Almost since the beginning of human civilization, there has always been a strong connection between the military and commerce. There are many similarities between a military unit and a business. For example - both have a mission statement, both must make the best use of the technology available and both have rivals to contend with and “Defeat”. When it comes to large firms there is also a similarity regarding the number of personals. There is also much to learn about running a business from personal experience in the military, as explained by two former US army generals in the book “Hope Is Not a Method”.
A recent study (May 2011) done by the SBA Office of Advocacy showed that military veterans are at least 45 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than those who didn’t serve in the military. According to the latest data available from the US Census Bureau (From 2007), veterans owned 9 percent of all businesses in the US (2.4 million), which employed around 6 million people and generating over 1.2 trillion dollars. Furthermore, the study found that veterans with 20+ years of service had higher rates of self-employment and that officers are the most inclined to become self-employed.
The reasons for the “Military Entrepreneurship” phenomenon are not supported by research and are mostly theoretical. Some of the theories include that military training develops organizational skills and risk-tolerance. It also builds on a persons’ ability to be independent and self-reliant as a way to overcome adversities. Often, the training the soldier receives can be applied directly to the civilian life and many times even surpasses civilian experience, since the technologies used in the army are typically the most advanced in the market.
The same applies to veterans injured and disabled during their service. Other than the fact the most places won’t hire them on account of their disability, being self- employed is a way of supporting themselves while managing the challenges of their condition on their own terms. If it takes a person in a wheelchair longer to get ready in the morning, that might be an issue for some bosses; if you’re self employed - it becomes a nonissue.
Because of the advantages that veterans present to the market, they have several organizations that will support their new path. Government agencies, colleges and universities, and even the private sector, have recognized this phenomenon and responded with support, training and business opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs that helps make for a smoother transition.
The bottom line is that with their ‘listen with two ears, speak with one mouth’” attitude, the ability to learn from mistakes, to adapt to changes and improvise quickly - these are the core principles that veterans operate on. These principles and a fighting spirit, make them invaluable in the economic battlefield as well as the real one.