Many employers have come to learn that veterans make excellent employees. They usually are easily trainable and possess desirable characteristics, such as honesty, loyalty, and responsibility. If these attributes were not enough to induce employers to hire veterans, the tax law offers even more. The tax law encourages employers to hire certain targeted groups of workers by offering a tax credit tied to the wages of these new employees, and certain veterans are treated as a targeted group. Here are the special rules to know when hiring so that you may take credit where credit is due.
Which veterans qualify?
As a small business owner, you qualify for the work opportunity tax credit (WOTC) if you hire a veteran who falls into any of the following categories:
Having a service-related disability
Unemployed for a specified period
Receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
However, even if a veteran does not fall within any of these categories, he or she may still be a member of another targeted group. This would still allow you to take a tax credit. For example, a veteran who has been a member of a family that received TANF payments for at least 18 consecutive months is treated as a member of a targeted group for long-term family assistance recipients.
What is the tax credit amount?
The tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar, so each $1 of WOTC saves you $1 in taxes. The credit is based on the amount of wages paid to an eligible veteran in the first year of employment. The maximum tax credit is based on a set percentage of maximum first-year wages, which is fixed by law, and the number of hours worked. For example, for veterans, the basic percentage of first-year wages is 25 percent for those who worked at least 120 hours but fewer than 400 hours; it is 40 percent for those who worked at least 400 hours.
The maximum credit for a veteran working at least 400 hours is:
Service-related disability and unemployed at least 6 months in the year ending in the hiring year: $9,600 ($24,000 in wages × 40%).
Service-related disability and hired within 1 year of discharge or release from active duty: $4,800 ($12,000 in wages × 40%)
Unemployed at least 6 months: $5,600 ($14,000 in wages × 40%)
Unemployed at least 4 weeks: $2,400 ($6,000 in wages × 40%)
Receiving SNAP benefits: $2,400 ($6,000 in wages × 40%)
There is no limit on the number of eligible employees you can hire for the credit. For example, if you hire 3 veterans with service-related disabilities who are unemployed at least 6 months, your credit is $28,800 ($9,600 × 3).
The WOTC is set to run through 2019, and you can take the credit year after year as you expand the size of your staff. Thus, even if you take a tax credit for hiring a veteran in 2016, you can do so again next year.
Being eligible for the credit isn’t enough to claim it on your return. To take the tax credit, you must submit IRS Form 8850 to your state workforce agency within 28 days of the first day of employment. Also submit ETA Form 9061, or ETA Form 9062 if the employee has already been conditionally certified as belonging to a targeted group at the same time. The purpose of these submissions is to confirm that your new employee is indeed a member of a targeted group.
The credit is claimed on IRS Form 5884, which is attached to the employer’s income tax return.
Something to think about
When hiring, keep the WOTC in the back of your mind. While it may not be a primary factor in making a hiring decision, it may just be the tipping point in favor of one applicant over another.
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Gen. Charles Q. Brown to be the next Air Force chief of staff, making him the first African American leader of a military service as the Pentagon and the country grapple with a raft of racial issues.
The confirmation also makes Brown the second African American officer to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Chairman Gen. Colin Powell.
The 98-to-0 vote was a blowout approval for the four-star general. Vice President Mike Pence presided over the historic vote.
President Donald Trump, who nominated Brown in March, hailed the general on Twitter.
“My decision to appoint @usairforce General Charles Brown as the USA’s first-ever African American military service chief has now been approved by the Senate,” Trump said, though the tweet came before the confirmation vote. “A historic day for America! Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a Patriot and Great Leader!”
Brown’s nomination had been in the works for months, yet the vote came amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody. Top Air Force officials led the way in speaking out over the past week and calling for dialogue on racism. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, the service’s top enlisted leader, became the first senior military official to speak out, and was followed by outgoing Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
Brown, who is currently the commander of Pacific Air Forces, delivered an emotional message Friday about his experience as a black airman.
In addition to becoming the first African American service chief, Brown will be the most senior African American Pentagon leader since Powell chaired the Joint Chiefs from 1989 to 1993.
“I’m thinking about how full I am with emotion, not just for George Floyd but for the many African Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd,” Brown said. “I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.
“Without clear-cut answers, I just want to have the wisdom and knowledge to lead during difficult times like these,” Brown said of his nomination to be the service’s top officer. “I want the wisdom and knowledge to lead, participate in and listen to necessary conversations on racism, diversity and inclusion.”
Continue on to Politico to read the complete article.
Mark McMurray, 55, is no stranger to hard work and challenges. After serving in our country’s military for many years he decided to go the corporate route. He was a consultant to many large public corporations and small private businesses, both in house and as a management consultant. It was during those years spent consulting with small, branch-based businesses that he decided to open his own business, buying the Floor Coverings International of North Tampa franchise which opened in early 2017.
