franchisees and Dealers, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, understands the needs of soldiers. He has seen many franchisees employ them in the past. “If someone is in the Army Reserve or National Guard, they are not in a position to buy a franchise or start a small business. [Because they will or may at anytime be called away from their business by their military obligations.] What they are looking for is something to do when they are not serving. There should be many opportunities on the franchisee side.”
Buying a Franchise
Alisa Harrison, spokesperson for the International Franchise Association, clarifies that her organization isn’t interested in hiring veterans, but rather selling them franchises. “The IFA VetFran program and the partnership with the Army Reserve work to help franchisees invest in franchise businesses,” she answers to Blue MauMau’s question on whether the IFA helps Reservists and veterans find employment within franchising firms and franchisees.
Franchises have a wide range in costs. A Sir Speedy quick print shop, which is listed on the IFA’s VetFran discount program, can have a total investment of $350,000 and a franchise fee of $25,000. It offers veterans a special $3,750 discount on that upfront franchise fee. One of the cheapest VetFran franchises, Coverall, a janitorial service franchise, will give 25 percent off to veterans on their one-time purchasing fee of between $10k - $32k. That doesn’t include the investment needed to start the business operations.
But during the recession, a number of franchisors have already been heavily discounting or actually waiving entire franchise fees in order to entice buyers.
“We’d be open to work with other franchise membership organizations,” says the lieutenant colonel.
There are over 200 franchisee trade associations in the United States, representing such varied franchisees as Denny's, Burger King, Wyndham Hotels, car dealers and more.
“The first purpose for us is to spread the word about our program amongst the membership of those organizations,” Leonard stresses. He states that the job-finding service is underwritten by the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard, so there are no fees for employers using his service to hire Reservists and veterans.
“We plan to launch a new website on Veterans Day," he declares. "The upgraded site will offer powerful tools for finding suitable job opportunities and building resumes. Employers will likewise have more powerful tools.”
Ellerhorst is intrigued. “I can’t imagine a franchisee who wouldn’t take the opportunity to work with the Armed Forces. There is such a wealth of talent when it comes to mechanical abilities, service skills, company loyalty and a devotion to quality. Franchisees would love to be able to have these talents as part of their team.” Ellerhorst says he will look further into franchisees utilizing the Army Reserve and National Guard Employer Partner program to find employees.