By Greg Jenkins
Lessons Learned for the New Veteran Entrepreneur
There are a number of business considerations for any new Veteran Entrepreneur. As a fellow Veteran Entrepreneur, I fully expected and anticipated a few considerations prior to striking out on my own, but I quickly found myself learning other things through discovery, mistakes and hard lessons. My goal here is to share with you some of my lessons learned and best practices so you may avoid some of the mistakes I made along the way.
WHY ARE YOU STARTING A BUSINESS?
So first of all, what is your “why”? Why do you want to go into business in the first place? What’s your vision? What are your goals and expectations? These are really big and important questions that I suggest you determine before moving forward. Knowing your why will help you visualize your future self and business. Knowing your why will serve as a guiding beacon for you as you begin your journey and it will continue to help you as you move forward when times get tough, and times will get tough. Your why can serve as your purpose, direction and motivation, and without your why you may find yourself drifting along with no idea of where you are headed nor why you’re even in business in the first place. In my opinion, this is the first and most important step in any entrepreneurial development and execution of a business.
One of the biggest hurdles you may face is learning how to change the way you “think”, changing your military mindset can be challenging, and it definitely was for me. Many a successful military member has failed in business in part because of a failure to grow and develop their way of thinking from a highly structured, rigid, hierarchical, command and control system of operations and execution into a flattened, independent, interconnected and decentralized system of business. The way you used to do business in the military is probably not the same way you’re going to have to operate in a new and challenging civilian business world. Your challenge is to develop and grow you, and the way you think moving forward.
BE GOOD AT THE BASICS
This sounds simple and intuitive, but it’s easy to make mistakes here. I referring to things as basic as returning phone calls, answering voice mail, responding to emails and executing these activities in a timely fashion. Keep your calendar up to date and make sure you’re at your appointments, meetings and other scheduled events where other people, partners, clients and potential clients are expecting you to be. Become proficient with basic business tools, i.e. computers, smart phones/devises, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Slack, LinkedIn, Email, Google Drive, Trello and many other tools, platforms or services your clients use and expect you know and use well.
BE CONSISTENT, PERSISTENT AND SHOW UP
A business is a “long game”, or at least it can be if you can develop the right habits needed to sustain your business during the good times and the not-so-good times. Establish a set of consistent and daily business practices, these can be as simple as how and when you check email, when and for long you devote time to your marketing, accounting, sales, internal company meetings, etc. Being consistent can streamline your daily activities and help you make better use of your valuable time. Once you’ve established consistency, then persist in its execution. And of course, Show up! Go to the conference, meet new potential clients, attend the mixer you’ve been invited to, and remember the Woody Allen quote, “80% of success is just showing up.”
NETWORKING AND PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
Which leads us to one of the most critical of all business skills and practices. I cannot emphasis enough the importance of networking and professional relationship building – they are critical to your success. Your business may produce the highest quality goods or services in the world, but it will be all for not if no one knows who you are or what your business does. People like to do business with people they know and like, so I encourage you to develop a consistent practice of networking and professional relationship building. This practice can be through a number of channels; social media, email, annual conferences or business seminars, local Chamber of Commerce or industry events, and other venues or platforms where you can meet new people that may be interested in partnering and/or doing business with you.
MENTORS AND COACHES
Lastly, mentors and coaches can make the difference between launching and sustaining a successful business or giving up and being defeated. If you don’t have a business mentor or coach right now, I suggest you begin seeking them out now. There are a number of mentoring and coaching resources available, many of them free. There also are business groups founded by Veteran Entrepreneurs with the sole purpose to help other Veteran Entrepreneurs. These mentors and coaches can provide a wide range of advice on a vast number of topics or can serve as sounding boards to listen to your situation and provide insight, advice and resource suggestions for you. In closing, I wish you the best as you determine your next steps. I started my business over 6 years ago and it’s been an exciting and sometimes frighten journey, but it’s been the best ride of my life.
Greg Jenkins |Founder & CEO | Greg Jenkins Consulting |www.gregjenkinsconsulting.com