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Franchise Players: Why Vets and Franchising Go Hand in Hand Hector Rodriguez tried to make on his own in the world of business. Then he realized as a franchisee he didn't have to work without support.

By Kate Taylor

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Franchise Players is Entrepreneur's Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. This week, in celebration of spring, we're profiling down-to-earth franchisees in the "spring cleaning" business. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

Hector Rodriguez knew that the military helped him develop a strong sense of perseverance and a strategic mind. However, he didn't realize just how much his veteran-status would help in as an entrepreneur. After attempting to start his own landscaping business, he found that he could receive the advice, support and information he needed by joining a franchise. Plus, as a veteran, he could get a discount as a Grounds Guys franchisee under the VetFran program. Here's what this vet has learned as a Ground Guys franchisee.

Name: Hector Rodriguez

Franchise owned (location): The Grounds Guys, West Hartford, Conn.

How long have you owned the franchise?

Two years, since spring of 2012

Related: Franchise Players: Turning to Franchising For Meaning, Not Validation

Why franchising?

My wife and I barely get to watch TV together because of work schedules, but we were flipping through the channels and landed on Undercover Boss. The episode had The Dwyer Group and their brands. Mrs. Dwyer was doing her thing, and The Grounds Guys stuck out to me.

I never thought about franchising, but for some reason it rang a bell and caught interest. So I began my research, called the Dwyer Group and got all my questions answered. I never would have considered franchising until after asking right questions getting all the details. It was tough on my own, and the Grounds Guys had what I was missing in the company I was trying to build.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

After serving in the ARMY, I attempted to start my own landscaping business. Going through basic training being a part of that organization helped me out because I will never give up. Whatever comes your way you have plan a tactic, so my experience in the ARMY helped me out big time. Grounds Guys informed me about their VetFran program that gives discounts to veterans trying to open a franchise. That was the first time I ever used my veteran status for benefit. Everything I was doing to start my own business -- the labor work, purchasing equipment, accounting -- in some cases I didn't have all the answers. It got frustrating because I knew I wasn't going fast enough, I wasn't where I needed to be.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

You get into running your own business and you want to follow your dream, but you find out it's harder than living a dream. The Grounds Guys are in my desired field and match my core values. The culture of care with the Dwyer System and the values of The Grounds Guys spelled this out for me. It was a perfect match.

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

I am fortunate to be a part of the VetFran program, so overall I sent $13,000. This is the happiest $13,000 I ever spent, and I said that when I handed over the check. I was ready to go.

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

I spoke with other franchise owners with The Grounds Guys. They didn't know me and I didn't know them. I was given a name, number and a state. I was impressed because they didn't have to help me out, but they did. Each and every one of them answered my questions with honesty and respect, and the core values really made an impression on me.

Related: Franchise Players: I'm On My Own, But Not Alone

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

At the beginning I was so excited. I had some money available to use, and being so excited it was easy not to think about expenses. In order for me to really push my business I had to buy more trucks and equipment. One day it felt like I was starting all over, but soon I realized that I wasn't starting over, I was entering a different level of business. My business started to take off and I needed different sense attention. I didn't want to go broke, but I trusted the Grounds Guys system, and it took my company to a whole other level.

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

Really ask all the questions and do all the research. If you're looking in to franchising, then you are in need of something and want to go to the next level. Make sure you check your community, see why you are in need of help or why your business isn't where you think it should be. Growing up I tried to work by myself against bigger companies. I would reach out to them, ask questions but no one wants to help competition. After going into franchising, I realized your fellow franchisees want you to grow.

What's next for you and your business?

Growth. We really want to see our team grow in the region. We have financial goals but overall we want to be the best company to work for and work in West Hartford. I also want to open first Grounds Guys in Puerto Rico. My family is from Puerto Rico and it would be amazing to be the first franchisee in the capital San Juan.

Related: Franchise Players: A Former Drill Sergeant Who Hopes to Help Other Vets Through Franchising

Kate Taylor

Reporter

Kate Taylor is a reporter at Business Insider. She was previously a reporter at Entrepreneur. Get in touch with tips and feedback on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor. 

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