I was recently introduced to a different breed of entrepreneur: veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These men have applied what they learned in battle to lead their small businesses. I've already used several lessons to help run my firm, Peppercomm. Check out these 13 tips from the front lines:
1.) Coordination. Every mission's success depended upon coordinating supporting teams to ensure they've provided everything from air support to medical assistance. The same holds true for start-ups: You must coordinate and continue discussions with investors, new hires and mentors who can provide guidance.
2.) Adapt, adjust and overcome. Building the right team on the front lines can make the difference between success and failure (and life or death). Recruiting top performers, and incentivizing them with equity or a generous commission, is essential. That said, some will fail. So, as we say in the military adapt, adjust and overcome. - Sean McIntosh, was a Navy Seal for 13 years and is founder of Valor Group.
3.) Troop leading procedures. The veteran soldier (and entrepreneur) must possess the ability to maintain command and control, provide guidance to subordinates, understand their abilities and zero in on details, timelines and execution throughout the course of a mission. We call this Troop Leading Procedures, and it's proven invaluable to me.
4.) Principles of patrolling. I've found the business landscape of competition, clients, marketing and technology to be just like a battlefield. The principles of patrolling: planning, reconnaissance, security, common sense and control provide me with a compass to navigate the grind of daily business. - Michael Woody, Infantry/Airborne Ranger with 21 years of active duty and CEO of JobAdvocate LLC
5.) FUBAR. Sometimes the best laid plans of military and civilian alike become F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition (aka FUBAR). The best teams are those that can recover and quickly regroup when everything goes FUBAR. I apply those lessons when, for example, a client might "blow-up" our best thought-out proposal. Even though it's FUBAR time, we keep our cool and respond accordingly.
6.) People follow leaders, not ranks. Rank demands deference while leaders earn respect. On my team, no one cares about my CEO title, I am not a rank. I'm a multiplying leader who sets the example and creates a culture in which everyone looks out for one another. - Christopher Diaz, Navy Petty Officer Second Class, who was responsible for providing medical care for his battalion of Marines. CEO of Serve1; Pat Tillman Scholar and PhD candidate, Drexel University.
7.) Lead by example. During my time at West Point, the phrase "lead by example" was drilled into me. One upper class cadet would drop and do push-ups right alongside a Plebe who was being punished. While I don't do push-ups at work, I do roll up my sleeves and set an example when resources are scarce.
8.) Expectancy theory (aka ET). Expectancy theory calls for an individual to take actions to achieve results to the extent he has the ability to perform and the goals are attainable. I've factored ET into every assignment I've undertaken. We must feel we possess the necessary skills and the goals are realistic before we engage. - Benjamin Pitts attended the Military Academy at West Point, captained the Spring football team, but saw his military career cut short by a spinal injury. He's CEO and co-founder of myFinancialAnswers.
9.) Failure is not an option. The military makes a point of putting you in a situation where failure is not an option. I've embedded that mindset in my employees so that, when they hear an investor or customer say no, they persevere and keep pushing forward in order to succeed.
10.) Small teams & high stakes. Outside of being shot at, putting your career and financial stability on the line is probably the most stressful thing you can face in life. If you can't work with your team in tough times, you'll probably never make it past the start-up stage. - Daniel Tobon, served for five years in the army, one of which was spent as a sniper in Iraq. Co-founder, StarchUp; graduate, Chicago Law School.
11.) Strap on your boots. The early stages of a small business are full of rapid cycles of excitement and despair. Thanks to my military training, I strap on my boots, demonstrate a determination to land every sale, nail every pitch and shrug off skepticism. By combining the strap-on philosophy with creative problem solving, we've made our vision a reality.
12.) The importance of laughter. Your team must be unified even though tensions are high and sleep deprivation is constant. If morale doesn't improve and members can't work together, then failure is inevitable. - Zachery Hertzel, Nine year Army medic served on the ground and on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Co-founder, WeTrain. Pursuing Masters degree at Thomas Jefferson University.
13.) Take care of your people. Naval pilots don't hop into their cockpits until the planes are working at 100 percent efficiency. It takes a lot of intelligent, hard-working and dedicated sailors to keep a 20-year-old aircraft in the air day-after-day. It's the same in a small business. I take pains to take care of my people because they're the ones who will help my company achieve our ultimate success. - Rob Frantz, U. S. Navy F/A-18 pilot and founder of Sygmus.
I'd like to give a special salute to Joe Witte, a former Army captain and habitual entrepreneur, who helped me assemble the tips' list. Joe is the Program Director at Bunker Labs PHL (www.bunkerlabs.org) and serves as a mentor to the heroes listed above.