In the news lately, we hear a lot about homeless veterans and unemployed veterans. With the military coming out of Iraq and many vets returning home, there is some concern that these will become bigger problems.
Where a lot of people see problems, I see opportunities. This issue hits very close to home for me, because I’ve got two boys that are still on active duty. Both of them are at Fort Bragg in the 82nd Airborne, and one of the things that concerns me is them coming back to a country that has less than stellar employment rates.
Whether you’re a parent, are serving active duty, or are just getting older and preparing for retirement, everybody across the country is hurting. This is even more so for veterans. I was recently reading about the higher levels of unemployment among veteran ranks and thinking how amazing that is, because these are folks with highly desirable skill sets. They have leadership skills, the ability to self-motivate and get things done, and the discipline that goes along with that. For employers and small businessmen like me, good self-discipline is probably one of the most important things in an employee. It’s also what I want from my whole team, and one of the reasons I created my company is to take advantage of the skills and talents that veterans and service-disabled vets have to offer.
Several weeks ago, I did a short interview with a New York Times reporter on that topic. We also talked about various things within the Texas community, which is my specific area, and I mentioned that our state’s legislature operates through a biannual system. Last year they were in session and this year they’re not. One of the things that’s important to folks that I associate with is having legislation that focuses on service-disabled veterans and veteran-owned businesses, and gives them the opportunity to gain state contracts under some form of state set-aside or spending goal. Unfortunately, that type of legislation didn’t make it to the floor during last year’s session, but we’ll work on it again next year.
One of the things that drives me to support this kind of legislation is the fact that if we create incentives for small businessmen to open up shop and put out a shingle here in the state of Texas, it will encourage people to create new companies within the state and go after state opportunities. Within the country, there are a number of states that have legislation that is favorable to service-disabled veterans and veteran-owned companies. California is one of the best, but others, like Maryland and Tennessee, have created very favorable contracting opportunities for veteran-owned businesses.
Our state has a very large veteran community, so this kind of legislation seems like a no-brainer, but like anything in politics, you have to work to get it passed. Doing that is something that I’m very interested in. It’s a fight that we’ve been fighting for years, and we’re going to keep going.
There are folks coming out of the military right now from a two-theater war, who are coming back to the United States and don’t have jobs to come back to. As a businessman, I have to create business and revenue so that I can hire more people. I wish I could hire everybody, but I can’t. To create jobs in a business society, you have to create value for customers. Until they’re paying you, you can’t create enough revenue to hire the next guy or gal.
For my company, it’s imperative to identify the right team members. I’ve set a goal of keeping my workforce 50% veteran, to help new vets coming back from combat re-integrate into society. We show them how to be a part of my team as a contractor, building contractor, or facility support services contractor. We teach them a trade or skill set beyond what they know from the military, create some value, and make some money. We’re in business to create opportunities that make more money.
A big part of deciding what you’re good at it, pursuing it, and making the cut is to continue with your education and never stop learning. I’ve always been an avid reader, and during my military career I read things that were relevant to what I did. As an infantryman, I read books on infantry, and when I changed over into the field of intelligence, I started to I read books about that. Along the way I started reading more history, which I love. I’ve read political history, a lot of military history, and lots of leadership books, which I feel are important. When I was in the military, I got into a position of leadership and wanted to be the best leader that I could be.
When I was getting ready to exit the military, I felt like I needed to learn what was out there and what I was going to do. My intent was to take over the family business and start growing it. I needed to learn business, so I started picking up books on marketing, sales, and HR, just to see what it would take to manage civilians instead of other soldiers. The steps were almost the same, but the culture was different. That taught me a lot, and now, as a businessman, I’m constantly reading something that I believe is going to help me grow my business.
One of the things that I’ve learned is that just about everything is about negotiation. If you go to a store to buy a TV, in essence you’re negotiating with the salesperson to find out what the best deal is. When you consider whether to go to Best Buy or Sears or another store, you’re trying to negotiate. In business, as a contractor, you’re always negotiating. I do a lot of reading about negotiation.
When you try to get something done and you need to propose something to gain some business, you’ve got to be able to develop a proposal. Writing a strong, cogent proposal is critical to your success if you’re selling something. I’ve created a lot of proposals that failed, and with good reason, because they were weak proposals. Learning how to improve these things is important, whether through trial and error, studying, or mentorship. Mentorship is another thing that I strongly believe in, both as something that we can do, and as something that other folks can do for us.
If you have more questions for me about how to support veterans and veteran-owned businesses, are a veteran who wants to work on personal development, or just want to chat about my blog…you can use the comment form or reach me through email at email@example.com. I may not get to you today, but promise I will respond to every email.