He chose Floor Coverings International after much due diligence. The 150 plus unit franchise based in Norcross, Georgia, offered many of the key elements McMurray was looking for.
“I liked the thought of providing a great product and bringing a mobile showroom filled with samples of 3,000 types of flooring to people’s homes. That’s great customer service and convenience. And I get to build a dedicated work team at the same time. That’s something that appealed to me from my military background,” said McMurray.
Having advised many business owners Mark offers his own advice to others looking for the same opportunity Mark found via a franchise model.
“The potential franchise you end up with should be something that you are naturally interested in; they should have the kind of model that fits your management/leadership style, be in the right territory, be affordable, and have a trustworthy and supportive franchisor and network, and the ability for you to build on its value. It’s not easy to find a suitable candidate with all those criteria! I had heard of Floor Coverings International during my previous career and had heard great things about the culture of the company.”
After years of moving around McMurray said he’s thrilled to have embraced Tampa for the past twelve years as his home and this mobile business has plenty of room for growth giving him the opportunity to work with his family too.
“I am thrilled that I get to be back at work with my wife, a CPA, and my father in law who is a general contractor. We are building something together along with my kids. That is very special to me. And this industry excites all of us and is always supplying us with new challenges. The rate of beautiful new products coming on to the market is exciting, and the colors and trends change over time. Luxury Vinyl Planking that is water resistant is growing in popularity and performs really well in Florida with the heat and humidity. It gives the look and feel of hardwood, and our customers are really loving it which is very exciting. Scraped hardwoods and reused woods are also coming out with some gorgeous new visuals, so there’s really a lot happening in the industry.”
Even through the Covid19 crisis, McMurray depended on the support team of his franchisor, Floor Coverings International to keep things going while following proper guidelines.
According to McMurray, “During the COVID-19 crisis, Floor Coverings International of North Tampa took all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our customers and our employees. For In-Home Consultations, our employees were masked, gloved, wore booties, and disinfected all samples and items brought into our customers’ homes. We’ve also conducted “Virtual Appointments” with our customers to discuss their projects and look at samples together. Watching how things evolved and grew in the virtual space was most interesting, and we’re happy to work with our potential clients now however they feel most comfortable.
Our focus always has been providing excellent customer service, and it will remain so during this challenging time for our community. We primarily work with residential customers who are updating the look and feel of their home, and that seems to have continued during the time when everyone had been spending so much time at home. Homeowners are seeing their homes in a whole new light after the quarantine, and they are ready to make some exciting new changes when the time comes to get back to normal.”
ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL
Norcross, GA based Floor Coverings International which has ranked consistently as the #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America by Entrepreneur Magazine. The 150 franchisees and their Design Associates offer a unique in-home experience with a mobile showroom that comes directly to the client’s door. More than 3000 flooring choices are available to view in the home with and along-side the existing decor. The company will open several more locations throughout the U.S. and Canada through franchise expansion in the next 5 years. For franchise information, please visit www.opportunities.flooring-franchise.comand to find your closest location go to floorcoveringsinternational.com.
Healthcare careers are part of the fastest growing industry for job growth and development in the United States. This trend is expected to continue over the next decade.
Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that healthcare jobs are expected to increase by 18 percent from 2016 through 2026. This means that the industry will add about 2.4 million new healthcare jobs.
There are several aspects that lead people to consider an exciting and rewarding career in healthcare. From potential financial reward and a diverse environment to career growth and personal fulfillment, there’s plenty of opportunities available and reasons to enter the field.
Healthcare is a wide-spanning industry encompassing a variety of jobs. The profession is no longer tied to some of the more traditional positions in doctors’ offices or hospitals. In fact, the last two decades have seen an eruption in non-doctor roles. Today, healthcare providers are also needed in less mainstream sectors such as marketing, tech positions and more.
Healthcare Career Shortages in the U.S.
This field will add more employees than any other occupation in the coming years, according to the BLS. This is largely due to the accessibility of healthcare and the aging baby boomer generation.
Most recently, retired doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have been recruited and asked to return work to help provide medical attention to patients infected with Covid-19 virus. The US was projected to face a shortage of doctors before the pandemic hit: The Association of American Medical Colleges had estimated that it could reach 46,900 to 121,900 physicians by 2032. And in rural areas, particularly in states such as Mississippi and Arkansas, doctors were already in short supply. Many states are also projected to face significant nursing shortages in the coming years, particularly California and Texas.
Accordingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast that healthcare job opportunities will continue to soar through 2025.
