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.

 

Why Do Veterans Make Great Business Owners?

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Once their service ends, veterans often expect to start a new career. In many cases, the same skills and characteristics that helped make them successful in the military, such as ambition and a drive to succeed, make veterans uniquely suited for entrepreneurial endeavors like business ownership.

Franchising is a path toward business ownership that requires strong leadership skills, so veterans are often some of the most qualified and successful prospective franchise owners. According to the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (VetFran), a strategic initiative of the International Franchise Association and the Franchise Education and Research Foundation, at least 97 percent of franchisors believe veterans would make excellent franchisees; 70 percent have brought on a veteran franchisee or employee in the last year alone.

“The skills veterans develop through their military experience are integral to pursuing a new career,” said Tim Davis, former president of The UPS Store, Inc. and former U.S. Marine Corps captain and Gulf War veteran.

Leadership. Work ethic. Discipline. These qualities are exactly what help more than 200 veteran The UPS Store franchisees succeed.

  • Working as a team: The success of an organization relies on its members working together and a recognition that the business is greater than the sum of its parts. Many veterans learn to rely on their fellow service men and women; franchise owners must embrace teamwork at multiple levels, from employees of the local franchise to the franchise’s national and regional leadership team.
  • Executing a plan: Although a franchise owner typically has access to a proven business model and ongoing support, executing the plan is the franchisee’s responsibility. Putting the pieces together and developing a working business plan requires an entrepreneurial approach similar to the military training veterans received.
  • Thriving under pressure: Things don’t always go according to plan, and service members possess the training and discipline to remain calm in pressure-filled situations. For best results when navigating situations like disgruntled customers or employees, a level-headed approach often prevails.
  • Working hard to accomplish a goal: Not all business owners have the level of commitment and work ethic necessary to accomplish their entrepreneurial goals. Service members are trained to understand the requirements of a mission and work diligently to achieve them.

Financing a Franchise Dream

Through its participation in VetFran, The UPS Store, Inc., makes it easier for veterans to attain their post-military professional goals.

For example, its “Mission: Veteran Entrepreneurship” program offers nearly $300,000 in financial incentives to assist qualified U.S. military veterans in opening their own franchise locations. In addition, the first 10 eligible veterans to submit a complete buyer’s application packet and initial application fee by Nov. 11 will receive a waiver for their franchise license fees.

Before You Buy a Franchise

Becoming a franchise owner is a big decision, which means it’s important to thoroughly research potential opportunities and carefully review all the available documents. In most cases, you will have an interview with the franchisor, which is not only a chance for him or her to assess your abilities but also for you to ask questions like these that can give you more perspective.

  1. How mature is the brand?

Some franchise systems are backed by a nationally renowned brand name and decades of franchise experience. A mature brand with a proven track record of success can be especially beneficial for a first-time business owner.

  1. Will training be provided?

A good franchise will be committed to helping you succeed by providing the tools and training necessary to get you started on the right foot. The best franchise opportunities will offer a comprehensive training program that covers more than just basic operational procedures, but also provides ongoing assistance. Ask if there is a support team you can reach out to with questions. Also find out how the brand’s franchisees work collaboratively to learn from one another and help each other succeed.

  1. How stable is the industry?

It’s impossible to guarantee the success of a business regardless of the state of the economy. However, some industries are more recession-resistant than others. Those that offer essential products and services that remain in demand or those that flourish due to tough economic conditions are typically among the best franchise opportunities. If you’re exploring opening a franchise business as a means of controlling your own employment and financial security, consider an industry that can thrive even in the face of market volatility.

  1. What type of marketing, advertising and promotion do you provide?

While you can generally expect to receive marketing assistance and grand opening guidance when first opening a franchise business, the type of marketing and advertising support provided beyond that can vary greatly among franchisors.

  1. What is the total short and long-term financial commitment?

Discuss all initial and ongoing fees in depth with the franchisor before committing to buy. You will also need enough operating capital to support the business until it breaks even. The franchisor should be able to give you an idea of how long it typically takes franchisees in the network to become profitable.

  1. Do you offer funding, incentives or deals?

The costs associated with opening a franchise business can be a significant factor in finding the right opportunity. Some franchisors offer financing options, as well as special incentives for veterans, women and minorities; certain business models; or opening a location in specific geographic areas.

Source: globenewswire.com

VA Expands Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits for Dependents

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For many, the opportunity to pursue education and training beyond high school is not easily within reach. When military members are asked why they serve, the available GI Bill® education benefits are often one reason.

As a part of their earned benefits, active-duty men and women can also transfer all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse and/or dependent children. This is called Transfer of Entitlement (TOE). Those wishing to transfer entitlement to a dependent must be sure to do this while still on active duty.

The option to transfer education assistance to dependent family members provides them with the financial means to pay for their education and training.

However, until recently, this benefit was not available to all dependent children. With the recent passing of the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, commonly referred to as Isakson and Roe, beginning January 6, 2021, service members can transfer all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement to their ward or foster child. This new law changes how VA administers education benefits, and more importantly, is a major step in recognizing the diversity of the nation’s military families and their unique needs.

According to the Department of Defense, more than five million people are part of today’s military family. The men and women who serve in our nation’s armed forces are a diverse group. So, too, are their families, to include spouses, children and other family members who represent varying demographics, experiences and needs. With the implementation of Isakson and Roe, VA is able to address the needs of more families and ensure that the GI Bill’s purpose is further realized.

