Interview by Kieran McLoone, editor of Global Franchise
Veteran entrepreneurship and franchising are two areas that are increasingly linked, with this business model representing a perfect pathway for veterans who want to become their own boss, but require (or prefer) the support of an established franchise brand.
To commemorate National Veterans and Military Families Month in the U.S., we caught up with Lou Schager, the president of Neighborly-owned home services brand, Mosquito Joe. Lou served almost three decades in the U.S. Navy before transitioning into the franchising world in 2017, and brought with him a sense of dedication and resiliency that made him perfect for this new career.
KM: What led to the transition from your career in the military to president of Mosquito Joe?
LS: I knew that I wanted to transition out of the military. I was a pilot, but I didn’t want to fly for airlines or do something in the government. I wanted to reinvent myself, and I love small business and the thought of entrepreneurship.
I had been a Mosquito Joe customer for years before I was approached by the founder of the franchise. He said he’d love for me to be a part of the team, and that they saw me taking it over someday as president. I thought about it, and I loved the experience that my family had with the brand as a service — I was blown away by it, quite frankly. The technicians that came by were more friendly and outgoing and thoughtful than any other home service brand I’d engaged with.
There was something unique going on. When you’re in the military, it’s easy to rally your troops and say that they need to stay out for 20 hours because we have a mission that we can’t lose. I wanted to know where I could find that in the private sector; what kind of mission or vision could I gravitate to?
“I wanted to reinvent myself, and I love small business and the thought of entrepreneurship”
I’m one of 14 children and come from a large family, and in my leadership positions it’s always been about family. I saw a connection of bringing health and happiness to families across the country with Mosquito Joe, and the idea of seeing dreams come true for entrepreneurs and business owners really energized me.
All of those things added up to me realizing that this was a great opportunity that doesn’t come around all that often, so I jumped at the chance. It’s really about the people, what the brand does for communities and families, and the idea of creating an opportunity for entrepreneurs to make a better life for themselves.
KM: Why do you think service franchises are perfect for veteran ownership?
LS: Everybody has a home. You’ll find in the military that you can be gone for a lot of time; who was back at home taking care of the house? Who can help your spouse and family out?
There’s a natural connection between how important is it to have a home where your family is comfortable, and the resources that exist to help that. It’s a natural fit for veterans because they’ve kept a close eye on it for 20 years while they’re away, so they now want to make it even better by becoming a franchise owner.
KM: What skills do veterans pick up during their service that makes them adept franchise leaders?
LS: I think it’s a couple of things. It’s about discipline and following processes. People generally join a franchise organization because they’ve never run a business on their own before, and they need a framework and the tools. Veterans and the military are all about processes and doing your due diligence.
I also think the ability to overcome challenges, and having resiliency, are qualities that I see a lot of my fellow military servicemen having. I think that’s necessary in any small business, let alone franchising.
“Veterans and the military are all about processes and doing your due diligence”
It’s not going to go as well as you expect it to every day, and how do you overcome that? How do you persevere through challenging times, and keep great days balanced? Providing that grounding context is something that most military folks can do; they’ve seen some great days, and some awful days. Those ups and downs are what the business owner experience is all about, so it’s a natural fit.
KM: What’s your go-to piece of advice for entrepreneurs – military veterans or otherwise – who are looking to get into the franchise industry for the first time in 2022?
LS: Do your homework. Really collect as much information about as many business opportunities as you can. Think strategically; meaning, don’t look for that quick win that’s supposedly going to make you a millionaire in two years. Those are few and far between.
Look for that business opportunity that has longevity and a proven track record, and as you navigate that, remember that you’re going to be doing this day-to-day for perhaps the rest of your life. So find something that you love, and I think that will help to carry the day.