Think about the people who have served in the military and the sacrifices they have made for their country. They typically personify admirable traits that make them assets to society. In addition, their training enables them to achieve great things in business. Take former lieutenant Bill O'Hara who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2006. He says being a veteran has been invaluable to his role as a startup founder at KlowdTV, a service that streams cable TV channels directly to cord-cutters. Here are the lessons he says he has learned from being a veteran. 

1. Your mission trumps all.

Many startups begin with merely a vague idea about making something cool.  Veterans understand that guiding principles and an overall goal are crucial.  Only in a true pivot is there any real deviation.

2. Focus is incredibly important in the fast-paced world of startups.

The "good idea fairy" can be a fatal distraction to actually shipping the product you're creating.  The military breeds discipline--from early morning workouts to a single-minded devotion to the mission.

3. Structure will help you overcome challenges.

People look at the military as having a rigid structure, in contrast to the dynamic environment of a startup. But the military focuses on operational structure exactly because so much of its work occurs in dynamic environments. Just like a startup, every day is a new challenge, and structure is how you get through it.

4. Details matter.

The military teaches that details can mean the difference between life and death of troops. While the stakes aren't as high in the startup world, details can certainly be the difference between the life and death of your startup.

5. A commitment to honor will result in customers who trust your brand.

A simple white lie can lead to expulsion at a military service academy. Why?  Complete faith in one's word is absolutely required--anything else could result in a lost battle or needless death.  In the business context, customers will sniff out shifty practices and your company will suffer.

6. Reliability translates to customer retention.

Everything breaks.  But when lives are potentially on the line, a lot of thought and effort are put into how to mitigate and promptly recover from any failure. Many startups focus simply on shipping the product when sustainability of operations is equally important.

Published on: Nov 11, 2015
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