November 1, 2012
Winning Battles for Vetpreneurs
Unlike James, who returned home to an established family business, a number of returning service members encounter difficulties starting enterprises and keeping the doors open. After fighting for their country in Iraq and Afghanistan, many are now learning how to access capital and contracts. Succeeding in business, though, is not unlike winning in battle. Both require courage, leadership, strategic planning, decision-making, teamwork, resourcefulness, and endurance. Former service members may find a U.S. marketplace in turmoil, but their military experience gives them a competitive edge for starting or expanding a business–and stateside programs are here to help.
“Military service itself is excellent preparation that provides many of the ingredients necessary for business success,â€ says Matthew Pavelek, director of communications at the National Veteran-Owned Business Association. “Working long hours, leadership, and being disciplined, dedicated, and accountable are all developed through military service and are characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.â€
Young military officers, like business executives, frequently have authority over personnel whose experience exceeds their own, notes James. “I learned that one’s leadership acumen is rarely defined by the direct orders he gives but by the direct questions he asks,â€ he says. “My Army experience taught me that my most important contribution was to get my team to work effectively to accomplish the mission. Such coordination of effort is essential for survival in both business and combat.â€
To help veterans succeed, says Pavelek, it’s important for them to “know that there is an incredible array of opportunities available.â€
Operation Boots to Business
About 250,000 men and women leaving military service each year attend the new Transition Assistance Program of the Department of Defense. Regardless of their length of service, they must all participate (within a year of their separation or retirement) in weeklong workshops that provide information about employment and training.
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