Transitioning from Service to Startup

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You’ve reached a turning point in your military career. You’re transitioning from active duty to civilian and are considering business ownership as your next move.

Regardless of where you are in the entrepreneurial process—toying with a few business concepts or ready to execute your business plan—the SBA and its partner network are ready to support you.

Let your process begin with Boots to Business, a free entrepreneurship training course offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through the U.S. Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), and continue with free business counseling, mentorship, and even guidance on accessing capital for your business.

Ready for a smooth transition into business ownership? Here are a few ways you can get started.

  • Sign up for the Boots to Business course. Boots to Business is open to transitioning service members (including National Guard and Reserve) and their spouses on military installations worldwide. The course provides you with an overview of business ownership, including topics like market research, business financing, legal considerations, and additional resources to tap into throughout your entrepreneurial journey. Visit sbavets.force.com for a list of upcoming classes, then contact the transition office on your military installation to register for your desired course date.
  • Already completed your transition but still want to take the course? Boots to Business Reboot brings the course off military installations and into your community. Get in touch with your local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) for details on upcoming course dates.
  • Connect with your local VBOC. With locations across the nation, VBOCs can provide you with business advice/recommendations and connect you with other business counselors, training programs, and referrals in the SBA network.
  • Get involved in the entrepreneurial community by attending networking events to meet other veteran entrepreneurs. Also consider online communities, which can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Reddit. These private groups allow you to connect with other veteran entrepreneurs across the globe.

To learn more about the SBA’s veterans programs, visit sba.gov/veterans.

Veteran Entrepreneur Resources

From Readiness to Revenue: Smart Tips for Military Transition

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By Dr. L.H. Taylor: President/CEO of Veterans Business Partnership

The prospect of becoming a successful entrepreneur is exciting and exhilarating. Becoming your own boss, doing your own thing, taking the risk and enjoying the spoils is where the action is. After all, what could be better than controlling your own destiny?

For veterans and spouses, the journey to entrepreneurship can be equally exciting and at the same time, perplexing and challenging. Transitioning from military readiness to the revenue game could be analogous to aspiring to become a big star in Hollywood. The glitz and glamor; the lights and action; and the excitement of big money can be intoxicating. The vision of the bells and whistles may block their view or fog up the rose-colored glasses through which they view this new paradise. Then comes the reality of it all; not everyone makes it to Hollywood.

One of the most challenging questions regarding entrepreneurship is, “where to begin.” The answer to that question could very well determine success or failure for many transitioning service members and their spouses. Fortunately, there is an answer to that question.

Get a Head Start
First, let me suggest that a two-year head start on career transition is not unthinkable for those who have not done so already. The secret for transition success starts with the local installation Transition Assistance Program (TAP) office. The DoD TAP program has teamed up with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer exceptional entrepreneurship training to transitioning personnel courtesy of twenty-two regional Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) across the country.

Over the course of the suggested two years, a veteran or spouse can take part in the two-day SBA VBOC Boots-to-Business (B2B) training as many times as they desire. Beyond the two-day TAP-VBOC presentation, SBA sponsors a robust array of (free) follow-on training, that includes counseling, and mentoring to jump start these future entrepreneurs. The VBOC offerings under TAP are the place to start the transition journey to entrepreneurship. VBOCs then, will reach out to community partners such as Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), and Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) to assist according to where a client is in their journey.

Military members and their spouses are more than adept at and equipped with the skills and temperament for becoming successful entrepreneurs. The big “however” is that nothing advances the cause of entrepreneurial success more than advance planning. Many of my clients who ultimately succeed are the ones who have researched their ideas and invested sufficient time and energy to do the homework necessary to get their enterprises off the ground. The ones who do not, are generally not as successful, or fail to launch their dreams. VBOCs are designed to help get start-up entrepreneurial initiatives off the ground. For qualified veterans and spouses, their services are free.

Entrepreneurship is an exciting proposition. It is a pathway to self-expression and freedom to control one’s life. On the other hand, entrepreneurship can be extremely demanding, perhaps exhausting, and sometimes disappointing when things fail to go as planned. Entrepreneurship is not just the act of starting a business, or just about being in control of your own destiny. It is not a one-off point in time when you open the doors to your business and start to rake in the money. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle; it demands full-time care and feeding. It transcends every aspect of one’s life. It is a twenty-four-hour, seven-day-per-week proposition. It becomes a living, breathing member of your life.

Before you take the plunge, contact your local VBOC for support. VBOCs work closely with their community counterparts and can help determine when additional support might be needed.

