Six Reasons Veterans Make Excellent Entrepreneurs

This week we give special recognition and honor to our military veterans on Veteran’s Day. It’s an opportunity to say thank you for your service to the veterans who are our co-workers, entrepreneurs, and innovators here at Rev1 Ventures and beyond.

The current and prolonged state of war has brought and kept veterans in the nation’s psyche in unique, and often painful, ways. All too often the only image we see in today’s media are individuals who have been damaged physically and psychologically by war and are struggling to re-integrate into society. These individuals unquestionably deserve our continued focus, compassion, and support.

However, there many veterans who return from duty who are ready with the capability to accomplish much in the civilian world.

It’s been my pleasure to work with entrepreneurs for over 30 years. I have seen what it takes to start and grow a company, and I suggest that the U.S. military is an ideal proving ground for future entrepreneurs.

Here are five ways that the U.S. military experience trains veterans for entrepreneurship.

1. Discipline, with a thinly-veiled disdain for authority

This characteristic isn’t unique to the military, but the military has a way of bringing it out. Military discipline is much more than just following orders. It is complicated: balancing personal and professional discipline with the higher expectation of also doing the right thing. Troops are trained to follow leaders with the expectation of questioning orders that could be illegal, immoral, or unethical—and the obligation to disobey any orders that are illegal, immoral, or unethical.

The military attains the necessary discipline and mission focus to achieve its objectives through standard training and living experiences. Shared experiences and routines, even if forced, create bonds between individuals who may share nothing else in common. These shared bonds are the basis for cohesive, high performing teams; veterans understand teamwork like no other group, which means that veterans understand…

2. Subverting Ego in Service to a Greater Cause

This doesn’t happen naturally for many of us. However, as individuals learn that calling attention to themselves in the military can often attract negative attention, they begin changing their behavior. Accepting that one is part of a team, someone who depends on and is depended on by others, creates a path to believing—genuinely believing—in something bigger than oneself.

Throughout U.S. history many service people volunteered. Other soldier-citizens were conscripts, fighting in wars they neither understood nor endorsed. Yet no matter how they came to the military, our service people continually recognize that whether due to diplomacy’s failure or other nations’ aggressions, individual sacrifice is required, to protect and serve the greater good, which prepares those in the military to…

3. Be Accountable to the Mission, to the Unit, to Each Other, and to Self

Consider the U.S. Rangers’ assault on the 100-foot-high Pointe du Hoc that overlooked troops landing on Utah and Omaha Beaches in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. More than 200 troops made the assault on this fortified position, and only about 30 percent survived the battle. Most of the senior non-commissioned officers (the sergeants) and junior officers (lieutenants and captains) were killed, yet the mission succeeded. Why?

There is such a well-established hierarchy in the military that civilians often believe is based entirely on power structures and the authority to give orders. However, battle is chaos. Weapons are lost. Platoons become separated. Leaders get killed.

In the military, each individual in a unit is expected to understand their organization’s objective and have to the ability and willingness to accept the responsibility to do their best to complete the objective regardless of what happens to their leaders. That’s what occurred at Pointe du Hoc, a powerful and moving example of this management system in action.

Veterans are also able to embrace accountability because they also…

4. Understand Failure

Because we’re human not possessing perfect knowledge, many things don’t go the way we’d like, or as planned. Handling tests maturity, critical thinking, and resilience. The military by its nature expects failure, understanding that failure is necessary to determine both limits and opportunity, because military personnel are generally…

5. Living in Uncertainty

The military’s role is to operate effectively in situations with imperfect information and only predicted outcomes. The famous adage, “No battle plan ever survived first contact with an enemy,” means that all military personnel have to know what to do when the plan doesn’t work. Service people face situations where things don’t just go wrong, but where the next necessary decision may have life or death consequences. They learn how to consider scenarios and alternatives ahead of time, creating plans A, B, C, and more.

Entrepreneurship isn’t about taking risk; it’s about mitigating risk and making adjustments based on new knowledge. There is no better training for that than the military.

Throughout my career, I’ve learned the most and best from others showing the way. The veterans with whom I currently work serve as wonderful examples as did more than dozen ancestors (including my Dad) who served in the U.S. military from the Revolution through almost every major conflict leading up to Vietnam and the Cold War.

To veterans one and all, thank you.


Learn more about how Bunker Labs-Columbus helps military veterans start and grow businesses. The vision of Bunker Labs is that every person who served in the military has the community, the requisite network, and the resources to realize their full entrepreneurial potential. Rev1 is the place where entrepreneurial-minded veterans can connect with the people, the resources, and the support in Columbus that they need to start and grow their businesses. Bunker Labs is the latest addition to our region’s Backyard Effect.