Veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding that one of the paths to healing and hope is in small business—both as business owners and as employees. Statistics say that more and more veterans are pursuing this direction.
In fact, veterans with active-duty experience are at least 45 percent more likely to take the plunge as entrepreneurs than the rest of us. That’s just one finding of a 2011 study from the SBA Office of Advocacy. In 2007, veterans owned 2.4 million businesses, or 9 percent of all businesses nationwide. Today that number is estimated to be more than 3 million businesses and climbing. Now, there’s even a term to describe the trend: vetrepreneurs.
There’s not just one reason why veterans are more likely to start their own businesses, but observers have raised various possibilities. One is the fact that military training develops organizational skills and a tolerance for risk. Veterans say they’re not only comfortable seeking knowledge from people with more experiece (even though they may outrank them) but also have gained real confidence from experiences and situations where the stakes are very high. Veterans know these things about each other and continue to hire other veterans, as they have historically.
Contributor Mike Clough, himself a veteran, writes about why veterans make great small business leaders on the site, bestbizpractices.org. Because of their training and experience, he says, veterans bring a unique set of strengths and weaknesses to the business arena. He lists three areas where veterans stand out:
- Achieving goals, which requires hard work, focus, discipline and tenacity.
- Loyalty within teams and to subordinates, which enhances performance in a variety of ways.
- Strategic planning and execution and follow-through: Seeing those plans through to get the desired result.
Clough says there are other pluses, too. Even though the typical structure of many corporations used to be more similar to that of the military—top-down, hierarchical—today’s flatter companies are still drawn to the qualities associated with veterans: discipline, courage, leadership and integrity. If you’ve served in the military, you assumed responsibility at a young age; you’ve learned to work independently and calmly in really difficult situations; and you’ve learned to quickly adapt to conditions that can change in the blink of an eye.
Many of the same qualities that enable military veterans to launch businesses also make them productive, loyal and reliable employees. Veterans still face higher unemployment than the general U.S. population: The Huffington Post reported that in 2011, 12.1 percent of recently active U.S. military veterans were jobless, compared to a national unemployment rate of 8.9 percent. However, a CareerBuilder survey (reported by NBC News) also says that 29 percent of employers are recruiting veterans—up from just 9 percent only a year ago. It appears that the trend lines are moving in the right direction.
You’ll definitely want to read entrepreneur.com’s take on the whole phenomenon in How Military Veterans are Finding Success in Small Business. Government agencies, colleges and universities and even the private sector, it says, are responding with support, training and business opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs and employees. There are so many sources for such support, including the following that Clough recommends:
- Hire Heroes USA (HHUSA) – career placement assistance to returning veterans, with emphasis on those who are injured or disabled.
- National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) – champions veteran owned businesses as preferred vendors.
- SCORE – Various kinds of support, from directories and research to grants, workshops and more.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net