The United States Navy's Sea, Air and Land teams, known as the Navy SEALs are a special operations force recognized for small-unit military operations. They are an elite, highly trained (2.5 years before first deployment) group and considered the best of the best as the attrition rate from day one is estimated to be 80-90%.
Navy SEAL teams work in small groups and perform and execute missions based on extensive planning. We can only imagine the tasks these men execute over the course of their career.
But what happens post career? Is there a place in business as an entrepreneur?
The Honor Foundation was formed in 2013 to specifically address the transition of these military warriors into civilian life. This week I had the opportunity to speak about intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship to a cohort of 20 extraordinary men and women over the course of 2 days. My task, how do I inspire and inform a group of highly informed and inspirational people?
As I travel the country speaking about the decision to start a company (nor not) and the requisite mental, physical and financial preparation that must occur to insure a positive outcome, I typically talk about fear.
For startup founders fear can manifest itself in many different voices. Is my idea any good? Am I good enough to pull this off? What if I fail? Can I raise enough money to grow the company? Will anyone understand my vision? Will I ever have a paying customer?
The burden of starting and growing a company from a blank sheet of paper is immense. Every day there are hundreds of tasks to be prioritized and completed across all of the functions of a company (sales, product development, marketing, finance, legal to name a few). In my speeches, I feel my job is to provide the audience of startup dreamers a set of tools to combat startup fear so that they can identify the most critical tasks and push to the side those tasks irrelevant at this stage.
But fear has a completely different definition for these men. They have been trained to eliminate, reduce or compartmentalize their fear and obviously they are quite good at that. But, the big question is, will this translate to entrepreneurship for those interested in taking this path?
Though I don't know this as fact, my assumption is that most of them operate within the confines of a very small cadre of people where minimal communication is vital. As in you might die if not followed precisely. But this approach runs 180 degrees counter to what makes a great entrepreneur.
So I shared the one piece of business advice that every Navy SEAL should follow when transitioning out to our world: socialize their ideas without fear or inhibition. Ideas need to be free to roam where they need to go, not stuck inside your head getting planned out to the nth degree. Ideas need to be tested, modified, smoothed over and optimized for public consumption. There is no wiggle room here.
Trust us that we will serve your idea with the same level of commitment that you served us.