Leveraging Honor and Respect to Improve Recruitment and Retention

Larry Broughton in business suit arms folded and smiling

By Larry Broughton

Leaders struggle with securing, maintaining and exporting one product more than any other: respect. This is due in no small part to our current cultural mindset, which is counter industrious.

Our media declares the “little guy,” the marginalized majority, to be the constant victim of tyrannical bosses, teachers, owners and basically anyone else in a leadership role. The modern American distrusts leadership, at best, and resents leadership, at worst. So, how does a leader actually recruit, retain and lead people who consider themselves victims? The answer is found in the core values of honor and respect. Leaders, not employees, are responsible for setting the standard and the pace of the values.

In setting the standard, leaders must recognize and respect the time, energy and effort of those around them. This requires listening, thinking and approaching people as if they are just that — people. Most bad leadership comes from a soured mindset toward followership. Many in management positions have had enough of trying to be kind, supportive and considerate; eventually, they just want results: productivity, plain and simple. The problem with that mindset is evident: people are not cogs in the machines of a leader’s choosing. They are individuals with strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad, dreams and limitations. They cannot be demoted to the level of a cog — that logic is just as faulty as the aforementioned “little guy syndrome.”

Those in management and leadership positions must look at their followers and realize their own job is to optimize their employees’ potential to succeed, not simply fume as they seem to maximize their ability to fail. Many resistant followers have never shared respect with a leader in their lifetime and are not properly equipped to start any time soon. This is the first challenge of leadership: see “employees” as “team members” and draw the potential out of them. Do this by taking the first step. Establishing a standard of respect will not only enable your followers to fulfill their potential, but it will also cause the majority of them to respond in kind.

Regarding pace, leaders have to acknowledge that the process of gaining, sustaining and expanding respect and converting that into a productive and tenured team member is usually lengthy and arduous. To unwrap a pessimistic employee from their cynical cocoon is no small feat. Again, the antidote is simple, free and readily available: respect. It begins at the top and works its way down, not the other way around.

Leadership requires us to control the flow of respect and to drive it into every hour and corner of our organization. Once it does, it breeds a culture of honor, and anyone who enters it will either rise due to its effects or leave quickly. Many leaders will see this step as futile and counterintuitive. “Employees respect me because I am the boss. If they earn my respect, then so be it.” That mindset may have worked well enough in generations past; however, modern followers do not subscribe to this logic, so it simply won’t work today. Respect them first and farthest; then coach them up or coach them out if they do not meet the standard. By taking the first and farthest step, a good leader will completely eliminate excuses and tolerable failures — followers, will either meet the pace of respect set by the leader or find another placement.

Many view leadership as passionless and visionless. They see managers as the ultimate cogs in an even larger machine. To reverse this mindset, leaders must seek to see the value of every team member and offer honor, respect and understanding even before it’s deserved or earned. Some followers will buck this treatment and run — their presence is undesirable anyway. Some will respond almost instantly with loyalty and trust — these people were most likely conditioned for work by whoever reared them and will make excellent team members. Most will come around slowly but treat their leaders more fairly because they recognize the goodwill the leader has extended them first. This style of leadership does require considerable effort at first; nevertheless, working smarter and accomplishing more is certainly preferable to leading a group of maligned, untrusting misfits to merely adequate performance.

Now, take rapid action and go do something significant today.

Larry Broughton is a former U.S. Army Green Beret, best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker and leadership mentor. TheLarryBroughton.com

Photo credit: Westover Photography

$3.5 Million in Grants to Support Veteran Small Business Owners

Slightly upward curved hundred us dollar bills lying on the us flag

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced $3.5 million in grant awards to support outreach organizations focused on veteran small businesses. The grants provide critical funding to create new Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) in Alaska, California, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada and South Carolina, strengthening training and counseling services for aspiring and existing veteran and military spouse small business owners. In the U.S., there are nearly two million veteran-owned small businesses, employing over five million people and generating over $1.3 trillion in annual revenue.

“Our service members have protected our nation with selfless honor and sacrifice, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting them with resources and opportunities as they pursue their American dreams of business ownership,” said U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “With this expansion of our veteran-focused network of small business centers, we can help more transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses start and grow their businesses and advance our economy.”

VBOCs are responsible for conducting Boots to Business classes for transitioning members and their spouses, aiding in putting together business plans, they provide mentorship and resources, and so on. These centers are available in nearly every state.

“VBOCs are a one-stop shop for business training, counseling and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business,” said Timothy Green, acting associate administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development. “The new centers will provide additional resources to increase support and access for nearly two million veteran-owned small businesses. The expanded locations aim to enhance the veteran small business owner experience with more opportunities for training and less appointment wait times.”

