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Amos: Leadership is about serving followers

In his remarkable career in franchising, Jim Amos has been many things: past chairman of the International Franchise Association, chief executive of Mail Boxes Etc. (now the UPS Store), and chief executive of Tasti D-Lite. But for even longer, ever since his two tours in the Vietnam War, Amos has be.....

SPONSOREDUpdated 11:11AM 11/10/14
In his remarkable career in franchising, Jim Amos has been many things: past chairman of the International Franchise Association, chief executive of Mail Boxes Etc. (now the UPS Store), and chief executive of Tasti D-Lite. But for even longer, ever since his two tours in the Vietnam War, Amos has been a Marine. Veterans like Amos live by the phrase “there are no former Marines,” he said, because the leadership values instilled by the service continually benefit people as they transition to careers after the military. “I suspect there are very few things I could hearken back to that had a greater impact on my life and career than my training in the United States Marine Corps,” Amos said. “There unquestionably are foundational qualities of leadership from my training and two tours in Vietnam that taught me principles that I’ve used my entire life.” After receiving 12 decorations in Vietnam, including a Purple Heart, Amos returned to the United States for his career in business. Today he is a tireless advocate for integrating military veterans into the business community, through the IFA’s VetFran program and the many other organizations looking to support the military community. The franchise industry in particular has made great strides toward that goal, but the entire private sector could and should do more, Amos said. He spoke with 1851 Magazine about his ideas for better coordinating services for returning service members, and why those veterans have even more to offer the economy than business leaders know. What experiences from your career as a Marine had the greatest impact on your career in franchising? What you learn about leadership in the Corps is that effective leaders serve. You learn quickly that, even if you’re wearing the shoulder boards [denoting rank], people still choose to follow you even if they’re put in the position of a lower rank where they must follow you. In business, I could buy talent, discipline or a person to put into some part of the company, but what I was seeking was somebody’s energy based on the part of an associate who wanted to be where they were and felt like a part of something special. Would they invest discretionary energy because they believed in the mission and in the leader? In my very early years of Marine Corps training, I learned that as a leader you never eat first, you eat last; you never ask a Marine to do something you wouldn’t do yourself; and you always dig your own foxhole. What that represents is you put your team’s welfare in front of your own. You can’t deceive followers for very long, because they understand the heart and intent of your desire to serve them or not serve them. People are looking for authenticity and want to know who you really are, even if they don’t agree with what you’re saying. In all your advocacy for VetFran and other programs, what are the qualities of service members that you point out as most beneficial to the franchise industry? When you look at the allocation of resources in business, the one asset many corporations and venture-capital firms and banks and others haven’t understood is the human capital. Private equity is starting to understand that you can’t financial-engineer your way to success; you need an operator who can bring success, and you have to do that by finding great people. These men and women come to the table with security clearances and training that others don’t have, they’ve displayed a character that’s higher than others, they understand the chain of command, and they have dedication and a get-it-done mentality. By the nature of where they come from, they display a diversity most companies want and don’t already have. Why wouldn’t I want somebody coming to me at 25 years old directly from a place where they’ve just managed a greater budget and group of people than anywhere else in the marketplace? Helping these people succeed is just a function of educating businesses and other leaders in the marketplace, to some extent. What more should the business community be doing for the veteran community? Franchising, through VetFran and other programs, has done more than most other parts of the private sector, but the needs of these people are monumental. There are approximately 23 million veterans in the country, and 3.7 million are under the age of 39. Another 1.5 million people are on active duty, and 1.2 million are in the National Guard or the reserves. Think about those numbers, then double it because of spouses, and then add the fact that there are 2 million children in these families under the age of 12. These are people coming home into a market already difficult for jobs. When my dad went to World War II, he went for the duration. I went to Vietnam for 13-month tours. These people go for six-month cycles for four or five deployments, which completely upends their families and careers. We owe them a great deal. What more can we do? The education piece about their capabilities is important. Over the past 30 years, there are about 1,000 organizations around the country trying to assist veterans, but they’re duplicating efforts, and whether they’re nonprofit or for-profit, they have funding problems. We need a private-public partnership so that both sectors are doing their part with the goal to meet the needs of young men and women repatriating into our society. In my opinion, we need a clearinghouse that’s essentially a one-stop shop, so that a veteran could come out of whatever branch, press one button, and get all the answers he or she needs, whether it’s counseling, health benefits or job assistance. We’ve hired more than 170,000 returning veterans and more than 6,000 Wounded Warriors since the start of VetFran, which is something to be proud of, but it’s not enough.