Transitioning from working in the military to your next career venture can be a daunting prospect for veterans. But the unique skills, discipline, and leadership qualities that veterans develop during military service can be assets in their post-service career. I know firsthand just how intimidating life outside the military can be for active-duty service members and their families. Having found fulfillment and success in entrepreneurship, I can attest that franchising has enabled me to embark on a second career act that uses the skills I learned in my military career. 

My dad was in the military which inspired my journey, I received congressional nominations and was appointed to the Air Force academy and then spent 10 years serving in active duty and 14 years as reservist in the Air Force, after I retired at rank of Lt Colonel. During active duty I earned an MBA in corporate finance from Chapman University, once retired, I spent two decades in corporate America before ultimately deciding to go into business for myself in 2018. I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but never took the leap. It was only when I found Expedia Cruises that I realized how franchise ownership could help me achieve my goals, and I would be able to do so using the skills I retained from the military. Since then, I have further found ways to apply this skillset in how I lead my team and navigate turbulent times. 

My story is similar to many veterans who pave their path towards entrepreneurship following service. While we all have unique specializations and experiences, there are a few common threads that military men and women can apply to entrepreneurship, especially franchising. Here are four vital skills that have naturally carried over from the military and helped me become a successful first-time franchisee. 


Your Team is a Resource

The common phrase, “there’s no ‘I’ in team,” takes on a different meaning in the military. Veterans are accustomed to working with diverse groups of individuals and fostering a culture of mutual respect and cooperation because, in the military, your team is your lifeline. This also rings true in business as your team needs to be built of diverse and unique perspectives that support the longevity of your business. As the leader of that team, it is essential that you set the tone so that each member feels supported and that you are all working towards a common goal.

When you become a business owner, you need to think of your employees as not just a team, but individual resources. Each person brings their own abilities and ideas, allowing you to tap into differing skills and boost overall knowledge to better serve your customers. Don’t simply look at your team members as another body, but instead as a resource – they are the backbone of your business. 

My time in the service taught me how to serve and support my team, and as a team we learned how to work together to tackle challenges. The most important aspect of teambuilding in business is utilizing each obstacle as a learning opportunity so you can improve and move forward better prepared. 


Own Your Role

Being a business owner comes with accountability – something that is vitally important in the military. With accountability comes garnering respect from your team and supervisors, as well as holding yourself to a set of standards.  Military service teaches leaders to set clear goals and take personal responsibility for yourself and your team to achieve the task at hand. This goal-oriented mindset, instilled in me through the military, translates into a results-driven approach in entrepreneurship. 

Early-on in my military service, I was given supervisor responsibilities which taught me how to own my role as a leader. As a leader, you are ultimately accountable for everything that happens in your business. Every customer you serve, service your offer, or product you sell is a reflection of your business, and ultimately the person running the business. Entrepreneurs need to take pride in whatever their business puts out, as well as inspire and motivate their team. 

By having a disciplined work ethic, being adaptable to change, and having the tenacity to navigate high-pressure situations, entrepreneurs can drive their business to success. This kind of flexible, yet accountable mindset helps leaders foster a strong work ethic and make sound business decisions. 


Be a Strong Voice

While some people thrive in team settings and are comfortable filling a support role, others such as myself, have an instinctive drive to do more. Everyone has their own leadership style and personality, and part of being a good leader is being open and honest about your communication. Do not shy away from embracing your personal leadership style – fuel that hunger and ensure your voice is heard. By establishing yourself as a power player on the team, you earn the respect of your colleagues, superiors, and employees. 

Developing my voice as a leader didn’t happen overnight. While I was in the military, I always voiced my desire to take on more responsibility. Now, as a business owner, I am able to inspire my team to take on more responsibility and work towards being strong leaders. Nurturing and supporting your team is a vital part of the business – you have to learn to simultaneously guide those who are stepping into a strong leadership role and foster those who are just getting their bearings. 

Don’t underestimate the power and value of getting to know each of your employees on a more personal level. Employ in-person teambuilding exercises and outings, and carve out time in your schedule to meet with team members one on one where you can provide professional development and setting individual goals. A strong voice as a leader will instill confidence in your team and help navigate high-pressure situations that are inevitable when starting a business. 


Structure is Your Friend

It’s no question that each branch of the military has a very specific structure and hierarchy. This translates into business as structure is vitally important to keep operations running efficiently. Businesses come in all shapes and sizes, so structure isn’t a one size fits all mold. That means that if one structure isn’t working, you need to try something new. 

I naturally gravitate toward a clean and consistent structure because of my military experience. I’ve learned that establishing a clearly defined structure gives people something to follow and grab on to, minimizing room for error. By having systems and processes set up, your employees are also able to be more independent in creating a personalized deliverable for your customers. This also helps manage employee expectations regarding their role and growth within your company. 

Establishing a structure will set your venture up for success. This success will be translated into happier employees, better business and the ability to scale your entrepreneurial footprint. 

Like many other military veterans who have found success in entrepreneurship, I believe that the skills we learn in the military are transferable to franchising. From leaning into your team to establishing structure, veterans can tap into these skills for their next venture without feeling they need to start from ground zero. While it may feel daunting at times, taking the leap and setting your sights on owning a business is achievable. 



Francis James, local owner of Expedia Cruises in Santa Clarita, CA, a full-service leisure travel agency franchise backed by the most powerful travel brand in the world. James spent over 24 years in the Air Force, and a following twenty years in corporate America before joining Expedia Cruises in 2018. Since then, Francis has turned his entrepreneurial dream into a success. If you are interested in Expedia Cruises franchise opportunities, please visit