5 Ways Veteran Entrepreneurs Can Turn Military Skills into Business Savvy

April 5, 2017

12:50 pm

About 200,000 people transition out of military service annually, and according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, close to half find that their main challenge is adapting to civilian culture. U.S. veterans seeking to get into business for themselves have a support network from both veteran groups and the entrepreneurial community. There are even entire nonprofits for pairing the two worlds, like Bunker Labs or Patriot Boot Camp.

Why do veterans and entrepreneurial ventures go together so naturally? Because plenty of skills apply in both worlds. I interviewed Bart Lomont, cofounder of lawn care service Robin, in order to learn more about the connections between the two. Here’s a quick look at the skill set a veteran can rely on for entrepreneurial success:

You Have No Playbook

When you are self-employed, there isn’t necessarily a guide to help you along the way, and on a daily basis, you’ll need to make time-sensitive decisions that can impact your company.

“Similar to my experience in the military, there is no playbook or road map to life in a startup,” Bart explains. “Each day, I encounter problems that nobody has ever faced before and it’s my job to figure them out. We don’t have time to wait on others to figure out the issues. We train our team to think on their feet and make decisions to the best of their ability, based on the information they have.”

Communication Is Essential

In the military, communication is the most critical components to a successful mission and the ability to communicate effectively to your team can also help while building your business.

“Clear, concise communication is a critical attribute in our organization,” Bart says. “Whether you are communicating with a customer, a lawn crew, or even a fellow Robin employee, you should be able to get your point across in under three sentences. Anything more than that is a waste of both parties’ time and needs work.”

You Stay Accountable

In the military and when you own a business, being accountable for one’s work and actions can help the team understand their role and outcome goals. As Bart tells it:

“We also place a focus on accountability — no matter what the operation, it is very clear who is in charge and they know from the beginning what is expected of them.”

You Know How to Adapt

There are many twists and turns to building a business and the ability to adapt to the unexpected things that come your way and maintain a steady head is a valuable transitional skill for veterans.  If Bart could go back in time to the start of his career, he’d tell himself to stop worrying about the ‘what-ifs.’

“When you set out to disrupt an industry as large as the $40 billion landscaping market, you are going to run into a lot of unknowns,” he says. “You can never answer all of the questions until you are faced with them, so getting some real-world experience (in our case this was getting robotic mowers out into the field with real customers for their first ever tests on US soil) is invaluable.

A startup’s greatest advantage is its adaptability. We don’t have to run decisions through committees and receive approval from different departments. We can make decisions in the field that make an immediate impact and gain us considerable advantages over the competition.”

Robin proves that Bart and his co-founder Justin Crandall know how to adapt: The company recently launched the nation’s first robotic lawn care service.

Teamwork Matters

One of the biggest core values of the military is teamwork and it’s the most important component to help a unit complete a mission. For Bart and his cofounder Justin, they knew that teamwork includes individuals who have the experience and willing to help others succeed in their company mission.

Robin had a connection to a local Bunker Labs, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that supports early phase veteran-owned startups, and the cofounders reached out for help.

“Bunker Labs has been a great teammate and true partner in much of our success to date,” Bart says. “Between introductions to potential investors, many new networking opportunities, and evening opening up new doors to marketing opportunities — they have stayed true to their mission and play a valuable role in helping to advance veteran entrepreneurship.”

Bunker Labs is heading in the second year of a two-year, $1.5 million commitment from JPMorgan Chase to launch a 10-month tour to hold events and open new chapters across the U.S. Any veteran entrepreneurs hoping to start a business already has the experience and skills to succeed and need to remember to leverage available networks.

A great place to start building a network is at Startup Week where you can meet other entrepreneurs or advisors who can help you achieve your company mission.

This article is part of a Startup Week content series brought to you by CHASE for BUSINESS. Startup Week is celebration of entrepreneurs in cities around the globe. CHASE for BUSINESS is everything a business needs in one place, from expert advice to valuable products and services. Find business news, stories, insights and expert tips all in one place at Chase.com/forbusiness. Read the rest of our Startup Week series.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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