Young veteran meeting with a financial consultant

5 Ways Military Service Makes You a Better Business Owner

5 min read • Mar 19, 2020 • Jesse Sumrak

Service in the military is far from a one-and-done accomplishment. The training, discipline, and resilience learned sticks with you throughout the rest of your life. After years of service, many struggle to find another career or passion that will bring them the same sense of achievement—and that makes sense. Taking a seat in the corporate cubicle and becoming a nameless cog in the machine can feel downright shameful after your experience in the military.

That’s not the case for everyone, but if you crave a more challenging career—one rife with adventure, unknown hurdles, and limitless potential—entrepreneurship may be right up your alley. Plus, you already have a leg up on the competition. That’s right—research shows that veterans possess more significant entrepreneurial attributes than nonveterans.

Why is that the case? Well, it turns out the military doesn’t just teach you how to shoot guns, jump out of planes, and yell at cadets (although those are important aspects, too). The training and experiences hammered into you are what craft your invaluable entrepreneurial traits—traits that many a small business owner would pay thousands of dollars to acquire.

Want proof? Here are 5 ways that serving in the military makes you a better small business owner.

1. You Are Resilient

For small business owners, resilience isn’t a nice-to-have—it’s a need-to-have. Hard times will come. Setbacks will occur. And, eventually, you will stumble and fall. Every entrepreneur falls at some point—the difference between the wannabe and the real deal is that the real deal gets back up.

You’ve been beaten, shot at, tear-gassed, emotionally punished, and more—so how bad is a rainy day or a rough month for your business? When the going gets tough, members of the military get stronger. Back a soldier up to a wall, and that’s when you’ll see how high they can really jump.

2. You Don’t Avoid Trials—You Expect Them

Nobody asks for difficult tests or challenges. Military members, however, have been trained to meet them head-on.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll face uncomfortable situations and less-than-desirable tasks. When these situations arrive, you’ll have the option to leave your comfort zone and progress or take the safe, easy route to complacency. 

It’s the everyday struggle for a small business owner. A public speaking opportunity comes along that could build your brand, but you consider yourself an introvert and pass up the chance. Or every marketing article you read tells you to get started with video marketing, but you hate being on camera, so you invest elsewhere in the business instead.

Veterans, however, have a different mindset. They know that to survive, they have to turn weaknesses into strengths. You don’t avoid the pool in basic training because you can’t swim—you dive straight in because the real-life river or sea could kill you. You don’t run around the climbing wall on the obstacle course—you learn to get over it because your life (and the lives of your loved ones) may depend on it one day.

3. You Know the Importance of Teamwork

Many small business owners try to go it alone. They take the Rambo approach and try to mow down all their tasks and trials by themselves. These solo-show entrepreneurs try to wear every business hat—marketer, accountant, recruiter, engineer, etc.—often at a detriment to the company’s progress.

Veterans know better. They don’t try to be staff sergeant, combat engineer, medic, scout, and logistics coordinator. They know quality teams get more done. That’s why veterans tend to have better leadership skills and know when and what to delegate. These military members know the somewhat unteachable methods of how to extract the very best talent and efforts out of their comrades.

4. You Do More With Less

Taking on the grind, many entrepreneurs start their mornings by smashing the snooze button and downing eye-opening (literally) amounts of coffee. When asked why progress is slow, they may complain about the lack of help or insufficient capital.

Veteran small business owners know how to do more with less—it’s part of their training and expectations. They thrive on minimum sleep, stretch every hour, and typically get more done by 9am than your average Joe does in a full day. That’s why veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than those who have not served. The struggle is real—and, sometimes (whether they admit it or not), veterans like it that way.

5. You Know How to Adapt

Creating a business plan is one of the most critical steps to building a successful startup. It’s the step-by-step path that the entrepreneur has outlined they’ll need to take to find success. But what happens when an unexpected obstacle appears on the planned route or you’re forced to skip a step altogether?

Military members understand that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail—but they also know how to adapt on the fly. No, they don’t just wing it when executing a dangerous operation or when making life-threatening decisions. They sit down, examine the facts, make detailed plans, create backup plans, design backup-backup plans, and then usually have to throw it all out the door if their well-thought-out strategy goes up in flames.

That sounds like a day in the life of an entrepreneur, does it not? Successful business owners don’t somehow magically create unstoppable strategies—they just know how to adapt when nothing goes according to the plan.

Your Service Keeps on Giving

While your time in the military may be paused, delayed, or in the past, the skills you’ve acquired will stay with you forever. If you’re a veteran looking to take the hard-fought path of entrepreneurship, rest assured—you’re more prepared than you think you are. 

You’ve already grinded and earned the fundamental skills you need to become a talented small business owner. Need help with the details like registering your business, securing financing, or winning government contracts? Check out From Soldier to Small Business Owner (Veteran’s Guide) to learn everything you need to know about building a veteran-owned small business.

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Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.