A force in franchising

For many men and women, a role in the military is not a life-long job, yet the skills they gain during this time are often invaluable to their post-forces careers. This is why, up and down the country, former Armed Forces personnel are successfully transitioning to franchise ownership.

The gratitude that the UK population has for the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces is near-universal, and rightly so. Leaving behind their families and friends for months at a time, many of them travel across the globe to hostile environments, potentially putting their lives on the line, and soldiers, sailors and airmen alike are a source of considerable national pride.

Nevertheless, for many of these men and women, being part of our Armed Forces is not a life-long job. In a majority of cases, they one day make a return to civilian life and with that comes the need to embark on a new career path.

The process of reintegrating back into work can be a challenge, and this can be particularly truthful in the example of a serviceperson with children and a mortgage to pay. On the other hand, those transitioning from military life are doing so with unique skills, high levels of dedication and determination, and in some cases natural leadership qualities.

These are skills that lend themselves exceptionally well to the world of franchising, and this is why, up and down the country, former Armed Forces personnel are now reaping the rewards of being a franchise owner.

Andy Morris, Director of ServiceMaster Clean Contact Services Bristol, is a former REME officer who served for 12 years between 1983 and 1994 and is still a Major in the Army Reserve. He realised at the time that the forces were not providing him with the work/family balance he required.

He explains: “I had a young family and my eldest daughter who was six at the time would have attended three schools in two years as I was due to attend a long career development course. In 1994, I realised that for the sake of my family I needed to settle down. “I also had always had an ambition to run my own business and I felt that running a proven franchise system would be a good way of stepping out of the Army and into business.”

Flexible franchise

After the rigid structure of Army life, Andy sought a franchise opportunity that would allow him to be flexible in how he did business while consistently providing work. ServiceMaster’s Clean Contract Services ticked all these boxes.

He says: “I decided that commercial office cleaning was a business that was sustainable and would provide a steady stream of business that meant that I was consistently rewarded for my selling efforts. I also wanted a franchise that was not too prescriptive in the type of business I had to take on and the prices I had to charge.” Andy was impressed by the support structure put in place by ServiceMaster both in enabling its franchise owners to get set up and to help them later down the line.

He attended an academy at the company’s head office as well as spending several days working in a contract services business. However, he was aware that starting a business is an entirely different matter, and therefore found the opportunity to network with and learn from other licensees invaluable. Their “camaraderie and assistance” was, he says, just as crucial. As a business owner, Andy also enjoys access to support in all areas via ServiceMaster Limited as and when he requires it.

Transferrable skills

Life in the forces embellishes personnel with valuable attributes, many of which prove useful and easy transferrable to a business-ownership environment. Andy cites as examples: adaptability, in that there are so many different aspects to running your own company; endurance, possessing the drive to work hard and sometimes long hours to achieve your goals; and, importantly, a sense of humour, which he says helps massively when dealing with difficult customers or even staff.

He adds: “I think franchise ownership for former service personnel has many benefits. The discipline that the services instils is a huge advantage in working within a franchise framework. Franchise ownership isn’t for everyone and it isn’t a shortcut for hard work.” However, it is clear that those who are willing to put in the hours and hard graft will reap the many rewards that franchise ownership has to offer. While life as a business owner is far removed from that in the forces, Andy has forged an equally successful business venture that takes advantage of the skills gained from his military career, putting them to good use as a civilian.

“I have a successful business that affords me a salary and lifestyle equivalent to that enjoyed by any senior officer in the Military,” he says.

After growing the business substantially over several years, he is looking to further boost it for five more before selling up after a successful second career.

Andy has the following advice for those coming from a similar background looking to forge a new career in the franchise world.

“If you enjoy the buzz and adrenaline of an operational tour then you’re going to find franchise ownership an acquired taste. If you are used to people making rapid decisions and working with go getting individuals prepare for the most part to be disappointed. If you enjoy moving house every couple of years and enjoy making new friends regularly this won’t be as easy as franchise owner.

He concludes: ““If you enjoy the varied lifestyle of the Armed Forces, you are unlikely to see this as a franchise owner, however the thought of not being sent away to fight at a moment’s notice is comforting. I enjoy the stability to my life that being a civilian brings.”

Andy explains his current role in the Army Reserve and how it fits around his career as franchise owner

“I am a Major in the Royal Signals and am currently commanding an Army Reserve Squadron based in Bristol. Commanding a Squadron is just like running a business; I have a hierarchical structure of managers who look after solders who are a diverse bunch including communications specialists, chefs, medics and military HR specialists. There is no doubt that my business experience assists me in my military role and vice versa. The structures and people are very different but the thing they have in common is that both deliver a service to a customer and many ways the expectations are very similar.

In February 2014 I found myself mobilised for nearly three weeks to provide support to the military effort in assisting with the floods in the South of England. I was fortunate that my staff were able to cope with my absence and what was particularly encouraging was the support I received from my customers during my mobilisation. As a reservist it was particularly gratifying to be able to play a part in assisting UK communities during difficult times and it is a valuable role that we provide in addition to what would be considered more military based roles.

I am able to combine my Army Reserve commitments with those of my business through good time management, supportive staff and more importantly a very understanding wife. Because I own a business I am more in control of my time than some of my reservist colleagues who are employed and it is this flexibility that makes it easier for me to combine both the roles as an Army Reservist and a business owner.

The major challenge I currently face as an Army Reserve Squadron Commander is the requirement for us to grow the Army Reserve as part of a major restructuring of the Army which will see a much greater contribution from the Reserves. We need to recruit and train quite a number of soldiers in the next year or so and the principles I am using are almost identical to the principles I adopt to grow my business. We need to harness social media as well as gain local publicity in order to engage with our prospective recruits. Once we have selected and signed up our new recruits and we need to provide them with fulfilling and interesting training in order that we can retain their services. My business experience and knowledge has undoubtedly given me confidence to put an effective plan together.”