The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Why veterans succeed as entrepreneurs

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Bill Reagan (Alexandria Small Business Development Center)
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For a variety of reasons, veterans are very accomplished entrepreneurs. About 10 percent of U.S. businesses are veteran-owned and they have an impressive success rate.

It’s not hard to figure out why veterans tend to succeed. All branches of the armed forces give enormous responsibility to soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen at a very young age – enlisted and officers alike. Young military members receive top-notch training on leading-edge technologies and methodologies. They become accustomed to making
crucial decisions and taking consequential actions under pressure.

The military emphasizes leadership principles such as placing the needs of followers ahead of their own, and that’s meticulously followed in all branches by all ranks. When transferred to businesses operations, that code of conduct inspires enviable levels of cohesion and teamwork, and there’s no stronger component of business success than a fully committed staff.

Other characteristics of military service that bode well for business success include discipline, initiative, resilience and readiness to make sacrifices.

Veterans as a group, however, face common challenges. While they’re on active duty, their civilian counterparts are establishing business networks and creating credit histories. Veterans initially lack a business ecosystem and have ground to make up upon becoming civilians. Many move to an area where they have no network. Some also struggle initially with the lack of structure they were accustomed to on active duty.

Individual veterans might also need help in business aspects where they lack familiarity or skillsets. Some of these matters might be legal, financial, getting permits, marketing, setting prices, leasing space or business planning.

The Alexandria Small Business Development Center has served hundreds of veterans during its 23-year history and is now sharpening that focus with additional expertise, programs and connections. The SBDC provides individual guidance to help Alexandria veteran business owners solve problems or improve operations. It also helps prospective entrepreneurs in Alexandria to plan, execute and pursue funding for their ventures.

Several successful veteran business owners who previously benefitted from the SBDC’s services are participating in the development and rollout of new resources and programs. They will share their experiences and advice for veterans, transitioning military and their spouses and point them to best practices, timely resources and networking opportunities. Veterans network most productively with other veterans.

The D.C. metro area is one of the best for veterans or military transitioning into business. There is an abundance of veteran-focused organizations and programs here as well as nationally, but that abundance can become a challenge as those who need help often struggle to find the right resource for their particular circumstances.

In addition to offering veteran-targeted services and programs, the SBDC hopes to partner with other area veterans’ programs through cross-referrals and provide listings of organizations that meet the needs for a variety of circumstances from military transition to networking to building relationships.

For more information, Alexandria veterans already in business or those interested in developing a business or non-profit, go to www.alexandriasbdc.org and request an appointment.

The writer is executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

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