20 Things Military Veteran Entrepreneurs Know About Risk That You Can Use Every Day

This article, written by Dan Bova, originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com on November 7, 2018.

In recognition of Veterans Small Business Week, we spoke with these brave men and women who proudly served our country and took what they learned in the military about productivity, organization and risk assessment and applied it to launching and running successful businesses. Thank you for your insights, and thank you for your service!

  • “The military taught us that there are risks in everything that we do. However, all risks can be mitigated by training and preparedness. In order to get positive and successful results from risks, we need to understand them, plan and create a risk assessment. A risk assessment is a list of risks with actions that can lessen those risks. Service members are sometimes perceived as people who blindly jump into things, but we are the complete opposite. Our moves are all very calculated in order to see the best results.” — Vish and Melanie Munusami, owners of G-FORCE in Tampa, Army and Army National Guard veterans
  • “What I love about the way military discusses risk is that we know there will always be risk. Your job is not to avoid risk; it’s to make an informed decision with as much data as you have at the moment. The catch is that you may not have all the critical pieces of information that you want, but if you wait for those pieces, you’ll miss the opportunity. I think the lesson translates perfectly to business — most times you need to just take action with what you know and not be paralyzed about being perfect. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Don’t ever let perfect be the enemy of good.'” — Soraya Goddard, marketing expert and career coach, Army active duty  
  • “The military is one of the top contributing factors to my success. ‘Fear of failure’ is something that shouldn’t be in your vocabulary in the military, or entrepreneurship. You need to take calculated risks and not be afraid of setbacks. And in both cases, you need the mindset that I will do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.” — Colin Wayne, founder and CEO of Redline Steel, Army veteran
  • “The leadership skills I learned [in the military] helped me to be confident and to grow the business. Another thing is by being worldly, you learn to be diverse with people and respect their culture. When you’ve been living in different countries, you have a different perspective on the world. I think that helped me network with a lot of people in a way that some people may not be able to. You got to be flexible. When you get told ‘no,’ you can’t get snappy. You keep going back, and you find a way. Sometimes you have to be a little patient and understand how to work with people. Relationship building in this business is key.” — Pamela Jones, CharBoy’s, Army and Navy veteran
  • “Being in the military taught me to risk it all early and to risk it all often. No matter how hard business gets, we are all coming home every night. The same isn’t always true overseas. As an entrepreneur, I have to put everything at risk every day. It’s remarkably easy to continue doing what you’ve done the day before and the day before that, but I have learned that if you’re not willing to take a risk, then you will stop growing and you will not be successful.” — Andrew Weins, owner and operator of the Menomonee Falls, Wis., territory of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling, Army veteran
  • “The greatest risk is taking no action. My first commanding officer used to say, ‘Always do something. Never do nothing.’ Having a bias for action encourages you to take small risks early, which can keep things from escalating into situations of greater risk that are harder to deal with later.” — Jason Hardebeck, founder and CEO of The Foundery, Navy veteran
  • “Being in the military often meant that I had to remain flexible to change — in orders, in personal leaving and arriving, in mission scope, in available resources. And all of that remains true in the business and nonprofit worlds.” — Bishop Garrison, interim executive director at Truman National Security Project, Army veteran
  • “Aside from identifying risks, the only way to overcome inherent risks is by implementing controls as best as possible through effective communication and relying on the team as a whole, so all are informed of risks in order to do their best to mitigate them. This also allows for appropriate accountability for any risks that have not been effectively overcome. At the end of the day we are only as strong as our weakest link! Team training and everyone buying into the team effort is essential to success.” — Alexandra Kavi, owner of Urban Bricks in Killeen, Texas, Navy veteran
  • “My training in the military has taught me how to handle extremely stressful situations: be calm, be cool, and be efficient. … In the moment that something strikes, what matters is all of the tiny little decisions you’ve made up to that point. So if you’re sitting at that computer and you have this overwhelming fear of all these things that are about to wash you away, think about everything you’ve done to prepare for that moment and stay calm. Which leads to the next question: what are you doing to prepare?” — Tim Kennedy, Green Beret, MMA fighter and host of Discovery’s Hard to Kill
  • “Being in the military taught me the difference between risk and uncertainty. While risk narrows opportunity, uncertainty broadens it. For instance, implementing measures such as contingency plans, quality control and redundant communication will enable teams to manage their risk in order to continue the mission. However, when it comes to uncertainty, great teams are able to position themselves to gain an advantage. A weak team will mistake uncertainty for risk, and as a result, will be quickly surpassed by those teams that can see the opportunity within the uncertainty — and are ready to seize the moment.” — Socrates Rosenfeld, CEO of iheartjane.com, Army veteran