Take a smart tip from a veteran entrepreneur turned VBOC Director, contact your nearest Veterans Business Outreach Center, introduce yourself, share your dream and start your exciting journey toward successful entrepreneurship.

Good luck!

Source: Veterans Business Partnership

From Combat to Cattle: A Retired Army Ranger’s Story

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By Kellie Speed

Former Army Ranger Patrick Montgomery never could have imagined his business as an online Wagyu beef retailer would become an overnight success for their hot dogs.

When the combat veteran left the military in 2014 and went to the University of Missouri to pursue a degree in Animal Science to become a veterinarian, he instead decided to buy a farm. Montgomery is now the owner and founder of KC Cattle Company of Weston, Missouri, which offers melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly marbled, hormone and antibiotic-free Wagyu steaks as well as pasture-raised Berkshire pork and even burgers, brats and hot dogs.

“I wanted to bridge the gap between agriculture and the consumer and the appeal for me was working outside and owning a ranch,” he said. “No one really knew what Wagyu was yet, and I figured I was young so I gave it a shot. One of the biggest things I noticed along the way was there were a ton of protein options for consumers to pick through, but with Wagyu, you can really tell a palatable difference. I wanted people to have a unique eating experience. It has been interesting and fun to see people learn what we are all about.”

A few years ago, Food & Wine gave KC Cattle Company a top nod for its Wagyu hot dog, saying it was “basically like eating a steak in a bun.” Shortly after that article was published, they quickly sold out of every single product on the site. “That was crazy,” Montgomery reflects. “Hot dogs were our worst seller and then the article came out and it was the #1 article on Apple news. We only had about 40 packages of hot dogs in stock when the article came out and they were our worst seller. Over the next few weeks, we sold about 7,500 packages of hot dogs. We used to think we were a Wagyu steak company but now our number one seller is hot dogs [laughs]. Strips and ribeyes are next up in popularity.”

How would Montgomery say his military experience as a member of the Army’s 1st Ranger Battalion helped launch his career? “I think every veteran can speak to the transition out of the military not being an easy one,” he acknowledged. “You have a camaraderie in the military and then you get out into the civilian world and lose that. What’s missing most are those most kindred friendships you made sharing stories of crappy experiences overseas. You feel sort of lost when you come back home.

“It is important to me to make time to speak to people, who reach out to us maybe asking how we got our start or how we got capital or something like that,” he explains. “We like to link folks together and it’s an opportunity for veterans interested in entrepreneurship.”
Since its inception, the veteran-run company has been committed to veterans through employment, mentorship and donations. “Some people don’t want to hire veterans because they think they are broken individuals and can’t do anything after they get out of the military, but I wanted to provide an opportunity just for veterans,” he said.

This year, KC Cattle Company received the FedEx Veteran Business of the Year award for 2021.

“We have been a partner with Fed Ex the last two years and used to solely ship with them because their core values aligned with ours,” he said. “It was great to receive this award. You know you work hard, but it’s kind of cool when you get recognized for it.”

For more information, visit kccattlecompany.com.

The Types of Government Contracts & What You Need to Know

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When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.

The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.

The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:

  • To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
  • To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
  • To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
  • To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups

There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:

Set-aside contracts for small businesses:

To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.

There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.

Competitive set-aside contracts:

When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.

Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.

Sole-source set-aside contracts:

Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.

In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.

Contracting Assistance Programs:

The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:

8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.

Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses

Veteran assistance program: Veteran-owned businesses

HUBZone Program: Historically underutilized businesses

SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor

Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.

Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)

Joint Ventures:

Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.

Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.

A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.

Resources

If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

Small Business Resources for Veterans

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Service members make great contributions and sacrifices on our nation’s behalf. When it’s time for your next mission, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides customized tools and training to support and empower you through every stage of business ownership.

Below we’ve highlighted a few SBA programs for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses:

Entrepreneurial Training
A key first step for transitioning service members, veterans or military spouses interested in business ownership is Boots to Business (B2B). Available on military installations worldwide for service members and their spouses, this course covers the fundamentals of business ownership. Boots to Business: Reboot (B2BR) brings the B2B course off installations and into communities for veterans who may not have access to a military base, along with National Guard and Reserve members, and spouses.

B2B has been a launchpad for many aspiring military and veteran entrepreneurs. For example, after taking the B2B course, U.S. Army veteran Jeremy Boucher and his wife, Dr. Kristen Boucher, were able to turn their brewing hobby into a small business. They now own Split Fin Brewing in Midway, Georgia.

