Ralph Yarusso is an Air Force Veteran who currently volunteers as the Chairman of the VetFran committee within the IFA Foundation. He took a few minutes to speak with us about his background in franchising.
Could you tell us about your franchising journey?
My franchise journey began in 1985. A few years after separating from the Air Force, I was working at LaGuardia Airport in flight control and had an opportunity to visit with a friend from church who had opened a few Meineke Car Care Centers with his son and was doing quite well. I was able to take advantage of my Veteran status and buy a franchise license. I opened my first franchise in 1985 in Woodbury, New Jersey. Fortunately, I was able to recruit some pretty good talent and by our fourth year we were eclipsing the million-dollar sales mark and was the highest volume Meineke in the entire nation. In 1988 we added a second store and in 1992 I added three more stores in Denver, Colorado. It was in Denver where I really grew the operation, opening additional 10 stores, so we had 15 units in total. I was fortunate to be able to participate on the franchise advisory council as well as several of the subcommittees including product, advertising and marketing. I sold my stores in 2007 and was recruited by Meineke to join them – first in business development and then as chief operating officer for the western United States. In 2013 I joined Grease Monkey as their senior vice president of operations and business development. This was a tremendous opportunity for me as the company was going through a rebuilding stage. I was able to spearhead the effort in developing a new Franchise development department along with real estate. I also was responsible for the training department, operations department, and pipeline development. I have enjoyed much of my Franchising career and my involvement with the International Franchise Association. I received my Certified Franchise Executive status in 2014 – I was a Franchisee of the Year and I have been serving on the VetFran committee for the past 10 years. The relationships and knowledge I have obtained in these roles has been so rewarding for me.
Can you tell us about how the VetFran Committee is helping to improve Veteran involvement in franchise systems?
Franchise systems have always been intently focused on recruiting Veterans. Veterans typically are easily trainable and understand a standard operating procedure and processes which is typical in the franchising community. Franchisors recognizing these attributes are often willing to make considerable discounts in initial licensing fees to recruit Veterans after they have exited the military obligations. VetFran helps provide information to Veterans by mentoring, providing contact information and ranking Veteran franchisor members with certain star designations enabling Veterans to have a clearer picture as they begin their franchise search.
What is the one most important piece of advice you would give to fellow IFA members seeking to grow in the franchise industry?
Franchising in many ways is much like one big family. Creating a culture in your organization where people enjoy what they do and are proud of their accomplishments, this makes for a more positive atmosphere. Having a very clear franchise financial model is imperative for new franchise systems to be successful especially during their recruitment process as the new franchisees should be seeking that sort of validation from existing franchisees in their systems. Having mentors both on the franchisor side and the franchisee side of the business model makes systems much easier for all concerned. Lastly, Join VetFran! We do both and the feeling of patriotism resonates throughout your entire organization.