Have you been thinking of starting your own business? It’s a daunting thought, but statistics have shown that people with military experience usually make better entrepreneurs.
A study conducted in 2011 by the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy found that veterans have a 45% higher chance of becoming entrepreneurs than people with no military experience. U.S. Census date from 2007 shows that veterans owned about 2.4 million businesses that generated over $1.2 trillion in receipts and employed around 5.8 million people. That goes to prove that veterans continue making America great long after their military service has ended.
Military veterans are goal oriented, skilled, organized, and ready to take smart, calculated risks at the right time. Veterans have a higher confidence to create fresh ideas and superior training. On top of that, veterans are more resourceful to make do with minimal assets and are persistent to stick with it until they reach success. If you are a veteran and thinking about taking the dive into a small business, you have many advantages on your side. Here are five great tips to get you started:
1. Go with What You Know
Military service can provide solid foundations in many different fields, technology, computers, communications, engineering, operations and health care. Don’t worry about how your military skills will integrate into the civilian world. Your courage, integrity, and character will translate perfectly.
One of the most important things when starting your own business is sticking with your passion and doing what you know best. It’s much easier to incorporate your military knowledge to civilian needs when you’re in familiar territory. For example, project manager positions are perfectly suited for squad leaders. Based on field experience, veterans have made original products such as energy drinks and better performance gear.
2. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Entrepreneurs have many roles to fill to survive, especially during the first years when their business is in its startup phase and goes through rapid growth. However, trying to do everything yourself isn’t always the smart thing to do. Realize your strengths, and outsource the other tasks your less familiar with. For example, you can do the business development and execution, but outsource accounting, payroll, and back office work. You will be more formidable when you focus on your strengths. Just as important, knowing when to get outside help will ensure fewer pitfalls.
3. Seek Advice from Experts
The American economy is in great need of veterans creating businesses that solve real, everyday problems. There are many available resources to help you with that. Mentoring, counseling, and training programs are available through VETbiz.gov and Small Business Administration offices at SBA.gov. You can go to SCORE and find a mentor who will help you make better decisions from the start. Another good idea is to apply for a course like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. Check out the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at your local community college to learn more about programs near you.
4. Find a Need and Fill It
In order to capitalize on an opportunity, you first need to realize it exists. A key to getting started is finding and developing a business opportunity. But how do you accomplish that? Pay attention to words like “somebody should” in conversations. Look at information gathering as recon missions. Talk to people at different levels of an organization to discover unmet needs. What do these folks want that’s currently missing? Always be open to suggestions, whether is an idea for a new product feature or improved productivity. It’s one of the best ways to discover opportunities that you can fill.
5. Make the Most of Financing for Veterans
Being a military veteran, you have access to special financing options that can help you kickstart our business. Your loan application has a much higher chance of getting approved since government-backed loans give additional security to lenders.
Another smart way of funding is microloans. The SBA’s Microloan Program provides up to $35,000 to fund startups. The SBA also has programs with waived (or lower) borrower fees. Ask about SBA 7(a) loans (90% of all SBA financing), Veterans Advantage, Cap Line, and Lift Funds.
If your credit is poor, your veteran status can even open opportunities to secure loans with credit unions, specialty lenders, and community banks.
Veterans have the advantage to leverage their experience and start a successful venture. From special loan access to network development opportunities, it’s much easier to become an entrepreneur for those who served. If you have a unique skill set and are a vet, what’s holding you back?
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