BY REGGIE ORDONEZ, PATHWAY VBOC DIRECTOR
The Foundations of Veteran Entrepreneurship
The correlation between the worlds of military service and entrepreneurship is significant. 9.1% of small businesses are owned by veterans when 1% of the nation serves in the Armed Forces of the United States. The ability to creatively attack problems, bear the weight of responsibility, and be comfortable in the uncomfortable are distinct capabilities of Veterans and these traits suit well in entrepreneurs.
Just as prerequisites of military service requires resiliency, entrepreneurship requires resiliency. Military service is a training ground for entrepreneurship, as the leaders model toughness. Sleepless nights, physical endurance, and mental stamina are required to succeed, and it’s expected that service members rise to the occasion.
Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness. Or: the ability of substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
Tough decisions have to be made and gritty circumstances must be navigated in entrepreneurship, just as military members have seen in training in other countries. They innovate, disrupt, and challenge the status quo. Veterans have had to adapt and overcome arduous circumstances and find new ways of getting tasks accomplished while making do with current resources while overcoming a shortage of needed resources. Words will never do this justice, as they keep those lessons close as they lead others. Sleepless nights being away from family and bearing responsibility for the lives of others finds them resilient as they endure trials for one another. There is no such thing as a lone wolf or robot in military service, there is only a team; there are selfless and resilient people ready to stand in the gap. Such as the way there are no self-made people, entrepreneurs need teams and people who are willing to come alongside an ambitious journey.
There are no shortcuts in military service. Ambition, drive, determination, and resiliency are required to be a member of the 1% who bear the cloth of the nation. Those qualities in military service set up the mindset to rise to another challenge- entrepreneurship.
What is Entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship that starts companies from ideas, creates jobs and provides value to customers with little regard to resources, can seem intimidating at first. Passion gets an entrepreneur on the trail, vision gives belief, but resiliency is the torque to get through the trek. With hard work, coachability, endurance and resiliency, small business ownership is more than possible, it’s rewarding.
The very essence of the word exemplifies these truths. Entrepreneurship is a French word for “undertaking” and the undertaking requires a different mindset. Anyone can create themselves a job, but how they choose to innovate, disrupt, and challenge the status quo is the heart of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs, like military service members, find problems to solve, craft solutions, and provide value to others.
Entrepreneurship in Action
After military service, veterans continue to leave some of the old ways behind, but there are other characteristics and traits that will last forever. Resiliency is a state of mind—resiliency must be forged in fire, and it shows up when times get tough. There is no room for a stagnant mindset when opportunity knocks at the door. Perhaps an understanding from a past military life is why so many veteran owned businesses adapt and overcome. Resiliency is a prerequisite and will last with a continued challenge. Veterans are used to a constant state of change and there is no doubt that veterans make amazing entrepreneurs as resiliency, quick thinking, and problem solving is a catalyst to success.
A new way of thinking was required by entrepreneurs when tornadoes ripped across Tennessee and COVID-19 halted business operations. Entrepreneurs rolled up their sleeves, found the problem, and relentlessly attacked it. By crafting new ways to innovate; curbside pickup, distance learning, bartering of services, and exploiting new opportunities for partnerships became the new normal—business models were put under a pressure test and for those who could move quickly became the victor. A path and understanding of flexibility in uncertainty is what helped these businesses.
The market changes such as the way new intelligence changes a mission overseas. Veterans learned resiliency in the military, and they continue to practice it in the world of entrepreneurship. They practice resiliency for their stakeholders and endure trials for economic empowerment. As business owners, they provide meaningful benefits and wages to employees and lasting value to customers. This is not anything new, it is just a different landscape they come to adapt to.