I can still remember the night my friend Alex Hernandez became an entrepreneur. "Fusco," he boomed over his cell phone, "like Cortez before me, I have burned my ships!"
Earlier that day, Alex had walked into his boss's office to quit his job. But, since Alex was a Marine, he had meticulously planned his exit over the previous four weeks, and had come prepared with a detailed catalog of everything that needed to be done to make things easier for his successor. In the military, this is called a "turnover binder," and it is simply what is expected of you.
Ten years later, Alex's business Hernandez Consulting is a thriving Inc. 500 company employing more than 60 people, and is a great example of how employers can learn and benefit from the leadership credentials of returning servicemen and women.
This is not an isolated incident. I have seen similar stories play out again and again in my career. As we celebrate Veteran's Day, it's a good time to take a step back and consider why hiring a veteran might be the one of the best things you can do for your business.
Veterans are trained leaders. The military is the world's most successful leadership school. Everyone in the military is expected to lead, and their training makes sure they can do it well. This even includes a major part of leadership often absent from civilian organizations: employee development. The military's primary tenet is that the strength of the organization is in its people, and every leader is directly responsible for ensuring their people develop the tools that they need to succeed.
Integrity and character are more than just words. "Honor, courage, and commitment" are stamped into the minds of recruits on the first day of training. This is because character and integrity are mandatory traits in the military. For Veterans, character is a matter of life and death, not just filler in a corporate culture deck. They take it very seriously.
Vets understand teamwork. Alex in the story above understood, first and foremost, the impact his actions would take on the team that he was leaving, and wanted to make sure they were prepared. In the military, everyone is accountable for success; failure is not an option. People are taught to learn the jobs of their supervisors so that they can step into the role if necessary. Ultimately, the job must get done, and the team must be equipped to do it despite adversity.
Veterans bring diversity to your company. Veterans are a naturally diverse group representing Americans from literally all walks of life. This is why many companies, including my own, tie their Diversity and Inclusion efforts to a Veteran's program. It helps them to achieve multiple goals at the same time by both advancing Veteran's initiatives and gaining access to an incredibly diverse pool of potential employees.
They "get" process. People work in dangerous situations every day in the military. There are complex safety procedures for just about everything that you do. Need to run a hundred people through a tank gunnery range? Check the pub. Need to test the range on an artillery battery? Follow the process. Having trouble locating the break in your fiber optic cable using an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer? Now I'm just showing off. The point is that vets get process. They won't complain and they won't cut corners.
Performance under pressure? Check. Todd Haskins, a former Marine who now runs the fantastic Veterans program at Goldman Sachs, was recently reviewing his Veteran hires and noticed something astonishing. Not a single Veteran had washed out of the program since it had launched three years earlier - unheard of at an investment bank. When he asked a few of them why they thought this was the case, he invariably received the same answer. "This is nothing compared to my tour in Iraq."
Veterans are pushed to the limit in their training to see if they can handle pressure and make good decisions under duress. That means that when you hire Vets at your company, you are getting people who have been tempered like steel to hold up. It is a part of who they are.
There are many ways that actively recruiting Veterans can help your business, and there are many opportunities to do so; the more than 2 million post 9/11 Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan carry an unemployment rate at about twice the national average.
Maybe the best reason of all to hire Veterans is not what they can do for you, but what they have already done.