Local Support
SBA resource partners, including Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC), offer expert counseling and training to business owners, with help available remotely. VBOCs are highly familiar with the military business community’s values, strengths, and needs, and can connect you with key resources.

One military spouse who worked with her local VBOC to grow her business is Terra Smith, owner of DocTerra Mobile Veterinary Services in Vale, North Carolina. Smith reached out to her local VBOC at Fayetteville State University for help gaining access to capital as she launched her mobile veterinary clinic. The VBOC walked Smith, whose husband is a Marine veteran, through the steps of applying for an SBA-guaranteed loan through a community lender.

Disaster Assistance
The SBA is also here for business owners in the military community when the unexpected happens. Like many small businesses, veteran-owned businesses have been hit hard by the economic impacts of the pandemic. and we’re continuing to offer disaster relief options to help. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), for instance, is an SBA-backed loan that helps small businesses keep their employees on payroll during the pandemic. Borrowers may be eligible for forgiveness. Air Force veteran Tom McMahon, owner of the Washington, D.C. gift shop, Urban Dwell, is just one of the veteran business owners who have kept their businesses afloat with help from the PPP.

The SBA is also offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to provide economic relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. EIDL is available through December 31.

Beyond pandemic relief, the SBA offers several other disaster relief programs, including the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL). If one of your essential employees is a military reservist and that person gets called to active duty, you can apply for MREIDL to help with eligible expenses.

As a member of the military, you’ve served our country. As you transition to entrepreneurship, let us serve you.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

4 Strategies for Rebounding from a Rejection Letter

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Hunting for a post-military job can sometimes feel like a roller coaster. There are some definite highs in the job search, like spotting the perfect position for you, landing an interview and receiving an offer.

But unfortunately, there are also some lows mixed in – including the dreaded rejection letter.

While it may be disappointing, getting a rejection letter can actually help you in your job search. It offers you an opportunity to learn from the process and improve upon certain areas for the next dream job that crosses your path.

But, while you’re looking for that next opportunity, how can you stay motivated for the next search? While everyone will have their own process, here are our four strategies for rebounding from a rejection letter:

  • Take a minute. There’s no denying it – rejection stings. It’s true in life, love and even work. Before you dive back into the job hunt, take some time to process your disappointment. Talk with friends or fellow service members, go for a walk, meditate, eat a whole bag of chips (okay, maybe not that last one). You might even need more than a minute. It’s okay to take a breather from your job hunt. Though it can be hard to step back when you’re facing the end of your military career, a pause may be the key to landing your first post-military job.
  • Keep perspective. Remember, there’s only so much you can control in a job search. Maybe you were a great candidate, but there was only one open position and a lot of great applicants. “Maintain healthy expectations about the process and don’t lose hope,” said James Marfield, associate director of VA’s National Recruitment Service. “It is not necessarily an indictment on your candidacy – it may just be that the hiring manager had better qualified candidates to choose from.” While it may look from the outside like some people have it easy and catch all the breaks, everyone gets a rejection letter at some point in their career. Transitioning to a post-military career can be an especially big leap, but there are plenty of people who have successfully made the transition. Have faith that you will, too.
  • Look in the rear view mirror. You got as far as an interview, so you know you’re doing a lot of things right. If you’re applying for a federal job like one at VA, you made it through the recruiter and were referred to the hiring manager, which is a big step. Your resume and cover letter are on point, and you’ve completed all the right federal forms to accompany your application. Before you dive back in to your job hunt, take some time to review your interview performance and see if there’s anything you could improve. Do you need to come up with better examples for VA’s performance-based interview format, or did you remember to send a thank you letter after your interview? Each interview is great preparation for the next one, but if you want even more practice, ask a friend or family member to rehearse with you.
  • Move forward. Once the feeling of rejection starts to fade and you’re feeling positive again, jump back in to your search with renewed energy and enthusiasm. As you continue to apply, look for ways you can continue to add to your skills and improve your candidacy for a civilian career, whether that’s through volunteering, additional training or part-time work experiences. Veterans can take advantage of a free year of LinkedIn premium, which includes access to training through LinkedIn Learning. The Department of Defense also offers transition assistance for Veterans, including training, apprenticeships and internships through SkillBridge.

No roller coaster lasts forever – even the job search coaster. While there may be more than one “no” along the way, all you need is one “yes” to land your dream post-military job.

Source: VAntage Point Blog and VA Careers (blogs.va.gov)

5 Tips for Transitioning from the Service to Starting Your Own Business

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By Chris Wayne, CTO at Yahoo Small Business and former U.S. Army Sergeant, 82nd Airborne Division

It may seem daunting to think about your next step from active duty to civilian life, whether you’re considering going back to school, applying for a new job, volunteering or even starting a new business.