Organizations receiving grants from the SBA have demonstrated a commitment to addressing challenges that veteran-owned small businesses face and helping them succeed through the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. The VBOC program has expanded from 22 to 28 locations, fully servicing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. Grants will support a range of services, including:

  • Business planning: Provides veterans with training and counseling on accounting, financial planning and management.
  • Accessing capital: Helps veterans understand the multitude of sources of capital available to them, as well as helps them access financing, loans and grants.
  • Marketing and outreach: Provides marketing and outreach services to promote veteran-owned businesses in their communities and beyond.
  • Transitioning: Provides Boots to Business instruction to help active-duty service members transition out of the military.

Grant recipients and the areas impacted:

  • Seattle Economic Development Fund- Business Impact Northwest: Seattle, Washington. Covering area: Alaska.
  • University of Texas Arlington College of Business: Arlington, Texas. Covering area: Nevada.
  • Carmel Veterans Service Center: Colorado Springs, Colorado. Covering area: Colorado.
  • Nebraska Enterprise Fund: Oakland, Nebraska. Covering area: Nebraska and Iowa.
  • The Citadel: Charleston, South Carolina. Covering area: South Carolina.
  • Long Beach City College: Long Beach, California. Covering area: California’s LA County, San Bernardino County, Ventura County, Orange County, Santa Barbara County and Riverside County.

For more information on these and other local VBOCs, visit sba.gov/vboc.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

5 Growing Careers in Mental Health

An army soldier standing with his wife, speaking to a doctor.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Among adolescents and people of color, the prevalence of mental disorders can be even higher. Along with a growing awareness of the importance of mental health and the need for treatment, the demand for workers who can help is increasing.

If you’re interested in a career supporting mental health, you may want to consider these five occupations that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will grow much faster than average over the 2021–31 decade.

Together, they employed about 761,000 workers in 2021—and they are expected to have more than 91,000 openings on average each year through 2031. The education typically required to enter these occupations ranges from a high school diploma to a master’s degree, and they all pay around or more than the $46,310 median for all occupations in 2022.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors advise people on a range of issues, such as those relating to alcoholism, addictions or depression. They provide support, including for prevention, to help clients recover from addiction, modify problem behaviors or improve mental health. They may work with patients individually or in group sessions, helping those struggling with mental health, and may find ways to discuss their addiction or other problems with family and friends.

  • Projected growth: 22.1%
  • Average salary: $49,710
  • Education needed: Bachelor’s degree

Community Health Workers

Community health workers advocate for residents’ needs with health care providers and social service organizations. They implement wellness strategies by collecting data and discussing health concerns with members of specific populations. They typically work closely with health education specialists, but their expertise lies with direct interaction with those needing assistance in the forms of informal counseling, providing basic health services, advocating for individuals and conducting outreach programs.

  • Projected growth: 15.9% (Average growth is at about 7-8%)
  • Average salary: $46,190
  • Education needed: High school diploma

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help people manage problems with their family and other relationships. They bring a family-centered perspective to treatment and work with individuals, couples or even whole families to work out any issues they may be having. Marriage and family therapists are also responsible for evaluating family roles and development to understand how clients’ families affect their mental health and address issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, addiction and substance abuse.

  • Projected growth: 13.9%
  • Average salary: $56,570
  • Education needed: Master’s degree

Health Care Social Workers

Health care social workers help clients understand their diagnosis and adjust their lifestyle, housing or health care. They can help people transition from the hospital back into their communities, provide information about home health care services and support groups, and work with doctors to understand the effects that disease and illness have with mental and emotional health. Health care social workers may also receive a specialization in geriatric social work, hospice and palliative care, or medical social work.

  • Projected growth: 11.1%
  • Average salary: $60,280
  • Education needed: Master’s degree

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients with mental illnesses or addictions. They provide information on services, such as support groups and 12-step programs, to help clients cope with their illness and are licensed clinical social workers who may perform some of the same tasks as health care social workers.

  • Projected growth: 11.1%
  • Average salary: $51,40
  • Education needed: Master’s degree

Sources: The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Hiring Guide for Small Business Owners

hiring sign in business window

Hiring employees is more than just a job ad and some interview questions. You’ll want to make sure that your future employees are being properly cared for according to federal and state laws. Here’s what you need to know:

Hire and pay employees

Before finding the right person for the job, you’ll need to create a plan for paying employees. Follow these steps to set up payroll:

  • Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Find out whether you need state or local tax IDs
  • Decide if you want an independent contractor or an employee
  • Ensure new employees return a completed W-4 form
  • Schedule pay periods to coordinate tax withholding for IRS
  • Create a compensation plan for holiday, vacation and leave
  • Choose an in-house or external service for administering payroll
  • Decide who will manage your payroll system
  • Know which records must stay on file and for how long
  • Report payroll taxes as needed on a quarterly and annual basis

The IRS maintains the employer’s tax guide, which provides guidance on all federal tax filing requirements that could apply to your small business. Check with your state tax agency for employer filing stipulations. 

