As Labor Day gets close, it's a time to remember those struggling to join the workforce. It's an especially tough economy to return home to for military personnel who serve our nation.
In fact, Gulf War-era II veterans have had a particularly rough time finding work. Last year, their unemployment rate was 12.1 percent, much higher than the 8.3 percent for all veterans and 8.5 percent for the nation overall.
There is some good news. This spring, Congress passed the American Jobs Act, which included tax credits, tax cuts and other measures for veterans and businesses willing to hire them.
In addition, the franchising industry is committed to helping returning veterans. The International Franchise Association's "Operation Enduring Opportunity" is targeting 5,000 "wounded warriors" and 75,000 veterans as franchise owners by 2014. Through its VetFran program, many of the franchises that belong to IFA offer substantial franchise fee discounts to veterans. In fact, a few franchises have committed to waive 100 percent of their franchise fee for a limited number of qualified veterans.
Not only is it the right thing to do for those who served our country, but for those of us in the franchising industry, we see veterans as an opportunity. They generally are excellent matches for franchise systems, which reward adaptable, detail-oriented, diligent professionals who excel at following prescribed systems. Plus they have developed extraordinary skillsets that can be tapped for business ownership.
Already, one of every seven U.S. franchises is veteran-owned. The growing types and availability of franchise opportunities along with the large number of returning veterans means that percentage is likely to go up.
Lately, I have been approached by a growing number of veterans at Transition Assistance Programs, held for service men and women separating from the military after a 20+ year career. During the last three programs I did for the U.S. Marine Corps, nearly one-third of the class requested information on starting a franchise.
Getting proper advice and counsel can ensure that wise decisions are made about franchise ownership. Using a franchise consultant -- such as myself -- to help guide veterans through a process of finding a franchise that best utilizes their skills, is affordable, and will allow them to meet their financial needs and achieve their lifestyle goals will help avoid costly pitfalls (and our services are free to the potential franchisee).
Small businesses are the backbone of American job creation, supporting nearly 18 million U.S. jobs, according to IFA. That's why it's important to help match veterans with business ownership opportunities.
Opening the door to franchising for these heroes means they too will have a chance to realize the American dream. Best of all, by creating jobs and income, they are continuing to serve the nation... but now as business owners.