Q.: I've been applying for jobs since leaving the military, but I keep wondering if I should open my own company. How can I know if entrepreneurship is right for me?
A.: I'm not one who believes you are "born" an entrepreneur, that it's in your blood and you'll never be happy until you own your own business. I spent 20 years in corporate America before I ever considered the idea of being my own boss. And I picked the worst economic climate and personal scenario to do it. And it was right for me.
"Many people are drawn to the risk, sense of control and the exciting option of entrepreneurship. For many military veterans, self-employment represents the concept of being in charge of your future (and not being told what to do), having control over your livelihood (you eat what you kill) and directing your future options (the sky's the limit!). For others, owning a business and creating something that you control means taking an idea, vision or product and bringing it to life in the way you want.
Related: Search for Veteran Jobs
Veterans Can Make Fabulous Entrepreneurs
The military taught you leadership, self-motivation, self-discipline, goal setting, risk tolerance and focus, which are all key ingredients of owning a successful business. In many ways, veterans are ideally trained to be entrepreneurs:
A 2012 study by the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families, The Business Case for Hiring A Veteran: Beyond the Cliches, showed that high-performing entrepreneurs and innovators tend to be successful in managing risk, identifying reward and navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship, because they possess a strong need for achievement and can make decisions in the face of high-stress, dynamic environments.
Successful entrepreneurs are comfortable with independence and autonomy as well. The study points out that military service instills characteristics consistent with successful entrepreneurs:
- A high need for achievement
- A strong comfort with autonomy
- Dynamic decision-making processes
Steps to Consider as an Entrepreneur
Whether the transition leads to corporate life or self-employment, some best practices for veterans making the transition include:
Understand your value proposition.
Focus on your personal brand -- your reputation, value propositions and competitive advantage -- and understand how others will assign you value and relevance.
Understand your target audience.
Identify your target audiences: With whom do you want to work, and what do they need from you? Learn what will make your product or service relevant and compelling to this audience and why they will buy from you.
Consistently promote yourself.
Every experience your audiences, investors, customers and staff have with you and your company, product or service must consistently deliver on their beliefs and expectations of what you can offer (the benefit). Your audiences need to know: Why should I buy from you?
Navigating through the fear, hope, risk, reward and complexity of being an entrepreneur means understanding that there are rules, resources and systems to the way business operates.
Before you take the leap, consider:
- Would additional schooling or training better prepare you?
- Could the jobs you are applying for help you gain more experience or business contacts?
- Can you enlist a mentor or adviser to guide you in starting your company?
Consider setting yourself up for success by thinking through the entrepreneurship path carefully before abandoning your job search.
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