File taxes with employees or independent contractors

Distinguishing between employees and independent contractors can impact your bottom line, or your total revenue once expenses have been deducted. Your bottom line ultimately impacts how you withhold taxes and helps you stay legally compliant during tax season. Learn the differences before hiring your first employee.

An independent contractor operates under a separate business name from your company and invoices for the work they’ve completed. Independent contractors can sometimes qualify as employees in a legal sense. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guide breaks things down so you can make a more informed decision.

If your contractor is discovered to meet the legal definition of employee, you may need to pay back taxes and penalties, provide benefits and reimburse wages stipulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Plan to offer employee benefits

Health care and other benefits play a significant role in hiring and retaining employees. Some employee benefits are required by law, but others are optional. Required employee benefits include:

  • Social Security taxes: Employers must pay Social Security taxes at the same rate as their employees.
  • Workers’ Compensation: Required through a commercial carrier, self-insured basis or state workers’ compensation program.
  • Disability Insurance: Disability pay is required in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.
  • Leave benefits: Most leave benefits are optional outside those stipulated in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Unemployment insurance: Varies by state, and you may need to register with your state workforce agency.

Optional employee benefits

Your small businesses can offer a complete range of optional benefits to help attract and retain employees. Even if a benefit you offer is optional, it might still have to comply with certain laws if you choose to offer it.

Businesses that offer group health plans must comply with federal laws. You can read more about those laws in the Department of Labor’s advisory guide.

Employees can expand coverage through the Affordable Care Act and some may qualify for benefits via the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Businesses must extend the option of COBRA benefits to employees who are terminated or laid off. For more information and resources to help small businesses make decisions about health insurance coverage, visit HealthCare.gov.

Retirement plans are a very popular employee benefit. Consider offering an employer-sponsored plan like a 401k or a pension plan. The federal government offers a wide range of resources to aid small business owners in choosing their retirement plan and pension.

Employee incentive programs

Employee incentive programs can boost morale and create more draw for open positions. Common incentives include stock options, flex time, wellness programs, corporate memberships and company events.

If your budget allows, you may want to consider investing in benefits administration software to make your accounting process easier and more efficient. Detailing these benefits in the employee handbook helps your staff make decisions, and they can use it as a reference for workplace requirements. 

Follow federal and state labor laws

Protect workers’ rights and your business by adhering to labor laws, which means you must ensure that business practices align with industry regulations.

This includes learning applicable laws for hiring veterans, foreign workers, household employees, child labor and people with disabilities, among others groups. You must also comply when terminating an employee, laying off workers or downsizing the company.

Consult the Department of Labor’s federal and state law resources for more information.

Source: Small Business Administration

NVBDC Conference Elevates Businesses

NVBDC Conference Elevates Businesses collage of attendees

Another year is in the books for the annual NVBDC Reserving Veteran Business Connections Conference, a collaborative effort held in partnership with the prestigious Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The Reserving Veteran Business Connections event is designed to foster connections and opportunities for veteran business owners and showcase networking and collaboration’s power in driving economic growth and diversity for NVBDC-certified service-disabled and veteran-owned businesses.

Attendees had the opportunity to connect, learn and propel their veteran-owned business to new heights by engaging with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the state of Michigan’s Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the Small Business Association (SBA), Toyota, Rocket Companies, Kohler, Flagstar Bank, Comerica Bank, Tenneco, Stellantis, DTE, Freddie Mac, Cornerstone Consulting Organization LLC (CCO), Consumers Energy and Dell.

The 1:1 matchmaking sessions were the event’s highlight. They enabled veteran business owners to interact with supplier diversity professionals and transition from relationship building to contracts with NVBDC corporate members.

Keith King
Keith King
From Left to right: Chris Sim, Keith King, Leonie Teichman
From Left to right: Chris Sim, Keith King, Leonie Teichman
From Left to right: Mark Hands, Genevieve Hayes, Keith King
From Left to right: Mark Hands, Genevieve Hayes, Keith King
From Left to right: Mark Hands, Dr. Fred McKinney, Keith King
From Left to right: Mark Hands, Dr. Fred McKinney, Keith King
From Left to right: Mark Hands, Sheila Harton Montgomery, Teresa LeFevre, Keith King, Cameron Boli
From Left to right: Mark Hands, Sheila Harton Montgomery, Teresa LeFevre, Keith King, Cameron Boli
From Left to right : Leonie Teichman, Keith King, Mark Hands, Dr. Fred McKinney, John Taylor, Annette Stevenson
From Left to right : Leonie Teichman, Keith King, Mark Hands, Dr. Fred McKinney, John Taylor, Annette Stevenson
From Left to right: Mark Hands, Dr. Fred McKinney, John Taylor
From Left to right: Mark Hands, Dr. Fred McKinney, John Taylor

Conference attendees heard from a renowned economist, academic leader and advocate, Dr. Fred McKinney, who presented on Revitalizing Supplier Diversity Opportunities and Challenges. Moreover, attendees also had the opportunity to hear from supplier diversity professionals who provided insights into procurement opportunities, financing strategies and best practices for business growth.

