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3 Lessons the Military Taught Me About Business

Posted on April 14, 2019 by Alex Wells | 0 Comments

Today’s service member is flexible, adaptable, resourceful, takes initiative, makes decisions on the fly, they are entrepreneurial, and don’t require constant supervision and direction. Today’s service member is perfectly suited to take on the role of entrepreneur. Thus, when I left the military and then left the corporate world, I was able to take some great skills the military taught me into my new role as an entrepreneur. There are many lessons the military taught me about business, but here are the top three that constantly resonate in my mind:


1) It Takes All Kinds. The US military is a true microcosm of the United States of America, with representation from all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, economic classes, education…you name it! Growing up as a military brat, serving first as an enlisted Soldier, then an Officer, and now living as a military spouse, I have been blessed to work with, become friends with, and create a family away from home with people from all these diverse backgrounds. Not only has this made me a more open-minded, well-rounded person, but it has taught me that any organization, whether a military unit, a business, a church, a club, etc. requires diversity in order to most efficiently operate.


“We find the best in others, we bring those talents out in them, ask them to train others in their talents, and make-up for each other’s weaknesses through our deep bench of varied skills and backgrounds.”

Just as we need people in the military with the skills to operate on the front lines, we need people with the skills to provide direct support. If the profile of a service member was homogeneous, we would most undoubtedly not be the most powerful military in the world. We find the best in others, we bring those talents out in them, ask them to train others in their talents, and make-up for each other’s weaknesses through our deep bench of varied skills and backgrounds.

Just as I did in the military, I seek to learn from, collaborate with, and mentor others in my current career. Whether in corporate America or as an entrepreneur, as I am now, I seek to bring people on my team that have skills and perspectives that are different than my own. In my work teams, we compliment and challenge each other, we teach and mentor each other, and we collaborate. With our differences, we are able to create the best products and services possible for clients. Diversity should be celebrated and encouraged in organizations, just as it is in the military.



2) You Can’t do Anything Alone. Perhaps more than any other institution in the world, the US Military encourages, trains, and instills the principle of teamwork. The US Military does this so well that members genuinely place their team members’ and the needs of the teams’ above their own.

While this mindset is admittedly challenging to adjust to when a service member leaves military service and enters the self-promoting, job interviewing, networking world of the civilian workforce, the concept of teamwork is certainly valued in the business world. The ability to work as a team-player, lead, and even follow in a team setting is truly valuable to employers.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve also adhered to the idea that “If you want to go fast, go alone. But, if you want to go far, go together.” I know that I cannot achieve the vision I have for my business and lifestyle by doing everything on my own. Even in a small business/ start-up, I seek help from others consistently to operate my business, in the form of virtual assistance, social media management, systems audits, etc. I am always encouraging collaboration among the 10 people on my geographically-dispersed digital team and am always networking and seeking ways to work with other entrepreneurs in my industry.

3) Communication is Key. Everyone with ties to the military knows that a flaw in communication can be the difference between a life and death situation. For that reason, communication is emphasized over and over and over and over again in the military. One could even argue that sometimes as military members, we overcommunicate!

The military forced me to practice and utilize multiple forms of communication as well. I learned how to write and orally brief an Operations Order so that my Soldiers knew the important details of the mission and were able to execute successfully with or without my leadership. I learned how to go through the steps of the Military Decision Making Process, and present it both visually and orally so that my leadership could be best informed to make executive decisions. I learned hand signals, radio etiquette, symbology, PowerPoint, Executive Summaries, and even smoke signals during my time in the military. (I just know I’m leaving out at least ten other forms of communication that I can’t even remember!)

The point I’m trying to make is that the military taught me the importance of communication in operating a successful organization and taught me multiple ways to effectively communicate depending on the situation. I have been able to use these skills in every situation I’ve found myself in business: writing executive summaries for my boss in the corporate world, creating presentations to pitch to investors for my business, creating Standard Operating Procedures for the people that work in my small business, and the list goes on. Especially as a digital entrepreneur, these communication skills have been crucial. A majority of my clients and colleagues are hundreds, if not thousands of miles away; therefore, communication is critical for the successful operation of my business!

In conclusion, I hope that someone out there in the position to hire a veteran or a military spouse, or even patronize their small business has learned something from this article. Veterans and military spouses are more than capable to serve the needs of your organization and/or provide you exceptional service or products with their small business. The military teaches people so many useful business lessons and this article just names three! Think of how positively your organization or life could be impacted with the addition of these skills that military member brings.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Metesh-McCoy is a veteran of the Army National Guard, an Army spouse, and a former Army brat. She is the mom of a precocious five-year-old daughter, two dogs, and two cats. She is also the owner/founder of Kinship Vacations, a full-service travel agency and travel concierge service that helps people plan customized vacations that create new unforgettable memories and deepens connections. Kinship Vacations also offers other military spouses and veterans the opportunity to start a rewarding, fun, and portable travel business through its one-of-a-kind travel advisor training program designed specifically for milspouses. Ashley is also an enthusiastic Sword & Plough brand champion, recommending the bags and accessories to all of her travel clients. For one, she has personally tested the Signature Rucksack in the sands of the Sahara Desert, to the luxurious boutique hotels in Paris. She loves the versatility and durability of Sword & Plough’s products for travel!


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Posted in entrepreneurship, military education, women in business


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