Editor's note: This article is a part of MOAA's 2020 Transition Guide, which first appeared in the December issue of Military Officer magazine. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.)
Is entrepreneurship or owning a franchise right for you? To help you determine the answer, MOAA Life Member Maj. Staci Reidinger, USMC (Ret), from the UPS Store Inc., and Wayne Terry, franchise owner at PuroClean Emergency Services, offer insights and lessons learned for their career experiences.
Q. For those who decide to start their own business or become a franchise owner, how do you determine which is the right venture?
Staci: First spend quality time researching different business models to see which one fits best with your risk tolerance, lifestyle, and income needs. This research might include interviews with current business owners in the industries you are considering and looking at similar businesses to see what has sustained them for the long haul.
Do you want to have a business that lasts over the next 10-20 years? If so, research why small businesses fail and what successful business owners do in the early stages to build a strong, sustainable model.
Wayne: When I decided I wanted to buy a business, I read a book about how to buy a great business — I actually read it three times. I wanted to be prepared. In that book, it said this process could take three months to a year. It took me two years, and I was searching full time as I quit my job to do this.
I had to control emotions of getting excited about a business and really look hard at the numbers. I spent a year and a half discovering lies from sellers. I was discouraged. I finally went to a franchise outfit that, although I knew I would have to give up royalties, I found them to be more honest. They had to disclose things that a private seller did not.
By the time I had found what I wanted to buy, I was out of money, savings gone, spent on living for those two years. Luckily, I had a great credit rating, which allowed me to get a loan for the funds needed to buy the franchise.
Q. What is your advice for overcoming the inevitable bumps and looming obstacles to get your business off the ground and launched?
Staci: To help guide your journey and help you make sound decisions, I recommend referring to the UPS Store’s “Inside Small Business Survey” conducted in the spring of 2019 where over 5,000 respondents were surveyed about their dreams and decisions on opening a small business. Survey respondents said if they were to start a small business in 2019, the biggest barriers are financial security (40%), financial commitment to operate the business (35%), and fear of failure (35%).
As you develop your business plan, look at resources available to veterans through the Small Business Administration and the VA and attend the “Boots to Business” workshop. Also look into Operation Vetrepreneur, offered by the National Veterans Transition Services Inc. Finally, I highly recommend reflecting on the amount of time and money you want to dedicate to making your new business thrive.
Wayne: Getting out of the military is scary enough but then to take a chance on investing in a business is a “scared” I have never experienced before. I learned two things: First, although you are told to find out all about your competition, don’t spend a ton of time on this or it will scare you away from going into any business. Everyone has competition. If you can offer exceptional customer service, you are, most likely, ahead of the competition already.
The second thing I have learned is there is a time where you will have to make a decision. It is easy to delay, put off, and procrastinate. Research and due diligence is mandatory, and there comes a point where it’s time to jump in or turn away and look at something else.
When you do jump, go all in. Do whatever it takes, legally, to make that business work. Chances are you will be working many hours that first year or two. When you have it built to the point where other people are running it, you will have time to relax and make up for all those incredible hours worked in the first year. At some point, you want to quit working “in” the business and then start working “on” the business.
Return to MOAA's 2020 Transition Guide.