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5 Veterans Share Their Tips for Successfully Transitioning From Service to Entrepreneurship

5 Veterans Share Their Tips for Successfully Transitioning From Service to Entrepreneurship

With Veterans Day upon us, there is no better time to laud the men and women who selflessly volunteer their time, energy and personal well-being to protect our country, allowing us the freedoms we enjoy. So, thank you to all who have, and continue to, volunteer and risk their lives in the service of our country.

Given today’s observance, we should take the time to recognize and consider the other challenges veterans face as they return from active duty.

First, they’ve been secluded from the political and cultural events we stay-at-home Americans have known: from hurricanes to happenings in Washington to cultural oddities like the Fidget Spinner.

More seriously, returnees subjected to incredibly stressful and violent situations overseas may still suffer from debilitating injuries and emotional wounds, leaving deep scars that never heal.

In addition, when it comes to life after service, there is something more that is amiss — entrepreneurship. After World War II, almost 50 percent of returning veterans started businesses. Since 9/11,that figure has dropped to less than 5 percent.

Recently, I moderated a panel discussion with talented veteran-entrepreneurs at an event Bunker Labs hosted in Wilmington, N.C. The event opened the floodgates to some amazing stories from these people, who, it turns out, wanted to share their stories with other veterans even more than they wanted to promote their businesses.

Here are the tips and lessons I gleaned from five of those conversations.

Ray Antonino/ PermitZone: Understand your career capital.

Upon returning to the United States, Ray Antonino transitioned from a 45-K (tank turret tech) and 95-B (military police) to a licensed contractor. His firsthand experience maneuvering contracting’s complicated, cumbersome and archaic permitting process led him to start PermitZone, an online service aimed at making the building permit process easier.

“Don’t listen to the people that tell you to ‘follow your passion’ or ‘do something you love’,” Antonimo started. “Doing so will set you up for failure and is a highly flawed way of thinking.”

Instead, Antonino said he believed strongly in taking personal stock of your skills. “Read the book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You [by Cal Newport],” he suggested, “and understand how the skills you have built can offer career capital.”

He also emphasized that success is less about passion early on. “Once you understand what career capital is, and where you are in the process of obtaining it,” he said, “then it will be time to leverage resources that help you convert your skills into the civilian work force.”

Andrew Williams/ Elite Innovations: Have confidence and plan ahead.

While deployed in Afghanistan, in 2011, Andrew Williams and a fellow serviceman, Pete Foster, created a prototype of a product idea using parts of their gear and the assistance of a local Afghan sewing master. After nine iterations, they were able to get their product manufactured and distributed to every Marine Corps Exchange in the world.

Later, having left the military and learned the pain of development, sourcing and marketing a self-started product, Williams started Elite innovations, which focuses on engineering, prototyping and consulting, with a focus on assisting veteran-inventors.

Having confidence in your own ability and skills can serve you well if you’re an entrepreneur transitioning into entrepreneurship. “You’re a veteran, you’ve been getting it done your whole professional career,” Williams said. “When you step into the entrepreneurship realm, it’s just an extension of everything you’ve learned from a life at war.”

As a serviceman, he said, he was trained to “control chaos,” knowing when to pivot, and being able to handle the unknowns during the “fog of war.” These situations mirror that of entrepreneurship, he said, acknowledging that much less is on the line, of course. Still, there is a commonality in terms of the unpredictable unknowns.

“The struggle isn’t the hustle,” he said. “It’s correlating what you know with business and human capital goals, which requires creativity on your part.”

Jessica Harris/ K9 Salute: Understand the costs associated with starting a business.

Jessica Harris is a retired combat medic who served with canine units. Upon retiring, she founded K9 Salute, a company that produces and provides healthy treats for all “four-legged heroes,” as a way to honor and remember our nation’s hero military dogs.

Harris said she enjoys helping ambitious veteran-entrepreneurs. “One of the most important things to consider when starting a new business is understanding how much it will cost,” she said she tells them. “Most of us underestimate how much money it can take to get a business going. I would say ‘Multiply your expected startup costs by two, maybe even three, depending on your business of course.'”

She admitted that she personally drastically underestimated the startup costs associated with her company while she was seeking funding: “Much [of my underestimations] was because my business plan evolved as the business started to grow, and I didn’t anticipate that.”

Financial planning is key, she added: “Give yourself the best possible start by either saving more money than you’ll think you need or acquiring sufficient startup funds from the beginning. As veterans, we have some great resources for funding, so it definitely makes it much easier if you get it right from the beginning.”

Phillip Freeman, Murphy’s Naturals / Work with other companies that fit your vision.

