Snap-on: Serious about Veterans
By Kevin Serafino
The inside of a Snap-on Tools truck is unlike any hardware store you’ve ever seen. It could be overwhelming for someone looking to complete a few household repairs, but it’s a professional technician’s dreamland.
Hundreds of screwdrivers and pairs of pliers line the ceiling, leaving little empty space. Electronic diagnostic tools have their dedicated display on one wall, with power tools displayed opposite them. Drawers slide out of toolboxes, revealing their vast inventories of sockets and wrenches.
The computer at the front of the truck processes sales and tracks orders and shipments, while a TV and DVD player show state-of-the-art product demonstrations. This showroom on wheels is as organized as a locker in a military barracks. And it’s no coincidence. The owner is an Air Force veteran.
Pat Woods, an Air Force Academy graduate who served as a logistics officer for 10 years, owns and operates this Snap-on Tools franchise in Corpus Christi, Texas. While in the Air Force, Mr. Woods would spend time in the motor pool, fascinated by tools and engines. These days, he wears a polo shirt in lieu of a utility uniform and makes his rounds to civilian car dealerships and auto repair shops, selling tools and equipment for the number one tool brand and standout franchise for military veterans.
“It’s been an all-around blessing, the whole thing,” Woods said of his endeavor as a Snap-on franchise owner in an interview used as a Snap-on promotional video. His wife says she’s never seen him happier, and he has enjoyed “getting into something I enjoy and understand, tools and cars, and the ability to make my own hours and not get moved every two or three years.”
More than “just a punch line”
Snap-on Tools Company, a subsidiary of Snap-on Incorporated has more than 90 years experience making professional-quality tools and diagnostic equipment. It sells over 22,000 products and holds over 1,800 patents. Snap-on is a member of the International Franchise Association’s Veterans Transition Initiative, or VetFran, along with 420 other franchise companies. All VetFran members provide discounts to veteran franchise owners, but Snap-on has gone far beyond that. Veterans have become an essential and sought-after element of the Snap-on franchise system, and the company has shown an unrelenting dedication to supporting former members of the armed services.
In 2010, Snap-on Tools sold 43 available franchise routes to veterans, approximately 11 percent of its new franchise starts for the year, and a vast improvement from the new veteran franchisees in 2009. Snap-on military program manager and Air Force veteran Jon Rucker says that Snap-on’s support for veterans “isn’t just a punch-line, but a culture that starts at the top.” Snap-on Incorporated Chairman and CEO Nick Pinchuk, a Vietnam veteran who has served as the company’s top executive since 2007, best embodies this veteran-focused culture. “It’s in a corporation’s interest to recognize the special skills and personal characteristics developed in the military,” Pinchuk told Veterans Advantage in 2010.
A Win-Win Situation
Supporting careers in franchising and small business ownership, veteran franchise programs can benefit both the veteran and the franchise system. Through VetFran, franchisors offer direct benefits to veteran franchisees. In addition to standardized franchisee training and top-notch support, Snap-on offers veterans a discount of $20,000 on their initial inventory purchase, which normally totals about $76,000. The major benefit that franchisors receive from employing veterans is the operational execution and excellence that veterans learn through their military service and apply to their business ownership.
In pursuit of this mutually-beneficial relationship between franchisors and veteran franchisees, Snap-on uses a marketing campaign that specifically targets veterans as potential franchise owners by using testimonials from current veteran franchisees. “The language is geared towards veterans”, said Rucker. For veterans, he says, “It helps to hear from someone with the same mindset, someone who was in the same situation.”
Making the Transition
When franchise routes become available, Snap-on is able to reach out to Veteran organizations like local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and communicate with potential franchisees. Military and veterans publications feature Snap-on franchising ads promoting the military program. The combination of these marketing efforts has created a network of veterans associations and media that runs parallel to the general franchise sales and recruiting efforts. Rucker also gives presentations to interested military members before they leave the service. “The transition is the key,” he explained. “By getting the word out to military members still on active duty, the questions are already asked and the qualifications are already met,” facilitating the transition to franchise ownership upon leaving the military.
As tens of thousands of service men and women will return home from Afghanistan and Southwest Asia in the coming years, integration of veterans into the civilian economy is both an economic priority and a social responsibility for our country. VetFran was created after the Gulf War to reintegrate veterans into the civilian economy through franchise ownership, and the renewed efforts of the program this fall hope to highlight both the economic impact veteran employment can have on our country and the ways that franchisors can benefit from employing veterans.
Beyond discounts and business training, Snap-on’s military program has provided Woods with a stable family life. Woods’ wife, Michelle, who handles the books for the franchise, explained that the Snap-on franchise is a family business that allows them to instill values in their children “in teachable moments about how to be a good worker.”
Snap-on Tools’ military program has evolved into a model VetFran program, inspiring a mutually beneficial relationship and meaningful connection between franchise systems and veteran franchisees that builds opportunity the entire industry can be proud of.