The American dream is many things to many people. To some, it might be owning a home or property, and to others it might be the opportunity to amass wealth. One of the standard versions of the American dream is to own a business and be your own boss. We all want to get ahead, and owning a business can be the way to get there.
Not everyone is cut out for business ownership, though, and it can be quite challenging. It may or may not come as a surprise that veterans are twice as likely to start a business as those who haven’t served. Some veteran-owned businesses have become very successful, and there are certain aspects of having served in the military that have, quite simply, set our veterans up for success in the business world.
America Supports Its Veterans
Now, our nation may not have always been quite so openly supportive of those who have served, but for the last generation or so, we have certainly paid our respects. Technology may play a part in this because modern media has been able to show us both how comparatively well we have it in this country and how many sacrifices our service men and women make.
However it started, it’s been long overdue, and we now show our gratitude for the sacrifices made on our behalf whenever we can. We may make donations to a service organization or verbally thank people when we see them in uniform or find out that they serve or have served. Many businesses have military and veteran discounts. A great way that we know we can support our veterans is by hiring them.
The federal government gives preference to veterans for almost all open jobs, and many of those positions are open to veterans’ applications before they’re open to the public. But as a nation, we don’t just give veterans preference for government or other employment.
- We can give preference to a veteran’s business. If we need to hire a carpenter to build a deck, and one of the people on our shortlist is a veteran, we’ll probably check that person out, both to show gratitude for the service and to acknowledge the high standards we know that veterans maintain.
- Employment preference isn’t the only way the US government shows deference to our veterans. Since 1999, at least three percent of federal contracts and subcontracts have to be awarded to businesses owned by veterans with service-connected disabilities (chronic illnesses or injuries that are associated with the veteran’s period of service).
- Many corporations also give preference to companies owned or led by veterans when establishing contracts.
We all want to show support for the sacrifices veterans have made, but a corporate decision isn’t just about patriotism. They know that they can trust a veteran-owned business for a quality product in a timely manner.
And, frankly, supporting veterans is just good for business. People want to do business with companies that support the men and women who serve and have served our country. Being friendly to the military and to veterans is simply a good business practice.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is another valuable resource to support veteran-owned businesses. Veterans can use the GI Bill®¹ to finance a business education. And the VA’s Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) helps empower small, veteran-owned businesses to obtain federal contracts.
Veterans Support Other Veterans in Business
Honestly, veterans support each other, period. There’s a common bond of the shared experience of hardship and sacrifice. Especially when dealing with a smaller business, veterans know they can trust who they’re doing business with.
When dealing with larger businesses, veterans tend to lean toward companies that they know support the military and veterans. Corporations that sponsor USO shows or that give to veterans’ charities stay in the forefront of veterans’ minds when they make decisions about where they’re going to spend their money.
Loyalty is important to veterans and service members. They respect their peers who were loyal to the unit and the mission, and they respect businesses that show loyalty to the men and women who have served our country, and they return that loyalty with their business.
Veteran-Owned Business Directories
The VA’s OSDBU is the government’s veteran-owned business directory. That office helps veterans create a network for their businesses that opens doors for federal contracts and funding as part of the VA’s mission to “…care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
Some veterans go further than mere patronage to support other veterans in business. They’ve created veteran-owned business directories in the private sector which are, on the surface, exactly what the name implies. They’re databases of veterans’ businesses, and they’re searchable on each directory’s website.
If you’re looking for an electrician to do the wiring on a new addition to your house and you want to hire a veteran, it’s easy. If you’re looking for a veteran-owned and veteran-friendly business to help your business manage its finances, go to one of these organizations. They have databases of thousands of veteran-owned businesses.
There are an estimated three million veteran-owned or -operated businesses in our country, and veteran-owned businesses register with these directories partly to help people find them and partly to publicly identify themselves as veteran-owned businesses. There are basic services provided by most of these directories.
- Free registration as a member.
- Listing the name of the business on the directory’s database, along with the type of business and the location.
- Searches on the directory can be filtered by type of business and location.
- Some offer “badges” for businesses to identify themselves as veteran-owned.
One of these directories, VeteranOwnedBusiness.com, primarily offers these baseline services, free registration, a searchable database based on location and type of business and “badges” for the website to help identify it as veteran-owned or service-disabled veteran-owned.
VeteransList.us has additional services it offers veteran-owned businesses, along with the baseline of helping anyone find a business that’s owned or operated by veterans. They offer business support that can save smaller business a lot of money.
“Vets Make A Deal” is among their many resources. They negotiate more affordable group pricing for virtually any business products, and any veteran-owned business can take advantage of this service. Your small business can get more competitive pricing on any office products or supplies, even office furniture, without any additional cost for the service.
There are a number of other additional resources available for veteran-owned businesses at discounted rates, including web hosting and web design services, virtual assisting, payment processing systems, marketing and media services, and more.
