It's a common – and accurate -- notion that athletes and former military personnel make good entrepreneurs. All three must operate simultaneously as creative individuals working for their own benefit and teammates striving for the good of the unit.
The athlete-entrepreneur parallels are many, but perhaps the biggest similarity is that both groups tend to be risk takers who thrive on the novel, but still have to put in the hard work and training to reach their goals.
The same holds true for ex-military, like Lindsey Gentry. Lindsey opened Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop’s first location in San Marcos, Texas, last fall.
Lindsey was a lawyer before she joined the Army in 2006. She spent 15 months in Iraq, where she commanded two companies. She was an officer for almost six years before leaving the service. Her last post was as company commander, Headquarters Support Company, Warrior Transition Brigade – a recuperation program at Fort Hood, Texas, that helps soldiers transition back to civilian life.
Her Army career (along with being a frequent customer of ours when she was a student) gave her a solid foundation to be the kind of entrepreneur we want.
I noted in a past column comparing franchisees to Captain America instead of the individual business owner’s Iron Man, the franchisee has a clear mission and knows the protocols for achieving it: “The team that the franchisee is a part of extends both above and below them; they are obedient to the franchisor above and are responsible for the actions that take place at their location below.”
Just as smaller military units are parts of bigger wholes, and just as officers must watch out for the men and women under their commands, so it is with us.
As Lindsey told Military.com in a recent interview, the Army’s methods of confidence- and leadership-building, its methodical organization and mission planning and “team mentality” were keys to successfully transitioning from its system to ours:
“When you’re in the Army, they build you up slowly by giving you more and more leadership, and before you know it you’re leading in a way that you couldn’t imagine when you first started. The confidence-building and leadership-building in the Army is so essential to tackling something like owning a business and run [sic] it because there’s a lot involved in this that requires guts.”
Gentry is now considered a star franchisee by the corporate team at Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shops.
“Lindsey got out in front of schools, football games, and town functions, just about everywhere you could think of to market her new store a month before her opening,” says Chuck Schwalbe, Director of Marketing for the company. “Her discipline and marketing savvy were essential to her successful opening.”
Franchisors: keep an eye out for former athlete and veteran franchisees. Their hard work, creativity and teamwork can be an asset to any business.