The seventh annual NVBDC-Federal Reserve Matchmaking Conference leaves a trail of educated, inspired and motivated veteran entrepreneurs armed with insights, connections and strategies to elevate their businesses to new heights.

We invite you to register for our upcoming National Veteran Business Matchmaking Conference to be held live in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 8-9, 2023, by visiting NVBDC.ORG/EVENTS.

Photo credit: NVBDC Staff

How the DoD is Teaming Up with Small Businesses

Successful businessman clarifying provisions of contract with business partner, discussing terms of agreement, explaining strategy or financial plan

By C. Todd Lopez

The Defense Department’s Office of Small Business Programs has several efforts underway to make it easier for the U.S. small business community to become more involved in providing goods, services, technology and research to support our nation’s defense.

At the Professional Services Council in Arlington, Virginia, Farooq A. Mitha, the director of the Office of Small Business Programs, spoke to representatives of small businesses about his office’s most recent efforts, including the department’s newly released Small Business Strategy.

About 96% of the department’s Procurement Technical Assistance Centers have been rebranded as APEX Accelerators in the past few months. Those APEX Accelerators have an enhanced mission of helping existing and new businesses strengthen the defense industrial base by accelerating innovation, fostering ingenuity and establishing resilient and diverse supply chains.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of market research using these entities,” Mitha said. “We’re going to connect them closer to our other prime contractors that are looking for subcontractors to be part of their supply chains.”

The APEX Accelerators will also do more training with small businesses on issues related to cybersecurity and foreign ownership, control or influence that might affect their ability to work with the federal government. Efforts are also underway to reinvigorate the Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF), which hasn’t been funded since 2019. That program was designed to help small businesses get their technology from the prototype stage to the production stage—a period when many companies fail, commonly called “the valley of death.”

“We’ve gone four years without money into this program,” Mitha noted. “That is a big, big problem at a time when we’re spending more dollars doing prototyping. We need to support more companies to go into production and transition their technologies.”

The RIF will support streamlining entry points into the defense marketplace for small companies and enable better long-term planning for small business programs. Recently, Mitha advocated for the permanency of the Mentor Protégé Program (MPP)—a pilot for over 30 years. This led to Congress making MPP permanent in the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

Additionally, two new programs have been implemented under Mitha’s leadership: The Small Business Integration Group and a new credential with the Defense Acquisition University (DAU).

The Small Business Integration Group, under Mitha’s leadership, will include services, the defense agency, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the industrial base and small business stakeholders. This group will work together to form a stronger industry and communicate the needs amongst departments in a more organized fashion.

The DAU will also offer a new credential that will help anyone in the acquisition workforce earn their small business credential. Mitha says of the program, “We’ve now established common courses, curriculum and training for all these professionals. But we’ve made it a credential, not a career field. So, what that means is that anybody in the acquisition workforce can get the small business credential.”

Mitha said he expects more instructors and capacity will be needed to help the thousands of acquisition professionals across the department who may want to get the small business credential.

For more information on how the Office of Small Business Programs and the Department of Defense can help your business ventures, visit va.gov/osdbu.

Source: Department of Defense

Mental Health Support on the Job: Reasonable Accommodations

Wellbeing at work showing on a keyboard

When you think of work accommodations for someone with a disability, you may immediately think of people with physical disabilities, such as those with mobility issues, hearing impairments or blindness. But did you know there are many possible accommodations for employees who have a mental illness?

What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Equal opportunity allows a person to attain the same level of performance or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.

Examples can include:

A flexible schedule
An accommodation might include a request to work a specific time shift. For example, if you’re more mentally alert and sharp during the day, you can ask to be scheduled for a day shift instead of a night shift. Another area of flexibility can include the timing of your commute to work. If driving or using public transportation during heavy daytime traffic causes anxiety or even panic attacks, you can inquire about going in for a nighttime shift when the roads are less busy. You may also be able to request that breaks during your shift be adjusted. After working for a while, you may find that one long break works better for you than several short ones.

