Veteran Entrepreneurs Are Growing In Ranks
by Tim Knox
Copyright © 2005
When I’m not running my own business, writing articles about business, speaking to groups and organizations about business, or consulting with companies who want my advice about the running of their business, I teach a weekly class on the subject of (care to guess?) starting and running a business.
To quote my frequently-mentioned and wise-beyond-her-years teenage daughter, Chelsea, “Dad, you really need to get a life.” This advice coming from a child who believes all roads lead to the mall.
What my eldest offspring doesn’t understand is I have a great life. In fact, I am living the life I have always dreamed of living. My life just happens to revolve around Planet Business. I am an entrepreneurial addict, a business junkie. Business is my chocolate, my Krispy Kreme donut, my nicotine, my caffeine, my crack. Maybe I’ll start a 12 step program for entrepreneurs who want to kick the habit and charge a cover to get in. Hi, my name is Tim, and I’m an entrepreneur... Sounds like a great business idea to me.
Out of everything I do I get the most enjoyment from speaking and teaching. Maybe it’s the old stand up comedian in me, but nothing feeds my addiction like standing in front of a room of entrepreneurs talking about the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the do’s and don’ts of business.
My latest class of eager entrepreneurs is a special one in that it is made up almost entirely of U.S. Military Veterans: nearly two dozen men and women of all ages who either have a business idea in mind or are in the process of actually starting and running a business.
Going around the room, I asked each student to stand up, introduce themselves, and talk a little about their business idea and what they expect to get from the class. As I listened to each Vet speak, I was impressed at the passion the entire group exuded. Most new entrepreneurs love to talk about their business idea, but this group was somehow different. They were more precise in their thinking, more intense, more passionate than the average entrepreneur. This group was not only excited at the prospect of starting their own business. They were downright zealous about it.
As each Vet stood to talk about their idea and their expectations, the rest of the group hung on every word and was truly interested in what was being said. The typical entrepreneur is only interested in his own venture and has a hard time feigning interest in anyone else’s. That was not the case here. Each Vet not only listened intently, but empathized with the speaker, as if they were taking a vested interest in the speaker’s idea and were eager to help the speaker succeed. It was as if the group who had never met before, had come together as a single cohesive unit with one mission in mind: to succeed in business.
The theme became: No man (or woman) left behind, in battle and in business.
I supposed I should not have been too surprised. These were, after all, highly-trained, highly-disciplined individuals who have spent time in every corner of the globe in conditions most of us can only imagine. One young entrepreneur in particular was so freshly back from the Middle East that you could almost imagine sand on the floor beneath his boots.
They are an impressive group, indeed, and it is my privilege to serve as their leader for the next six weeks. I am learning far more from them about the human spirit than they are learning from me about business. I hope they see it as a fair trade.
Veteran entrepreneurs are emerging as one of the fastest growing segments of new entrepreneurs. According to a recent Small Business Administration (SBA) study there are approximately 4.2 to 5.5 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States. The study further revealed that 22% of veterans are either considering starting or purchasing a business in the near future or are in the business start up or purchase phase now.
The SBA study was done as a result of The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999, which required the SBA’s Office of Advocacy to develop information on the various programs designed to assist veteran and service-disabled veterans succeed in business.
The SBA study found that:
More than one-third of “new veteran-entrepreneurs” and current veteran business owners had obtained skills from their active duty service that were directly relevant to business ownership. This should come as no surprise when you consider the intensity of the training and the emphasis on discipline that comes with military training.
Over the course of their career the typical longer-term Veteran receives at least cursory training in everything from time management to employee relations to supervisory techniques to dealing with subordinates (employees) to budgeting and accounting to supply chain management and so on and so on.
One organization that is working hard to promote entrepreneurship among Veterans is the Veteran’s Corporation. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the Veteran’s Corporation bills itself as “the complete business source for current and prospective Veterans and Service-Disabled Veteran business owners, and for companies interested in working with Veteran-owned businesses.” The Veterans Corporation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that was created in 1999 by Public Law 106-50, which also set a 3 percent goal for federal procurement to Veterans including Service Disabled Veteran-owned businesses.
The Veterans Corporation serves transitioning military personnel and all Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard and Reserve, seeking to link them with partners and purchasing agents in both the public and private sectors.
Membership to the Veterans Corporation is free and available to all transitioning military personnel and all Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard and Reserve. Members will find assistance in securing capital for a business, entrepreneurial education, access to markets and services, and business networking.
For more information or to apply for membership visit the Veterans Corporation online at http://www.veteranscorp.org/.
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