Why Veterans Make Great entrepreneurs & how they benefit from our support

Posted by globalgoodfund on Nov 05, 2018

In a recent article published by the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business Misty Stutsman, author, states that “While 26 percent of Veterans want to start businesses, only 6 percent do.”  Some of the barriers to entrepreneurship for younger veterans include lack of contacts in the civilian community including the opportunity for identifying and establishing mentoring relationships, limited access to financial capitol, lack of business skills, and difficulty transferring management skills from the structured military system to the business environment. Helping veteran entrepreneurs overcome these challenges is why programs like The Global Good Fund are so important.

As a veteran, an entrepreneur, and a member of The Global Good Fund programs team working directly with the veteran leaders we support, I get to see first hand the impact that this program has on veteran entrepreneurs. There are plenty of online and in-person free or low cost training programs for veterans. They are fantastic recourses in learning how to build and grow a buisness. Unfortunately, most of these programs are focused on the startup phase – building business plans, participating in pitch competitions, and accessing capital. Few of the programs focus on building the leadership skills of the veteran entrepreneur.

That is one of the many reasons why I was excited to join the Global Good Fund team and what makes our veterans program, created in partnership with the Smithfield Foundation, so unique. The Global Good Fund is dedicated to helping young socially aware entrepreneurs succeed. It doesn’t focus on the “how to” of business, but rather on supporting the leadership development of the entrepreneurs who have already launched their businesses and are in the process of growing. It provides leadership support in four key areas: tiered feedback to the entrepreneur on how others sees them as a leader, leadership coaching, executive level mentorship, and access to networking opportunities outside of their industry and circle of influence. This approach addresses all of the barriers faced by veteran entrepreneurs.

I was recently asked why veterans would need or want access to leadership development. The common misunderstanding is that every veteran, no matter their rank or service, gets leadership training that should support them in both a career and entrepreneurial environment. While this is true, at the lower ranks, usually under ten years, the leadership training is limited and is more focused on task leadership as opposed to organizational leadership. Its not until after the middle ranks that military members receive more strategic level leadership training.  

Military leadership training utilizes regulations, rank structure, roles and responsibilities, and disciplinary actions in their leadership approaches. Also, the military is what I would consider a closed community, everyone knows what the mission is and what the possible consequences are if they fail to follow orders. Those regulations and consequences are not always part of the commercial workforce environment. I still remember one of the hardest transitions I had when I left the military, after a more than 20-year career, was when I was the project manager working with a team that did not seem to have the same work principles as I did and trying to motivate them to complete tasks in the time frame that had been outlined. I just felt like not everyone was rowing the boat with the same oar speed and sense of urgency. It was very frustrating. I felt like nothing in my leadership training or education prepared me for the actual day to day civilian working environment. If I had had access to a mentor who understood the military and how the military is trained and could have helped me transfer my management skills from the military to the workforce, I don’t think the transition would have been as hard and frustrating as it was.

Outside of being part of The Global Good Fund team, I teach a 10-week curriculum-based instructor lead micro-entrepreneur training bootcamp. The program falls in line with the other entrepreneur training offered to veterans and focuses on the business plan and business funding. Teaching this program puts me in an area where I get to advocate for veteran owned small businesses.  Because this program is grant funded and offered free to veterans, I get asked frequently who the veteran entrepreneurs are, what type of businesses they have, and what from their military experience make them good entrepreneurs. I have found that this again is an area where a lot of people have misconceptions.

Who are the veteran entrepreneurs?  Veteran owned businesses make up roughly 9% of the US Business base. According to the Small Business Administration, the US Census, and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, 84% of veteran owned business have between one and four employees with a large percentage of them over the age of 55 who started the businesses themselves. With so many younger veterans stating they have entrepreneurial aspirations and with so many new programs to support them, I hope we will see a rise in the number of new veteran owned businesses.

Veteran owned businesses are represented in almost every industry with the largest percentage in finance and insurance, transportation and warehousing, construction wholesale trade and retail trade. Again, with a new generation of veteran owned businesses we may see the industries change. Today’s veteran entrepreneurs are looking to continue their missions of service and purpose. They are more focused on information, are more socially aware, and want the human connection.

My favorite question to answer is “What makes veterans great entrepreneurs”? My opinion is that they have a broad range of life experiences, learning to problem solve and do more with less, sticking to a task until it is resolved, attention to detail, an ability to function under pressure, and a high level of motivation. Veteran entrepeneurs thrive in a team in a collaborative, team-oriented environment. They posses commitment, perseverance, and the ability to make sacrifices. The research agrees.