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From Forces to Franchises

The transition to civilian life upon leaving the forces can present many challenges, not least of which is what career to follow next? When the thought of 9 to 5 might seem a little mundane, one option to take a look at is franchising – which offers a wealth of opportunities in a multitude of industries.

And running your own franchise not only provides the backup and support that you might need to plug any gaps in your skills in a business sense; it’s a sector that actively seeks and encourages those leaving the military to become involved, with strong links between the experiences you’ve had in the forces and the desired traits that many brands look for in their franchisees.

How does it work?

Investing in a franchise is often described as being in business for yourself, but not by yourself. A franchisee owns and runs their own business, under the use of a bigger company’s brand, proven system, knowledge and support. You pay an initial fee to receive full training from the outset and get set up from the get-go.

The company’s owner (franchisor) has already tried and tested their business model and operations in the marketplace, and therefore made and corrected any mistakes so that you won’t have to bear the cost of doing so. What you’re left with is a proven, transferrable system.

Because the marketing strategies, operating procedures, pricing and staffing policies have all been proven through company-owned outlets and/or established franchised units, a new franchise business is able to develop much more quickly during the crucial early stages of launching a business than those going it alone can.

Ongoing monthly fees, most often based either on turnover or mark-ups on supplies of products, are then paid; in return a franchisee can call on training, advice and business development guidance from their franchisor and wider network whenever they need to.

Why do franchisors seek ex-forces personnel?

It’s the synergy and support in the relationship between franchisor and franchisee that is the lynchpin for success, and it’s that synergy and the nature of a franchise business that ideally matches the model to service leavers.

Good franchisors must be very careful about who joins their network, with their brand in the hands of others. That means it’s transferrable skills that matter most when a company is looking at its next franchisee; and the transferrable skills that ex-forces personnel bring to the table can be a perfect match with what makes a successful franchisee.

Dedication, hard work ethic, the ability to follow a system and procedures, leadership, problem-solving, teamwork…do these sound like familiar traits? Because they’re exactly the types of qualities that franchisors actively seek out.

Add in self-motivation, self-discipline, initiative and the attitude to succeed and you have a background tailor-made to be your own boss within the franchise sector – and one that brings a completely different set of skills to other prospective candidates.

Oh, and your familiarity with the concept of multiple points of command and structure all working towards a common goal is not to be overlooked either – because a successful franchise network, with individual business owners, employees, head office and support staff, works in a similar way.

Help is at hand

One of the many advantages of franchising is that it is a system that usually does not require previous experience within the industry in question, with head office on hand to call on for support, and comprehensive initial and ongoing training offered by ethical franchisors.

This training and support takes on many different forms according to the needs of the franchise, but the idea is that it complements your personal skills and supports you in areas where you may be less strong. No marketing experience? No problem, it’s usually covered. Don’t know your P&L from your cash flow? Business ownership and administration help is available. Available support is just one of many reasons why less than 4% of franchise businesses commercially fail each year, a considerably higher success rate than going it alone affords.

Franchisors produce an operations manual, which outlines the steps to follow to reproduce the business success of the model you have invested in. It’s been likened to basic training for recruits, which gives you the framework to do whatever job is asked of you in a military role. Replicating the operational procedures in a franchise similarly equips you for the day-to-day tasks involved in running your business; the difference being of course that this time around, you are the boss!

The manual can also be an invaluable tool to go with the variety you’ll encounter as a franchisee, something else often cited as a draw for service leavers. It can be the case that many find working in a conventional employed role, for example in an office-based job, somewhat of a disappointing repetitive contrast with the day-to-day life they’ve become used to. Taking on your own franchise gives you variation and the motivation to succeed and reap the rewards for yourself.

What next?

There’s a vast array of business types and sectors to choose from, whether following on from personal experience (for instance there’s plentiful opportunity for engineers to run a business in the automotive sector, or officers to take on a management-style, people-focused business); or going in a completely different direction with something you have a passion for or see yourself enjoying.

The key to finding the right franchise for you? Research, research, research. Think carefully about the lifestyle you want to lead in the civilian world, what gets you motivated and which businesses are viable propositions (and which should be avoided).

The British Franchise Association (bfa) is the voluntary, not-for-profit body that accredits UK franchisors based on their operations, history and franchisee support. Only by passing its strict criteria can a franchise become a member of the bfa; not all do. In addition, it serves to provide those considering investing in a franchise with objective and balanced information, advice and help every step of the way.

To find out more about the franchise industry and joining it, visit the bfa website: www.thebfa.org

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