Service members and veterans have a unique skill set and background that makes them fantastic entrepreneurs. Many are eager to start their own business after years of rigid structure and receiving orders from higher-ups. It can be satisfying to break free of the military chain of command and venture out on your own into the wild of capitalistic pursuits. In addition, there are many programs out there designed to help veteran entrepreneurs succeed on their own.
Here’s why military members have an advantage in the business world.
A Higher Capacity for Stressful Situations
Military members are comfortable being uncomfortable, which makes us well-suited for the stress and uncertainty of entrepreneurship. From day one of boot camp, you are frequently put in hectic, challenging situations designed to acclimate you to the pressure of military life. You get used to just rolling with the punches and accepting that the stressors imposed upon you are out of your control. However, you ARE in control of how you react to those stressors. You can break down mentally and emotionally and be defeated, or you can just accept the challenges, put your head down, and make it through to the next evolution.
Sometimes the stress is more real and life-threatening. Sometimes you’re getting shot at, or another aircraft comes within feet of hitting you, or you come close to having to eject while trying to land on an aircraft carrier. Once you have survived moments like these, it makes the stressors of the entrepreneurial life seem much less significant.
Our Brains Are Wired for Planning and Contingencies
No military mission – whether in the air, on the ground, or on/under the ocean – reaches the execution phase without first going through the planning phase. Details are meticulously calculated. You must know who is doing what at every step. Contingencies are essential to plan for because when something happens differently from what was expected to happen, you must be able to adapt and adjust.
This is the same mindset an entrepreneur must have when starting and running a business. There are always unexpected struggles that arise, but if you have a solid plan and have thought through what could go wrong, you are much more likely to adjust and still achieve your goal. If you fail, you do not dwell on it and let the failure break you down: you learn and move on. It’s the only way.
We Are Comfortable Delegating Tasks
From the beginning, military members are conditioned to operate within a clearly defined chain of command. Gradually, we are put into leadership roles whether we are ready for them or not. We learn how to receive tasking from up the chain, and give tasking down the chain to work toward a common objective. Many civilians think that it’s all about barking orders and saluting your superiors when they give orders like in the movies, but this is not the reality. Military leaders – like business leaders – must work hard to convince everyone the overall mission is worth working hard for.
If you don’t have this buy-in from your team as a leader, you won’t get the results you want. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading in combat or leading a marketing team.
What Resources Are Available for Veteran Entrepreneurs?
The federal government has free programs designed to help veterans succeed in business including education and lending programs.
Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov)
Within the SBA is the Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) which is “devoted exclusively to promoting veteran entrepreneurship – specifically veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists, active-duty service members, transitioning service members, and their dependents or survivors”.
The OVBD gives vets access to customized curriculums, in-person classes, and online courses designed to provide the necessary knowledge to succeed in business. Also, lending resources are available through tools like LenderMatch which connect vets with lenders. Low and no-fee SBA loans help reduce barriers for veteran-owned small businesses so they can access capital and create jobs.
There are many non-profits out there as well whose sole purpose is to help vets achieve more through business. Similar to the SBA’s programs, the focus is on education, lending, and networking.
VETRN is a free executive MBA program designed to help already established veteran-owned businesses grow even more. You get a mentor from day one and you get access to VETRN’s substantial resource network. To qualify for this program, you must have been in business for at least one year, have at least one employee, and have annual revenue of $75,000 or more.
VetFran believes veterans make excellent franchise owners, and they provide education and resources to both vets and franchisors about these opportunities. According to VetFran, “Although veterans make up only about 7% of the population, they account for a whopping 14% of all franchisees in America”. Their website is great, so check it out of you’ve ever considered opening your own franchise!
There are many more programs available to veteran entrepreneurs and many people out there eager to help us succeed in business. Don’t think of this as a charity – you have developed many skills that will make you a prosperous businessman or businesswoman, and people want to see this happen. In doing so, you will improve your community by providing jobs to others, tax revenue for local government, and a world-class service or product that people need. Get out there and take action today to build or grow your business!
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