Communication preferences
If you have problems understanding when your supervisor gives you instructions, it’s a good idea to share what communication style works best for you. If you retain written instructions better than verbal ones, ask your boss to give instructions by email or on paper. This could make a big difference in your everyday tasks. Or, if you are in a meeting, but the presenter often speaks very quickly, have a conversation with your supervisor and ask if you can record meetings. This allows you to listen later at your own pace and take notes.

A private workspace
Working in a noisy, open area can make it hard to concentrate. If you’re unable to focus on your work, ask about a quiet workspace. There might be a conference room that’s not in use or a quiet corner to work in. Ask if there is an available office for you to work in that will create a calm environment. If you already have an office, but there’s an “open door” policy and noise in the hallway, ask if you can close your door. You could also ask for permission to wear noise-canceling headphones.

A job coach
A job coach can be with you at work to help you learn the job’s responsibilities, explore other helpful accommodations and reduce anxiety. This person can closely monitor your progress and assist along the way as you learn tasks and start doing projects with co-workers. A job coach can join you at meetings to ensure you understand the main points and complete any work you’re assigned. This one-on-one help at work can positively impact your job performance and confidence. As with any accommodation, your employer will review the approval for a job coach on a case-by-case basis.

Source: Ticket to Work

Employers Need Veterans in the Workforce

Larry Broughton in black suit seated

Veterans may find it challenging to move from a military career to the civilian workforce, but don’t despair! Our country’s employers and civilian workforce need veterans now, more than ever. The unique skill set, discipline and knowledge of military veterans are highly valued by employers in a wide range of industries.

Ask any entrepreneur, business owner, hiring manager or talent acquisition professional about the top characteristics they seek in candidates when recruiting for key positions in their organization, and you’ll find some variation of the following:


Among military veterans’ most significant assets are their exceptional leadership and teamwork skills. If you’ve spent more than a year in any military branch, you’ve likely had direct experience (however small) leading, as well as following, and seen firsthand the power of high-performing teams. Candidates who possess the ability to effectively work on a team are highly valued by employers because they promote collaboration, productivity and a positive work environment. Veterans usually honed their leadership skills in high-stress situations where they were responsible for managing teams and rendering key decisions under challenging circumstances.

The leadership structure among both the conventional and the Special Operations communities teaches discipline, accountability and a strong feeling of duty. These characteristics enable members to take the initiative, inspire
and motivate others, and coordinate efforts to achieve key objectives. Additionally, veterans tend to be excellent communicators who can give directions clearly, distribute tasks effectively and interact with coworkers through active listening.

Veterans who can blend into a civilian workforce by shedding the hard-edged, command-and-control style of communication (i.e., “do so because I said so”) may help businesses looking for strong leaders who can inspire and guide their teams to success because these traits are highly valued in any professional setting.


These skills are critical in the military environment and are highly transferable to the workforce in the civilian sector. Most employers are aware that veterans have handled a wide range of situations, frequently in challenging and constantly changing settings. Through this exposure, they develop the abilities needed to handle uncertainty, accept change and remain composed in stressful situations.

Most veterans are accustomed to integrating themselves into new environments, cultures and technology developments. Thanks to their strong work ethic and quick learning curve, they succeed in challenging job conditions. People who make an effort to fit into their company’s culture and take the initiative to learn new tasks and skills are rewarded by competent employers.

Because of their resilience, veterans may also persevere in the face of business adversity, bounce back from setbacks and maintain a positive view even under tough situations. These qualities make them valuable assets in any industry where resiliency and adaptability are prerequisites.


Employers place a high value on employees and team members who can think critically and solve problems. Because of their experience, education and training, veterans usually possess exceptional analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to quickly analyze hazards, establish effective strategies and make decisions based on limited information. Veterans excel at scenario analysis, risk assessment and solution formulation, making them stand out in the civilian workforce. Their knowledge of recognizing and lowering risks, executing well-thought-out plans and adapting strategies (when necessary) has given them a unique perspective.

Employers go to great lengths to recruit team members who can effectively identify issues, provide solutions, enhance processes and assist in the growth and success of the company. Businesses strongly value the special skill set that veterans who are transitioning from the military to the civilian economy possess. Because of their aptitude for leadership and teamwork, flexibility and resilience, as well as their capacity for problem-solving and analytical thinking, they are highly sought after in most industries.

Savvy employers recognize the benefits of integrating veterans’ experiences into their workforces and are conscious of the unique abilities that veterans possess. To maximize chances of securing a career in the civilian workforce, veterans should focus on exhibiting these qualities when looking for employment. I encourage veterans to find ways to explain situations and circumstances in which they have demonstrated flexibility, emphasized their problem-solving abilities and highlighted their leadership duties. During the initial military-to-civilian workforce transition (and throughout their civilian career), vets should search for networks of support and resources that are appropriate for their needs, including career counseling services, networking events and mentorship programs.

