10 August 2015

Leveraging your Military Experience to be a Successful Business Owner

The intangible benefits you gain from serving in the Military are priceless. Work ethic, self-discipline, interpersonal skills, determination, and the ability to work as part of a team are just a few of the benefits. For 3 ½ of the last 7 years, I have worked in a virtual environment.

The office and my manager were 5+hours away; I was entrusted because of my self-discipline, determination, and integrity all from my Military experience. I didn’t have anyone telling me what time to start and end work, no one to tell me what to do every day - I just knew what needed to be done.

One of my responsibilities was to act as a business consultant to small business owners, formally titled Agency Distribution Sales Specialist.  In this role, finding an office location, furnishing the office, assisting with hiring staff, developing a marketing strategy, and reviewing financial statements were some of the things I did on a daily basis. As an entrepreneur, you need to be resilient, productive, focused, disciplined, and a hard worker. These are all skills learned in the Military which is why being an entrepreneur is an excellent option for those that have served our country.

Here are some tips to be a successful business owner:

Hiring the right employee is the first thing that needs to be done. Think of the interview process in the same way as a Promotion Board. Reviewing soldiers’ records is similar to looking at resumes. Pay attention to qualities you are looking for in a team member. Once you have selected who you are interested in, the interview is the next step. The questions asked in the interview should be based on the applicant’s job history, experience, and the qualities you are looking for. During the interview, assess their conversational skills, ability to respond under pressure, question if they coachable, ask yourself if you would want this person on your team, etc.

Once you find the right person, you want to keep them as long as you can. Employees are an appreciating asset because they can become more productive and valuable with time. Compensation is one way to keep someone engaged. In the Military, you promote someone when you want to keep them. As a small business owner, you have the option to create a solid compensation plan. Some ideas to consider are: paying for performance (this will allow someone to make their own raise), paid vacation days, flex time, continuing education fees paid, life insurance, etc.

Now that you have your team in place, it’s important to define success. Determine what the goals are so everyone is on the same page with ‘the mission’ or what needs to be accomplished. In the Military, you kept score. You knew how many pushups needed to be done in order to score 100; you knew how many points you needed to make the cut off for promotion. It’s no different in the business world. One way to keep score is to keep track of where your business comes from. Marketing and advertising are expensive; a review should be done on a regular basis to assess the return of investment for each system. Many small business owners get their business from word of mouth, so having a loyalty or referral program might be something to consider.

Hopefully you will find what I have written useful so you can apply it to your operation. My advice to you as an entrepreneur is based on my experience working with small business owners and salespeople in my organization. Good luck with your entrepreneurial journey!

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