As an innovative start-up charting new territory, you need strategy, structure, systems, quick deployment, inventiveness with meager resources, and a team that has your back. One day you are dressed up in full presentation mode and the next you are rolling up your sleeves and cleaning the office bathroom. Being in the midst of a start-up feels like a constant battle, but imagine if you had to do that with actual bullets flying. Imagine the powerful training you would have undergone and the skills, tactics, discipline and leadership characteristics you would have to guide you forward.
Our discharged and retired military come home from deployment to a very different world. Veterans like Nick Ripplinger, author of the bestselling book, Front Line Leadership, received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (the third highest peace-time award) during active duty service in the US Army. Yet, when he was medically discharged without a college degree, he could only find work supporting his family by stacking boxes in a warehouse at home. Why is it that our hiring practices require checking little boxes...high school diploma, college degree, or work experience within the industry only? Isn't someone whose job title was "Division Commander's After Action Briefer for the Multi-National Forces Iraq-North" sound like he might be worth an interview for your start-up's Operations Manager?
Start-ups and innovation-driven organizations should value transferable skills over degrees for many of their leadership positions. Flexibility, handling high-pressure stressful days, bringing systems and structure, and most importantly, valuing team before self are a gift to the business world and can be key factors in leading a start-up to success.
Tech-driven companies should know better than most that college degrees are not all they are cracked up to be with prominent college dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Yet restrictive hiring practices prevail. In his book and on his web site, Nick writes a compelling Open Letter to Hiring Managers and Employers:
I realize that a veteran will not always suit your hiring needs...I just hope that you do not overlook a qualified veteran due to a lack of formal education... They have earned an education second to none in the real world with real bullets flying over their heads."
Helping veterans find a new service in the business world once home has become not only the mission of people like Nick's mother, Action Masters Network Founder, Betsy Westhafer, and mentor, Dave Austin, but is also their passion as well. Dave and Betsy are expanding his Beast Mode LIVE program to help our military while they are serving and once they return home. Dave's mindset coaching helps provide "habits and a system for finding the power within, own it, and find a new service at home accelerating the transition time by starting while still in the field." The missing link is business recognizing our vets as "a gift to the business world."
Betsy felt somewhat helpless to help Nick transition home after being forced into an unexpected medical retirement. "This was a such a difficult time for us as a family watching the stress of an unchallenging factory night job and frustrated that the business world doesn't recognize contribution equals experience." In Nick's case, he focused, took action, got his college degree and now works in the private sector. It shouldn't have been all up to Nick though. Supporting those that serve with respect for the contributions they can make and qualified experiences that can lead your company to success is more than a thank you, it's a smart pay-it-forward business decision.