By recognizing and making use of their skills, military veterans can successfully transition into the civilian workforce. If you’re a civilian business owner or employer seeking resilient, highperforming, goal-oriented, problem-solving leaders and team members, I urge you to consider hiring a veteran.

If you’re a veteran, it’s time to lean into your spirit of service and help these employers grow their teams and organizations.

Now, go do something significant today!

Larry Broughton is a former U.S. Army Green Beret, bestselling author, award-winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker and leadership business mentor.


Your Next Mission (Critical)

man holding laptop in data center setting

By Carrie Goetz

Many veterans may not be exposed to the mission critical industry—aka—the data center industry. Veterans serving on the IT side will undoubtedly understand the concept of a data center. For those that didn’t serve in the technology sectors, don’t think this industry is not for you. As a brief explanation, the mission critical industry is responsible for constructing, operating and maintaining data centers. By way of explanation, every known digitally documented thing “lives” in at least one data center. Every bit, every byte, every conversation and even transitory data will have some stint in a data center.

According to Arizton, the global data center market is set to reach 288.3 billion by 2027, up from 215.8 billion in 2021. Plainly put, the industry is not going away. The depth and breadth of jobs within the industry are vast. While some veterans will have directly transferable skills, other skills map well to skills needed to fill the over 300,000 open jobs requiring people over the next couple of years. The industry is a bit of an enigma for those without an IT background. At a recent Heroes in Transition event in San Diego, the overall theme was to show transitioning Soldiers some of the industry’s opportunities and the purpose surrounding the industry.

As we discuss the industry, let’s tie this back to the “every known digitally documented thing” statement above. That one sentence discusses the need for diversity within the industry. If everyone’s data is in them, shouldn’t everyone be represented in the industry that supports that data? The need for TRUE diversity is vital. We haven’t reached gender parity (not even close). We aren’t in every country on the planet. We don’t represent everyone yet. But we do have jobs for every background, skill level and education level. In fact, the majority of the positions within the industry are learned on the job. Veterans are in great demand.

Site Selection

Building a data center starts with site selection. Telecommunications, power and latency are the prime considerations for the site. Not that these necessarily need to be in place, but the ability to get them to the site is critical. Envision a piece of land somewhere. Everything you can imagine that needs to be at a home site is required here, at a much grander scale. Site selection involves real estate, logistics and liaising with telecommunications carriers, power companies, municipalities and the state or country. These jobs exist with all data centers, and many cities with large data center allies have their own liaisons, too.

Construction and Build

Careers in construction and building design are private commercial versions relatable to anyone in construction from the military. Jobs range from engineering and drafting to hands-on trades. In fact, we owe the trades everything! If it weren’t for the trades, nothing would be built. There are many construction firms out there that specialize in mission critical buildings. Some are design-build, and some are just construction. Some larger colocation (colo) data center builders that lease space have in-house construction arms. While others rely solely on contractors. Regardless, the building, power, cooling, telecommunications, generation, electricians, plumbers, masons, carpenters and heavy machine operators are just a few of the skills in demand for construction.

It’s Built, Now What?

Once constructed, the building becomes an ecosystem supporting information technology and systems within the space. Every single thing that gets installed must be maintained within the ecosystem. The information technology systems also must be installed, maintained and at some point, replaced. Many jobs in operations lend well to skills obtained in the service. Operations personnel must think fast on their feet and react calmly to find a solution. And while you may be thinking, “I don’t understand the ecosystem,” there are books to help and certifications that will fill in your skills gap. In fact, many college-trained individuals get the exact same certifications to learn to support the data center.

Operations jobs can be chaotic, so if you thrive on chaos, operations could be right up your alley. If you don’t thrive on chaos or have had enough, thousands of jobs in and around the industry support operations without the frenzied pace.  Vendor companies need sales, systems engineers, designers and customer service personnel. Human resources, marketing, accounting and logistics are also in demand.

Where’s the Purpose?

The purpose is yours for the taking. Whether you find purpose in helping others or being a guardian within the industry, there are plenty of ways to gain fulfillment. For those in the military that crave working as a team, this entire industry is a team. People here are helpful. This industry is one of the most extensive ongoing apprenticeships ever. People learn from each other. We need diversity to keep groupthink in check and ensure that our platforms are kind, serve all and, most importantly, are safe.

The stark reality is that the internet isn’t completely safe. Our children are not inherently safe on the internet. We simply can’t assume it’s always someone else’s job to foster safety. But then, veterans don’t. Veterans have stepped up and shown character through their service. We need these guardians in our industry, from construction to the cloud and everything in between.  If travel is a passion, many of these jobs lead you around the globe. Want to be a homebody? These jobs are everywhere. You probably look at data centers every day and don’t even realize it. Most every company either has one or uses one someone else runs. The cloud is technically a data center that provides services to users.

