Why Franchise Ownership is a Top Career Choice for Transitioning Veterans

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. Atlanta Franchise Today is dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for their franchise goals.

For many reasons, men and women who have served in the military can be excellent candidates for successful franchise ownership. The initiatives within franchising to attract veteran owners continue to grow as well. On today’s episode, Leslie sits down with Paul Huszar, President and CEO of VetCor, a franchise brand embracing military leadership, principles, and values.

Transcription:

Leslie Kuban:
Paul, welcome to the show.

Paul Huszar:
Hey, thanks for having me, Leslie. So great to be here, and I really appreciate you for this program, for really helping people understand about franchising, but specifically today, you know what I’m passionate about and that’s helping my fellow former teammates, former service members, and veterans of the U.S. Military. Thanks so much.

Leslie Kuban:
And I couldn’t think of a better guest to have to talk about this, Paul. And we’ve got a lot to talk about here. So let’s dive in and for our viewers who are meeting you for the first time, you served your country and then found your way into franchising and found your way to VetCor. Tell us about your story, your military career, then how you found your way into this wonderful world that we love called franchising.

Paul Huszar:
Well, thanks so much. All of it was just a great accident. I’d love to tell you how it was all planned, but none of it was planned. Started out, going to West Point. I was a good student, I was a good athlete in high school. And I went to a college fair like many of us did when I was a sophomore in high school and I’m pretty sure I got profiled. I was the ringleader of a group of young men. And this guy says, “Hey, do you ever think about West Point?” I said, “No, I’m going to be a civil engineer.” I was good at math. My dad owned a construction company. I thought, “I’ll go get a civil engineering degree and then come back and run his construction company.” And the guy says, “Did you know that West Point was our first civil engineering school in the United States?”

Paul Huszar:
Then I walked back to him and he just started reeling me in after that. And from that point forward, I was really intrigued about West Point. And I saw it as a challenge, a great leadership institution. But I thought I’ll go there for five years and then come back to Akron, Ohio and run my dad’s construction company. And I went there and nobody loves going to West Point, because as a college kid, you really give up your college experience. But that experience itself, I got on the conveyor belt four years later, I got off. There’s a ton of people that try and keep you on the conveyor belt when it instills discipline in you and then you get out and then you’ve got a guaranteed job.

Paul Huszar:
And then literally 23 years later, I told myself I’d stay in the army until I stopped having fun. I really didn’t even stop having fun. It was a challenge for my family life and my kids and things. But man, I spent 11 years of that jumping out of airplanes. I got to command the same battalion that I was Second Lieutenant in. I met my unit in Desert Storm. I went back to Iraq three more times after that taken the same battalion I commanded. And then my terminal assignment, I was the Dean of the Army’s Engineer School. What a great opportunity to groom the army engineer regimens’ young leaders. So no regrets in any and all of that. And then I retired and moved to Tampa and like many veterans, I wasn’t ready for that. It was a shock. People don’t know, really understand. They think veterans, they love us, they revere us, but they don’t know us. And that was a bit of a challenge.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. And so your story sounds very similar to many of our other military career professionals who’ve served our country that transitioning into civilian life can be scary. It’s a whole new world. It’s challenging. And we find that franchising can be a good home for people looking for their next chapter after their military career. And that was true for you. But tell us about that. How or why is franchising potentially that great next step for veterans like yourself?

Paul Huszar:
So for me, people didn’t know me. It wasn’t until I met the gentleman who’s my business partner, who was the founder of VetCor, David Howard. And David had been an Army Officer for five years and then spent 25 in the insurance industry. And we’re a restoration company. So our clients are insurance companies and so David started the company and then hired me. So really he was the first Csuite level guy that understood what my capabilities were. And that’s part of the challenges that veterans come out and they run into people that don’t know what they can do. Well in franchising, you’re in business for yourself, but not by yourself. There’s a team around you and you have the SOPs, standard operating procedures, much like the military.

Paul Huszar:
People get this wrong. They think veterans succeed and they have track record of a exceptionally successful franchising relationships as franchisors or franchisees. And people think it’s because they wrote the follow orders. That’s not true. What they do is they understand commander’s intent to levels above and intent is based on purpose, key tasks, and end state. They understand missions that have five components: who, what, where, when, and why. And so they’re able to work within the SOPs, the standard operating procedures, the manuals, et cetera, and make them better. And that’s what people don’t necessarily understand. Because the military is a huge leadership laboratory. And the U.S. Military is that the class of the world, because of the initiative of the small unit leader and so many people are not affiliated with the military now, it’s the smallest it’s ever been in our nation’s history, which means the population of veterans is so small. They don’t necessarily understand that, but that’s why they’re so successful. They take an SOP and they make it better because they can work within net tent.

