Lida Citroën, Author, Your Next Mission
Many veterans leaving military service go straight into government jobs, professional careers on Wall Street or Main Street, or work in trade jobs such as construction or manufacturing; however, many former military personnel are drawn to more risky and exciting options such as entrepreneurship.
To many veterans, self-employment represents being in charge of your future, having control over your livelihood, and “eating what you hunt,” so to speak. For other veterans, entrepreneurship represents an opportunity to take an idea, vision, or product and bring it to life. These former service men and women see entrepreneurship as a path to making something real that they may have only dreamed about.
Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs
The military does a great job of training individuals for careers as entrepreneurs—where their leadership, self-motivation, vision, and focus make them successful as business owners, product developers, and innovators. There are numerous studies and examples highlighting the many ways veterans are well suited for careers as entrepreneurs.
In 2012, a Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families study (“The Business Case for Hiring A Veteran. Beyond the Cliches”) noted that high-performing entrepreneurs and innovators tend to be successful in managing risk, identifying reward, and navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship because they possess a strong need for achievement and can make decisions in the face of high stress, dynamic environments. Successful entrepreneurs are comfortable with independence and autonomy as well. The study points out that military service instills characteristics consistent with successful entrepreneurs: high need for achievement, trust, strong comfort with autonomy, and dynamic decision-making processes.
Becoming an Entrepreneur
Whether the transition leads to corporate life or self-employment, here are some best practices for veterans making the transition:
- Understand your value proposition: Professionals live in the world of differentiation, value propositions, and competitive advantage. At all levels of the civilian work environment, individuals are embracing the power of personal branding to intentionally build a reputation for themselves that attracts opportunities. Focus on your personal brand–your reputation, what others use to assign you value and relevance. Your brand drives your value proposition.
- Identify your target audience: Understand your target audiences–from your employees to customers to investors–who do you want to work with and what do they need from you? It is important to identify your audience and their needs, because when you market and promote yourself and your business to them, their ability to identify with your value proposition and find your product/service relevant and compelling is why they will buy from you. In building your personal brand and the brand of your venture, you will realize that not everyone will find your offer attractive or will feel comfortable buying from you. Targeting those audiences who will find you relevant is critical and cuts down on your marketing efforts!
- Promote yourself with consistency and authenticity: Once you identify your offer and audience, you are in a position of strength to promote and market yourself and your business. Only then can you begin to create power and relevance in your brand. Every action you take as a business owner and entrepreneur (from posting on LinkedIn, to participating at trade shows and networking events, to presenting your business plan to investors) will require you to focus on the perception you want that audience to have of you; how do you want them to feel about you and your company/product/service? Each experience your consumers have with your company/product/service must consistently deliver on their beliefs and expectations of what you offer. Your audiences also need to know why this company/product/service is meaningful to you. Why did you go this path? How did your military service prepare you to be an entrepreneur? Why should I buy from you?
While there isn’t a manual showing veterans how to proceed through the fear, hope, risk, reward, and complexity of being an entrepreneur, there are rules, resources, and systems to understand the world of the entrepreneur. Beyond that, most entrepreneurs rely on gut instinct and the experiences of others who’ve gone before them.
About the Author
Lida Citroën is the author of Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition and Principal of LIDA360, a consulting firm that helps corporations and executives create effective market positioning through the use of brand strategies. She regularly presents at conferences, events and programs, teaching transitioning veterans how to understand their unique value and market them to future employers.
Citroën is an active member of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and works closely with General Peter Pace’s program in Philadelphia, Wall Street Warfighters Foundation (WSWF). For more information, please visit, www.yournextmissionbook.com and connect with her on twitter, @LIDA360.