Entrepreneurship is like a battlefield, and U.S. military veterans are uniquely qualified to succeed. That was the message yesterday at the 2012 Inc. 5000 conference in Phoenix. At an event co-hosted by Inc. and the Pat Tillman Foundation, Inc. 5000 CEOs gathered to mentor veterans and military spouses who are launching their own companies. Here are five lessons veterans learned at the event:
1. Set a clear direction.
Veterans are exceptionally talented at leading teams and fostering cooperation in their companies, said Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Just like on the battlefield, it’s important to let the team know your ultimate goals and where you want to go, not just what you want them to do.
2. Follow your passion.
A goal of "making money" or "creating a $20 million business" isn’t enough to inspire you or your team, said Sinek. Focus on a passionate goal that everyone can rally around.
3. Learn to adapt.
Brent Gleeson, co-founder of Internet Marketing and a Navy Seal combat veteran, compared running a business to the Navy Seal capture or kill missions in Baghdad. Like on the battlefield, business owners need to recognize when tactics aren’t working and switch gears.
4. Have extra cash on hand.
Gleeson told a story about having to pay his way out of trouble when he and his team were captured by pirates in Somalia. In business, said Gleeson, he has also had to buy his way out of problems. So it’s important to have money saved for when things go wrong.
5. Create a life plan.
Whether you have a start-up or have been in business for decades, it’s important to have a life plan, said Inc. columnist and serial entrepreneur, Norm Brodsky. Write down your goals for five, 10, or 15 years. If your business goals conflict with your life goals, you may need to make some changes.