  • “The military taught me that fear — we all have it — and risk can be mitigated to an acceptable margin that can be executed against with action and purpose. Once you get comfortable confronting your fear over and over, you master it. That’s a powerful place to be in life, whatever you pursue as a career.” — Brandon Webb, founder and CEO of Hurricane Group, Navy veteran
  • “In the military, what people don’t realize is that you are often put in a position that you’ve never been in before. You either solve a problem or you don’t. … When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to understand that no one is going to swoop in and save the day. People think entrepreneurship is exciting and fun, but the truth of the matter is that it is a grind. It’s not about the end zone, sitting on a beach with a drink, it’s about solving problems. You have to enjoy solving problems for your customers and for your business.” — Nick Palmisciano, founder and CEO of Ranger Up, Army veteran
  • “Never go anywhere for the first time. It is a statement on the value of being prepared. This mantra takes a second to sink in, but I remember well learning that failure to prepare was preparing to fail. Much like a military mission, success in a business presentation, a sales call, or critical investment is often determined before you even start. Spend at least one-third of the time available preparing, and two-thirds of the time executing.” — Sean Flynn, U.S. CEO of Gympass, Army veteran
  • “There is a common misunderstanding about former military service members. Some people believe that veterans who served were just order takers, executors, people who just blindly did what they were ordered to do without thought or consideration. The reality couldn’t be more opposite. Military personnel are trained in something called ‘commander’s intent.’ It’s the underlying concept of any operation that describes the outcome the commander wants to see happen no matter what. It may be impossible to accomplish every task in a particular mission, but if the commander’s intent is achieved, the mission is a success.” — Jeff Allen, owner of Dryer Vent Wizard of Middle Tennessee, Army veteran 
  • “A management technique I learned in the military is known as ‘three up and three down.’ In brief, it focuses on the three most important objectives of a mission and as well as the three elements that were at the greatest risk of it not being accomplished and then addressing how those issues were being dealt with. Without this approach, meetings/briefings can wander to less productive topics, while ignoring the topics/activities that really needed to be focused on. This approach has proved invaluable in my business career over the years and will continue to do so.” — John Dell, Subway franchisee and development agent, Army veteran
  • “Soldiers rely on passion to be effective. The same quality should be applied professionally. When you hire a veteran, you’re getting someone who wants to win, who wants to succeed and who is self-motivated. They are also disciplined and approach assignments with logic and order. These are personal strengths that make veterans valuable to employers.” — Dr. Chris Tomshack, founder and CEO of HealthSource, Air National Guard veteran
  • “My military background taught me how to create a successful team by surrounding myself with smart people. It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses and to put people around you who have shared values and who can do the things you’re not good at. I don’t want to be the weakest link in the chain! I would add that being part of a team is to expect to learn from everybody. I was 21 years old and had just graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. I was sent to my first squadron as a division officer. In that role, I was in charge of leading 10 people who were 10 to 15 years older than me and who knew a lot more than I did. I walked in and said if you want me to lead you, you’ll have to train me — I’m here to learn from all of you, and they welcomed me in and taught me a lot.” — Jo McCabe, owner of Mr. Handyman of Northern Virginia, Navy veteran
  • Borg Siburg: “They will get a reliable, hardworking and determined individual. We are goal-oriented and will always seek to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.” Ann Siburg: “We will do what we say we are going to do or die trying. I believe that vets have a depth of determination to achieve as well as a core of integrity that puts honor at the forefront of business dealings.” — Ann and Borg Siburg, owners of SpeedPro Imaging of Scottsdale, Army veterans
  • “When someone hires a veteran, they may not realize that the person they are getting has been exposed to so much more at the age of 22 than what most individuals will ever see in their lifetime. These experiences allow them to think and process differently. Vets are mission focused, so give them an assignment and watch them it get done, correctly and on time. Vets also have a strong commitment to teamwork and will support team members in whatever capacity is necessary. Finally, you will have a professional on your team looking to prove that they can excel in whatever you task give them.” — Bill Copeland, owner of Glacier Confections, Army veteran
  • “Having been in combat and almost losing my life after being wounded, I have become fearless and numb to a certain point. Occasionally, when I have fear of what could happen, I tell myself, ‘No one is shooting at you. It’s not a life or death situation.’ No fear of risk is worse than where I have been. No one wants to lose money but you can work to get that back. Every time I open up another store or development area, I know it is there but I choose not to be afraid and see it through. My instilled discipline helps me overcome that fear and even though I know it is still there, I have control over it.” — Yonas Hagos, owner of multiple businesses, including Pet Supplies Plus in Normal, Ill., Army veteran

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