Leslie Kuban:
And at VetCor, that’s how your company is organized according to these principles. Tell us more about that, Paul.

Paul Huszar:
So inherently, we are a for-profit restoration company, so we… Dishwashers, ice makers, hot water heaters, air conditioning units, roof leaks, kitchen fires, bio-trauma crime scene cleanups, all those things are covered losses. And that’s what we do. We’re for-profit company. But what makes us unique is our policy is we hire veterans and those who share similar values. And then we now through franchising offer franchises to veterans, their immediate family members, and those who share similar values. So you don’t have to be a veteran to be affiliated with VetCor, but you have to share those same values. And our vision really is to become the premier private employer of veterans throughout the United States, as well as the brand known for timely, quality, reliable service, and the value of veterans.

Paul Huszar:
So all your listeners out there have had this challenge. Think about the last time you had a service call of any kind with any service provider that came to your house. I’m in Florida. So we typically use the air conditioning repair man, but the cable guy or a plumber or whatever. When did they tell you, Leslie, that they were going to be at your home? Four hour window? And then they don’t show up within that window and for veterans, and this is where the branding comes into play and it’s really our distinguishable feature. For veterans, on time is late and early as on time. So we don’t give time windows. We give times because I believe veterans, and most of our employees and teammates are veterans, they can get a group of guys and gals be the right place at the right time with the right kit to accomplish the mission. That’s what they do.

Leslie Kuban:
And that in and of itself is a differentiator, particularly in the service industry.

Paul Huszar:
It is. It sets us apart. And that’s why I say, “We’re doing this, we’re on a mission to create these sustainable, meaningful employment opportunities and now business ownership opportunities for veterans.” So, we believe that what we have here is really the military customs and courtesies and cultures, norms and values wrapped up into a private business. But if you’re an investor out there, if you’re someone that’s looking to get a franchise, I believe you will see value in this brand, which is in a great industry. You’re familiar with it. It’s recession proof. It’s pandemic proof, it’s an essential service. And there’s good brands in here that do well. But there’s plenty of room for the good brands. And we just, I think, differentiate ourselves by that brand: timely, quality, reliable service, and that value of veterans in disaster restoration. When people need you, we’re here to help.

Leslie Kuban:
And to further what you’re saying about differentiation, I mean, you’re in the insurance services, water remediation business, and there’s a lot of players in that industry, franchised and non-franchised. And I’ve always been of the mind that where franchising really wins is in large industries with a lot of players. It’s demonstrated, there’s high demand and stability of the demand for those services. But people get concerned about competition. People, particularly new to business ownership, will look around and say, “Gosh, is there really a need for another insurance services brand out there?” What’s your perspective on franchising, being in a very competitive spaces?

Paul Huszar:
So first of all, before we started franchising a little over two years ago, I spent about two years prior to that studying franchising. I went to the International Franchise Association Conference, got enrolled in the Emerging Franchiser Bootcamp. Now I obtained my Certified Franchise Executive through all the continuing education and classes and everything. And so I learned about franchising and in its essence, franchising is really about training, standardizing, and replicating. So I used to be the owner of a restoration business. I still own a restoration business. It’s really kind of the Tampa Hillsborough County Franchise of VetCor, but now we’re in the franchising business: training, standardizing, replicated. So you know any institutions that have a good reputation for training, standardizing, and replicating like the military? So we really have played to our strengths now that we’re a franchising company.

Paul Huszar:
I’m not sure if you met Scott Walden, he’s our Chief Operating Officer Retired Army Sergeant Major E9. There are no E10s, E9 is high as you get. Scott’s the guy who developed our training plan. He’s a master restorer. He is a certified instructor for the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning Restoration Certification. So what we do and how we do it as a franchisor, I think distinguishes ourselves both in terms of training, our quality assurance programs. And now let me put it to you this way. Let’s say you’re an insurance company executive, and you’re sitting behind that desk, close your eyes and imagine a major hurricane hitting the Eastern seaboard of the United States and then a franchise system and network deploys to that area to help all your insured customers. Who would you rather have? A bunch of former military leaders who are now a networked group of professionals who have a bit of experience deploying to remote locations under austere conditions, establishing operations, and commanding and controlling those operations. Would you rather have VetCor or would you have rather have one of those other brands?