While there are many factors that play into finding your next career path, it’s important to consider your passions, interests, the experience you’ve gained during your time in active duty and how the foundation you built can correlate with a post-military career.

Starting your own business is a great way to use the skills you’ve developed during your time in active duty. Based on my professional experience as the CTO of Yahoo Small Business, and my military experience as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, I want to offer the following five tips on how to transition from military personnel to business owner:

Follow your passion

During my time in the service, I was a combat engineer, which required complex problem-solving skills and the need to take calculated risks. Upon transitioning into civilian life, I identified the parallels and found myself in the tech field—now, years later, I am the chief technology officer at Yahoo Small Business. I work with small business owners every day, including many veterans, who saw a need that aligned with their interests and areas of expertise, and took the opportunity to become a small business owner. As a veteran, you already have the skills, network and discipline needed in order to start a business. Don’t be afraid to follow your dream.

Continue to value your unique abilities

At first, you may not feel that your skills translate to entrepreneurship, but they are key to establishing a resilient business that can withstand challenging circumstances. As you begin your small business journey, your ability to overcome adversity, prioritize and manage stress, and always lead with courage and integrity, are paramount to succeeding as an entrepreneur. Among countless other abilities, these skills enable you to lead effectively, meet the needs of your team and customers, and manage difficult situations in ways that others may not be able to.

Appreciate your military experience

Be true to who you are as a veteran and don’t be afraid to spotlight your military experience. Your unique experience has created a valuable framework for how you conduct and operate your business. Representing yourself in your business is a great way to build connections. For a consumer-facing business, for example, your personal style can help drive customer engagement and differentiate your business from other similar companies. You may even inspire other veterans to take the leap of faith and start their own business.

Leverage your network and join a community

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, and with the challenges veterans can experience while making the transition, developing ties to a local community can be difficult. Fortunately, the military community is always ready and willing to support you no matter where you are. Leverage your network and seek mentors or advice by joining existing military and veteran entrepreneurship communities. Joining online communities of like-minded individuals is great for networking and offers a way for you to inspire and support others as you all navigate your entrepreneurial journeys together. For example, communities such as the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE) is a global network of military families that support each other like a local community.

Work with a partner company

Outside of the military community, I encourage you to work with a professional partner company. Starting a business comes with challenges, but with your skills, the military community and a partner company behind you—you will have the tools needed to succeed.

Leveraging a partner company can help you establish your business the right way. For example, a partner tech company can help you develop a business plan and create and manage your business’s website. You can work with a partner company and small business advisors to outsource core aspects of business management, including your website, accounting, SEO and marketing and more. By outsourcing key aspects of business management, you can focus on what’s important— running and growing your business, engaging with customers and enjoying your journey.

Looking toward your future

As you look toward the future, remember that your skills and experiences make you uniquely suited to start your own business. Remember that you already have the critical components needed to be successful, and you have the military community—as well as a community of other entrepreneurs—on your team.

Chris Wayne is the Chief Technology Officer at Yahoo Small Business, where he oversees engineering, production operations, support and more. Wayne joined Yahoo in 2004 as a manager at the HQ Desktop Support, became the Chief Information Officer for Yahoo Small Business in 2015, and the Chief Technology Officer in 2018. He holds a Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) degree from the University of Southern California and is a certified Data Center Management Professional (CDCMP). Prior to joining Yahoo Small Business, Wayne was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

How My Air Force Experience Shaped Me to Be a Leader

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By Joe Paranteau

From the foot soldiers of the Roman Empire and Genghis Khan’s cavalry to today’s military, the contributions and leadership of people in uniform have stood the test of time.

I spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserve and the leadership lessons I learned have lasted a lifetime. I often rely on my military leadership lessons to lead sales and business teams today.

Here are a few of the most enduring lessons I learned. Whether you have served or not, you can take some of these golden nuggets and apply them to your business:

It’s Not About “You.” It’s About “Us”

The moment enlisted or officers start their initial training – the core value is the same. No one person is greater than the team. If you are a lone wolf, you won’t go far. From the minute your service begins, you learn that the sum is more significant than its parts. The team is everything.

My first night in training, I watched people shed their individuality for the team’s good. Over time, our team grew stronger through proximity and shared adversity. If something wasn’t right, the whole team suffered.