Top 10 Medical Careers in Demand For 2020 and Beyond:
Registered Nurses (RN’s)
Home Health Aides
Healthcare Information Technologist
An Industry Full of Opportunity
Choosing a lasting, profitable, fulfilling career that you can be satisfied with means choosing a profession in healthcare. Many career benefits of healthcare include improving the lives of others and making a difference. The financial benefits, tremendous growth and high paying careers are limitless. It’s never too late to pursue a career in the medical field.
In May and throughout the year, Wells Fargo pays tribute to service members, veterans, and their families for their contributions to the U.S.
It is also an opportunity to spotlight and elevate the many women in leadership at Wells Fargo who come from various branches of the U.S. military.
These women have transitioned to the corporate world and continue to make an impact in their corporate and civilian lives.
Meet two dynamic women who have influenced Wells Fargo’s commitment to engage members of the military, veterans, and their families, thereby supporting the financial health and success of the military community.
Learn their background, transition from service, workforce challenges, and advice for other women who are looking at their next opportunity beyond military service.
Senior Vice President, head of Team Member Philanthropy
I am Chanty Clay, PhD, head of Team Member Philanthropy at Wells Fargo, which means I am responsible for the enterprise volunteer and workplace giving programs and initiatives at the company. I made the decision to enlist in the military when I was a 20-year-old college student, and served in the U.S. Air Force for the next 10 years.
After serving in a lead role in the Air Force, I questioned if my leadership skills were strong enough to be a leader in the civilian world. I soon realized that in order for me to maximize my transition experience, I had to own it. I started networking, connecting, and — more importantly — demonstrating the skills I learned from serving my country.
In fact, my doctoral dissertation focused on women veterans and their ability to self-identify, market, and utilize their military-learned interpersonal competencies (soft skills) in their post-military career in corporate America. Today, my role focuses on helping employees leverage their strengths, passion, and skills in volunteer, service, and leadership roles in their local communities. I also continue to serve by mentoring employees and veterans, both inside and outside the company, who are transitioning from the military to civilian life.
My advice for veterans, especially women, is to think holistically about their combined soft and hard skills, and to proactively volunteer for additional opportunities to demonstrate their skills. They should also embrace the reality that opportunities in the civilian workforce are not limited to the role or title you held in the military. The key is to shift your mindset to balance both individual contributions as well as team and camaraderie—all of which are critical in your next career.
Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Auditor
My name is Julie Scammahorn, and I am the Chief Auditor for Wells Fargo. I am also a proud 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Growing up in a small town in Virginia, I did not come from a military family. I had completed one year of college when one of my good friends joined the military, and it piqued my interest. I enlisted and eventually served for 10 years before returning to college and continuing a career in internal audit.
Joining the military jump-started my career by giving me intense practical and leadership training. Transitioning to the workforce was challenging—I won’t lie, I felt like I was taking a risk. However, I knew the opportunities I had in the military would translate well to the corporate world.
After holding leadership roles at several financial companies, I now lead Wells Fargo’s Internal Audit organization, consisting of approximately 1,500 employees. Our team delivers independent and objective internal audit services such as assessments and credible challenge regarding the company’s governance, risk management, and control functions. Many of the skills I learned from being in the military prepared me for my role today, including finding my voice, having confidence, mitigating risk, being resilient, and building a strong team.
My advice to women in the armed forces who are navigating their next chapter is to have a plan, know who you are and what you want, and set goals. It’s really important to acknowledge that you don’t have to have all the answers at once, but you should have an idea of the direction you want to go. Take the time to think about your next steps, aim high, and never settle!
Wells Fargo has supported service members and veterans’ financial success for nearly 170 years. For more information on programs and resources, please visit WellsFargo.com/military.
As businesses prepare to open their doors again, the hiring process has begun. Nearly forty million Americans lost their jobs from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that many of those people will be searching for work and participating in job interviews.
But, as we are still adhering to some social distancing rules, many of these interviews are likely to occur via video call.
Interviewing virtually is an unfamiliar territory, but having a successful, meaningful virtual interview is definitely possible.
Here are the best tips for having the most successful interview on a virtual platform.
As you would for an in-person interview, you want to look presentable. While this means wearing an interview-appropriate outfit, you want to make sure that your background and camera angle are also presentable. Make sure your background is clean, containing as little distractions as possible, and that your computer’s camera is catching the best angle of yourself. This will allow the interviewer to see the best version of yourself while bringing their full attention to what you are saying and not to what else is happening in your environment.
Make Eye Contact
As you would in a physical job interview, you want to make eye contact with the interviewer. It can be difficult not to look at your own reflection in the video call and worry about how you look to the other party, but remember to look into the computer’s camera to show the interviewer that you are paying attention to what they are saying and are really listening.
