Today marks an exciting time for the Dwyer Group and for the future of the franchising industry. The International Franchise Association just announced “Operation Enduring Opportunity,” which is a campaign to eventually recruit 75,000 veterans and 5,000 wounded warriors into franchise establishments by 2014.
This campaign is a part of the White House Joining Forces Initiative, which was announced by Michelle Obama on Thursday. This plan marks the largest industry veteran hiring commitment to date. Chairwoman and CEO of the Dwyer Group, Dina Dwyer-Owens and Mary Thompson, President of Mr. Rooter Corporation met with First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington, DC to film the announcement.
“Honoring the brave men and women who have served our country and protected the very freedom under which we own and operate businesses across America is a testament to good ideas and doing what is right in life,” Dina Dwyer-Owens said. “We are incredibly proud of the veterans in our system and the chance to help them into the work of franchise ownership.”
Thursday’s press conference about the announcement featured a welcome by Maggie McCarthy, the Coordinator for the Veterans Coalition for the Heart of Texas before Jeff Moody, Mr. Rooter VP of Operations, made the Dwyer Group announcement. The announcement featured First Lady Michelle Obama with Dina Dwyer-Owens and Mary Thompson unveiling the plans for “Operation Enduring Opportunity.” The IFA is launching “Operation Enduring Opportunity” in response to the 11.7 percent unemployment rate amongst veterans. The press conference finished with a success story from VetFran franchisee Chrislynn Casiano, the Mr. Electric Franchisee of the Year.
VetFran was founded after Desert Storm in 1991, by Don Dwyer, the founder of the international franchise company, The Dwyer Group. After 9/11, Don Dwyer’s daughter, Dina Dwyer-Owens took it upon herself to revitalize the VetFran program. There are over 400 members of VetFran, all franchisors looking to give discounted franchises to veterans. The current chair of the program is Mary Thompson, the president of Mr. Rooter. So far there have been over 2,100 deals given to veterans throughout the years. And Mr. Rooter, Thompson’s own company, has been named by USA Today as one of the Top 50 Companies in American to work with veterans.
“I was a franchise owner before, and I’ve done every job since. I’ve been on every side and seen it from all levels,” Thompson said. “That’s why I’m so passionate. I know I would not have had the success I’ve had without the marine corp. and the franchising business teaching me how. Veterans make the best franchisees: they are disciplined, but follow a system. We are looking for leaders who want to lead toward a common goal.”
As the chair for VetFran, Thompson has spent her time trying to expand the program to its limits. Through her leadership, the website has been redone and a portal is being created to marry veterans with different job opportunities. Their goal is to increase the number of franchisors on VetFran 15 percent, and they’re already part of the way there to next year’s goal.
“At a recent event, VetFran experienced 4 percent growth at a single event,” Thompson said, relish in her voice. “The greatest thing about the program is that VetFran isn’t just doing ‘the right thing to do.’ VetFran is the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do. Franchising is a great medium and a great match between veterans and franchisors. Veterans ‘get’ the system. Most people have to be taught that.”
VetFran provides returning veterans with economic opportunities in a time where jobs are hard to find. In fact, according to VetFran committee member Chris Loudermilk, a veteran runs one in every seven small businesses in the United States.
“At the core of a franchise are business systems, procedures and manuals. A franchise is basically an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) on how to run a specific business,” Loudermilk said. “And veterans are skilled in following SOPs.”
According to recent U.S. Census data, there are more than 66,000 veteran-owned franchise establishments in the United States, which provide jobs for 815,000 Americans. By partnering with the White House Joining Forces Initiative, the expansive goals of “Operation Enduring Opportunity” have the chance to become reality.