The National Veteran Owned Business Association (NAVOBA.com) does a great deal to support veteran-owned businesses. Not only do they provide a similar database to help consumers find veteran-owned businesses, but they also act as a “watch dog” and advocate for them with large corporations and the federal government.
They help smaller veteran-owned businesses connect with corporations and with the federal government for contracts and subcontracts. They also monitor how well the federal government holds up its end of the mandate to provide three percent of all contracts and subcontracts to business owned by service-disabled veterans.
NAVOBA has two membership levels. You can register your veteran-owned business for free, and you will be listed on BuyVeteran.com, the organization’s veteran-owned business directory. You’ll also receive a newsletter and be able to view information in their forums. You can also download images of the “Buy Veteran” logo for your website.
Premium membership is available for a fee, and with that you gain access to participate in the association’s forums and webinars. Your business can get a physical badge for your place of business as well as an IP badge for your website. You’ll get a subscription to Vetrepreneur magazine as well as other benefits.
It’s obvious that our country wants to support veterans. These organizations go well beyond mere support and discounted services to help promote veteran owned business, leading consumers to them to help each one succeed.
What Makes Veterans Good Business Owners?
We can see that there is a great deal of public support for veterans and their business ventures. Veteran-owned business directories help people specifically seek them out, so they can support those businesses over their non-veteran-owned counterparts. But there’s more to the success of veterans’ business ventures than just having some customers and contracts funneled to them through some databases.
Veterans, themselves, make good business owners, and there are aspects of having served that help make them so. Indeed, there are many values that military service instills and reinforces — along with some skills — that help give veterans an edge on this career path.
Leadership. If nothing else, everyone who’s served in the military can say that they’ve had people role-model some good leadership styles. Many people may have merely wanted to serve for a single enlistment to earn veterans’ education benefits. They weren’t motivated by patriotism, but they earned that education the patriotic way.
These veterans may not have become noncommissioned officers, but they did get to learn from and observe many of them. If they become business owners after completing their educations, they’ll still have that as an advantage.
Still, many others have served in leadership roles small and large. They’ve been trained in how to motivate people to get the most out of themselves.
- More and more, they’re being trained to understand people’s differences and how to both treat them fairly and possibly approach them differently. Some people are self-starters, while others need more guidance.
- Virtually everyone in a military leadership role has had at least some formal leadership training. This training begins with teaching people the methods necessary to lead small groups and advances through the methods to lead large organizations.
- As service members progress through these leadership roles and the training required to do so, they learn about how to evaluate people’s performances. They also learn how to identify people who are ready for advancement, and some may get experience interviewing and hiring civilian contractors.
Veterans with military leadership experience know how to lead and motivate people and how to encourage them to do their best work, often in high-stress situations. These are essential skills for business owners, especially as their businesses grow. Veterans may very well be better prepared for this part of owning and growing a business than their non-veteran peers.
Taking Risks. Now, anyone can be a natural risk-taker, and there are many environments where people can learn to take calculated risks. But nothing prepares someone for risk management and risk mitigation like the military. The risks can be much higher for our forward deployed service members. The services make sure they understand the risks and put as many practical mitigations in place as possible.
There are risk assessments and mitigations involved in every military plan. Every training experience has a risk management plan, and every operations order includes one. It can become second-nature to analyze the risks and understand them before making a decision. This gives the veteran business owner another advantage.
There are risks involved in every business venture, some more than others. Veterans, especially ones with formal leadership experience, have the background to analyze them and put measures in place to mitigate them.
Veterans’ Benefits. The VA is there for veterans, and while many may focus on how the department falls short of its goals, there are some great programs to help veterans succeed after the transition from the military to civilian life.
We all know that the GI Bill® can be used to finance a civilian education to study business at virtually any university. There’s also the aforementioned OSDBU. However, veterans who have even minor service-connected disabilities — as low as a twenty percent evaluation from the VA — may be eligible for the Veterans Benefits Administrations Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program that offers a variety of services.
- Disabled veterans can retrain for a career that won’t be impacted by the disability.
- Many use this benefit to return to college to study business or any subject leading to a new career.
- VR&E can help disabled veterans who are interested in starting a business by helping with a business plan and providing education on marketing and other business practices.
VR&E supports self-employment because it can allow veterans with potentially serious disabilities to set their own schedules and modify their work environment appropriately. A service-connected disability could also increase a business’ eligibility for potential government contracts.
Are You a Potential Veteran Business Owner?
Do you want a business education? We can help you.
But there’s more to owning a business than just having a formal education. You have the skill set to be a leader and manage a business. Use it! And take advantage of everything else that you can to get an edge.
There are a variety of veteran-owned business directories that can help you market yourself. Take advantage of them. A grateful nation wants to do business with its veterans. Why not give them what they want?
¹GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.