Remember the Lag
Unfortunately, video calls are known to lag and glitch. Neither party is at fault, but be aware of these inconveniences. Talking over the interviewer, accidentally interrupting, audio cutouts, and temporary freezes are bound to happen, so speak slowly and talk only when necessary to avoid these possible interview mishaps.
Use Your Resources
Virtual interviews allow for better access to virtual resources. Keeping interview notes on your screen and using screen share to give examples of your work will help you to remember your best selling points and show your interviewer what you are capable of.
The first time it happened caught Kimberly Petersen off guard when she was watching her daughter, Allyson’s softball game. Seconds had passed, yet Allyson still had a blank stare, if not, unconscious look on her freckled face. Episodes like this kept repeating on and off the softball field, with each instance lasting for between 20 to 30 seconds.
Allyson, 11-years-old with long brown hair that matched the color of her piercing hazel eyes — the spitting image of her mother at that age — had something wrong going on inside of her. From what her daughter was exhibiting, it appeared to Petersen to be a type of epilepsy known as absence seizures, which are common among children.
Petersen spent eight years in the Navy as a corpsman. Her grounding in medicine came from advanced placements at clinics and hospitals. She and her “Ally” thought nothing more of the seizures. Allyson, unsuspectingly thought she was merely spacing out.
Appointments were scheduled with her regular doctor but problems arose with her insurance provider, preventing necessary scans being done. The alarm bells slowly began to ring as the length of each seizure Allyson experienced began to intensify, and were now accompanied with facial grimacing and her right-hand curling inwards during each episode. The noise finally hit a crescendo one summer evening in June 2016, when Allyson experienced several prolonged seizures in the same day, including a terrifying moment unlike anything before.
“We were out on the front deck when she collapsed on the flowers,” Petersen said of the startling scene that took place at their home in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Allyson’s body draped over the broken pots.
“I rolled her over, and she had stroke-like symptoms on the right side of her face.”
Allyson needed immediate medical attention and was soon after taken to the emergency center at Regional Hospital in Rapid City, a 30-minute drive from their home. After undergoing several tests, including a CT scan, it revealed that a tumor had massed over a section of Allyson’s brain that controls for speech and motor functions. Scared and frightened by the revelatory news, Allyson looked at her mother and said, “Am I going to die?”
Nearly 5,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed each year with a brain tumor, according to the American Cancer Society. As the second most common form of cancer in children, very few drugs exist in the marketplace to treat brain tumors, making traditional methods of radiation, chemotherapy, and invasive surgery typical medical care options that supplement clinical trials.
Days after visiting the emergency room, Allyson was admitted to the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she underwent an open craniotomy to remove the brain tumor. The procedure didn’t go according to plan.
During the surgery, the pediatric neurosurgeon recognized that the tumor had embedded itself deep in the brain. In the best interest of Allyson’s quality of life — ensuring she has full ability of speaking and motor functions — the decision was made to leave a fraction of the tumor in her brain to avoid any permanent damage.
In the three months that had passed since the procedure, it was discovered that the tumor had begun to regrow. With limited treatment options, Allyson was placed in a clinical trial to mitigate further growth of the tumor. The treatments didn’t work as Allyson developed complications that resulted in her leaving the trial. Chemotherapy became the next preventive measure to quash the tumor’s growth.
“She started developing cells behind her cornea which can cause blindness and irreversible damages,” explained Petersen about the dangerous side effects Allyson experienced from the cocktail of drugs that had been pumped into her body.
Several years had gone by since Petersen and her husband divorced. She wasn’t just taking care of her sick daughter and keeping her family afloat. She was also midway through a master’s degree program. The balancing act came at a high cost.
“Even though I have good insurance,” she said, “the out of pocket expenses, the food, the hotels, gas, time away from my other kids, putting the dog in the kennel, it felt like I was robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
She and Allyson frequently commuted more than 600 miles from Sturgis to Masonic Children’s Hospital so that Allyson was able to receive critical follow ups and MRI scans each phase of her cancer treatment. Depending on how much time Petersen was able to take off from the Meade School District, where she serves as a special educator, she wasn’t left with many options.
Flying to and from Minneapolis wasn’t in the cards. Petersen would either have to book it to Minneapolis in one day or spend the night at her parent’s home in Watertown, a six-hour drive from Sturgis, before spending the next four hours getting into the city.
Bills began piling up. Those that could be paid were done in piecemeal. Other bills weren’t paid at all. Downsizing expenses and making ends meet became the survivalist mentality she and her family adopted under the sole income she was bringing in. They had no other choice. It got to the point where she had to seriously ask herself, “do I pay the credit card bill, or do I pay the water bill?”