If you are transitioning or a prior service member, rest assured you are in demand. Training is available. Organizations such as Salute Mission Critical, Overwatch, iMasons and others will help you find your path. I, too, am happy to help and make introductions. Lastly, thank you for your service. We are all in your debt. It’s time to pay it forward, and our industry is working to do just that!

Carrie Goetz is an Amazon best selling author of Jumpstart Your Career in Data Centers and associated educator’s reference with an extensive career in the data center industry. She is published in 69 countries. She is the inaugural AFCOM/ Data Center World Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, 2023 Top 25 Women in Mission Critical and 2023 ICT Woman of the Year recipient.

Leading by Example Means Failing by Example

professional man in suit speaking at podium

By Brent Yeagy
Wabash CEO on Redefining Failure and Embracing Setbacks

Failure. No one likes it; no one wants to experience it, yet, no one is immune from it.

For leaders, admitting failure can be extremely difficult if they’ve bought into the fallacy that leaders should have all the answers, always be right and be infallible in their decision-making.

That kind of leadership is not going to get you very far. As leaders, our visions and dreams of what is possible should be big. We must lay out the strategies and pathways to make them real and actionable. If we are pushing ourselves and our organizations to change for the better, setbacks, obstacles and failures are to be expected.

To quote Henry Ford, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

We must accept that acting on a vision of purposeful change is a messy place. Instead of having the right answers, leaders should bring optimism to fuel the dream and skepticism to drive the deliberate process of experimentation, or trial and error, that helps us—and others— find the path to success.

I’ve experienced my fair share of failures.

In college, I walked onto the Purdue University football team after turning down an Air Force Academy appointment, only to face a career-ending injury shortly thereafter. I also changed my major four times during my first four semesters and dropped out of school twice. When beginning my job search after college, I submitted dozens of cover letters that went unanswered. During my first interview, the hiring manager told me, “You don’t have the attitude of a leader.”

What I didn’t know at the time was that all these setbacks were setting me on a different path to success. Although each one hurt in the moment, I had the tenacity to keep going and the growth mindset to learn something from each experience.

After dropping out of Purdue for the first time, I joined the U.S. Navy and went on to become a nuclear plant engineering officer. Following my service, I re-enrolled at Purdue, where I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I decided to continue my education at Purdue after getting accepted into a PhD program but later dropped out a second time to pursue an opportunity to serve as a manufacturing leader at Wabash, which led to my current role as president and chief executive officer of the company.

Had I let my failures define me and stop my journey, I would not be in the position I am in today. That’s why we must redefine failure instead of letting it define us. Failing means choosing to take on a challenge outside of your comfort zone and embracing the uncertainty that comes with it.

The best leaders understand that failure is not a reflection of them or their team but simply the result of a process followed, and an idea explored. They seek to understand the types of failure involved and the mechanisms that led to the undesirable outcome for learning purposes.

When we view failure through a lens of discovery and objectivity, we’re able to separate emotion and personal biases from the outcome. And that’s what keeps us grounded in the purpose, vision and optimism that allows for constructive learning.

Whether you’re navigating a personal life change, taking a business risk or leading a team through uncharted territory, it’s important to recognize that failure is a required output of growth. The sooner you’re able to embrace setbacks as an opportunity to improve, the more prepared you will be to lead yourself and others through the uncertainty of failure to achieve success.

Connecting Military Service and Agriculture

Husband and wife holding baby pose in an agriculture setting

By The U.S. Department of Agriculture

It is not every day that you meet a real hero—someone who shows great courage coupled with patriotism. If you were lucky enough to work for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in New Jersey, then you would look no further than Robert “Bob” Andrzejczak. A Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor recipient, he exemplifies all the attributes of a military hero, although you would never hear him say so.

Andrzejczak is a loving husband to his wife Trisha and a devoted father of two, who served two tours in the Army in Iraq and seven years in the New Jersey legislature. Today, as the State Executive Director for FSA, a presidential appointment, he leads a group of 37 USDA employees. He and his team support production agriculture in New Jersey by administering an extensive portfolio of federal farm programs. These programs help agricultural producers access capital, recover from natural disasters and manage commodity market volatilities.

How does a military hero become a USDA leader? For Andrzejczak, the journey has been a winding path fraught with adversity. His hard work, dedication and sense of duty led him to where he is today. Andrzejczak’s values are common attributes of military service personnel and also synonymous with farming, ranching and rural America, making a career with USDA or in the agriculture sector a natural fit.

