If you've served in the military—whether as a soldier, marine, airman, or sailor—it’s highly likely that you already have valuable on-the-job experiences that are an excellent match for the skills needed to start and operate a small business. In fact, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans are responsible for one in ten small businesses, providing employment to nearly six million workers.
It's no wonder veterans are more likely than non-veterans to be self-employed: with their training from the military to quickly size up situations, communicate clearly, and confidently execute responsibilities, vets are uniquely prepared to start and run a business.
Read on to discover six characteristics and skills gleaned from your military life that can help you run your small business.
Persistence and Discipline
There are proud moments to starting a new business, from the first time a website launches to putting up an open sign on a storefront. But getting to these landmarks involves a lot of unseen grunt work. Late nights (or early mornings) and paperwork are less glamorous and result in fewer photo ops, but they’re also essential to getting a business off the ground.
As a veteran, you're skilled at dealing with repetitive tasks and backend preparation, and have the discipline to work through the tedium, seeing the larger goal at the end of a long list of tasks.
From paperwork and permits, to inventory and interviewing, starting a business involves a lot of planning, organizing, coordinating, and executing. As a vet, you likely have this down, as you're accustomed to keeping your supplies and space organized.
Many veterans may even have experience serving in administrative capacities. Even if that's not the case for you, identifying actions to take and the ideal order to perform tasks are ingrained habits from daily military life.
Many people have great business ideas but don't pursue them. It's difficult to know precisely what's behind that lack of follow-through, but perhaps fear—whether it’s a fear of failing or losing money—stands in their way.
Many vets are accustomed to dealing with life-or-death circumstances, and so a certain level of comfort with risky situations is ingrained. In short, vets are brave and it requires bravery to be a successful entrepreneur.
The military does an excellent job at teaching leadership skills. Soldiers learn to quickly assess a situation, identify the next step to take, and communicate what needs to be done clearly. This is a lifesaving skill on the battlefield.
In the boardroom—while the tone may shift from commanding to proposing—it’s true that being able to lead and inspire confidence is an essential skill. As vets know, leadership is about being willing to walk the walk; while a strong vision is vital, so is the ability to inspire others.
Building and Working With Teams
As well as helping to develop strong leadership skills, the military molds strong team players. Relying on others is a must, especially to help fill in skill gaps wherever you may be lacking. As with a cop who would have a partner on the beat, people who serve in the military usually operate on teams.
Start-up businesses too often struggle because one person tries to take on excessive responsibility or attempts to complete projects outside their area of expertise. This failure to delegate or to recognize the skills and abilities of those around you is unlikely to occur with a vet, given their familiarity working in groups and relying on peers.
You'll find that being able to present, converse, and write clearly and convincingly are all essential skills to starting and running a small business, whether you’re presenting to potential lenders, interacting with customers and employees, or creating marketing materials.
Having the military experience of quickly and coherently summing up a situation and communicating next steps will come in handy in the day-to-day work of running a business.
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