In the pecking order of priorities, Petersen was stretching every dollar she could to ensure her children had food on the table, a roof over their heads, and that she had gas in her car. She even picked up a summer job to supplement her salary by working nearby Black Hills National Forrest at an RV resort in Spearfish, South Dakota. Yet for all that she was doing to make ends meet, she was delinquent on her monthly mortgage payments.
Five months overdue, her home loan provider gave her notice that if she were unable to pay the balance and associated late fees in full, she would face foreclosure on her home.
“I have four kids looking up to me. I can’t quit, and I can’t sit there and wallow about it and have a pity party,” she said of finding any ways to deal with her financial circumstances.
While there were plenty of times, she admits, where she broke down and cried out of sight of her children, sometimes in the car or the backyard, she was resolved to seek help. Her mother, Linda, insisted she look into the Gary Sinise Foundation as a few years ago, the organization had helped her younger brother with the purchase of a new suit for his wedding. Perhaps the Foundation could help another veteran in financial need.
Through the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Relief and Resiliency program, the urgent financial needs of those like Kimberly Petersen are addressed through an initiative called heal, overcome, persevere and excel or H.O.P.E.
Petersen was hesitant at first but eventually relented, and in early February of this year, she submitted an initial inquiry seeking mortgage assistance. Within days of her submission, the Foundation’s Outreach team contacted her, requesting additional information to supplement the initial application. Not long after, she received a phone call from the Foundation with an update on the status of her application.
“She was taken aback and almost relieved of her stress,” said Nick Wicksman, who handled Petersen’s application from the start, and who was on the phone with her as the bearer of good news.
The Gary Sinise Foundation was going to cover the last four months of her mortgage and associated late fees. Petersen, having struggled tooth and nail year after year supporting her family as a single mother, was overcome with gratitude.
“She’s able to no longer worry about what is owed but to focus on the present and future by focusing on the health of her family,” said Wicksman. Had she not received financial assistance from the Gary Sinise Foundation, Petersen said matter of factly, “We would’ve lost the house.”
While they’re not out of the tunnel just yet in Allyson’s cancer treatment, they can see the light. Despite setbacks in her regiment of treatments, Allyson was able to compete on the freshman girls’ volleyball and softball teams during the school year while also participating in the school newspaper as a photographer and journalist.
She fights the fight as oral chemotherapy treatments continue as do visits to Masonic Children’s Hospital. Looking back on the last four years and thinking about the question Allyson had asked her late in the night while at the emergency center, Petersen said, “In some ways, the tumor and her cancer diagnosis have brought us closer together because we’ve learned that you don’t know what’s going to happen from day to day.”
“Between Masonic Children’s Hospital and the Gary Sinise Foundation, I know I wouldn’t have my daughter.”
Founded in 2012, CivilityMS provides professional consulting services as an SBA 8(a) certified, verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), Economically Disadvantaged Woman and Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB/WOSB). The firm’s status as a SDVOSB is verified with the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) and the Veterans First Contracting Program.
USVM: Tell us about your transition from military life to one as a business owner.
Laurie Sayles (LS): I am from Chicago, IL, and have always sought out a means of having my own money or supplementing my income. I was a baby-sitter to single women in the low-income projects complex I resided as a young girl and I modeled professionally during high school, all before I joined the USMC. So, I often say that I have always been an entrepreneur.
But after getting out of the USMC, I returned to supplementing my income. I tried medical billing as a home-based business only to learn it was a scam. I also became a wellness coach and a bootcamp fitness instructor, to name a few.
My journey was long after transitioning because there was no outreach during the 90’s for military personnel leaving the USMC. For example, TAPS didn’t exist, and no one in the marketplace really cared that you were a veteran. Also, the Internet was not what it is today and there was no support to help translate your MOS. It was a more challenging time.
But I wanted to work in corporate America, so I took a job for $17,000 in 1989 as a receptionist. With that, the journey began to learn the difference of being a civilian in this space as an African-American woman with no degree. Within a short period of time, I began to take English, grammar and speaking courses to help me modify my means of communication.
I climbed the corporate ladder from receptionist to administrative assistant, to an executive assistant, to an operations director to a project manager over a 20-year period. Then in 2012, I became president and CEO of Civility Management Solutions.
USVM: How did your experience in the military influence your skillset as a business owner?
LS: My experience from the military has a huge influence in my skillset as a business owner. Again, being an African-American woman in business adds more challenges that many cannot identify with unless they belong to this ethnicity. But, thanks to being a woman that served in the Marine Corps, I am accustomed to operating in a man’s world and a world that is full of alpha males! The Marine Corps is not known to be, “The Few, The Proud, The Marines,” just as a slogan—it’s a culture and a lifestyle. As I often say, if you re-enlist in any branch of the military, it really speaks to you adapting and accepting that culture completely, otherwise you get out after first term. No one—and I do mean no one—that knows me personally walks away not knowing that I served in the Corps. It shows up in my demeanor and my strength as a business owner.
