Veteran’s Day: Why Small Business Owners Should Care

by Patricia Frame on November 11, 2011

Veteran's DayVeteran’s Day is barely a holiday in the US, except as a retail sales gimmick. But why should we expect this to be different?

Fewer than 2% of us have ever served in the military.

And since we moved away from the draft to an all-volunteer service, those who do serve come from a smaller slice of the population. So few of us are related to a vet or know one well.

And yet…

How veterans positively impact our society and economy

Our veterans are a terrific resource for your business and our nation. You may think those of us who are in the military all served in an environment of senior people ordering junior ones around all day, with no judgement or discretion involved.

But that is a movie version of boot camp, not the reality of military service.

Military folks are used to working in teams of people who are quite diverse in comparison to the statistically typical civilian workplace.

Persistence, adaptability, and flexibility are not just buzzwords, they are daily reality in the military. We are trained to get the job done, to “take that hill”.

This is one reason that veterans who become entrepreneurs succeed at twice the rate of civilians. And it makes them great employees for helping grow your business too.

My story as a veteran

There I was, 26 hours on planes from a February morn in Minnesota to a new day in Thailand – no snow and 125 degrees hotter in temperature.

Amazingly, my body continued to operate!

Finally I got to my new room and fell into bed. And lay awake watching the lizards on the ceiling, wondering if I ever would be able to sleep again, listening to a constant roar of bombers and other aircraft taking off and landing without any pauses.

They created an office for me in a little closet, surrounded by all the wires needed for air traffic control and telecommunications. And I created a whole new function and met all these new people of every level in various functions I did not control.

And I persuaded them to cooperate with me and see how we could provide much better service to an important element of our mission, without any added money or people. And we did. Sure it was 24x7x365, running crazy hours and full of last minute changes and needs, but it was fun and full of learning opportunities.

And every military person can tell you a litany of such minor stories. (We keep the major ones to ourselves generally, thinking you wouldn’t understand.) But these minor stories offer you insight into how much we can do on our own, working in teams with people we just met, to achieve goals that support a larger goal. And your business can use all those skills right now.

Listen to the stories of veterans and you could find your perfect employee

You may not really understand the work that a specific vet did in the military. And not all of them are good at articulating their expertise in specific areas – or all the training they have had. But veterans bring many specific skills and talents to your business in all those soft skill areas employers lament are not available. Many will have very specific technical or supervisory skills you need too.

Your state employment agency has a veterans’ representative who can educate you and help you hire. There are tax incentives for you to hire veterans, training programs to help vets acquire skills you need, and support services to hire disabled vets. You might even end up on the state’s list of military-friendly employers!

Veteran’s Day: An Opportunity to Meet a Vet You Could Employ

So, this Veterans Day – raise a flag.

Go to a military parade or your local veterans memorial.

More importantly: recognize we are just like you – only with some different experiences than a standard corporate career offers. Think of what we can do to help you succeed!

Links to resources:

Business case for hiring vets

DOL services for employers

Hiring Veterans with disabilities

Image courtesy of William Forrester / Flickr

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, speaker, and executive with expertise in human capital, and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. She helps small to mid-size organizations achieve their goals through more effective human capital strategy and management. She can be reached through her website SHRinsight.com, where archives for her ongoing management series can be found.

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