After Christopher Harvey left the military in 2009, he did what he felt like he was “supposed to do” — get a job in corporate America. But he knew he was capable of more. So he proved it: Despite many financial struggles, he started an insurance company, then became a Jeremiah’s Italian Ice franchisee (because he’d loved the brand as a kid). As both businesses thrived, he reflected on the lessons he’d learned, and wanted to help others like him. So he founded Franchising For Heroes (FFH), a mentorship program that guides veterans, first responders, and law enforcement officers through the franchising system. Jeremiah’s Italian Ice is the first franchise to test pilot the FFH program. Here, Harvey explains why he wants to open doors for others.
You’ve thought a lot about coaching — even when you became a Jeremiah’s franchisee, right?
I wanted to understand everything so that when I’m coaching and mentoring someone, I’d know what was going on. I learned how to be a server, make the Italian ice, clean the shop, how to manage — all before we turned our store over to our first manager. I wanted them to be able to call me and say, “I’m having problems, I don’t know how to do this,” and I didn’t want to be the owner that didn’t know how to help them. You can’t tell someone what to do if you’ve never been there and done it yourself.
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How did your military training shape the way you handle business?
Organizational skills — scheduling, arriving on time, making sure you’re where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. Paying attention. Instructions. But if you give yourself instructions, and pay attention to those, it’s kind of the same thing. The more I teach myself, it’s easier for me to coach and teach others.
Why was it important to you to start an organization like Franchising For Heroes?
My passions are to give hope to someone coming out of the service, and if it doesn’t happen immediately, at least set them on the right path. Just make them believe they can do it.
Looking back on it, my wife and I were dollars and cents away from having nothing. We were a breath away from not having a roof over our heads. If I would’ve had an opportunity coming out of the service like Franchising For Heroes or some sort of mentorship program to give me guidance and assist in my aspirations, if I had some coaching to make financial decisions, maybe we would’ve been in a different situation.
What is Franchising For Heroes’ approach to helping people?
Our ultimate goal is to help veterans and first responders, and set them up for success. In the process of doing that, the goal isn’t always business ownership. If it’s not their top priority, then we find out what their top priority is. It could just be a stable job. We’re always going to meet their needs along the way.
You have multiple full-time jobs now. How do you allocate your time?
Communication. Using communication effectively in the time I’m given is how I’m able to go through my day. One, it shows respect that their concerns are my concerns, but also it allows me to delegate. I believe that communication is the mother of all skills. Not only verbal communicators but communication as far as emails, texts — getting back to people in a timely manner. I think that’s huge in this world, to know how to use communication to your advantage to not only set yourself up for success but also manage your time wisely.
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