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TRANSITION GUIDE


istration — and they have an immense impact on the U.S. economy. The most recent data reveal there is one veteran-owned firm for every 10 veterans. Veteran-owned businesses employ 5.8 million individuals. But getting started after a successful military


V


career might present challenges many veterans are not anticipating, says Emily McMahan, exec- utive director of Capitol Post, a nonprofi t in the Washington, D.C., area that helps veterans with entrepreneurship. “In the military, you’re not really taught to


fail. Failure is not necessarily applauded or en- couraged,” McMahan says. “When you get into a startup and realize that you very likely are not going to succeed immediately, that’s the learning point. How quickly do you turn the feedback? It’s a process that is important. ... Ultimately, what counts is: How fast can you turn the process of failure into what drives people to succeed?” Success is within reach, though. Here are


seven tips for starting your own business from offi cers who’ve done it.


1


PLAN AHEAD “I used the military’s transition program and took all the courses they had, but I kept com- ing back to their Boots to Business Course. … I started taking the courses one year out. I had a separate planner for my transition,” says Lt. Col. Jenifer Breaux, USA (Ret), who owns a Dream Vacations franchise in Lithia, Fla. “When I de- cided that I wanted to own my own franchise, I took Boots to Business a second time and picked up additional tips. I was more focused because I made my decision.”


44 | MILITARY OFFICER | January 2018


eterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than nonveterans, ac- cording to the Small Business Admin-


‘We plan everything in the military — why not with your business? Make a transition plan and include in it how and when your business will launch. Include details of where and how.’


— Lt. Col.


Jenifer Breaux, USA (Ret)


She made a checklist and a plan. “We plan everything in the military — why not


with your business? Make a transition plan and include in it how and when your business will launch. Include details of where and how.”


2


KEEP LEARNING McMahan cut her teeth at defense contractor Halfaker & Associates from 2008 to 2013 before becoming the executive director of Capitol Post. A former Army captain and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, McMahan advised about 90 companies in 2017, plus dozens of other veterans who have sought guidance. Many lack focus, even if they think they have a great business idea. She suggests they get some experience in a real busi- ness fi rst — just as she did. “I think having worked for Dawn [Halfaker],


that’s the reason why I’m in this role,” she says. “I’ve seen someone who started a company and have seen her experience and my own.”


3


FIND A MENTOR You’ve taken orders from military leadership your entire career. Even though you’re going into busi- ness for yourself, Breaux recommends relying on the expertise and knowledge of civilian business experts. “You can fi nd them at the Small Business Asso-


ciation, your local chamber [of commerce], etcet- era. Look for them and use them. While [military offi cers] are used to public speaking and making slides, I did not know about a 30-second commer-


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