Philip Freeman believes strongly in the importance of all-natural products and the benefits they provide, and he understands that health and wellness are closely connected to one’s environment. For that reason, Freeman founded Murphy’s Naturals, a line of earth-friendly products made from responsibly sourced, plant-based ingredients.

He said he finds it difficult to stand in the shoes of every veteran leaving service, and therefore tailors his advice to the personal experience of every veteran. Still, all entrepreneurs should start out with a couple of things, he noted: “First, establish a mission statement for yourself and your future endeavor based on your core values and passions.

“Sometimes,” he added, “you solve a unique problem that needs a unique solution. Other times, you find a twist to how business traditionally addresses a problem, and you address it in a unique and fresh way that will evolve the marketplace. Regardless, understand the uniqueness of your purpose and avoid the traditional routes.”

Veterans, Freeman said, should cooperate and collaborate with others who share a similar mission and passion. “Visit other entrepreneurial companies that fit your vision and values,” he advised. “You will be surprised how willing they are to share.”

Offer to work with them, Freeman continued. “Map out a bunch of companies on a map that fit your vision and go on a road trip to visit and interview their leadership. Remember that the companies you visit do not need to do what you want to do; they just need to share your values.”

Ed Hall/ Petrics: Embrace and leverage your military training.

Ed Hall found the transition from service to civilian life unnerving. “For many, the military is a replacement for family and home while away,” Hall explained. “Entering the civilian life after being in the military can definitely be a scary transition.”

Deciding to pursue entrepreneurship is even worse. “I was absolutely excited and nervous,” Hall admitted. “I was excited to go back to school, yet, I was nervous I was walking away from a stable, secure job.”

Despite that nervousness, he fulfilled his entrepreneurial ambitions by founding Petric, which provides tailored health and nutrition information for pets (and their owners) via a mobile app and online platform. His military training helped, he said.

“I found that the military instilled phenomenal skills of adaptation, ability to continue under pressure, and even use that pressure to perform better and use it as a strength,” Hall said. “This is why many veterans become good entrepreneurs, because those skills are everything that a business owner needs.”

Today, as he tackles the immense and competitive pet industry, Hall said he enjoys advising other veteran-entrepreneurs to take heart about returning to the civilian world. “Just remember,” he likes to tell them, “that you have had many worse things thrown at you and you were able to persevere.”

 

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Peter Gasca

Daylight saving time ends Sunday: 6 things to know about “falling back”

Daylight saving time ends Sunday: 6 things to know about “falling back”

On Sunday, at 2 am, clocks will turn back one hour, heralding the end of daylight saving time for much of the country. The change will shift daylight back into the morning hours. For 9-to-5 office workers, it means saying goodbye to leaving work while it’s still light out. And for weekend workers, it will mean an additional glorious hour of sleep this Sunday.

There’s a lot of confusion about daylight saving time.

The first thing to know: Yes, it ends in the fall, just as the decrease in daylight hours starts to become noticeable.

Let’s sort it all out.

1) Why do we need to “save” daylight hours in the summer?

Daylight saving time in the US started as an energy conservation trick during World War I, and became a national standard in the 1960s. The idea is to shift the number of daylight hours we get into the evening. So if the sun sets at 8 pm instead of 7 pm, we’d presumably spend less time with the lights on in our homes at night, saving on electricity.

It also means that you’re less likely to sleep through daylight hours in the morning (since those are shifted an hour later too). Hence “saving” daylight hours for the most productive time of the day.

Overall: We agree, the name is kind of confusing.

2) Isn’t it “daylight savings time” not “daylight saving time”?

No, it’s definitely called “daylight saving time.” Not plural.

3) Does it actually lead to energy savings?

As Joseph Stromberg outlined in an excellent 2015 Vox article, the presumed electricity conservation from the time change is unclear or nonexistent:

Despite the fact that daylight saving time was introduced to save fuel, there isn’t strong evidence that the current system actually reduces energy use — or that making it year-round would do so, either. Studies that evaluate the energy impact of DST are mixed. It seems to reduce lighting use (and thus electricity consumption) slightly but may increase heating and AC use, as well as gas consumption. It’s probably fair to say that energy-wise, it’s a wash.

4) What would happen if daylight saving time were abolished? Or if it were extended forever?

Currently, the state of Massachusetts is in the early stages of considering a proposal to stay on daylight saving time year round. It involves shifting into Atlantic time — which is an hour ahead of Eastern time — and then staying there the whole year. (Atlantic “standard” time, and Eastern “saving” time are the same.)

