May 2015: Motivation For Vets Who Want To Start Or Own A Business

What do the founders of WalMart, Wendy’s, Motown Records, FedEx, AOL, GoDaddy, and Walgreens all have in common? That’s right. They are all veterans who started their own business after their service to the nation.


I am writing this month to a smaller, more niche audience. My apologies. But if just one Vet who was thinking of launching a business or buying into a franchise takes the leap it will be worth it. If you are not a Vet – I think you too will enjoy the personal stories and advice in the articles below, but also please forward this link to a Vet friend or two.


Whether you served just a few years, 20+ years, had many combat tours or none, you may not know it – but trust me when I tell you that you have what it takes to not only survive in the business world but thrive. That includes doing your own thing.


I am a combat wounded Vet and a small business owner. A few years back I was asked to keynote down in Texas for the Galveston County Small Business Development Center. When I asked the organizer why they wanted to fly a New Yorker with a business in DC to Texas she said it is simple; their mission is to help small business start and grow. She said she had done analysis over the past 5 years and that Veteran owned small business were 7 times more likely to succeed. Therefore, she was hoping to use a Vetrepreneur speaker in hopes of convincing more Vets to show up to the conference and eventually start a business.


During my research for that workshop and another event for the Association of Veteran Entrepreneurs in Colorado, I came across three interesting statistics worth sharing.


  1. Veterans owned 3.6 million or 13 percent of America’s 27 million non-farm small businesses. In fact, one in seven veterans are small business owners or self-employed, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). That’s a much higher percentage than any other demographic. (via CBS News’ Why Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs)
  2. If we represent less than 5% of the total working population – that means we are more than 2.5 times likely to be an entrepreneur.
  3. In 1980 59% of chief executives of large, publicly traded U.S. companies had military experience. By 2006 the figure was a mere 8%. In June 2006, a Korn/Ferry International did a study examining the performance of Fortune 500 companies led by CEOs with a military background compared to those companies with CEOs without. Companies led by CEOs with military experience have outperformed the S&P 500 Index by as much as 20%.


Convinced yet? Here are some articles to help you build your confidence and hopefully decide to take the leap:


Series of Articles on Vets Courtesy of Entrepreneur magazine

(bookmark this page and visit often:

  • How This Franchisee Turned Military Lessons Into Business Success
  • What I Learned From the Military: Business Lessons From 8 Veterans in Franchising
  • Five Resources for Turning Vets into Entrepreneurs
  • How Military Veterans Are Finding Success in Small Business
  • Veterans Tackle the Challenges of Entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Gives Wounded Veterans a New Life
  • On Starting Up From Three Veteran Entrepreneurs
  • By the Numbers: U.S. Veteran-Owned Businesses (Infographic)
  • From Flying in the Military to Launching a Business
  • Calling All Vets: How to Transition From Military Service to Entrepreneurship
  • Veterans Are Natural Born Entrepreneurs
  • 7 Qualities the Army Instilled in Me That Helped Me Launch a Business
  • A Navy SEALs 5 Entrepreneurial Leadership Lessons from 2014


How War Has Prepared Today’s Veterans for Startups and Small Businesses via Forbes


4 Reasons Why Military Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs via CorpNet Blog

Making sense of chaos: One of the EBV program’s founders, Mike Haynie, mentioned a quote from a former Marine infantry officer, who said that being a leader in the Marines taught him how to “make sense of chaos and how to make decisions in the face of chaos.” Ultimately, being an entrepreneur requires you to make sense of chaos by making the best decisions you can, every day, with limited information, limited resources and limited time.

Seizing the initiative: Military veterans are often thought of as being good at following orders, but the reality of military life isn’t only about “doing what you’re told.” Most career paths within the military demand creative thinking, problem solving and an ability to learn new technologies. All of these skills are essential for success as an entrepreneur as well.

Building relationships: One reason why the EBV program has been a big success is that it offers its veterans a big network of alumni who are also former military members turned entrepreneurs. Veterans tend to share a special bond based on their time in the military, and these connections can be valuable in entrepreneurship as well. Entrepreneurs tend to be natural networkers who know how to build mutually beneficial relationships. Military veterans know how to work together as part of a team, they know how to quickly adapt to changing situations and work with people with different personalities and different working styles.

Staying dedicated: Being in the military is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a big commitment. People join the military not just to get a paycheck, but to be part of something larger than themselves. In the same way, being an entrepreneur requires a sense of mission. The best entrepreneurs aren’t in it just for the money, they’re trying to build something, create something, or solve a problem better than anyone else.


Veteran-Owned Businesses: Taking The Country By Storm via Forbes

Entrepreneurship is a natural transition from military life, especially for those emerging from the elite sectors. As a former Navy SEAL and serial entrepreneur, I understand the drive, discipline and hard work it takes to build a successful business. The leadership qualities, integrity and motivation that are instilled in a soldier from day one lend well to the world of entrepreneurship. When the decisions you make affect a teammate’s life, there is a distinct motivation to be well-prepared, communicate effectively, and make good decisions in chaotic environments. Entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks, something our military veterans know all too well.


- Tom Deierlein


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