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.