From the July 2012 issue of Entrepreneur

Franchisors have long recognized that military veterans--with their leadership skills, dedication and ability to work within a strict system--make ideal franchisees.

The International Franchise Association (IFA) estimates that one out of every seven franchises in the U.S.--more than 66,000 businesses in total--is owned and operated by a veteran.

But there are many more veterans who would love to own their own business, and the biggest obstacle to that dream is money. Since the post-9/11 relaunch of the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (VetFran), more than 400 franchisors have offered incentives to veterans in the form of discounted startup costs. Many companies go even further to help veterans make their business ownership dreams a reality by offering additional assistance, financing help, special training and more. Below in alphabetical order are the top 10 franchises for veterans, gleaned from G.I. Jobs' 2012 Military Friendly Franchises® list.

Active Services
These are the franchises with the highest percentage of vet-owned units, according to G.I. Jobs:

1. Pillar To Post Inspection Services
2. Jan-Pro Franchising
3. Aire Serv
4. Mr. Appliance Corporation
5. WIN Home Inspection
6. Mr. Electric
7. Jani-King
8. AmeriSpec Home Inspection Services
9. Matco Tools
10. Anytime Fitness

To determine which franchises are doing the most to recruit and retain military veterans, the G.I. Jobs team conducts an annual data-driven survey of more than 4,000 franchises. An advisory board consisting of four franchise industry experts helps to determine the survey questions. The answers determine the list, which is tabulated by the following formula: 40 percent for a franchise's success in recruiting veterans; 30 percent for a company's financial efforts to recruit veterans, such as franchise fee discounts and recruiting budgets; and 30 percent for nonfinancial efforts to recruit veterans.

Visit MilitaryFranchising.com to see the full list of G.I. Jobs' 2012 Military Friendly Franchises®.

This list is not intended as an endorsement of any particular franchise. Always do your due diligence before investing in a business opportunity. That means not just looking at what incentives the company offers, but also consulting with an attorney and an accountant, carefully reading the company's literature and legal documents and talking to other franchisees about their experiences, good and bad.

Aire Serv
Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning services
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 196
(800) 583-2662
Startup costs: $74.6K-197.4K
Incentive: Veterans receive 25 percent off the franchise fee.
Offered since: 1991
Veteran-owned franchises: 34 (out of 184)
Supporting the troops: Dina Dwyer-Owens, chairman and CEO of Aire Serv parent The Dwyer Group, met with first lady Michelle Obama in November to announce the start of veteran recruitment campaign Operation Enduring Opportunity.

Anytime Fitness
Fitness center
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 11
(800) 704-5004

Startup costs: $46.3K-321.9K
Incentive: Veterans receive 20 percent off the franchise fee.
Offered since: 2008
Veteran-owned franchises: 250 (out of 1,871)
Additional support: Anytime Fitness has created a virtual round table for its veteran franchisees so they can share ideas and experiences.

 

CruiseOne
Cruise and travel agency
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 45
(800) 892-3928
Startup costs: $4.6K-26.2K
Incentive: Veterans receive 20 percent off the franchise fee. Additional cost-saving incentives vary month to month.
Offered since: 2003
Veteran-owned franchises: 101 (out of 782)
Special promotion: CruiseOne's new Operation Vetrepreneur contest will award free franchises to five veterans; winners will be announced
on Veterans Day.

FastSigns International
Signs and graphics solutions
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 107
(800) 827-7446
Startup costs: $169.7K-276.4K
Incentive: Veterans receive 50 percent off the franchise fee.
Offered since: 1996
Veteran-owned franchises: More than 45 (out of 540)
Supporting the troops: As part of Operation Enduring Opportunity, FastSigns has set a goal to hire 200 veterans systemwide.

Novus Glass
Auto glass repair and replacement
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 77
(952) 946-0463
Startup costs: $45.8K-134.8K
Incentive: Veterans discharged within the last three years receive 30 percent off the franchise fee.
Offered since: 2009
Veteran-owned franchises: 10 (out of 1,686)
Veteran leadership: Novus director of engineering Jon Thomas served in the National Guard.

Pillar To Post Inspection Services
Home inspections
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 216
(877) 963-3129
Startup costs: $30.7K-42.8K
Incentive: Veterans receive 10 percent off the franchise fee.
Offered since: 2004
Veteran-owned franchises: 125 (out of 370)
Supporting the troops: Pillar To Post is working with the Military Warriors Support Foundation to provide initial home inspections for houses that will be donated to veterans.

Pop-A-Lock Franchise System
Mobile security, locksmithing and related services
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 131
(877) 233-6211
Startup costs: $85.8K-97.9K
Incentive: Veterans receive 10 percent off the franchise fee.
Offered since: 2009
Veteran-owned franchises: 25 (out of 295)
Veteran leadership: Before joining Pop-A-Lock, head of operations Rob Reynolds served in the Army.

ServiceMaster Clean
Commercial/residential cleaning and disaster restoration
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 40
(800) 255-9687
Startup costs: $47.9K-168.9K
Incentive: Veterans receive 15 percent off the franchise fee.
Offered since: 1998
Veteran-owned franchises: 210 (out of 4,939)
Additional support: ServiceMaster franchisees on active duty pay no minimum royalty fees if they have to close their business to go into military service.

Snap-on Tools
Professional tools and equipment
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 28
(877) 476-2766
Startup costs: $19.5K-275.8K
Incentive: Veterans receive $20,000 off their initial inventory purchase.
Offered since: 2004
Veteran-owned franchises: More than 325 (out of 4,510)
Supporting the troops: In 2011, Snap-on hosted the Wounded Warrior Project's cycling event, Soldier Ride, at its Kenosha, Wis., headquarters and unveiled a black-and-camo wrap on its sponsored race car in honor of the organization.

WIN Home Inspection
Home inspections
2012 Franchise 500 ranking: 371
(800) 967-8127
Startup costs: $42.5K-66.6K
Incentive: Veterans receive 10 percent off the franchise fee.
Offered since: 1994
Veteran-owned franchises: 45 (out of 168)
Special promotion: This year saw the launch of WIN for America, a program that will grant selected veterans awards worth up to $40,000 off their franchise fee, as well as providing business-planning assistance.