A Seed Planted

Andrzejczak’s Garden State roots run deep. He was raised in rural Cape May, New Jersey, a town that places value on family, good friends and the importance of agriculture to the community. Andrzejczak recalls, “Growing up, my grandparents lived next to a lima bean field, and I remember being fascinated watching the beans grow, and then harvested, each summer.”

As a teenager, Andrzejczak worked as a laborer on a small specialty crop operation in his hometown. “I have a vivid memory of busheling sweet corn as the sun was rising over the fields.” During those long days, working for hours in the sweltering sun, he developed a deep appreciation for farmers and agriculture. Little did he know then that, years later, this appreciation of agriculture would lead him to a successful career with USDA.

Into the Fray

After graduating from high school and starting college, Andrzejczak felt a call to serve. In 2005, he joined the Army as an infantryman and attended basic training. After basic training, he was stationed in Hawaii for six months before his first tour in Iraq. “During that first tour, it was just non-stop action,” Andrzejczak explained. “We were working out of Hawija. It was a constant barrage of attacks, and we lost a lot of really good guys during that time.”

His second tour seemed relatively calm. All that changed during a patrol on January 7, 2009, when a grenade exploded and ripped through Andrzejczak’s truck. Although he’d experienced combat before and was injured in previous missions, Andrzejczak realized immediately this was different. “The pain I felt was like nothing I experienced before. At one point, I looked down and knew my leg was gone.” Had it not been for his fellow Soldiers applying a tourniquet and helping him reach medics, Andrzejczak’s outcome would be different.

Recovery on the Homefront

Andrzejczak spent two months undergoing surgeries that would save his life. Once stable, he was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for continued treatment and physical therapy. He spent two years at Walter Reed under the care of the nation’s best physicians, nurses and physical and occupational therapists.

Volunteerism and Political Service

“As soon as I was able, I started volunteering with different veteran organizations. I joined the VFW and DAV, helping whenever and wherever I could,” Andrzejczak explained. Giving back and getting involved set him apart, and eventually, his work was noticed by local political leaders.

Ultimately, Andrzejczak served six years in the New Jersey General Assembly as Chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and as the New Jersey representative on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the Council of State Governments. “We constantly visited farms to figure out what the needs of the agricultural community were. During my time in office, we made some huge improvements in agriculture for New Jersey.”

In Feb. 2022, the Biden-Harris administration appointed Andrzejczak to the position of FSA State Executive Director, and he immediately jumped back in with the members of the agricultural community. Andrzejczak explains, “For farmers to put their trust in me and want me in this role is very humbling, it drives me to do the best job I can do.”

Preparing for a Career with USDA

When asked how his military career prepared him for his USDA career, Andrzejczak explained, “Going through what I have, nearly dying, gives a unique perspective and a different view on life. Many times, the things we see as big problems or issues, unless they are life-threatening, are not. I bring that mentality into my everyday decision-making and look at everything from a logical versus an emotional standpoint. This is one of the greatest attributes my military experience and training gave me—preparing me to lead by example and choose a positive perspective.”

He continued, “I bring to my position as FSA State Executive Director a compassion for farmers and for the USDA employees who work alongside me. In the military, you have leaders who lead by example and those who lead through fear. I learned early on that leading with compassion is my leadership style.”

For those transitioning to a new career after military service, Andrzejczak offers some advice, “One of the things you learn in the military is you can do anything. I feel sometimes, when you get out of the military and you’re no longer in that environment, you forget. I believe the only real limitations we have are the ones we put on ourselves. I think veterans really need to remember that you can do anything if you put your heart and mind to it and have the determination to see it to the end.

“If your dream is starting your own farm or gaining the confidence to take over the family farm, those are big steps in life. USDA has programs that can help you take the leap into production agriculture. The resources USDA offers mean you are not alone—we guide you along the way.

“Starting or working on a farm or ranch is not a path for everyone, but USDA offers many job opportunities, from engineers to procurement officers. There is a place for everyone. Many programs are designed to assist veterans transitioning to their next career. Remember, you cannot accomplish anything if you don’t take those first steps. USDA stands ready to help you transition to a civilian career.

“Statistics show military recruits disproportionately come from rural and suburban areas, but the opportunities in agriculture—rural and urban—are endless. No matter where you land in your civilian life, a promising future in agriculture awaits. I encourage veterans to consider a career in agriculture and think of it as continued service to our country because food security in the U.S. ensures national security. And, like the military, agriculture is not only a livelihood but also a rewarding way of life.”

USDA Resources for Veterans

USDA is committed to working with our nation’s military veterans as they become involved in agriculture. To begin your journey in agriculture, visit usda.gov/our-agency/initiatives/veterans. You will find a comprehensive look at USDA programs available specifically for veterans.

Each state has a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher (BFR) Coordinator who can answer questions and provide information specific to your state. Your state’s BFR coordinator can be found at farmers.gov.

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