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Monday, October 29, 2012

Challenges Veterans Have In Becoming Small Business Owners

It depends on the individuals.

First off, many have great advantages. After serving abroad, a little shortage of cash might not scare you as much. Patience may be developed, and the new business owner may have the stamina to put up with things the lifetime civilian is unprepared for.

But, there are disadvantages that can develop in some people.

Some vets get arrogant, and that kills them. They think they've already done it all, and forget how to listen or do research. Confidence is a great thing, and as long as it's under control, it's an advantage.

Others get paranoid, not realizing they are in the civilian world now, and a few pull through this, but it makes things more difficult. If they learn to harness this paranoia, they can use it be to cautious, and it can lead to success.

And then there are the general problems of coping with civilian life (or re-adjusting to anything.) But that's not only a vet's problem, and it's not unique to business either.

I think it's different for Gen X vets as well because they are the minority. At one time, almost everyone was a vet.

I think all in all, it's not a big problem. Just look at some examples and you'll see very successful vets in the world of business.

I suspect that a lack of 'chain of command' might be a problem. In the military you say to your troops "Take the hill guys"...and they say "Yessir!" and rush off to do it. In business you have to be able to persuade your team to do what you believe to be the right thing.

Also while the military does have rules of engagement, these are nowhere near as complicated as the legislation and regulation surounding trading.

Kenneth Larson, a SCORE mentor and vet, had offers this insight .....

"As a veteran who made the transition to which you are referring and as an industry professional who supports veterans in becoming business owners, I found there are two important types of business issue roles to consider. Military men and women do well in Role 1 below. They have the most challenges with Role 2.

ROLE 1. TECHNICAL - such as scientific, engineering, logistics, electronics, design and similar skill sets where direct supervision, team building, corporate policy compliance and human resource planning and utilization are not major factors.

VS.

ROLE 2 MANAGEMENT - in a process functional capacity responsible for hiring, evaluation, supervision, compliance with civilian law and department activities involving group dynamics, customer relations and sensitive human factors.

I came out of the military having had a leadership role in engineering, base development planning, and combat support. I served in war zones in South East Asia and on highly classified missions. I was not a manager. I was a military leader in specialized skill sets under Role 1 above.

I knew how to direct people who followed orders without question because the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which they swore an oath said the had to.

I felt uncomfortable in jobs involving Role 2 above because they were foreign to me. I later adjusted, learned the venue and became skilled as a manager in the corporate world. I preferred staff assignments, however for most of my career. The corporate world seemed enormously political and bureaucratic to a former war fighter like me. I was not that tactful, cut to the chase often and did not always take everyone with me when I made a decision.

Once I grew into a Role 2 performer, I found in interviewing, hiring, evaluating and managing young veterans and even seasoned ones who had retired and joined the civilian work force that almost all were better suited for Role 1. It took years and effort on my part to fit them into Role 2 and some never made it.

The principal reason for the logic I have conveyed is that the military environment may seem to be structured in a way that fits Role 2, but the specifics I have conveyed above do not turn out individuals who are suited in the knowledge and experience necessary and they are not very good at it without extensive training and adaptation.

In fairness to veterans and to our hopes for them in the future we must understand these distinctions, build on Role 1, understand the risk in Role 2 and assist wherever possible."

1 comment:

Matt said...

Some reasonable points, but doesn't this discuss the difficulties of veteran's adjusting the work place . . . versus being small business owners?

In my experiences, most of the "down side" identified in this article are minimized when veterans make the leap into business ownership.

Best,
mjd
@mjdigeronimo