Growing up in Washington, D.C., I was surrounded by U.S. government professionals and military personnel from a very early age. My father was in the National Guard and when I graduated from high school, the military became the clear choice as it married two of my interests – serving our country and traveling abroad.
I quickly rose up through the ranks and was offered a leadership position as an officer candidate which, in turn, granted me a scholarship to college. While at George Washington University, I learned valuable skills such as work ethic, leadership and organization that would positively impact my military career and entrepreneurial journey in the years to come.
Managing a ‘Floating City’
After graduation from college and eight months of Navy Logistics training in Athens, GA, I was stationed in San Diego as a Department Head of an Aviation Squadron which deployed onboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. My primary responsibility was oversight and management of 72 aircraft, fixed and rotary wing, aboard the ship while it conducted flight operations in the Western Pacific and abroad.
Over the next 20 years, the military provided me with many different opportunities, each time with increased accountability and responsibility. As I became more senior in rank, I would spend the majority of my career in policy, procurement and supply chain management for naval aviation, ships and submarines. It was in these roles that I authored Naval Logistics Policy, procured naval aviation airplanes, and oversaw all logistics and supply chain management of new construction ships and submarines.
In my last position within the US military, before I retired in mid-2018, I was the Director of Industrial Supply Chain Operations for four public Navy Shipyards. While responsible for the daily management of logistics, supply chain management, and material support at each of those shipyards, I learned invaluable skills that would directly translate to my future role as a business owner. From leadership skills to system integrations and processes, my position taught me how to see the big picture and how to manage and lead people towards a common goal.
Throughout my career in the military, I learned a lot from the people I worked for and with but it was through my time spent as a manager where I took away a vast amount of knowledge when it came to people skills – how to lead them, how to listen to them and most importantly how to inspire them to be the best they can be.
Following My Entrepreneurial Spirit
As I reflect on my time spent in the military, I am reminded of how this experience taught me indispensable tools that I continue to utilize as a franchise owner today. As a military veteran, re-entering the workforce can be an exciting and challenging time. For many veterans, the desire to utilize the skill set mastered in the military means embarking on a journey of business ownership as there are clear parallels between the two. For me, before I finished my service, I began to think about what I really wanted to do when I ‘grew up’. This was fueled by the question that kept repeating in my head ‘who am I and what is my why?’ – a question many veterans grapple with after their service.
During my transition towards the business world, I took a ‘Boots to Business’ class that opened my eyes to the world of franchising for the first time. As I started researching different franchise opportunities, I knew I wanted to invest in a concept that would get me outside of an office and out into the community. With my roots deeply tied to the healthy, outdoor lifestyle of San Diego, I began to realize that fitness was the right path for me. With a desire to help people get and stay in shape, my path became clear to me.
Tips for Overcoming Challenges and Advice for Veterans Considering Entrepreneurship
While my transition to business ownership has been exciting and fulfilling, many veterans struggle with challenges and are in need of strong advice when it comes to considering if entrepreneurship is right for them.
- Start early – make sure you begin your research early on in the process and allow adequate time to analyze each component of your next venture so you won’t feel the ‘I am always behind’ burden
- Determine your ‘why’ – the best way to find a career post-military that you are passionate about is to determine what inspires you and what your passions are. From there, your path is narrowed down and you can focus on opportunities that will be fulfilling.
- Utilize resources– one of the biggest assets when re-entering the workforce is those in your network, whether that be former colleagues, friends, family, etc. Make sure you are actively networking with others in industries, in the market you wish to open your business, etc.
- Stay positive – this can be a very challenging time for veterans but making sure to keep a positive attitude is half the battle. Keep in mind that there have been many others before you that have navigated these challenges and lean on them for support if needed.
While there are many avenues that veterans can choose when re-entering the workforce, franchising lends itself extremely well to the skills learned while serving. From systems and processes to adaptation and integration, franchising and the military mimic each other in many ways. Whatever avenue you choose, by following the above tips to overcome common challenges, you will be on the right path to your next journey.
Will Beale is a Navy veteran who specialized in policy, procurement and supply chain management for aircraft carriers, ships and submarines. He is now the owner and operator of Club Pilates, the nation’s largest boutique Pilates concept.