By Michael Gleason, founder and CEO of Consumer Brands, LLC.

The opportunity inspired excitement, the experience proved humbling, and the events changed me forever. Last year, I joined a small group of CEOs aboard the USS Stennis aircraft carrier as part of the U.S. Navy's Distinguished Visitors Program. Our small group flew to meet the carrier at an undisclosed location in the Pacific Ocean, and we spent 24 hours on the floating city observing our country's servicemen and servicewomen in action.

I had a chance to speak with Vice Adm. David Buss that evening while new pilots practiced launches and landings on the carrier's flight deck. I took the opportunity to ask him what my company could do to better support the U.S. military. His response was only three words, but it altered my life: "Hire more veterans."

Upon returning to our California office, I instructed my team to focus on recruiting former military members and their spouses to join our company. It was easily the best human resources decision I have ever made.

Hire to Inspire

The benefits of hiring veterans to join our team have exceeded my wildest dreams. The discipline, training, character and loyalty of veterans have helped me grow personally and professionally. The initiative of veterans is something that I didn't fully anticipate.

In his first month on the job, a gentleman we affectionately call "Navy Seal" promoted one of our articles to the front page of the Reddit social news website. The resulting traffic boost for our website was incredible, to say the least. What started out as a patriotic move to hire veterans turned out to be an incredible deal for my organization.

Follow Your Heart in Recruiting Talented Veterans

Sincerity has given us an edge in finding talented veterans. We let veterans know how much we value them, and we encourage them to become part of our family. It's not exactly shocking that nearly 90 percent of job-seeking veterans gravitate toward veteran-friendly companies. Here are five resources you can use to recruit veterans:

1. Seek referrals at local public affairs offices. Last year, we contacted a Navy public affairs officer who introduced us to a former member of his team. We initially hired the candidate as a web designer, but within two weeks he'd built a new product section of our website that focused on the military. He now manages a team of more than 20 employees for us.

2. Ask your own employees or associates for leads. One of our Navy associates introduced us to the CEO at MARCOA Publishing, one of the largest military publishers in the country. We are now engaged in a joint venture with several veterans at MARCOA, with a potential merger on the table.

3. Scour social media for military connections. Reach out to military spouses who manage social media pages to either hire them or connect with veterans they might know. We have reached tens of thousands of military members this way, increasing our brand awareness through their networks.

4. Mention veterans in your job postings. Whenever we post a job opening, we always indicate we are looking to hire veterans. Adding a quick note to our postings has increased our rate of veteran applications from less than 1 percent to more than 20 percent.

5. Connect with local government websites. Find websites that offer employment resources for veterans. Once you have fostered a relationship with the people who run these sites, you can ask them to include your company as a resource. We are listed on more than 50 state and national government websites, and we regularly receive numerous quality résumés as a result.

There's a saying -- in life and business -- by Donald Rumsfeld that best describes our blind spots: "There are some things we don't know we don't know." I didn't initially know how helpful veterans would be to my company, but I learn invaluable lessons every day from the great men and women who have served our country.

Michael Gleason is the founder and CEO of Consumer Brands, LLC and InMyArea.com.

Published on: Nov 30, 2016