Despite their incredible sacrifice and service to our country, many military veterans find it difficult to transition to civilian life. For many, the main challenge is navigating the community-based services that are typically provided to you while in the military. At the top of that list is finding a new career after the military, which, if difficult, can contribute to difficulties in other areas of life, including depression and homelessness.
Veterans are incredible assets that owners should actively seek out when building a team. However, part of the problem with finding employment after service is the misconception employers have about hiring veterans. many HR leaders believe Vets are rigid, “agentic,” and lack emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. They are considered doers, but not leaders and are often typecast in roles where they deal with things, not people. Because of this, Vets are 38% more likely to be underemployed — work in roles that do not fully utilize their skills and abilities.
The truth is that these assumptions could not be further from the truth. In fact, the skills we learned, as veterans, in the military make us some of the best organizational leaders – and thus well-suited for entrepreneurship.
After spending 17 years in the US Air Force Reserves as a pilot, my fellow veteran co-founder, Taylor Justice, and I used our military experience to start a company, Unite Us. While we originally started to coordinate the health and social care needs of veteransconnecting them through technology with shared community resources to support their transition to civilian life, Unite Us has since grown across the country to serve people in all walks of life — civilians and veterans.
Veterans already have many of the skills and traits needed to be a successful entrepreneur – including having courage.
Our success is not unique: The data shows CEOs with military experience are more likely to deliver strong performance than non-veteran leaders, resulting in a higher average rate of return than the S&P 500.
So, what is it about military experience that is so good for entrepreneurship? If you’re a veteran thinking about starting your own company, here’s how you can put the skills you’ve learned to use when starting your own business.
- Feeling of purpose. Veterans have a deep sense of connection to the mission and commitment to get the job done. When there is so much riding on the mission, we are used to wearing many hats and are very adept at cross-functional operations. In the spirit of the mission, we are ready to raise our arms and do everything to make it successful. When launching a startup, you will likely encounter many obstacles and challenges from securing funding to building teams or changing your solutions to meet market needs. That innate resilience we learn through the military is invaluable in navigating challenges under pressure.
- Team building. The reality of military service is that even if not everyone agrees on the mission or tactics, you are often tasked with rallying the troops around a shared goal. This ability to make tough decisions, have the conviction to stick with them and build consensus and buy-in is essential to entrepreneurship. Even with the best ideas, you will encounter naysayers. Having the ability to get everyone on the same page is essential to the perseverance needed to overcome obstacles.
- Strength. In every branch of service, individuals are made to perform to the highest standards. As a pilot, you are pushed to the limits through years of training to ensure you can meet the demands of the job, which is life and death. Inherently, military service builds resilience, resilience and guts – all essential to entrepreneurship. Whether it’s figuring out how to navigate around a burning bridge to move critical supplies or addressing a technical challenge with your new software launch, veterans are conditioned to solve complex problems. real-time problem to keep things moving forward.
- agility In the military, things can often change at a moment’s notice – changes in strategy and expectations force teams to shift gears and reconfigure their priorities. Almost every mission we flew in the war had unexpected pivots and we had to change our thinking and mission on a dime. This ability to adapt to meet changing circumstances is especially valuable when launching a new company. Our company is a good example: We started working exclusively with veterans and soon realized that the potential audience for our service was much larger. We took the model we built and adapted and adapted it to fit the needs of the entire country.
- Skills beyond the tactical role. Many vets think they should stay in the field in their tactical military role when starting a company. But this can be a mistake, and veterinarians should not be limited to roles. It’s likely that as a member of the military moves up the ranks, they also develop leadership and training capabilities, coordinate deployments and manage teams – all of which apply to multiple industries or roles. Not to mention, members of the military often have no say in choosing their tactical role because most assignments are based on need. In my case, the work I do now has nothing to do with being a pilot, and I think our success as a company is a testament to the fact that you don’t have to stick to what you’ve done. trained to do.
If you’re a vet ready to jump into business, here are some tips to help you get off to the best possible start.
- Take advantage of veterans benefits. The Department of Defense, Veterans Administration and other government agencies offer programs to help you get started. the Boots to Business program offers business ownership education and training through the Small Business Administration to transitioning service members, including National Guard and Reserve service members and their spouses. The Small Business Administration and state small business associations also offer support for veteran-owned businessesincluding contracting opportunities, business plan development, and funding through grants and special loan programs.
- Find a mentor. Because of the close friendships we develop in the service, vets often turn to and rely on other vets for support and guidance. In my case, it was another Navy pilot who was a trusted advisor while I was in business school and so on. It is very important to have this different perspective when starting a company, but from the lens of someone who knows your hidden strengths and qualities and how to use them.
- Tap your network. Military service can feel a bit isolated from the business world, so you might think you don’t have the connections when it comes to finding a mentor, resources, partners and more. However, we are a band of brothers and warriors, and we want to help each other succeed. Reach out to fellow vets through LinkedIn or local groups and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Veterans already have many of the skills and traits needed to be a successful entrepreneur – including having courage. Entrepreneurship should be uncomfortable, test your limits, and push you beyond your comfort zone. Like the satisfaction you feel from a mission accomplished, building your own successful business can be the most rewarding and satisfying career move and life experience.