USVM: What advice would you give someone transitioning from the military into becoming a business owner?
LS: Make sure you start your homework early when you know your end date. There is so much to offer us when we get out of the military, and finally this country is beginning to recognize this fact. Our discipline, leadership, resilience and determination set us apart from anyone else who never served. So, with running anything … you’ve been trained while you wore the uniform; trained to operate in high integrity; and trained to leave no man behind. All three of these lead to you being a strong leader willing to take full responsibility for your actions. Help others be successful as you become successful.
Do take advantage of all the training being offered by the SBA in your State, affiliates of the SBA, and programs offered to veterans of the military. Get yourself affiliated with associations and advocacy groups that focus on the type of work you want to do as a business owner.
Lastly, network, network and network some more to find people that you can engage with. And get yourself some mentors! Each one will add different values and you can call on them as needed.
Jackson Dalton and Black Box Safety, Inc.
Black Box Safety, Inc. specializes in the prevention of serious injury in the workplace by supplying safety equipment for government agencies and organizations. Dalton is a Board-Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Master’s degree (MPH) in public health—only 17 percent of CSPs hold both (Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2017) —as well as a Bachelor’s degree in business administration.
USVM: Tell us about your transition from military life to one as a business owner.
Jackson Dalton (JD): I was injured while serving in the Marine Corps. As a direct result of the injuries I sustained, I went through 3 leg surgeries and was not able to walk for a year. While serving, I was hurt at work—essentially an occupational injury. From this experience, I have made it my mission in life to ensure that others aren’t hurt at work, so that they can continue to do the things that they love to do.
As a direct result of my Marine Corps experience, I transitioned from the military into a career in occupational health and safety. I pursued a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Public Health, and spent over 10 years working as a Safety Engineer. Three years ago, it was my desire to help more people in a more meaningful way so I left my job at 3M and started my company, Black Box Safety, Inc., which is a supplier of safety products and safety training to government agencies and organizations that are looking for ways to reduce risk and help their employees stay safe and healthy.
USVM: How did your experience in the military influence your skillset as a business owner?
JD: My experience in the Marine Corps instilled two traits: Grit and bearing. Grit is the ability or decision to persevere in the face of extreme hardship and danger. Bearing is the ability to maintain a calm and confident demeanor in the face of adversity and uncertainty. I learned that the most contagious thing in the world is not infectious disease—it’s human emotion. As a leader, if I lose my bearing and communicate emotions of fear and stress, those emotions will be transferred to those I’m leading. I served as a squad leader in the Marine Corps and today I serve as President of Black Box Safety, Inc., where I am responsible for the health and welfare of 2 full-time employees and 4 part-time employees.
USVM: What advice would you give someone transitioning from the military into becoming a business owner?
JD: This is the advice that I would give to someone transitioning from the military to entrepreneurship
Take advantage of every educational opportunity available including but not limited to: Post-secondary education funded through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Dept. of VA Vocational Rehabilitation Ch.31,; free business start-up courses offered through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) [SBA offers free business courses online at SBA.gov]; apply for a free SCORE mentor; podcasts featuring business start-up advice; and finally an often-overlooked resource that proved to be of great value and benefit to me, Shark Tank and YouTube.
Join an incubator that is composed at least partially of active-duty and veteran business owners. I benefited greatly from the camaraderie I found by applying to a veteran incubator called Tactical Launch. I went through this incubator 2 years ago, and I am still close friends with many of the members of the cohort and many of us continue to be successful in business. The camaraderie is necessary when starting a business, especially if you are the sole founder. It’s actually the number one thing that servicemen and women miss the most when transitioning out of the military.
If you are able to do so, start your business now. Many business startups require very little in the way of capital and expense. Most can be started out of your home with a phone, a laptop and a lot of determination. The biggest mistake I see in other founders is the desire to have everything ready prior to launch. A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow.
You’ve spent years sacrificing for your country and working hard to protect it. But what happens when it comes times to transitioning to a civilian career? Are job opportunities available to you after military service?
Here’s some good news: You have a variety of options when it comes to a career at VA.
VA Careers has a Transitioning Military Personnel initiative designed to raise awareness about civilian careers for former service members at the nation’s largest integrated health care organization.
In fact, based on certain military occupational specialties you learned in service, you can apply for several positions immediately after your service. Other VA positions offer preference for veteran applicants or are a good fit for those who worked in military health.
The even better news? We offer employees premium-paid health insurance and robust retirement plans. Veterans working at VA also enjoy education support through veteran-focused scholarships, professional development opportunities and accommodations to make the workplace fully accessible.
