About 200,000 U.S. military personnel return to civilian life each year. Rather than retire or take corporate jobs, some of them would like to start small businesses. You see, a stint in the armed forces builds character — and many soldiers possess traits similar to those of successful entrepreneurs, with a can-do attitude and a high-degree of risk-tolerance.They also understand the importance of being a team player.
Here are five tips for military veterans who aim to become entrepreneurs:
1. Consider opening a franchise. Operating a franchise can be a good fit for veterans, who are often accustomed to working within a tightly knit military unit. Jim Hunter, CEO of House Doctors, says veterans make effective franchise team members. “In their experiences, some of these goals may have been achieved through life-threatening missions,” Hunter says. “This is why they treat every mission, or franchise promotion, or program, as vitally important to the well-being of their business.”
2. Describe your military experience in a way that’s civilian-friendly. Talk about how your skills are pertinent to an entrepreneurial endeavor. This will help you convince lenders and/or venture capitalists to provide startup funding. In a one-person startup, securing capital often depends on how a potential lender views the owner’s business acumen, not necessarily his or her past military exploits.
3. Enroll in an entrepreneurial program for veterans. Operation Boots to Business helps vets gain an entrepreneurial vision through an eight-week “mini MBA” course online. This cooperative effort between the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University and the U.S. Small Business Administration helps participants focus on what’s needed to start a successful business. There are many other resources available for entrepreneurial vets, too.
4. Network with other “vetrepreneurs.” The National Veteran-Owned Business Association offers “vetrepreneurs” more than advice — the nonprofit also helps vets access startup capital.
In November, U.S. Army veteran Shilo Harris was the first recipient of a low-interest loan from the nonprofit Veterans Business Fund to open a WIN Home Inspection Franchise. “Since returning home from Iraq five years ago, I knew I wanted to apply the skills I picked up in the military toward owning and operating a small business,” Harris says.
5. Apply lessons learned on the battlefield to the business. Todd Fisher, a veteran who launched two software companies, tells Entrepreneur.com that his military training taught him to be more comfortable in tapping the expertise of others. He also can tolerate the ups and downs of operating a high-stakes business as a result of his battlefield experience.