I was a chow runner, which meant I ran ahead of the formation to the chow hall to sign our unit in. The fastest runners guaranteed their units ate first. I could run fast. In fact, on a good day, I could get signed in 5-10 minutes before my unit would arrive, which meant I had time for a bit of shut-eye. One day, I was fast asleep leaning against a pole. Click, click, click. I heard the boot taps of my drill instructors as they circled me. I woke up and stood at attention. They yelled at me for what seemed like hours.

I had already learned to take ultimate accountability for my actions. When asked why I was asleep at my post, I replied, “No excuse, sir.” In reality, there is no reason for an excuse, although people make thousands of them. My unit had to wait because of my actions instead of eating early. I stared into a sea of hungry, impatient eyes and realized I made a mistake that affected everyone. I learned to never repeat that mistake again!

No One Left Behind

Military teams take care of each other. As a result, one person rarely does anything alone. And no one is ever left behind. This is an ethos in the military, and builds upon the “Us” mentality. Strength gets forged in unity. You don’t need a battlefield for this to ring true. How do you check to ensure your people are never left behind in the activities that drive your business? Build strong teams that look out for each other and make your organization strong. Get rid of inadequate training, unclear expectations or guidance or a lack of support. Don’t leave your people behind.

Attention to Detail

In the military, you learn that the subtle details can cause big problems. For example, foreign object damage (FOD) is anything that should not be on the runway. The smallest of items can wreak havoc on jet engines resulting in fatal outcomes. Pay attention to the small things and their impact on the broader operation. Teach your people to be on the alert for these little details. Condition them to spot things that may otherwise go unnoticed. Instilling attention to detail can help your business avoid unpleasant outcomes. Consider creating more detail around safety, ethics, governance, compliance, and fiduciary matters.

It’s Easier to Course Correct a Moving Object

In the military, there is a significant amount of planning done for many things. You can talk, plan, and prepare. There is a need to act and put the plans in place. Standing still tells you nothing. Military battle planners will often admit their plans rarely survive the first bullet. It does not mean to stop planning. Instead, some things are clear when you observe them in action. Take flying a plane. You can preflight a plane, but flying in the air is dynamic based on many changing variables. If you miscalculated wind speed, you need to adjust your plans. Headwinds may cause you to burn fuel faster, and may call for you to make deviations to your course. When you march a unit in a formation, you may need to make minor corrections. But they happen once the unit is moving and marching. If someone gets out of step, make the cadence clear and consistent for everyone to follow. The same is true of many things in business. Get started and expect to make minor pivots along the way. You can learn a great deal when you move past your best plans and test them in the market.

Know When to Lead, Follow and Serve

Know when to lead from the front, stand beside and serve. The best leaders I’ve ever seen in my life are military leaders. What makes them exceptional leaders is how they model excellence. They have solid missions and visions, and they communicate them from top to bottom of the unit. Everyone knows the mission. Being able to create clear goals and focus on them is a critical skill. As a military leader, you learn to feed the troops first. I recall how my commanders demonstrated how to serve.

Joe Paranteau headshot
Joe Paranteau
During the holidays, leaders served in the mess halls, cooking and serving others. As a business leader, find similar opportunities to serve your people. Figure out what behaviors you can model that will make your team stronger.

It’s been years since I’ve been out of the military. Yet, fellow servicemen and women who have served can all relate to one or all these examples. How would it look if you applied them to change your business culture? What results should you expect? The military has been using these principles for centuries. Take a lesson from tried-and-true leadership practices, and see how your people respond. These principles show you care, and build trust and strong teams dedicated to the mission.

Joe Paranteau is the author of Billion Dollar Sales Secrets and works at Microsoft. He leads a sales team and serves as an industry leader for healthcare customers. He is a sales coach and mentor, keynote speaker, small business owner, entrepreneur and investor. As a U.S. Air Force veteran, he is committed to veteran’s issues. He supports causes to end child trafficking and exploitation. Visit him on LinkedIn or at.thejpar.com

Kellie Pickler: On a Mission to Serve

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Interview and Story by Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

Not everyone has been called to serve as a member of our Armed Forces, but country star, actress, television host and philanthropist Kellie Pickler feels it’s her duty to serve the called.

By partnering with the USO (United Service Organizations), one of the nation’s leading nonprofit charities dedicated to members of the military and their families, Pickler, alongside other celebrities, gets the chance to give back to a community that means the world to her. “They have enabled me to be a part of something that matters,” she shared. “Working with the USO, it’s really all about keeping the families connected and keeping our servicemen and women connected with their loved ones.

We take a piece of home to them…when we do holiday tours, we take a professional athlete, a singer, comedian, actor, actress and just develop this show with them. We sign [autographs], laugh; we take pictures. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If they’re stationed somewhere where their families are able to be with them, we have family day. We get to break bread together and laugh and share their stories…break up the monotony of what they do.”