Ready to kick start a civilian career? Check out these five VA jobs you may be well suited for after military service:
Intermediate Care Technician (ICT)
Former military medic or corpsman should look at ICT careers. As an ICT, you apply your military medical training and skills as a health care provider at a VA medical center (VAMC). You perform complex technician-level diagnostic and treatment procedures. You also provide intermediate and advanced paramedic-level care, intervene in crises and do much more.
Health Technician/Para Rescue Specialist
Former corpsmen and medics bring the skills, abilities and experience acquired during active duty to careers as health technicians. These include delivering direct patient care, taking vital signs, administering medication and communicating results. Other responsibilities include providing diagnostic support and medical assistance to VAMCs and specialty clinics.
Medical Support Assistant (MSA)
MSA positions require tact and diplomacy, and that’s why former military personnel are right for these roles. As the front-line contact with patients and staff, you set the tone for customer service at VA. You use your shared experience to comfort fellow veterans coping with administrative processes or difficult health issues.
Approximately 16 percent of all VA nurses are veterans. That’s not a surprising figure. Former military personnel bring the skills learned during service—working as team, caring for others and supporting a mission—to VA nursing careers. This role involves helping licensed nursing staff provide patient care. Although certification is desirable, it’s not necessary for your application. Nursing staff may take advantage of the special education support programs we offer to earn the degrees and certifications necessary to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse.
Every team member at VA has a meaningful role to play in the care of veterans, including those in the support services role. These positions include housekeeping aid, federal protective officer, engineering technician or transportation clerk. Housekeeping aides, in particular, are given veteran preference during the hiring process. “Our housekeeping staff keep facilities safe for our patients, and veterans and their families rely on them,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of VA Recruitment Marketing. “We are actively looking to fill these positions with quality employees, including our veterans.”
Government contracting is not for the faint of heart. The barriers to entry are high and the regulations are complicated and overwhelming. If easy money is the goal, government contracting is not the way to get it. We lose 99 bids out of 100. Can you take that kind of beating and keep going?
The first steps to government contracting are pretty simple. Register with Dun & Bradstreet. Don’t pay them or anyone else to do it. Regardless, of how it seems, it is a free service. They will give you a DUNS number. Use that to register in Sam.Gov where you will get a CAGE code. Don’t skip the opportunity in Sam.gov to complete the SBA Dynamic Small Business search. Read all the regulations that you are committed to follow. Next, register with Beta.sam.gov and look for opportunities to bid. When you find something that looks good, read the whole thing. That’s right. Read all 76 pages paying particular attention to the Performance Work Statement, Section L, and Section M. Submit your bid per their instructions. That’s it. Too easy.
I don’t actually know anyone that has made any real money doing it this way. No doubt there are people out there that simply followed the prescribed path and struck it big. More often, there are people that followed the path and ended up in the pokey, too.
The hard truth is that nobody in this business is rooting for you. I have never found a Government Small Business office that did anything other than put your name on a list and provide a PowerPoint presentation.
Government Contracting Officers, as a general rule, don’t want to do lots of small contracting actions for small businesses. They want to execute fewer contracting actions for big businesses with big dollar amounts. One of my first customers tried to offer me a $14 million contract. The contracting command gave us all a giant “NO!” We were too small, too new, too much of a nuisance.
“Go work for a prime for 5 years,” is the verbatim advice we’ve received from contracting officers. Large government primes have lots of attorneys, lots of money, and lots of shareholders to please. They use small businesses, strip the name of the small business off the work and offer it as your own. It’s not illegal. If you don’t mind, this may be the route for you. It’s not the route for me.
Here’s my secret sauce: Work really hard. Do all the things I mentioned in paragraph 2 and then work hard. We take every opportunity we can afford to meet people, to shake hands, to share what we’ve learned. We don’t shy away from making referrals, even if we get nothing in return. We wear our character on our sleeves, our business cards, and our websites. We were warfighters and always will be at heart. There is a standard of values that comes with that.
We are students of our industry. Take DAU classes. We read and connect and learn. We reach out personally to potential customers every single day. Our goal is to understand more about government contracting than even our customers know. We aren’t trying to outsmart them. We are trying to provide great value to them.
To date, I have only won 4 government contracts since 2015. The first was for $70,000, then $14 million, then $19 million, and the most recent another $19 million. Since I told you we won 1 out of 100 or less, you can do the math to see how many times we lost. Decide if this is the industry for you. If it is, call me. Maybe we can do it together.
Katie Bigelow is the founder of Mettle Ops, a woman-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned, disadvantaged small business. WBE, WOSB, EDWOSB, NVBDC, CVE, VOSB, SDVOSB, U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) Certified 2027
At the start of the year, one semester separated Renne Villareal from earning a degree in Special Education. One semester stood between her and starting a career teaching kids and adolescents diagnosed with physical and mental learning needs.