The plan is a long shot. The Boston Globe explains that the Massachusetts legislature and the Department of Transportation would both have to approve it. And similar bills have failed in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. But its proponents say Massachusetts would benefit by having more sunlight hours in the afternoon and evening throughout the year.

And it wouldn’t be the only state to not observe the changing of the clocks. Much of Arizona currently ignores saving time.

But why stop at Massachusetts? It’s worth thinking about what would happen if Congress abolished daylight saving time (or kept it going all year long).

Blogger and cartographer Andy Woodruff decided to visualize this with an excellent series of maps.

The goal of these maps is to show how abolishing daylight saving time, extending it all year, or going with the status quo changes the amount of days we have “reasonable” sunrise and sunset times.

Reasonable, as defined by Woodruff, is the sun rising at 7 am or earlier or setting after 5 pm (so one could, conceivably, spend some time in the sun before or after work).

This is what the map looks like under the status quo of twice-yearly clock shifts. A lot of people have unreasonable sunrise times (the dark spots) for much of the year:

Andy Woodruff

Here’s how things would change if daylight saving were abolished (that is, if we just stuck to the time set in the winter all year). It’s better, particularly on the sunrise end:

Andy Woodruff

And here’s what would happen if daylight saving were always in effect. The sunrise situation would actually be worse for most people. But many more people would enjoy after-work light — and there’s a strong argument to make that this after-work light is actually worth more. (More on that below.)

Andy Woodruff

(Note: The length of light we experience each day wouldn’t actually change; that’s determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis. But we would experience it in times more accommodating for our modern world. Be sure to check out the interactive version of these maps on Woodruff’s website.)

In 2015, Stromberg made the compelling case that the daylight saving time shift into the evening should be extended year-round. Having more light later could benefit us in a surprising number of ways:

  • People engage in more leisure activities after work than beforehand, so we’d likely do more physical activity over sedentary leisure activities. Relatedly, studies show that kids get more exercise when the sun is out later in the evening.
  • Stromberg also cites some evidence that robberies decrease when there’s more sun in the evening hours.
  • There could be economic gains, since people “take short trips, and buy things after work — but not before — so a longer DST slightly increases sales,” Stromberg writes.

5) Is daylight saving time dangerous?

A little bit. In the spring time, when we shift clocks forward one hour, many of us will lose that hour of sleep. In the days after daylight saving time starts, our biological clocks are a little bit off. It’s like the whole country has been given one hour of jet lag.

One hour of lost sleep sounds like a small change, but we humans are fragile, sensitive animals. Small disruptions in our sleep have been shown to alter basic indicators of our health and dull our mental edge.

And when our biological clocks are off, everything about us is out of sync. Our bodies run this tight schedule to try to keep up with our actions. Since we usually eat a meal after waking up, we produce the most insulin in the morning. We’re primed to metabolize breakfast before even taking a bite. It’s more efficient that way.

Being an hour off schedule means our bodies are not prepared for the actions we partake in at any time of the day.

One example: driving.

In 1999, researchers at Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities wanted to find out what happens on the road when millions of drivers have their sleep disrupted.

Analyzing 21 years of fatal car crash data from the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, they found a very small, but significant, increase in road deaths on the Monday after the clock shift in the spring: The number of deadly accidents jumped to an average of 83.5 on the “spring forward” Monday compared with an average of 78.2 on a typical Monday.

And it seems it’s not just car accidents. Evidence has also mounted of an increase in incidences of workplace injuries and heart attacks in the days after we spring forward.

6) How can we end daylight saving time, or extend it all year round?

That’s easy! Well, not really: All it would take is an act of Congress. But given the current pace of major legislation, I wouldn’t count on this happening anytime soon.

 

Originally posted by Brian Resnik on Vox

Entrepreneurs Can Learn Lessons From Halloween

Entrepreneurs Can Learn Lessons From Halloween

With Halloween approaching, our minds tend to shift to those things in life that are spooky and scary. As we get older, the ghosts and goblins that once kept us up at night are now funny, iconic reminders of a nostalgic time of year. But, interestingly, many aspects of Halloween can serve as a great foundation for entrepreneurs.

Choose the path less taken.

Sure, one easy thing to do on Halloween is follow the crowd of kids and parents down the well lit neighborhood streets. In many neighborhoods it looks like a swarm of bees navigating together. This is safe and easy, but what if you veer down the sidestreets and venture to the houses just off the main path? Sure, sometimes you hit a dead-end, but sometimes  you also find the wonderful older couple who are so excited to have visitors and they graciously give you the greatest treats. If you want two Hershey kisses or a few Toostie rolls, follow the crowd, but the hand-tied bag full of Snickers, Milky Way and Crunch bars are often on the path less taken.