And Pickler, a North Carolina native, was a great choice for this role because she is a wiz at putting on a show. The now 35-year-old got her start in the industry in 2005 on the fifth season of American Idol, finishing in sixth place.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 27: Kellie Pickler sings with the U.S. Army Chorus at the American Veterans Center’s “American Valor: A Salute to Our Heroes” Veterans Day special on October 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

Her debut album sold over 900,000 copies, was certified gold and produced three top 20 singles on the Billboard “Hot Country Songs” charts. During her music career, Pickler has won or been nominated for numerous awards, such as the CMT Music Awards Breakthrough Video of the Year, Top New Female Vocalist of the Year, Female Video of the Year, Collaborative Video of the Year and Performance of The Year. She’s also won the prestigious Songwriter Award twice from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

Later, after the release of her fourth studio album, The Woman I Am, Pickler went on to win the sixteenth season of Dancing with the Stars, alongside professional dancer Derek Hough in 2013. She would also go on to star in two successful television programs, I Love Killie Pickler, a reality show about her life with husband Kyle Jacobs, as well as Pickler & Ben, a daytime talk show she hosted for two years alongside influencer Ben Aaron.

Pickler has also starred in television movies for Hallmark, Christmas at Graceland, Wedding at Graceland and The Mistletoe Secret. However, for Pickler, these achievements are not the hallmark of her career or representative of her purpose. “…accolades, awards, that don’t matter. People matter,” Pickler said. “You never wake up after doing the right thing and think, ‘I wish I hadn’t done the right thing there.’ It’s easy to be kind; it’s easy to love your neighbor.”

NASHVILLE, TN – APRIL 29: (L-R) Kyle Jacobs, Recording Artist Kellie Pickler, Allison Baker, Andi Zack-Johnson and Ken Johnson attend the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ ROll Nashville Marathon on April 29, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for St. Jude)

For Pickler, her real job is about what happens offstage, “I know that I was not put on this Earth to just be a country singer, performer and entertainer. That’s just my vehicle to get me through the door. I know what my calling is. I know that my purpose in life is to be a voice for the broken, to be a sanctuary for people.

I’m not perfect by no means. I know my heart. I know my integrity. And that’s not for sale. I feel very blessed to be in a position where I can use my gifts and blessings…” As a USO Ambassador, Pickler is excited about taking the opportunity to give back to those who she knows are prepared to give everything for our citizens and our country.

According to her, “It’s imperative that they know (and that the families know) that we have their backs too. It takes a very selfless person to do what they do.” She is especially sensitive to the families of servicemembers, “The families serve. I’m very close with many Gold Star Families and Gold Star Wives. The USO is a community that’s very, very much needed.

When someone gets that folded flag at their front door, that dreaded conversation, it’s imperative that they have community around them, to love them, help them, be there for their children…The USO has kept so many families connected, and even connected me with these families, in a way that I can have a relationship with them and let them know that they aren’t alone.”

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN: Kellie Pickler signs autographs after performing for U.S. service members as part of USO’s holiday tour.
(Photo by /The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The USO sponsors many programs with these goals in mind and works in over 250 locations. Their programs, predominately, fall into one of four categories: Unites, Delivers, Entertains or Transitions. Each category represents one part of the mission to keep servicemembers in touch with the places, people and positivity they need to keep going.

Programs include, but aren’t limited to: the Bob Hope Legacy Program, which helps servicemembers read to their children virtually; USO Coffee Connections, which gathers military spouses together at monthly gatherings in comfortable spaces where they can share and relate; USO Care Package Program, which delivers familiar snacks, toiletries and hygiene essentials to troops, predominately those overseas; and of course their many resources for those transitioning (or who have transitioned) out of military service.

Participating in the promotion of these programs, as well as having the chance to meet and link with servicemembers and their families, has been a dream for Pickler.

Though she and her immediate family did not come from a military background, she still feels as though she can serve, love on and relate to these families in her own way.

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 07: Singer Kellie Pickler (L) and Staff Sgt. Baily Zimmerman perform onstage during ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute To The Troops in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for ACM)

“We all have so much more in common than we realize,” she said. “I do feel that in my line of work, the music business is all about putting truth in the form of a song. I believe that there’s several songs of mine that have been autobiographical where I was able to put a pinprick of my life into a song. But it’s helped people heal. I do believe in sharing parts of my story…” Pickler continued, saying that her time, her story and her music have “brought people together and helped people find closure in whatever it is that they’re going through.” And that’s where the fulfillment comes from for her.

