About one in 10 veterans will own a business after retiring from active service. With 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the US, there is plenty of opportunity for you to pursue a career in entrepreneurship as you transition out of military life. In fact, some of the biggest corporations in the country—from FedEx to RE/MAX—have veteran founders.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider starting your own business:
1. You have the necessary leadership skills.
Some of the most passionate entrepreneurs have seen their businesses fail due to a lack of leadership. These skills are essential to nearly every aspect of running a business, from motivating people to delegating responsibilities to formulating effective strategies.
There’s a good chance your military experience has shaped you into a strong leader with many of the abilities necessary to guide your business to success. Think of all the times you had to organize people to achieve a common goal. You may have operated in high-stakes, dangerous environments where you had to make decisions quickly and guide people through difficult conditions—maybe even when their lives were at stake.
As a veteran, you also understand better than most the value of a team. You know how to put the needs of the group before your own and how to motivate others to do the same. As a civilian, you can use these skills to build effective teams to power your business.
2. You know how to work well on a team.
As a veteran, you know how to do more than lead a team; you know how to work effectively within one, too. Even if you start your business on your own, you’ll need to expand your team sooner or later. Running a successful business will depend on your ability to work well with other people, even if you’re the CEO.
As a veteran, it’s likely that this won’t be difficult for you. Teamwork is a key facet of military life, no matter which branch you served in, or what position you held. You trained, carried out missions, and performed your duties within a group. Whether you succeeded or failed depended on how well you worked with your team. You also learned how to trust your teammates and to support them, as they supported you in turn.
This experience will lend itself well to the business world, where you also must work within a team to achieve a common goal. You’ll be comfortable building an environment of trust and responsibility where people support each other.
3. You can focus your work in any area.
Entrepreneurship not only gives you the freedom to run your own business the way you want, it also allows you to focus your work in any area that catches your interest. You might choose one of many paths, depending on your interests and skills. For instance, if you spent your time in the military as an IT technician, you could start a business in that field.
In addition, you can also use your experience to develop your startup idea. For instance, it might be time to look into developing the energy drink you wish you had during long missions, or the performance gear you could have used in the field.
4. You know how to plan and adapt.
Planning is vital in both the military and the business world. Though few military missions or business projects ever go completely according to plan, the ability to plan sets you up for success. Think back to your military experience. In preparation for missions, you probably spent time analyzing a situation, running drills, readying contingency plans, and gathering equipment. Even if the plans fell through, you had the preparation to adapt to changing situations.
Running your own business is similar. You’ll need to develop a thorough business plan that will help guide you through any challenges you may face. This preparation will set your business up for success and help you adapt in the face of unforeseen situations.
5. There are many resources available to guide you.
Transitioning from military to civilian life is difficult, and trying to start a business during this process can be even more of a challenge. Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources available that make it easier for veterans like yourself to pursue entrepreneurship.
The Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD), part of the US Small Business Administration, regularly works with veterans who want to open businesses after leaving the military. Through its outreach centers, the OVBD provides mentorship, referrals to partner organizations, training sessions, and skills workshops. Even the Department of Veteran Affairs has its own Veteran Entrepreneur Portal that can help you get started on your career in entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurs from the military community have also developed organizations that help fellow veterans transition into careers as business owners. Organizations like Patriot Boot Camp, the Honor Foundation, and VetsLikeMe can give you the tools you need to get started.