Many fears are irrational.

Halloween is full of masks, makeup, decorations, and creepy sounds. All kinds of things that ‘up’ our anxiety and ignite our irrational fears. For entrepreneurs, these fears come in the form of fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of being wrong, fear of running pursuing our passions. But, fear isn’t real. Fear is nothing more than images we make up in our mind.  Remember, when you face these fears you can make them disappear.

Walking door-to-door and starting conversations leads to great outcomes.

The great tradition of walking door-to-door (often with parents a sidewalk away) teaches us some independence, but also allows us to confront adults face-to-face. This is the foundation for one of your most valuable skills – your ability to look someone in the eye and communicate clearly. Sales, marketing, raising capital, hiring a great team, etc. all stem back to strong interpersonal communication. Door to door is a powerful and efficient teacher.

With a little effort, you can be a completely new person.

It amazes me that when the shy, quiet boy puts on his Superman costume, he becomes a confident, outspoken actor. He takes on the characteristics of his hero, stands a little taller and is ready to conquer the darkest streets in the hood. But wait – nothing physical changed. He didn’t grow new muscles or drink a special potion – it was 100% psychological. He just decided he could, so he did. Why not put on that psychological costume, armour or mask whenever you need it. Just decide you can.

So this holiday, as you walk with your kids or attend the friend’s costume party, just remember that even on November 1st, you can be anyone you want to be.

Originally posted on LinkedIn by Mac Lackey, Entrepreneur and Investor

6 Principles for Personal and Business Success

6 Principles for Personal and Business Success

The startup lifestyle is known to be stressful and challenging, but it’s also meant to be satisfying and fulfilling, with you as the entrepreneur in control of your own destiny. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way, based on my many years of experience with entrepreneurs and advising startups. The business can be successful, while the entrepreneur feels like a failure.

As an example, I know one highly driven startup founder whose business is growing at a reasonable pace, but the entrepreneur regrets the toll it has extracted from his family, his health, and his ability to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor. I know several other CEOs that were pushed out of their own successful companies by investors, leaving them feeling like failures.

The challenge is not to let success come without personal satisfaction, or at the expense of the ones you love. To do that, you need to follow a set of personal principles that drive your business principles, not the other way around. Here are some key ones that I espouse:

1. Define your personal goals and purpose early.

Your personal goals should drive your business goals, not the other way around. You will never be satisfied or happy if you are not true to your core beliefs, personal interests, and a higher purpose. Write down your goals, and then take ownership to make them happen and feel the satisfaction.

2. Focus on strengths rather than fixing weaknesses.

If you don’t see business as one of your strengths, you likely won’t be happy leading a startup. Many technologists refuse stubbornly to let anyone else take their invention from a product to a business, assuming they can easily fix their business weakness. Both they and the business end up suffering.

3. Create some short-term milestones on the path to your dream.

Dreams alone won’t make you happy or successful, so start early in defining and executing against a set of milestones to celebrate progress along the way. Satisfaction is not a one-time event at the end of your career; it’s a series of good feelings driven by results along the way.

4. Be honest with yourself about practicing what you preach.

Many business executives can give a great talk to their team about sustaining their health and maintaining a balanced family life, but they let the business override their own needs. Similarly, don’t compromise your own ethics and integrity for the sake of your business.

5. Don’t stop believing, learning, and growing as a person.

The world of entrepreneurs is ever-changing, so if you aren’t learning and changing, you are falling behind. In business, setbacks must be seen as normal and expected challenges, not as indications of failure. Successfully recovering from problems should be a key source of satisfaction.

6. Take satisfaction from team success, at work and at home.

Being an entrepreneur is not a one-person show, so accept that fact, and build a team that can complement you and support your weaknesses. If your business and private teams are motivated and satisfied, their happiness will radiate to you. A motivated team is a successful one.

An over-arching principle for success and satisfaction for every entrepreneur is respect – for yourself, and in business respect for every customer, investor, and employee. Another generic attribute close behind in value is persistence. No amount of talent or genius can take the place of persistence.  Many experts believe that one of the top reasons for startup failures, as well as personal failures, is simply giving up too early.

In fact, people giving up on unsatisfying corporate careers is one of the primary sources of entrepreneurs. Most don’t realize that the same satisfaction and success principles apply in both worlds – and ignoring them in both will have the same negative consequences.

Switching from either lifestyle to the other will give you a whole new set of challenges, but it won’t automagically bring you happiness, satisfaction, or success. In either case, I’m a believer that you make your own success. Now is the time to start.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com  by Martin Zwilling

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