Leslie Kuban:
Well said, Paul, well said. So there’s VetCor but there’s also another acronym that we hear in franchising called VetFran, which is a program spearheaded by the International Franchises Association. There’s a real charge to help and incentivize people with military career history, find their next pathway into franchising. Tell us a little bit about that VetFran program.

Paul Huszar:
Well, ironically, when I went to that, I first IFA Convention in 2017, I went on a whim. I talked to a franchise attorney and he said, “If you’re really interested in this, you got to go to this conference.” So I just show up. I didn’t know, anybody didn’t know anything. I’m extroverted though, and I’m not shy. So I pick up the agenda and the day before the conference starts, there’s a VetFran meeting. Okay. I need to go. So I go and I just start introducing myself to everybody there. So warm and welcoming, which is the way the franchise industry in general is, but there in particular because basically it’s a committee of the IFA that is established to promote franchising as really career opportunities for veterans. And so the VetFran Committee is composed of franchisors, primarily there are some large franchisees in there as well.

Paul Huszar:
Most of whom are veterans, but at the very minimum, they are veteran advocates and they establish programs for veterans. They establish the criteria for a company, a franchisor to become a VetFran member. Unfortunately, for us, one of those criteria is you got to be a franchisor for at least three years. So because they want to make sure that they’re promoting brands with staying power, et cetera, to veterans and setting them up for success. So we haven’t hit our three year mark. So we can’t formally be in VetFran, but every time we do something, we do franchising 101 webinars for veterans and things like that. We hashtag VetFran, because they’re great. They’re great advocates for veterans. It’s a great program and it’s a great place to start. The second best place to start, the best place to start is contacting VetCor because I think we have a much keener understanding of veterans than even VetFran does. But second to that is VetFran. All the organizations in there really care about veterans, promote the franchise industry to veterans.

Leslie Kuban:
And you’re talking to a lot of transitioning veterans and civilians alike. And you’ve been there, Paul. I’d love to hear what you have to say to that audience of people in transition about what they need to really think about if they’re going to go the next chapter in their life as a franchise owner with your brand or any other brand, just what do people need to think about? What do they need to be honest with themselves about?

Paul Huszar:
So I tell folks, you know Mike Long, our VP of Franchise Development, who is just an awesome salesman, awesome advocate for franchising, awesome veteran advocate. He found this chart and now I keep it on my phone. I just pulled it up. And I said, “Here are the four things I are most important.” If you can find the intersection, whether it’s franchising as an opportunity or a career opportunity or whatever, the intersection of these four things, what you love doing, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at. If you can find the intersection of those four things, you won’t work another day in your life. And so with franchising, I think there’s a great opportunity here because you probably know, let’s say that you love working out. And I’m a fitness nut. Just because you love working out doesn’t mean that you should become a gym owner.

Paul Huszar:
Because the gym owner, isn’t the guy that’s working out. It’s not the guy that’s doing the personal training. It’s the guy who’s working on the business, not in the business. So when you think about what you love doing, you have to think about it, not necessarily just with respect to the industry, but do you love working on a business, not in the business? In our case, do you love advocating for veterans? Do you love being a brand for timely, quality, reliable service, and the value of veterans? Do you want to be associated with the premier private employer of veterans, those types of things. And obviously for successful franchises, you can get paid for it. Otherwise, the franchise wouldn’t exist. You’re not going to sell franchises if you don’t have happy franchisees, you don’t have happy franchisees unless you have a successful business model.

Paul Huszar:
So in general, just by virtue of them being a successful franchisees, it shows that the world needs it and you can be paid for it. And then the question is, are you good at it? Again, you don’t necessarily have to be good, in our case with restoration, but you have to be good at leading, managing, representing your brand, those types of things because with a franchise and a franchise system, the training comes along with it. And in our case, we believe that training is world class. So we can teach you how to be good at restoration. We can teach you how to be good at being a good business owner. You have to want it. You have to have the desire to do it. And then the rest of them may… That means if all those things are… There’s an intersection there, you may be a good fit for us. And what I’d say is that’s good advice, whether it’s any other brand or whether it’s a career opportunity change or whatever.

