Providing the Know-How to Start Your Next Mission
For Our Veterans, by Our Veterans - Adams and Reese is proud to feature a series of informative articles addressing hot topics of legal interest for service members transitioning back to the private sector. Sean Buckley, a veteran U.S. Navy Officer, is a corporate services attorney in the Houston office. John Woods, a former infantry officer in the U.S. Army National Guard, is a litigation attorney in the Memphis office.
What do Nike, FedEx, Enterprise, GoDaddy, and Esurance have in common? Their founders all served in the military. One out of 10 small businesses – 2.5 million businesses – are veteran-owned, and veterans are 45% more likely to start their own business when compared to their civilian counterparts, according to studies by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Often the question military members have when transitioning out of the service is, “Now what?” One option is entrepreneurship; many military members already have the skill set to be successful business owners: leadership, discipline, focus, problem solving, resilience, and teamwork.
If you are a veteran considering starting your own business, many people and organizations can help you succeed. This article will outline steps you can take to become a business owner, available resources, and common missteps to be aware of as you venture to entrepreneurship.
Why Do Military Members Make Effective Entrepreneurs
Service members make good entrepreneurs for several reasons:
- Leadership skills: Service members are trained to be leaders, regardless of rank. They learn how to motivate and inspire others, delegate tasks, and make tough decisions. These skills are essential for any successful entrepreneur.
- Problem-solving: Service members are analytical and circumspect. They learn how to think critically and come up with creative solutions to complex and immediate problems. This ability is essential for entrepreneurs who constantly face new challenges.
- Resilience: Service members develop and hone their adaptability and fortitude. They are trained to overcome adversity and keep moving forward, even when things are tough. This is an important quality for entrepreneurs, who will inevitably face setbacks.
- Discipline and focus: Service members embody discipline and focus. They set goals and achieve them, no matter the obstacles. This is essential for entrepreneurs, who must stay focused on their vision and persevere through challenges.
- Teamwork skills: Military service requires teamwork, whether on a ship or on patrol. Service members learn how to work effectively with others to achieve common goals. This is an important quality for entrepreneurs, who often need to build and manage teams.
"Start Your Next Mission" - Know Your Skill, Choose a Trade, and Have a Business Plan
A Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) (or rating in the Navy) is the role or job you had while you were in the military, and it can cover a whole range of skillsets and levels of responsibility. The bottom line, you specialized in something while in service, and now you can transition that specialty into forming your own business.
If you were an effective welder, weld; if you were a talented pipefitter, find companies who need that service; if you were a truck driver, drive trucks; if you learned how to be an HVAC technician, enter that field. Every MOS can be transitioned into a successful, corporate venture. Alternatively, if you want to pursue a new skillset, there are many veteran benefits, such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill which can provide significant assistance.
Here are some tips on how to start a business:
- Identify your skills and interests. What are you good at? Think about the skills and experience you gained in the military that could be transferable to the business world. Do your research. What kind of business do you want to start? What industry are you interested in? What are the challenges and opportunities in that industry? Connect with local Veteran Service Organizations to network and make connections.
- Gain the necessary training and education. If you need to learn new skills or knowledge to start your business. Consider taking business courses at a local community college or university, or participating in a business incubator program. GI Bill benefits help you pay for college, graduate school, certifications, and training programs.
- Develop a business plan. Your business plan should outline your business goals, strategies, and financial projections. Research the market and your competition. Your business plan will be a valuable tool for you as you start and grow your business, and it can also help you attract investors and lenders.
- Build a network of support. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your business. This could include other veterans, entrepreneurs, or mentors. Having a strong network of support can be invaluable as you navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship.
- Secure financing. If you need to start your business with debt or equity financing, there are a number of options available to you. Ask banks about loans available to veterans. Consider working with a small business lender or applying for a grant from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA offers a variety of resources and programs for veterans who want to start or grow a business. You can also use a VA loan to buy a house, and then leverage that asset to access capital.
- Build your team and outside counsel. You do not have to know and be everything. Find others who can provide effective support for your new mission. Find an accountant. Find a lawyer. Find an insurance broker. Find an HR specialist. Find professionals who will help steer your business by running your books, reviewing your contracts and agreements, and managing your information technology.
- There is a saying – “In God we trust, with everybody else – have a contract.” Write everything down. So many people take missteps in contracts and then there are lawsuits and issues down the line. Do not be afraid to get things in writing, so everyone knows the terms they are agreeing to. Always build yourself an “out” and be ready to “pivot” and adjust when needed.
Valuable Resources for Entrepreneurs
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a Veteran Entrepreneur Portal where veterans can get quick access to the resources necessary to launch a business –
funding and venture capital sources, federal procurement opportunities, training and employment programs, and franchising opportunities.
- The VetFran company directory is a good source for companies who are actively listing their franchises as available to interested veterans who want to become franchise owners.
- Military-Transition.org has many valuable resources for entrepreneurs, and the site also breaks down military-transition resources and opportunities by state.
- Bunker Labs is a national network of veteran entrepreneurs assisting new veteran entrepreneurs in starting their own business.
- Boots to Business is the SBA’s entrepreneurial education and training business course.
- The SBA’s Veterans Business Outreach Center offers free counseling and training to veterans and their families who are interested in starting or owning a business.
- Patriot Boot Camp is a nonprofit that has established a community of veteran peers who can coach new entrepreneurs to help them build their businesses.
- V-Wise specifically helps women veterans and female military spouses learn business savvy skills.
- The Second Service Foundation is a nonprofit that provides access to capital opportunities, education, and additional support to interested veteran entrepreneurs.
There are many other resources, and all this said, you are not alone.
What do Phil Knight, Frederick Smith, Bob Parsons, Jack Taylor, and Chuck Wallace, all have in common? They were all military veterans and started well-known businesses that have significantly shaped our economy.
You can too.
We look forward to continuing to provide hot topics of corporate and legal interest that can help military veterans transition back to society and launch their new business careers.
About Sean Buckley: Adams and Reese Associate Sean Buckley practices in corporate services, real estate, and mergers and acquisitions. He advises clients with matters related to entity selection and formation, corporate governance, and real estate transactions to identify proactive solutions and to mitigate risks.
About John Woods: Adams and Reese Memphis Associate John Woods practices in commercial litigation, insurance defense, and appellate litigation. He also assists clients in various industries with professional liability claims contract issues, regulatory compliance, and labor and employment matters.