Franchise Times Superbook — Spring/Summer 2012
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Greg Tanner

Serving our country saved my life

The National Director of Franchising for Aaron’s and proud Vietnam-era veteran has enlisted in the all-volunteer effort to recruit franchisors and franchisees for Operation Enduring Opportunity—the International Franchise Association’s VetFran initiative to hire 75,000 veterans by 2014. The IFA launched the program November 10, 2011 with a press conference in Washington and several regional media events around the country including Atlanta where Tanner marshaled his Aaron’s team to host the press at the state Capitol. “Greg has been at the forefront of renewing our VetFran campaign launched by IFA Past Chairman Don Dwyer, Sr. And carried on by his daughter Dina Dwyer- Owens,” said Beth Solomon, IFA VP for strategic initiatives & industry relations. “Greg is blazing a trail for franchising into the future that will strengthen our industry and do right by our veterans who have served so bravely.” Doing what’s right for veterans motivates Tanner. He wants you to do what’s right, too.

I was rambling out there just like a lot of kids out of high school. I had no purpose. I had no idea what responsibility was until that day I got my draft letter. For a teenager who questioned authority, the military treated me like a man, gave me responsibility, and taught me respect for authority.The experience saved my life. I was 22 when I got out. I got married, bought a house, and started work. I’ve been married to the same woman for 45 years. I put three kids through college. I live in a beautiful home. I have a rewarding job. I have a great life and without the military I wouldn’t have any of it.

I was at the West Coast Franchise Expo in LA and ran into Lonnie Helgerson, who at the time was chairman of the VetFran Committee.He started talking about what they planned to do and it had Greg Tanner written all over it. ‘Lonnie, you need me. I’m a promoter. I make things happen. I’m a giver. I’m a teacher. I owe my quality of life to the military. This is my opportunity to give back, to support the troops, and to promote our franchise community. Get me on your committee.’ It all worked out. I walked into my first committee meeting last September and we’ve been running ever since. In fact, I was invited to the White House November 21, 2011 as the only franchise representative to witness President Obama sign the American Jobs Act bill that offers tax credits to businesses that hire veterans.

I remember my friends coming home from Vietnam—broken, unwelcome, with no prospects for work. We can’t let that happen again. It has nothing to do with where they were shipped and what we asked them to do; it Has everything to do with their courage, sacrifice and the skills they can bring to our franchise businesses. We need to step up. They aren’t looking for a hand out, just for a helping hand up. We have the clout of the IFA and the resources in our own franchise companies to have an impact on the lives of these returning heroes.

The similarities between working in a franchise and serving in the military are striking. There’s the same esprit de corps. You work as a team with an army of support behind you. You manage people, equipment and time.You follow a proven system. You are accountable for results. And, you are fighting for a cause: security and peace of mind for your family.

I wrote a book titled, “Tannerisms.” In it I share advice for aspiring franchise owners. I plan to write a similar book for veterans titled, “Combat Ready.” One of the “Tannerisms” I offer companies about loyalty when hiring veterans reads: “Where else are you going to find an employee who was willing to take a bullet for their last employer?”

At Aaron’s we have more than 1,000 employees who are vets, almost 10 percent of our workforce. We’ve been active, but quiet in our support of veterans. That’s all changing with our involvement in the Wounded Warrior Project and now VetFran. Our HR department has developed an outreach program for vets. And one hundred percent of our franchisees have stepped up and committed to post a VetFran sticker in their store windows. There are many more things we can and will do thanks to the energy, brainpower and leadership from the IFA.

I’m going to be out on the front lines as part of my VetFran duties getting franchise companies to do the right thing—hire vets and put them in business for themselves. The cost to support our vets is mostly in time and effort. It’s about informing people in your organizations, getting them inspired, and motivating them to join the fight for our vets.

What’s to gain by getting involved? There’s the satisfaction that you’re hiring quality employees and awarding franchises to experienced leaders who have literally performed surely under fire. Let’s face it, there’s a financial benefit, too: vets and their families are customers for our goods and services. But, I believe there’s a deeper fulfillment. I saw the movie, “Pay it Forward,” about a young boy who comes up with the novel idea of paying a favor not back, but forward with good deeds done to new people. It not only changed his life, but the lives of people completely unknown to him. I don’t know any of the returning vets, but I hope that through my good deeds vets will find happiness and success in our franchise world.

Don’t sit out this important fight. At our November 10, Operation Enduring Operation press conference in Atlanta, I appealed to franchisors and franchisees and urged them to step up and to do the right thing by dedicating time, energy and resources to give our veterans the opportunity to live their American dream. They were willing to fight for our freedom and dreams. Now it’s time we pay a good deed forward so that they can live their American dream, too.