Can you tell us about your military background and career in the U.S. Air Force?
I joined the Air Force in the summer of 2000 at the age of 17, just a few months out of high school. I had plans to double retire in 35-40 years; 20 years in the military and then 15-20 years working in government or as a contractor.
I was an engineer, and my first duty station was RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom; I landed there in April 2001. Just a few months later, the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11. I was deployed less than a week later.
That experience changed my life and my plans, and I decided to leave the military and was honorably discharged in 2005.
What was your career after the military?
While I was in the military, I had my first run with entrepreneurship and started a business installing car stereos on base. Once I left the military, I moved to Dallas and started a credit card processing company at the beginning of the PIN-based debit and electronic gift card era. I eventually sold that business, but it was during this time that I bought and flipped my first house which got me into real estate.
In 2007, I started my own real estate company. Despite the Great Recession, by 2011 I had close to 200 agents. I thought I was going to be the next Keller Williams or RE/MAX. What I didn’t understand at the time was how these bigger real estate companies grew. After digging deeper, I discovered that all the major competitors were franchises and, in fact, franchising dominated the real estate industry.
This was my first introduction to franchising, and it immediately intrigued me. After doing my own research and due diligence, I began franchising my real estate company.
I eventually sold the company, and it was around this time that someone from United Franchise Group (UFG) messaged me on LinkedIn about working for a company called Transworld Business Advisors. Transworld is the world leader in the marketing and sales of businesses, mergers and acquisitions, and franchises. After meeting with UFG’s CEO, Ray Titus, I became Transworld’s regional vice president for the Southwest and my passion for franchise sales and development only grew.
What appealed to you about franchising? What makes franchising a great option for veterans?
I believe I was always meant to be in franchising. My Myers-Briggs personality type is ENTP or “The Rational Inventor,” the top career of which is franchisor. Franchising allows my unique personality traits and strengths to shine, and I love the utility of the franchise model and how it successfully helps businesses scale and grow.
Particularly working with United Franchise Group, I’ve had the opportunity to combine my experience in both franchising and real estate within our coworking division and develop the largest coworking franchise company in the world.
Franchising is proven to be a great option for veterans with one in seven franchises being owned by a military vet. We work well with structure and following proven systems and procedures, and we often possess discipline and other transferable skills that are required to operate a successful business.
When you invest in a franchise, you’re investing in a well-developed operation. Franchising takes the guesswork out of starting a business because it has been formulated for success (if you follow the steps). And, because franchises are designed to be replicable, there are extensive training systems in place that don’t require you to have industry or business ownership experience.
What led you to the coworking industry?
I started my real estate company out of a coworking space, so it was a model I was familiar with from the very beginning of my real estate career. Working in that field and having a background in marketing and tech, it was a natural progression to enter the coworking industry.
Of course coworking has been around for many years, but the pandemic pushed us into an age I call “Coworking 2.0,” where flexibility is not only the expectation, but the standard in how we work. The global demand for flexible office space is growing at an unprecedented rate, and we’re focused on meeting that demand.
What is Vast Coworking Group? Does it have veteran franchise owners?
Vast Coworking Group is the fourth largest coworking group in America and the largest privately owned coworking franchise company in the world. We founded Vast with the express intention of building a framework that would connect a variety of coworking brands, services, and amenities within the coworking industry.
Vast provides the largest privately owned affiliated franchise network of flexible, professional, and shared office space options. Our network can be compared to world’s largest hotel chains, such as Marriott which has several brands occupying different chain scales under one umbrella. These brands complement each other but have different looks, feels, styles, amenities, etc.
We currently have two shared workspace concepts – Office Evolution and Venture X – both of which are growing rapidly. In fact, many of our franchise owners are building out their portfolios with both brands using our hub-and-spoke development model. Similar to hotel chains, our brands complement one another but cater to their own demographics. For example, Venture X locations typically occupy high-traffic urban areas and city centers, while Office Evolution locations are perfect for more suburban areas.
We have several veteran franchise owners in both brands, including Ryan Gagne in Marlborough, MA (Marines); Jim Garrett in San Antonio, TX (Navy); and Terry Wallace in Bethlehem, PA (Marines). And we know that coworking can be a great solution for veteran-owned businesses, which is why we offer free office space for new veteran members during the month of November.
What makes coworking a good franchise opportunity?
Not only is coworking a booming industry with unprecedented demand, but the business model also lends itself to a good work-life balance as a Monday-Friday, 9-5 business. You don’t have to deal with managing a large staff; you only need 1-2 employees to run the day-to-day. Plus, you’ll have professional clientele (mostly B2B), so you’ll be interfacing with like-minded people and avoiding a broader customer base that brings many challenges.
Additionally, the business generates strong recurring revenue and has mostly fixed expenses versus variable. In terms of investment, it is similar to many other franchise concepts that don’t offer these attributes.
What advice do you have for veterans interested in franchising?
- Utilize your military training to find something you’re interested in.
- Utilize all available military benefits and discounts.
- Follow the rules laid out by the franchise; don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
- Plan to scale, with more than one location stabilized.
- Get comfortable with the worst-case scenario, and then move forward optimistically.
To connect with Jason on LinkedIn, visit www.linkedin.com/in/jasonandersonmba.
To learn more about Vast Coworking Group, visit www.vastcoworking.com.