“There are countless things that the USO has done [for our servicemembers], and, again, it’s been just very life changing for me to be a part of the USO family. I feel that’s the way that I can serve those who serve.”

7 Ways to Help You Secure Government Contracts

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group of business people working together on an engineering project laid out on a table

By Brett Farmiloe

To help you better understand how to secure government contracts, we asked contracting experts and business leaders for their best advice.

From cybersecurity training to ensuring worker safety, these seven tips below may help you better understand how best to go about pursuing a government contract.

Get Compliant Cyber Security Training

As a part of HB-3834, state and local government employees are required to complete a Department of Information Resources (DIR) approved cybersecurity awareness training program on an annual basis. If your organization is seeking government contracts, be aware that most government agencies require contractors and vendors to be HB-3834 compliant. Even if you don’t get the government contract you were hoping for, completing a DIR-approved cybersecurity training program can benefit your business.

-Nick Santora, Curricula

Build Critical Relationships

Most government agencies have budget cycles that run on very specific timelines. Even when the need is discovered and secured, getting your product or service to those agencies takes more time than other deals. Build relationships early with your ideal customers, identify timelines appropriate for initial discovery, bidding on the project and secure the contract. There are a lot more steps to go through, but when you earn those relationships, it’s worth it.

-Blake Murphey, American Pipeline Solutions

Register on System for Award Management

Businesses should be prepared to go through a rigid qualification process for both time and resources. However, the first and most important step is to register on System for Award Management (SAM) to find contracting opportunities with the government and start bidding. As a Japanese industrial solutions provider operating in the U.S., we’ve had our fair turn of bids. Be prepared to invest upwards of $120,000, depending on the size of the contract you are eyeing.

-Ryan Shallenberger, SEKISUI

Design Services Just for the Government

Produce a product or service specifically for the government. For example, a consulting agency like ours may consider offering a SAFe for Government class, where attendees gain the knowledge to be a Lean-Agile Change Agent to lead the SAFe Transformation inside a government agency. Because the class addresses key issues for government, like legacy governance, contracting and organizational barriers, people reviewing the course are more likely to attend because it’s just for them. If you want government contracts, you need to know how to solve and address key issues the government is facing.

-Debra Hildebrand, Hildebrand Solutions, LLC

Ensure Worker Safety

Often outsourced work from governments includes working in the field. Typical examples are path guidance at airports, guarding a door at a railway station or simply checking parking tickets within a particular area. If the government RFP includes such work, workers often end up being placed alone or in pairs at a workplace. Even if two workers are working at the same workplace, often one worker needs to handle a work situation in proximity and leave reduced safety as a side effect. This can strongly affect your chances of winning government-connected contracts. Governments need to take special protection of workers in their service. No government official is keen to justify the selection of a (now) appeared unreliable vendor. You want to mitigate these risks and stand out in a positive way by addressing the questions of lone worker safety. Save yourself and the person shortlisting vendor’s headaches.

-Hays Bailey, SHEQSY

Peruse the Possibilities

When most folks think of government contracts, they think of fields like construction or defense. However, the U.S. government lists over 30,000 opportunities that span a variety of different industries. Do not assume that just because you are a small business or a provider of an out-of-the-ordinary service, there is no chance to score a contract. For instance, my company, TeamBuilding, has hosted virtual team building events for multiple government branches. The proposal process required finesse, and the technical aspects needed adjustment to adhere to security standards; however, we were able to partner with official agencies even though our industry is not one you might instantly associate with governmental contracts. It never hurts to consider the possibilities and check listings.

-Michael Alexis, TeamBuilding

Get Onto FedBid

The first thing any business owner or contractor needs to do if they’re interested in getting involved with government contracts is to create an account through FedBid. It’s a full-service online marketplace that has been shown to improve how governments and educational institutions purchase the goods and services they require to run their organizations. Depending on the type of work that best applies to your company, the platform gives access to opportunities from various federal agencies such as NASA, TDAE and the VA Healthcare Administration, among others. Also, keep in mind that you have to be consistent in submitting bids at regular intervals so that they don’t forget about your company.

-Altay Gursel, Metriculum

Source: Score.org

Mission Possible: Building a Culture of Belonging for Veterans

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Innovations Academy buiding

By Erin L. Branham, National Director, Brand and Communications, Balfour Beatty

Construction firm Balfour Beatty is proving that one company and one vision of bringing greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) of veterans to the construction industry can change our communities—one mission at a time.

