Brian Garrison Navy ’90 (current COO of Buzz Franchise Brands and President of British Swim School) grew up in Medfield, MA and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy class of 1990. While at the Academy, Brian selected NFO (Aviation), started in the A-6 Intruder community and transitioned to Super Hornets. His final command tour was as skipper of an Oceana Naval Air Station based F/A-18 squadron.
Following retirement from the Navy, Brian went to work for McKinsey & Company and then was recruited to be the COO of Mosquito Joe – which in turn, provided the leadership nucleus of Buzz Franchise Brands when Mosquito Joe was sold to Neighborly Brands.
Brian resides in the Virginia Beach area with his wife and two children and now calls southern Virginia home.
Interviewer (Steve): Brian, thank you very much for your time – eager to dig into some the details of your career and explore how your military experienced translated into business success.
Brian: You are very welcome, Steve.
Steve: First off, I noticed on your official bio, you have an MBA from Wharton. Very impressive – did you get that while you were in the Navy or following retirement?
Brian: I was very lucky. While a student at the Naval War College I was able to enroll in the Executive MBA program at Wharton and fly down every other weekend to Philadelphia for classes. I say “lucky” because this set me up to transition directly from the Navy to McKinsey. It was also one of the rare times I was not flying at night, deployed overseas, etc.
Steve: Tell me, in your opinion – is an MBA necessary for veteran business owners?
Brian: Short answer is “no”, but you need to understand how to manage to a budget, navigate a business environment, common terminology. The path to that understanding could be an MBA, working in business or taking a couple community college courses.
Steve: Most veteran franchisee’s I see are former officers. Is a former enlisted service member right for business ownership?
Brian: Absolutely. In some ways they are even better candidates. Let me explain – any business may break even the first year, have minimal income in years 2 and 3 and then break out in year 3 or 4. In my experience – the former enlisted member is more likely to see the investment for what it is – a pathway to a high income where (at times) former officers see it as a step back. For veteran candidates who are otherwise similarly well qualified, the former enlisted member is more likely to opt for small business ownership. HOWEVER – the pool of qualified veteran officers is typically deeper if only because they have had a better opportunity to accumulate capital.
Steve: Brian, tell me about your biggest disappointment when you transitioned into the civilian world.
Brian: Probably it was not being able to wear a flight suit to work. Just kidding – it was the lack of camaraderie and passion in the work environment. Remember – I went from command of a fighter squadron to a management consulting!
Steve: Working with small business owners like you do now, do you find the more passion and camaraderie then working for a large management consulting firm (McKinsey)?
Brian: Absolutely. No question. I just got back from British Swim School’s annual convention in Mexico and I am totally energized and jazzed to be working with such a great group of intelligent, focused and passionate owners. Much more positive “vibe” than having an all employee meeting – that is for sure.
Steve: Glad we circled back to Buzz Franchise Brands. Can you tell me what this is?
Brian: Sure, Buzz Franchise Brands is a multi-brand franchising company that builds companies that get people talking. We do everything from developing business model concepts and launching brands to training and mentoring our owners, and we are always doing research and development to make sure we are offering cutting edge support and tools to our owners. We are located in Virginia Beach and have very strong ties to the local military community.
Steve: What brands does Buzz currently own?
Brian: We currently own 3 brands: British Swim Schools, Pool Scouts, and Home Clean Heroes. All three are low investment / asset light businesses that can leverage our core competencies of world class customer service and unmatched marketing expertise.
Steve: Any final words of advice for veterans or anybody searching for a business to buy?
Brian: When I got out of the Navy, franchising was not on the radar. I considered three attributes as I looked at my post-Navy life – a) Industry, b) Location and c) Job Type. The beauty of franchising is that since it so broad, you can choose location, industry and even job type.
Steve: Thanks for your time, Brian. Go Navy!
Brian: Beat Army!
About the Author: Steve Taylor (https://www.linkedin.com/in/psteventaylor/) is a 1987 graduate of the US Naval Academy and has over 30 years of professional experience in the Military, High Tech and Franchise industries. He may be reached at [email protected] or at 925-344-5981.
Original was published in the Franchise Journal February 2020 issue. https://issuu.com/thefranchisejournal/docs/february_2020