Leslie Kuban:
You’re touching on something we talk a lot about on the show, which is getting really clear on what is the role of the owner of the franchise. I think like you gave as the example, you may love working out. So the employee of your fitness franchise ought to be someone who really loves working out because that’s what their day to day function is going to be being employee for you. So that’s not necessarily what you do as the owner of the business. So I think you’re hitting the nail on the head of a really important success factor, which is a person needs to get a clear understanding of what’s the role of the owner. And they’ve got to be honest with themselves about, can they do that? Can they execute it? Is it a skill or talent or trait that one can learn easily? That’s where the honesty needs to come in. So as you…

Paul Huszar:
And then representing that brand because that’s really what the franchisee teammate needs to do.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah.

Paul Huszar:
Represent that brand locally. And for us that means, we want you to be the veteran guy or the veteran gal, the advocate in that potential town that talks about hiring vets, that helps connect vets, that helps support vets, supports veteran organization, et cetera.

Leslie Kuban:
And as you’ve gotten immersed in the world of franchising, who have you found has been a real role model or mentor for you, Paul?

Paul Huszar:
Well, there were several that came through that I met initially from VetFran. Steve White is the Chair of VetFran. He’s also the President of a competitor of ours, PuroClean, but he’s a former infantry officer. He’s been a great mentor of mine. Gordon from Sport Clips, he’s a former c130 pilot. The first conference I went to, he gave me probably an hour’s worth of his time of just talking to me about the franchise industry. Shelly Sun has been a great men… She was the chair of the IFA. She has given me a ton of great free advice over a series of coffees that we met at a couple of different IFA Conferences and Emerging Franchiser Conference. And most recently, Dave Barr just gave me some really great nuggets and some time and attention that I really appreciated in his keynote address and at the Springboard Conference and follow up. And the cool thing about the industry is there’s just so many people there are just so willing to give with open arms.

Leslie Kuban:
And that’s something that is usually a wonderful, pleasant surprise to people just starting to learn about franchising is this community of generosity and collaboration, even with competing brands like you’ve just mentioned and all the folks that you’ve just mentioned, they’re great friends and probably some of the most generous hearts in franchising that I know as well.

Paul Huszar:
Which really makes it easy to get into the industry too, because they’re just so giving of knowledge, because if you’re a good reputable brand, there’s more than enough business to go around. The pie gets bigger for everybody.

Leslie Kuban:
So Paul, I like to wrap up with a success story. Tell us about one of your franchisees and a win that they’ve experienced.

Paul Huszar:
Well, one of the awesome things is we have so many amazing franchisees. That’s another strength of our brand, but I’ll just tell, Elizabeth Evans, she was our third franchisee and she owns VetCor of the First Coast. So Elizabeth is a fellow West Point grad, army engineer officer. She was on active duty and then she went into the Florida National Guard. So during COVID she was the J5, the Chief of Plans for the State of Florida. So while she’s doing that, she gets activated because of the National Guard requirements to help assist during COVID in her first year of franchising. She also owns E2 Design and Construction, a very successful construction and engineering firm. So she’s handling all that. She’s an incredible citizen soldier. She gets selected for the War College. So she attends the War College full time, her first year, six months into becoming a franchisor. And then she was just recently selected as the Commander of Camp Landing, the Headquarters for the Florida National Guard. And she’s a top franchisee teammate of ours. So that’s just one…

Leslie Kuban:
So that goes to say, nobody’s really too busy.

Paul Huszar:
Right. And so that’s what I got. Hey, franchisors out there, can you show me a quality franchisee like that? And all of them are like… Our largest franchisees, a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Ford National Guard who introduced us to Elizabeth. He owns a roofing construction company and now seven territories of VetCor. So we just were blessed with having just wonderful franchisee teammates who just excel in their personal and professional lives.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, Paul, congratulations on attracting such wonderful people. It’s great and exciting to see you grow and I really look forward to seeing what success looks like for you next year. And really pleased to have you on the show.

Paul Huszar:
Thanks so much, Leslie. Again, thanks so much for doing what you do to promote franchising in general. And in this case today, for recognizing what veterans have to offer in the franchising space. Thank you very much.

Leslie Kuban:
Thanks, Paul. If our interview has peaked your curiosity about VetCor and you’d like to learn more, the QR code coming up on your screen right now will let them know that you’d like to hear from them. Folks, it’s been a great episode of Atlanta Franchise Today. Thank you for joining me. And I look forward to seeing you next week.


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