Now, even more military dependents can receive help paying for tuition, books and housing using Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits. Eligible dependents, who are pursuing a degree or certification in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field, can maximize their benefits through the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship. To help pay for higher out-of-state, private or graduate tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover, the Yellow Ribbon Program provides additional assistance.

In addition to education and training, GI Bill benefits can provide other assistance to eligible students, such as help with paying for certain test fees and help with deciding on the right school or program, using the GI Bill Comparison Tool.

In support of our nation’s military families, VA will continue to do its part to acknowledge the differences that make them unique, while ensuring that their unique needs are also met.

Source: VAntage Point (blogs.va.gov)

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.

Going Back to School as a Military Spouse

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You’ve made the rewarding choice to go back to school. By pursuing your education goals, you can expand your job opportunities and boost your earning power. But where should you start?

And what military spouse scholarships are out there to help?

Start with Spouse Education and Career Opportunities — SECO. The SECO program can provide you with the resources you need to get back in the education game. The MySECO website, built exclusively for military spouses, ensures you have 24/7 online access to information fora successful return to school.

Visit the MySECO Education, Training and Licensing section to identify your education path, plan for your education and compare colleges. You can also connect with a career coach who can help you decide on an education path and how to pay for it.

Choosing the right education and training

Got a career in mind? The career you choose will determine the type of program you’ll need. Take a look at the differences between each program and decide what’s best for you.

■ Certificate Program:
Can take a few weeks, months or years to complete, depending on the subject matter. Typically focuses on specific skills and are offered at community colleges or technical schools.

■ Associate Degree:
Takes about two years to complete. Offered by community colleges, an associate degree focuses on entry-level specialization within a field.

■ Bachelor’s Degree:
Takes about four years to complete. Four-year colleges and universities award a bachelor’s degree in the arts or sciences.

■ Advanced Degree:
Takes anywhere between two and four years to complete. Degrees beyond a bachelor’s degree can include master’s, specialist, professional and doctoral degrees.

Options for a mobile military life

Don’t let a move stop you from going back to school. Consider online education or satellite campuses. You can discover and compare schools based on location, learning format, the ability to transfer credits and more with the College Scorecard on MySECO.

Scholarships for military spouses
Wondering how much is this going to cost you? Fortunately, there’s help out there. Check MySECO for financial assistance resources and career development opportunities offered specifically to military spouses and family members.

The My Career Advancement Account Scholarship is a workforce development program that provides eligible military spouses with up to $4,000 in financial assistance for licenses, certifications or associate degrees to pursue an occupation or career field. Military spouses can sometimes take advantage of their spouse’s GI Bill® benefits. Visit the veterans’ benefits section online for more information.

The U.S. Department of Education provides billions of dollars of educational loans and grants for qualifying students each year. In order to be considered for financial aid, you’ll need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

To view the FAFSA form, and for more information, visit https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

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

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

The Yellow Ribbon Program – How Much Does It Pay?

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Chair, books, soldier uniform and USA flag near light textured wall

The short answer to how much it pays is: It depends.

Several factors play into how much it pays, such as a school’s percentage of waiver, how many students they allow in their program, maximum amount paid per student, degree levels covered, departments or programs covered, and of course, VA match (which is the same as the school waivered amount).

But regardless, it turns out it’s a benefit that’s worth a lot … if you qualify and are accepted into a school’s Yellow Ribbon Program (YRP).

 

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

First, let’s look at the requirements to qualify for the YRP, because not all veterans are eligible. Also, right now, active duty and their spouses are not eligible, but that changes in August 2022.

Because the YRP is a feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the first requirement is to be fully Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible (at the 100 percent tier).

You do that by meeting at least one of these requirements:

  • Served at least 36 months on active duty after September 10, 2001.
  • Having received a Purple Heart after September 10, 2001 and honorable discharged.
  • Served at least 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001 and honorably discharged for a service-connected disability.
  • Are a dependent child using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits from a qualifying veteran.
  • Are a dependent Fry Scholar.

THE YELLOW RIBBON PROGRAM

Next for eligible veterans is finding a school that is part of the YRP; not all schools participate. If your school does have a YRP agreement with the VA, then next, find out what they offer in their YRP, since not all schools offer the same.

The basic guideline is that a school can pay up to 50 percent of the unpaid difference between what the school charges in tuition and mandatory fees and the amount the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays. The VA will match what the school pays, potentially leaving the student with zero out-of-pocket costs. But in their approved agreements, many schools offer less than the 50 percent maximum.

two school comparison numbers listed on chart

As we see, the difference in tuition between the two schools is only around $4,000 per year, but when the difference in YRP and VA Match is factored in, the out-of-pocket amount that the student is responsible for is almost twice at Brown as it is at NYU. Plus, there is a greater chance of getting accepted into NYU’s YRP then at Brown because they accept more YRP students.

YRP AT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

When attending a public school, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays up to the in-state, resident tuition rate. But veterans that have been out for three years or more may be charged the out-of-state non-resident tuition, which in many cases is at least twice that of the in-state rate. If that is the case in your situation, look for public schools that have a YRP program, as it can help pay the difference – just the same as with private schools.

Knowing a school’s YRP is one area where it literally pays you to do your homework when choosing a school. Selecting a school that has a high waiver percentage means a higher VA match in addition to what the VA is already paying in tuition and mandatory fees. It is definitely a multiplier worth researching, so that you get the maximum benefit from your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Source:  ClearanceJobs

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