How the Military Prepares People for Running a Small Business

Military veterans only make up roughly 7% of the general population (including retirees), yet 9% of businesses in the U.S. are veteran-owned. If you factor in businesses that are 50% veteran-owned that number jumps to 13%. These Census statistics highlight that veterans are about 45% more likely than non-veterans to start their own business.

Military veteran

For those who have been in the military, worked with service members or are a direct relative, this comes as no surprise. The special training and discipline veterans receive in the military prepares them for entrepreneurship. It also helps that there are franchise opportunities for veterans and special programs that can help prior military members realize their dream of being an entrepreneur.

Here are a few key ways the military prepares men and women for many aspects of successfully running a small business.

Leadership Skills

No matter what branch you join, instilling leadership skills is a primary goal of the military. Some recruits begin to learn leadership skills as soon as they enter boot camp if they’re selected for a unit or squad leader position. In general, many people who join the military aren’t afraid to step up and take on a leadership role that comes with a lot of responsibility.

The Small Business Association (SBA) cites leadership skills as one of the primary reasons so many veterans are successful entrepreneurs. Leadership is one of the most important qualities a business owner can possess. You must be able to work efficiently, create a cohesive team and set an example for others to follow. Business owners also have to be able to make tough decisions, which is one of the hardest things about being a leader.

Risk Assessment

All business ventures come with associated risks. Business owners must accurately assess risk, mitigate it and minimize it if possible. They have to know when taking risk is worth the reward. Military service members are taught how to evaluate situations for risk and evaluate the best course of action. And the stakes are even higher than the pressures felt by a business owner.

Delegation of Duties

One of the most common pitfalls small business owners run into is stretching themselves too thin. They try to take on every task rather than delegating work to others. Instead of getting things done, everything takes longer than it needs to and the business owner runs the risk of burnout.

Without delegation, the military wouldn’t be able to operate. In the military everyone has a specific role that a higher up delegates. Each person is entrusted with a task that they have been trained to carry out, and superiors expect that the job will get done. Small business owners must follow the same course of selecting the best individual for the job, ensuring they can handle the task and holding them accountable for completing it. Delegation requires a high level of trust and management, which veterans are usually comfortable with.

Communication Skills

Communication is critical in military environments. One miscommunication in a combat or logistical setting can cost people their lives. Clear communication is so essential the military has come up with special ways to disseminate information so that it can’t be misinterpreted.

Those same communication skills are critical for small business owners. Without clear communication efficiency and productivity are going to suffer. An entrepreneur has to know how to communicate with different personality types and how to implement communication systems that keep everyone informed.

Overcoming Adversity

Almost every small business will encounter setbacks, low points and tough situations that may not be foreseen. How a business owner handles those moments can determine the success and longevity of their company. For military members overcoming adversity can mean the difference between life and death. Rather than letting difficulties completely derail progress, military members look for solutions and press on. That never quit mentality serves them well in the civilian world when they transition to entrepreneurship.

Effective Resource Management

Military members, in particular, Marines, are proud of their ability to allocate resources and use what they have at their disposal. Out in the field service members have to properly manage resources because a resupply isn’t guaranteed. When you’re starting a business, resources can be extremely limited. Those that can effectively manage their resources stand the best chance of getting their business past the initial launch phase.


Successful entrepreneurs and military members have one thing in common if nothing else – perseverance. In the military service members are given an objective and they don’t quit until they achieve their goal no matter how much the odds are stacked against them.

A small business owner has to have perseverance in order to get through the red tape and headaches of establishing a company. For the vast majority of businesses success is not achieved overnight. It’s often a long, difficult process to profitability that requires a never give up attitude.


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