As a combat platoon leader and operations officer in the U.S. Army, beyond securing villages, most of the time deployed I found myself providing aid and governance to the people of Afghanistan -- conducting civil and well water assessments, as well as building schools, medical clinics and government headquarters. I enjoyed the tangible connectivity and coordination of building, while providing a safer more secure environment for the war-torn locals. This experience combined with my love of construction and architectural design inspired me to venture out on my own as an entrepreneur.
As a business owner, I work just as hard as I did in the military, but I have the freedom to create my own opportunities and pave my own path, which allows me to dictate my priorities: family, health and employees. Here are three things I learned in the armed forces that prepared me for success as an entrepreneur:
1. Lead with a clear vision and plan.
Strong leaders have the right assets and tools in place to build trust and confidence in any situation.
Clients and employees in particular, need a leader with a vision and plan they can believe in. When you are the face of an organization, every action is noticed and evaluated. Employees want sound business leaders whose ethics and morals can be emulated, while providing a project that is safe, quality driven, on-time and on-budget to the customer. This is key in advancing your company from good to great.
Most importantly, strong leaders are humble enough to be realistic about the feasibility of their vision within the context of their company’s capabilities. The marking of true leadership is knowing when to walk away from projects or assignments that aren’t the best fit for your business.
2. Your team is your lifeline.
Much like in the military, your entire team is the lifeline of your business and plays a critical role in its success. Therefore, it is important to lean on your employees, invest time and money into their experience shortfalls and then empower them to use their strengths to help your company get to the next level. This shows them that they are not only respected, but also trusted partners on your path to entrepreneurship. Moreover, you’ll need this sense of camaraderie to get you through the difficult times that are sure to pop up along the journey as well as to give you candid feedback on what’s working and what needs to be fixed.
3. Plan your financial future.
Mostly everyone who seriously considers starting a business has the drive, the technical experience and vision to do so.While these attributes will help a company during its growth phase, how you plan your financial future will have a major impact on how successful you will be.
It begins with a detailed start-up business plan and overhead costs for two years to serve as a cushion. Then you need to think about cash flow projections and continued revenue growth. With limited financial management experience during my time it the Army, it was clear I needed to turn to a trusted partner such as Chase for Business to help me get my business off the ground so that I could focus my attention on daily operations.
It’s no easy feat navigating the road to entrepreneurship. But if you’re a veteran considering this path, you already embody the courage and commitment it takes to begin this journey. It may not happen overnight and certainly not without a little grit, but the end reward will be well worth it.