Providing Career Opportunities for Military Veterans
BY JACK HUMBERT, CFE DEVELOPING PEOPLE
This year IFA celebrates the Silver Anniversary of its Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, better known as VetFran. And after 25 years of awards presentations, PR coverage, convention speeches and White House ceremonies, what’s left to say? It would have been great to be in the meeting room listening in as the visionaries at the IFA were brainstorming the mission of VetFran’s Operation Enduring Opportunity campaign. In 1991, Don Dwyer, founder of the Dwyer Group, in a generous and thoughtful act of patriotism and business foresight, established VetFran. Its purpose was to honor and to help Gulf War veterans experience the American Dream of business ownership through franchise training, mentoring and financial incentives. Fast-forward to the hectic fall months of 2011 when a November 10 launch for Operation Enduring Opportunity was etched into cold, unforgiving steel. In what had to have been an aha! moment, IFA planners chose not only to recruit veterans as franchise owners, but to also expand the outreach of VetFran by setting goals for hiring veterans and their spouses as employees. It was a big idea. For J. D. Byrider and other franchise brands that required substantial ownership investments, which were out of reach for most military veterans, OEO now gave us the platform to volunteer our resources in direct support of VetFran. It was a breakthrough. “We employ over 4,000 individuals across the nation,” explains Bryan Hohne, vice president of Talent and Development at J. D. Byrider. “We have found great success in hiring veterans because of their loyalty, work ethic and focus in the workplace. We are honored to offer opportunities to our members of the Armed Services.”
DEVELOPING PEOPLE AND PROMOTING FROM WITHIN
J. D. Byrider was founded in Marion, Ind. in 1989. Today, the company’s 170 franchise automotive and finance dealerships across 36 states, being hands-on and customer-focused, are conducive to attracting veterans. The career opportunities within the dealerships are truly unlimited in sales, finance and service management, accounting, clerical, IT, marketing, and as service technicians, underwriters, collectors and automotive buyers. J. D. Byrider franchisee Craig Baker exemplifies the commitment of the company’s franchise corps in supporting the VetFran program and “advancing the lives of our military veterans.” Baker has two J. D. Byrider dealerships in Richmond, Va., with three more planned for the Tidewater, Va. area. He spent 20 years in financial services and was an accountant with Ernst & Young. “At Ernst & Young, professional development was the responsibility of the individual,” said Baker. “I believe that if you’re willing to invest in yourself — in serving our country — we’ll invest in you. Our three new dealerships amount to 60 more jobs and opportunities for veterans.” Baker’s lead technician, Brian Nieves, is on track for a management position because of his perseverance and the leadership skills he acquired in the military. “I was in the U.S. Army for four years as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and served one year in South Korea,” says Nieves. “Taking charge in what I do comes naturally to me as a result of my military training.” After the service, Nieves went to college and was working part-time for another car dealership when J. D. Byrider opened. “I applied for a full-time position. They looked at my work and my military experience.”
ENLISTING SUPPORT FOR VETFRAN
Much has been written about the success of the OEO campaign. The goal was to hire 80,000 veterans, wounded warriors and military spouses as employees and franchise owners through 2014. Based on a survey conducted by Franchise Business Review and reported in the IFA’s Executive Summary, the campaign has significantly exceeded its goal. “Since 2011 (through 2014), 198,282 veterans found employment and 5,608 joined as franchise owners. The franchise industry has enabled over 203,000 veterans, military spouses and wounded warriors to start careers in franchising.” It’s inspiring and noble what the franchise community can accomplish when we work together. At the time of the survey, 645 IFA members participated in the VetFran program. At the time of writing, there are 660 members. However, when you consider that there are approximately 1,300 total IFA members, then barely half hoist the VetFran banner. Why aren’t all IFA members engaged somehow in the VetFran effort? If we can work together and far exceed our employment and ownership goals, then we should take aim to enlist more support for a cause that benefits so many and strengthens our economy. With the population of veterans approaching 22 million, joining VetFran is a great initiative to connect with the extremely strong veterans’ community. As franchisors, and with active engagement from franchisees, we can achieve great things.
LEADING THE CHARGE TO EMPLOY AND ADVANCE OUR VETERANS
More than 85 percent of J.D. Byrider’s franchisees also own and operate multiple businesses. The company has the ability to create a career path for veterans within its ownership groups that is wide and long. Kevin Keesee is COO of a franchise group that has two J. D. Byrider locations in Peoria, Ill., and Merrillville, Ind., and three more in development. The group also owns new car dealerships where employment opportunities for veterans abound. “Fifteen percent of our workforce is veterans,” says Keesee. “We prefer veterans: they’re disciplined, follow orders and have a keen appreciation for operating by the book. That’s critical in running a successful franchise and in our industry, it sets us apart.” He continues: “We’ve had great results hiring veterans and giving them opportunities to advance. One veteran who joined as a service technician was promoted to a sales consultant position. For three of his first six months on the job, he ranked in the top 50 in sales company-wide. Last December he was number seven in the country. That’s what veterans are capable of and why they are a great fit in our franchise system.” We are very proud of our military and the talented individuals it turns out, and when possible, we are proud to have the opportunity to assist veterans with their career goals. Providing jobs and career opportunities is a core value at J. D. Byrider.