Franchise opportunities for veterans

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Sherry and Michael Turner opened their Postal Annex+ franchise in June.

Michael Turner served as a U.S. Army Ranger and as a Special Operations soldier for 25 years. After he retired, he discovered a program that wanted to reward him for those years of service.
A former command sergeant major – the highest rank available to enlisted soldiers in the Army – Turner heard about Postal Annex+ from friends who owned a franchise. He and his wife, Sherry, contacted the company and learned that Postal Annex+ offered incentives to veterans interested in becoming franchise owners.
“We didn’t know a program like that existed,” he said. “It came as a surprise, and we were completely unaware that more than one company offered the incentives.”
Since June, the Turners have owned and operated a Postal Annex+ franchise in the Home Depot shopping center in Monument.
Postal Annex+ is one of 160 companies nationwide that participate in VetFran, a program designed to offer discounts and incentives to veterans who want to own a franchise business.
“The program is about ownership,” said Amy Bannon, spokeswoman for the International Franchise Association, which operates the program. “They own it, it’s an asset. It isn’t just doing a job; you can’t sell your job, you can just quit. But this, this is about equity. They run and operate the business completely.”
Turner was exactly the kind of veteran who could benefit from the program. After stints as an infantry soldier, a recruiter and time in the aviation branch, Turner had the leadership skills that are needed to create successful businesses, Bannon said.
“Vets make great franchise owners,” she said. “It’s a good thing for the company’s bottom line. Because of their military background, they know how to be leaders in an established system, that’s so much what a franchise is – mission oriented, results driven.”
For many companies, the program is about recognizing the sacrifices veterans and their families make during their years of military service. But Bannon said the VetFran program is really about getting a great owner for the franchise.
“It extends beyond altruism,” she said. “It is a great thing when the private sector can work together to offer assistance and to honor what the veterans did for their country. But here, everyone wins.”
IFA lists 160 companies that participate in the program, ranging from franchises, such as Exxon Mobil to specialty retail shops like Candy Bouquet. Other companies include Checkers Drive-In and Blimpie’s fast-food restaurants. Dunkin’ Donuts, Fantastic Sam’s and Gold’s Gym also are taking part in the VetFran program.
The organization works with franchise companies and people who buy them, Bannon said. Each company decides what incentive to offer veterans. For example, Exxon offers up to $5,000 for franchise-related training, Bannon said. Other companies offer 25 percent discounts on franchise fees to veterans who qualify.
For Steve Greenbaum, CEO of Denver-based Post Net, the decision to offer the VetFran program to prospective franchise owners was easy. He was on the board of directors at the International Franchise Association when the program was introduced in 1991. Of 500 Post Net franchises nationwide, 25 are owned by veterans, making Post Net the largest user of the VetFran program.
“When I learned about the program, I thought it was a great way to say ‘thank you’ to the veterans,” Greenbaum said. “It’s a pretty heartwarming program, a way to show respect. Veterans make great franchise owners, too. They are very good at following the company’s procedures; they have a commitment to excellence.”
Turner was one of the first veterans to take advantage of the VetFran program available at Postal Annex+. The company joined the program in February, and the Turners opened their shop in June.
Postal Annex+ is the third largest postal service company in the United States, with 270 franchises that offer packaging, shipping, copying and communications services. Jack Lentz founded the company in 1985 with three stores headquartered in San Diego.
“This is a great opportunity for a veteran to start a new chapter in their life, whether they are just returning from Iraq or Afghanistan or have been out of active duty for a while,” Mike Watorski, vice president of franchise development, said in a news release announcing the program.
Entering the VetFran program is easy, Bannon said. The program is open to any honorably discharged veteran from any service, including National Guard and Reserve components.
“We left it wide open,” she said. “We want as many people to take advantage of the program as we can.” The first step, Bannon said, is to decide what kind of business fits a particular style. Then IFA will assist in the franchise purchase.
“We’re the only national organization who represents both franchises and franchisees, or people who buy franchises,” she said. “We can assist them with the process.”
For more information and a list of companies participating in the VetFran, visit the IFA Web site at www.ifa.org.
-Amy.Gillentine@csbj.com