As an Army Veteran, I intimately understand the challenges many Veterans encounter at the end of their military service and have experienced many of them myself.
There are many unknowns in the transition from the military to civilian life, including where to look for a job, how to operate in an environment lacking ranking officers and an apparent chain of command, and how to overcome the communication barrier between between civilian and military working environments.
But the strengths of military servicemen and servicewomen equip them to gracefully overcome these challenges: There are the years of training and discipline, the inherent work ethic that comes with all that training, the strategic mindset and can-do attitude, and the respect which has been ingrained in them from day one and can go a long way in any environment.
These are the same qualities found in exceptional business owners.
For service members who are preparing to transition to civilian life, or for those who’ve recently transitioned and may be dissatisfied with their current job, business ownership may be the perfect opportunity.
Here are five pieces of advice for aspiring Veteran business owners based on my own experience as a Veteran entrepreneur.
1. Use your military experience to your benefit. When you’re applying for a job or thinking about starting your own business, it’s natural to look for opportunities that align with the hard skills you were trained to excel at in the military. But don’t limit yourself to endeavors that rely solely on your ability to reassemble a truck, operate a communications board, or complete some other task that directly relates to your MOS.
The soft skills you gained during your time in the military are often just as important. Things like leadership experience, work ethic, communication, problem solving, positive attitude, and the ability to remain level-headed in the face of challenges are all imperative to becoming the best business owner, partner, and boss you can be.
2. Hire like-minded people. The only way your business will grow and thrive is if you continue investing in it. That means hiring the right men and women for the job. Look for employees that support your endeavor, actively care about the success of the business, and have their own motivators and drive. In other words, look for Veterans like you.
Hiring Veterans that have a strong work ethic, show up on time every day looking clean cut, and serve with purpose is a smart business decision and creates a nearly automatic sense of camaraderie. Plus, it allows you to give back and help your fellow Veterans.
3. Complete the mission, then find another. As Veterans, we thrive on missions. In business, as in the military, it’s important to never get complacent. Keep setting — and meeting — your goals and find other opportunities to succeed.
Your milestone may come in the form of hiring your first five employees or it might be expanding to a second location. Whatever your idea of success is, keep raising the bar, because that will motivate you (and your employees) to work hard every day.
4. Don’t shy away from your Veteran status. Americans want to support Veterans, and the easiest way for them to do so is by hiring a Veteran-owned business. Be proud of and promote your status as a Veteran or your dedication to hiring Veterans. If customers see that up front, I’d wager you’ll get more business right out of the gate.
5. Don’t feel like you have to start from scratch. Starting a business from nothing can be daunting, which is why franchising is a great option, particularly for Veterans without much prior business experience. Franchising allows you to be your own boss and make your own decisions, but it also gives you a tried-and-true business model, guidelines to follow, and a built-in support system.
Veterans inherently have what it takes to be great business owners, making ownership a great option for people leaving the military. Sometimes servicemen and servicewomen need a little encouragement or guidance on where to start in their transition to the civilian business world and how to identify, utilize, and market their strengths. Once they do, success should come easily.
If you or someone you know is transitioning from the military and considering business ownership, my virtual door is always open to share advice and experience. Find me on LinkedIn (jerryflanagan11) or connect with me through www.jdogjunkremoval.com.
Jerry Flanagan is an Army Veteran and entrepreneur who created a national brand dedicated to empowering Veterans through business ownership. He founded JDog Junk Removal & Hauling in 2011 and has since grown the business into a 200-franchise system that serves 40 million Americans. Rooted in the military values of respect, integrity, and trust, JDog Junk Removal has become a nationwide movement, creating business and employment opportunities for Veterans and military family members nationwide.