On this Veterans Day, we honor our veterans and their families for their tremendous sacrifices for our country and its people. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your service.
We’re here to also make the case that now more than ever, it is also the time to support veterans in their entrepreneurial pursuits – whether it is forging a partnership or business relationship with a veteran-owned firm or making veteran hiring a priority in your business. Indeed, veterans, along with their civilian counterparts, are now are up against a faceless foe. But veterans are poised and trained to fight these perilous times — and could be on the front lines of an economic recovery.
Consider this: Nearly one in 10 of all U.S. firms are veteran-owned, according to government figures. More than 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses — nearly 10 percent of all American companies — employ more than 5 million Americans, generate more than $195 billion in annual payroll and $1.1 trillion in annual sales. Florida has the third-largest number of veteran-owned businesses with 185,756 businesses generating $57.7 billion in sales. Veterans are also self-employed at a higher rate than civilians.
What’s more, skills learned in the military can easily translate to the business sector. Indeed, those who have gone to war are trained in the art of responding to what are known as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environments. Many employers seek out veterans because they have leadership attributes and a deep sense of mission. They know how to complete their missions as part of a team that has one another’s backs, qualities they honed while in uniform. Those same qualities can help them lead companies, too.
So, given the numbers of veteran-owned businesses already in the economy and the strengths they bring to the business battlefield, it should be no surprise that veteran-led small businesses are particularly poised to help lead our nation to better economic times, some experts say.
Veteran-owned companies are also more likely to hire other veterans, so increased veteran entrepreneurship has the cascading effect of providing job opportunities and financial benefits to the broader veteran community, said John W. Nicholson Jr., president of the PenFed Foundation that provides access to capital and resources to veteran entrepreneurs, and a retired United States Army four-star general.
“I expect America’s veteran-owned businesses will lead the way in rehiring, adopting new and innovative business models, and continuing to serve their communities. They will succeed even in the face of new challenges. That’s why it’s critical that we support them,” Nicholson said in a Forbes Blog post.
In honor of Veterans Day, I want to rerun some of the insights the leaders of one Miami veteran-owned firm shared with me last year:
At The Gilchrist Law Firm, CEO Jacquin Gilchrist served in US Army JAG Corps. The firm’s Director of Government Procurement, Colonel Retired Spencer L. Smith, served in the US Army. I wrote about the business and you can read the success story about the company here. But they also had some interesting insights about veterans and entrepreneurship
“The future is very bright for the veterans who wish to transition over into the small business sector. As you know, in the typical workforce, the veterans are sought after,” said Smith. “Businesses want the veterans and pathways are set up to sign these veterans. You’ve got the transition assistance, all of this that is directly established to assist the veterans transitioning out the military.”
“In the big picture, not that many seek out the small business sector but for the ones that do, the future is very bright because they understand about the relationships, utilizing resources and how to navigate some of that complexity,” said Smith.
Reflecting on Gilchrist Law Firm, he said two reasons veterans can make successful small business owners is because they are action oriented and can focus on what’s important. “Who are the main players in order to accomplish things? We can cut through the red tape, let’s get at it.”
Jacquin Gilchrist added that veterans know chain of command, and know when to lead and when to follow. For entrepreneurship, he said, “they are set up for success.” Gilchrist Law Firm has been successful in winning government contracts because they also know how to navigate the government, he said. By the way, most of the country officers we deal with are military people.”
Spencer agrees: “There’s a high probability that the person that you’re going to be dealing with served time in the military, and I can’t tell you the number of times that some of these individuals reached out. That veteran connection is very strong.”
What’s more, he said when you start talking about structure and running an organization, characteristics valued by the military such as agility, being a good planner and action oriented, are key. “In a small business you need action-oriented people to get things done because you probably are trying to juggle four and five different positions.”
The military has done a great job in giving opportunities for service members for self development, Smith said. “In the military, in order for you to succeed in this career, you must take it upon yourself to further your education. And that’s not only for the enlisted, but that’s also for officers, and so that when you put that together and bring it into a small business world, you can’t help but succeed.”
Gilchrist agrees. As a young JAG attorney, he was given opportunities that his counterparts in the commercial world would never get. “When I was 22 I’m on TV doing a court martial in front of three star generals,” Gilchrist said. Veterans also learn leadership skills that translate perfectly to the business world.
He also said its about integrity. “Maybe I’m biased, but I’ve never questioned what a veteran told men. You know it’s done. Move out.” And it’s been his experience working with contract officers who are veterans they know “they gave you mission, you’re going to take care of it.”
And then there is teamwork – critical in the military and in entrepreneurship. In the military, you always have your team’s back. “When you’re military we have a culture that exudes to everything that we do. We’re a team that is truly a team, filling gaps, there’s no complaining,” Gilchrist said.
Gilchrist Law Firm leaders, from left: Spencer Smith and Jacquin Gilchrist
Businesses and nonprofit leaders can help support veteran-owned businesses by seeking out veteran-owned businesses to do business with for your everyday vendor needs. You can find a directory of these businesses from the American Veteran Owned Business Association.
Businesses can also hire and train more veterans. Network with veterans organizations and establish a veteran talent pipeline, for example.
Whether you are launching or growing a veteran-owned business or want to hire a veteran and grow your veteran talent pipeline, GrowBiz has resources for you.
And whether you are launching or growing a veteran-owned business or want to hire a veteran and grow your veteran talent pipeline, GrowBiz has resources for you.
RESOURCES FOR VETERAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
- Programs such as Florida SBDC at FIU, other small business development centers around the stateand nation, and SCORE chaptersoffer free business counseling and can connect veterans with key resources to help them launch or run businesses. Our colleges and universities offer programs too. In addition, GrowBiz compiled a short list of other free resources for veterans who want to start businesses:
- Get certified as a Florida Veteran-Owned Business:The Florida Office of Supplier Diversity (OSD) certifies veteran-owned businesses for free. Certification offers benefits such as referrals to state agencies and other organizations seeking certified businesses; a listing in OSD’s Certified Business Enterprise Vendor Directory; and exclusive emails containing contract and networking opportunities, special events and training announcements. Find out more here.
- Veterans Florida: Seeking additional help starting your business? Veterans Florida can help through the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program. The Florida SBDC Network is a partner and the six Florida locations for the Entrepreneurship Program include Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
- Patriot Boot Camp:A resource site for active-duty service members, veterans, or military spouses seeking mentors, educational opportunities and a community of experts and peers to help build their businesses.
- SBA resources for veteran-owned small businesses:Resources include funding programs, training, and federal contracting opportunities.
- Bunker Labs:Supported by JP Morgan Chase and other organizations, this non-profit offers programs for veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs dedicated to helping the veteran community start and grow businesses. There is a program coming soon to Tampa.
- And more: In addition, free programs offered nationally include FranVet (for franchisees), the SBA’s Boots to Business and the Vets First Verification Program (about VA set-asides). Find out more about 11 of them on this helpful blogpost.
RESOURCES FOR HIRING VETERANS
These websites will help you find qualified veterans, post job openings and find resources that will help you employ those who served:
- Employ Florida Vets: Learn how you can hire and support local veterans through Employ Florida Vets.
- CareerSource South Florida: South Florida’s state job agency has a number of services for veterans looking for jobs and employers seeking veterans.
- American Heroes at Work: Browse training materials, guides, and resources for businesses that employ disabled veterans.
- Hiring our Heroes: Information on how your organization can better recruit and hire veterans and military spouses
Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service.