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From Boot Camp to Business: How Small Businesses Can Benefit From Veteran Employment

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Veteran's Day is a time to honor and praise those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. As our country takes the time to display our utmost respect, it is also a time to reflect on the important role veterans play in our recovering economy. But despite the desirable business characteristics they possess, the number of post 9/11 veterans unemployed in civilian life is now above the national average. It's time for businesses, small businesses in particular, to reassess the way they view veterans and the skills they have to offer.

As a business owner, I firmly believe that a veteran's worth stems far beyond the commitment and sacrifice they made in the name of our country. Serving in the military provides citizens with an unprecedented advantage in the business world. I would even argue that there are intangible skills learned in the military that a college degree cannot teach. The experience gained during the enlistment period, from the discipline learned at boot camp to living in a foreign environment, is beyond invaluable. It is experience that small businesses can benefit from tenfold if they understand how to harness this skillset effectively.

Working in a small business environment is a stark contrast to traditional corporate positions. Particularly with start-ups, small businesses rely heavily on the productivity of their employees, often having them take on multiple roles and juggling multiple tasks. In order to flourish in this kind of environment, employees must be able to jump in feet first and adapt to a constantly evolving environment.

There are several qualities that veterans possess that are both attractive and vital for small businesses. First and foremost is leadership, the obvious common thread tying together military veterans with the business. The ability to navigate a team through uncertainty in order to achieve success is a valuable commodity in any business, and it's a quality that vets typically possess in abundance.

Second is veteran's ability to adapt to an evolving environment. Small businesses, especially start-ups, are constantly changing. As the business grows, employees are often required to shift focus, take on new projects and juggle multiple roles. Adaptability is key to successful ventures. Veterans are trained to adapt quickly to changing environments, often ones they have no control over. This instinct to survive, or in the case of small business thrive, is a valuable characteristic veteran's offer.

In order to grow and thrive, small business owners must surround themselves with employees who are willing to invest themselves emotionally in the company vision and values and commit themselves fully to their "mission." This includes the day to day "small" projects to larger firm wide initiatives- all adding to the greater success of a business. Small businesses often go through long periods of trial-and-error. This is where veteran's ability to jump right in and get their hands dirty is most important. Having a "learn as you go" mentality is essential and a skill which many veterans gain through their experience in the armed services. Furthermore, the systematic approach to following process and procedures instilled by military training helps veterans learn and perform within a structured environment as well.

For these reasons, coupled with a deep respect for the sacrifices of all current and former members of the military, College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving has focused on providing substantial opportunities to military veterans through the VetFran Initiative, and why we exhibited at the National Veteran Small Business Conference this past summer. Like other businesses across the nation, we have made a commitment to hire veterans, and in fact just recently opened our third veteran-owned franchise location.

In hiring veterans, joining initiatives and utilizing veteran skillsets in the workplace, small business owners can do their part to help combat the overwhelming number of veterans who are currently out of work and simultaneously can make hiring decisions that will positively impact the growth of their business. Our business has reaped the benefits of hiring veteran employees, and the same can hold true for small business across the country. Veterans' work ethic, ability to think on their feet and to work as a team are some of the most essential component of a valuable employee. This Veteran's Day, we can go beyond reflecting on the importance of those who served our country, and we can honor them by better understanding their unique attributes to the workplace and working as a nation to get Veterans back in business.