On the $38 million Innovations Academy Modernization project, Balfour Beatty’s mission encompassed far more than delivering 62,000 square feet of state-of-the-art educational space within an accelerated five-month schedule. Balfour Beatty awarded nearly 13 percent, or $5,000,000, in contracts to the growing San Diego Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBE) community, more than doubling the school district’s 6 percent project participation goal.

Partnering to Achieve Mutual Success

To achieve such a dynamic DVBE participation on the Innovations Academy Modernization project, Balfour Beatty leveraged a multi-phase strategy that began with developing targeted bid packages during preconstruction.

On all projects, the company invests time ensuring DVBEs understand the full scope, which in turn positions them to create best-value bids. On many occasions, DVBEs contract as second-tier trade partners, so it is critical to establish clear participation goals for the entire supply chain.

Over the last five years, Balfour Beatty has partnered with DVBE IO Environmental on five projects, developing a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

“Operationally, we’ve had a fantastic experience working Balfour Beatty’s estimating and project management teams,” says Mike Bilodeau, president of IO Environmental, who served in the Coast Guard and was also an environmental specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “As a DVBE partner for Balfour Beatty on San Diego Unified School District projects, we feel like we’re actually part of a team instead of just another subcontractor. They have been incredibly supportive of our small business needs, especially with new contracting mechanisms that require complex paperwork.”

As the former owner of a tilt-up concrete company, senior viceThe inside of the Innovations Academy with an open staircase and visiting room downstairs president and one of Balfour Beatty’s California education market leads, Tim Berry recognizes the unique challenges small businesses face. Across the industry, contractors operate on consistently thin margins. For small businesses, many of which are family-owned operating on low reserves, maintaining a consistent cash flow can be just as critical to success as profit. Balfour Beatty minimizes risk by promptly processing change orders and assisting with the submission of accurate and timely pay applications.

“Getting to know Balfour Beatty’s systems and procedures has really helped us become more efficient—not only for production but also for our end customers,” says Dan Parker, U.S. Air Force veteran and operations manager, IO Environmental.

Aligning Forces

As an owner that places tremendous value on the inclusion of emerging business enterprises (EBE), the San Diego Unified School District has repeatedly entrusted its capital construction projects to Balfour Beatty—a people-first contractor that shares its commitment to creating workplaces in which diverse backgrounds, perspectives and talents contribute to shared success. Over the past five years, Balfour Beatty has completed five projects for the school district and currently has six under construction.

Across all projects, San Diego Unified School District’s mandatory EBE participation goal is 50 percent, which includes 5 percent for DVBEs—statistics that vastly exceed that of most public and private owners. But Balfour Beatty’s San Diego-based Minority Business Development Specialist Annie Del Rio predicts that such goals will become standard in the future, thanks to expanding DE&I workforce initiatives.

“I believe we’re ahead of the curve,” praises Del Rio of Balfour Beatty’s DE&I efforts. “In working with the federal government, we are challenged to target nearly 70 percent participation.”

Advancing the Cause of Veteran Inclusion

Across its U.S. operations, Balfour Beatty has taken actionable steps to advance the inclusion of veterans. From visiting military bases to collaborating with the Veterans Administration Transition Assistance Program and recruitment firms that specialize in placing veterans, Balfour Beatty recognizes the critical role veterans will play in shaping the future of an industry facing an unprecedented labor shortage.

“Our industry is starving for leaders,” says Jordan Webster, U.S.full size basketball court inside the innovations academy Army combat medic veteran and Balfour Beatty’s Dallas-based safety health & environment director. “The military provides a continuous source of disciplined, committed professionals with the ability to quickly adapt and perform at high levels in the positions we need to fill.”

In California, Balfour Beatty’s outreach efforts are also focused on removing barriers some firms face to procuring work, including achieving state certification as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) or DVBE and meeting prequalification standards.

The construction company’s momentum within the DVBE community reflects the company’s passionate and sustained commitment to expanding DE&I efforts. As contractors reimagine partnership models with project stakeholders and their communities, Balfour Beatty will continue to ensure the industry provides equal opportunities for every person who desires to play a role in building its bright future.

 

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

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Upcoming Events

  1. Women Veterans Alliance 2021 UnConference
    October 8, 2021 - October 10, 2021
  2. Camp Pendleton Career Fair
    October 14, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  3. Navy Base San Diego Career Fair
    October 15, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  4. VETS 21—Veteran Entrepreneur Training Symposium
    November 2, 2021 - November 4, 2021
  5. The DAV 5K will honor veterans with in-person and virtual events
    November 6, 2021