I value the contributions of founders of every background. Women, people of color, and people living with disabilities -- the business owners I call the "New Majority"-- all have steeper hills to climb to success. However, they tend to be as or more successful than most founders. That's why I started my digital platform, Alice, to help these entrepreneurs reach the achievements they deserve. As the daughter of a veteran, military-affiliated business owners are especially close to my heart.
My father Michael McKee is a CEO and an Air Force veteran. He's built a long career helping people make job transitions, including going from the military to civilian life. There are big names in business with military backgrounds too, like Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, who served in the army. Esurance founder Chuck Wallace was an Air Force pilot. Phyllis Newhouse of Xtreme Solutions? She was an army officer.
Earlier this month, to celebrate National Veterans Small Business Week, I attended Business Beyond the Battlefield, an event in Arlington, Texas devoted to veteran entrepreneurship. Here's what I learned from the veterans I met.
Truth Over Artificial Harmony
One of the highlights of Business Beyond the Battlefield was a talk by James D. Murphy, CEO of Afterburner, a business consulting firm that uses military professionals to counsel businesses in more than 26 countries. He's been on the Inc. 5000 list nine times, so apparently, he's doing something very right.
"What you did in the military was great," Murphy said. "What you're doing now is more important. We need your integrity in the business world." That means having difficult conversations and being honest with your team about your needs.
How do you do it? By clearly defining goals and being in alignment with your whole operation. In fact, the most obvious similarity between business and the military is bringing together a group to fight as one for a better destiny. It's about building a team that will put their necks out for you when the going gets tough.
There's a Lot of Good News
Chris Pilkerton, acting administrator of the United States Small Business Administration, reported in his talk that the unemployment rate among veterans hit a record low this year. Part of that is because vets are striking out on their own. Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than lifelong civilians.
Pilkerton said that that number owes to some of the big companies mentioned above, but also from small startups. Veterans are organized, tactical, and not afraid to take a risk-- all they need is a little support to do big things.
No Matter What Your Challenges Are, You Have an Advantage
I got to talk to veterans from every branch of the military and every walk of life at Business Beyond the Battlefield. I was particularly touched to get to know one young man who attended a talk that I gave on the subject of using AI in your business. He was not only a vet, but lives with Asperger Syndrome. He's using every resource he can to pave the way to help his business succeed, including connecting with me and asking some great questions.
It made me think about the fact that while we all have advantages that can help propel us in our businesses, we also have hurdles to overcome. But there are resources and people out there to help make your entrepreneurial journey easier.
And to all of you men and women who have served or are currently serving-- I salute you. (Especially you, Daddy.)