When it comes to entrepreneurship, current and former service members are making a tremendous impact. According the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA,) one out of every seven veterans is self-employed or a small-business owner. The statistics clearly indicate service members learn valuable skills while on active duty that are highly conducive to an entrepreneurial career. The following five qualities service members acquire in the military give them a competitive edge in the business world, thus making them excellent entrepreneurs.
Service members undergo rigorous physical and intellectual training, and are expected to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. This experience makes veterans fast learners, which is an essential characteristic in the ever-changing world of entrepreneurship. It is this high level of intelligence that has made veterans highly sought after by business schools. Colleges with top-notch business degree programs are quick to offer veterans scholarships and tuition assistance. For example, VistaMilitary.com offers educational benefits to veterans and their dependents, as well as the opportunity to transfer military experience into college credit. The knowledge service members gain in the military also extends to the increasingly important world of technology. Veterans are aware of and up to speed on the latest technological trends relevant to the business world. Former service members are often proficient in cutting-edge technology and have used their knowledge overseas, allowing them to bring a global perspective to their entrepreneurial pursuits.
Being in the military requires performing at a high level while the surrounding conditions are rapidly changing. Serving in a combat theater involves constant awareness of one’s surroundings and the ability to complete missions without knowing when circumstances may change. Those who have served in the military develop a kind of resilience that allows them to remain strong and healthy in the midst of these highly stressful situations. As entrepreneurs, veterans draw on their adaptability to cope with the constant changes that occur in their businesses. During military service, soldiers also learn how to accomplish goals in a team setting as well as on an individual level. When starting a business, it is essential to survive the ups and downs that will inevitably occur and to work individually as well as a member of a team.
The Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP) reports that while veterans possess strong leadership abilities, many companies fail to match their level of commitment. Starting a business is a great way for veterans to use their leadership skills and to work with other veterans who possess similar levels of management and decision-making abilities. Service members are specifically trained to make the tough calls and to delegate responsibilities when necessary. The strong sense of camaraderie gained in the service is transferable to the business world where business owners must work together to succeed. Additionally, service members who have gone on to become commanders and sergeants are highly skilled in recognizing and nurturing the talents and skills of others. This is conducive to owning and operating a business, as a company’s success is highly dependent on hiring quality and competent workers.
According to Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group, determination is absolutely essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Branson goes on to say that determination is a trait that can be learned over time. Veterans have a definite advantage in this regard, as they have already learned this important skill through the many challenges faced during military service. A soldier learns to persevere through taxing training exercises, demanding technical classes and life-threatening missions. Many have even had to learn to persist through serious mental and physical disabilities. These experiences give veterans a level of stamina and endurance that is a necessary part of running a successful business.
While starting and maintaining a thriving business is certainly a challenge, veterans who have made life-or-death situations in combat zones bring a unique level of perspective to the entrepreneurial world. As a result, veterans are less likely than many of their civilian counterparts to cripple under the pressures of running a business. Veterans’ previous experiences with remaining calm in stressful situations enable them to keep each obstacle in perspective and to take things in stride.
Former service members are making an impressive and important impact on today’s business world. These four qualities, as well as countless others, make veterans strong candidates for starting and maintaining successful businesses.
Image by Millenia47 from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: April Palmer is a contributing writer, veteran and small-business owner.