Her years-long endeavor started in high school, fueled by what she saw as malicious attacks on the boys and girls whose impediments made them targets of harassment. They were teased and bullied because of how different they looked and spoke. Some were called “stupid,” while others were called “lazy.” Villarreal was not one to stand idle and watch. She felt the instinct to charge to their defense. It was the right thing to do, no doubt, and it came as second nature.
Both her parents served in the military, which is how Villarreal inherited their values and sense of duty. Standing up for the rights of others, and advocating for kids with disabilities became her mission ever since her time as a student at Lyman Hall High School.
“I realized this is what I’m going to be good at. I want to be a teacher,” she said. “I want to help and stick up for these kids that need me.”
At Southern Connecticut State University, where Villarreal is currently an undergraduate, her fieldwork in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy puts her side-by-side teaching children with autism. Under the guidance of an accredited therapist, she develops individualized lesson plans focused on improving her client’s interpersonal behavior and learning skills.
At the same time, for the last two years, Villarreal has been serving part-time in the Connecticut Army National Guard, attached to the aviation unit of the 1109th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group. Joining the National Guard was her way of fulfilling her patriotic duty and honoring her parents’ service. The pay isn’t much, she admits, so to make ends meet, she supplements her income from the army and therapy by working a few days a week at the neighborhood PetSmart.
Up until the second week of March, she was living paycheck-to-paycheck. But the 23-year-old single mother, the sole breadwinner with a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, was unprepared for the public health pandemic sweeping across the country.
A crisis loomed on the horizon.
On March 8, Governor Ned Lamont announced the state’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. The dominos fell right after with COVID-19 infections popping up in counties throughout the state.
Southern Connecticut State University closed its campus, opting to deliver the curriculum online for the next semester, which pushed Villarreal’s fieldwork courses from the spring term to the fall. It also pushed back her graduation date to later in the year.
One by one, her primary sources of income started drying up. The National Guard reduced her service hours, and with that, a drop in her monthly paycheck. Parents of her clients canceled ABA therapy sessions for the foreseeable future. And a number of part-time employees at PetSmart, including Villarreal, were furloughed.
Her life was upended in a matter of weeks. “How am I going to pay rent?” she asked herself. “How am I going to put food on the table?”
Sleepless nights beget sleepness nights. Alone and caring for her daughter with limited resources at her disposal, Villarreal was overcome by a cruel mixture of stress and depression. Standing amongst the throngs of people waiting in line at the local food bank one day, Villarreal felt she had hit rock bottom.
“I felt like a bad mom because I wasn’t able to provide,” she said. “No mom wants to feel that way.” As her finances started dwindling, Villarreal had her reasons for hesitating in asking for help.
“In my mind, I’ve always done everything by myself,” she said while ticking off a list of life decisions she made independently of others from enlisting in the army and working multiple jobs to paying for her bills and education.
By the time she contacted the Gary Sinise Foundation at the end of March seeking financial assistance, Villarreal said her situation was making her “drown with worry.”
“I put in all my effort to try to make the best life for my daughter and me that I can. I felt like it was all about to go down.”
To keep her afloat, the Foundation paid two months of her rent through the Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service fund. Villarreal also received a Walmart gift card to cover the costs of groceries and other out of pocket expenses, such as buying diapers.
“The foundation literally changed my life,” she said. “I don’t know how I would have made it without them.” In a matter of days after receiving help from the Foundation, Villarreal has experienced an about-face in her life.
No more waiting in line at the food bank with her fingers crossed that staples such as milk and eggs will be available, and more importantly, not past their expiration date. No more stressful days and sleepless nights that mired her for weeks on end.
“It’s scary to think that I could have lost everything I’ve worked so hard for,” she said about being embarrassed and afraid to ask for help. In short order, she and her daughter, Natalie, have become glued at the hip.
“I’m able to really take advantage of my time now and just catch up with myself,” she said about having time to relax and read a book or take Natalie outdoors to go fishing and to the park.
When Villarreal graduates this fall, she will be among a growing number of professionals nationwide who are entering an in-demand occupation. Projections from the Connecticut Department of Labor show a dearth of special education teachers at the primary and secondary school levels. Increasing numbers of children over the years have been diagnosed with a physical or mental disability that adversely affects their ability to learn in the classroom, explained Villarreal.
In the 2015-16 school year, more than 70,000 students in kindergarten to 12th grade in the state of Connecticut required special education. That number has since ballooned in the last five years to well over 79,000 students representing 15.6% of the state’s student population.
Despite the uncertainty of what lies ahead for her and Natalie with the state yet to see a bend in its curve of coronavirus cases, Villarreal remains focused on becoming a special education teacher.
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