By Karen Sams
Veterans often have great leadership and problem-solving skills.
When veterans transition into the civilian workforce, they bring with them a long list of skills that can be especially valuable in small business. It’s no surprise that many veterans become successful small business owners, often by hiring other veterans to grow their business. And they make great employees, too. Here’s why you should consider hiring a veteran to help you run your small business.
They’re strong leaders
If you’re seeking applicants for your executive or management team, veterans with leadership training are often ideal candidates. “They have a firm belief in strong leadership and are excellent leaders themselves,” says Donnie Shelton, CEO of Triangle Pest Control in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and a pilot in the Air Force Reserve.
They’re problem solvers
Most veterans have been tested under extreme conditions and have experience solving problems with limited resources. “Most, if not all, veterans have been faced with the challenge of getting a job done without access to the resources that would ideally be available,” says Patrick J. MacKrell, veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and CEO of New York Business Development Corporation in New York City. “This is a highly desirable employee trait for independent business owners who are trying to grow with limited resources at hand.”
The extreme conditions in which service members train also show their commitment to hard work. “Anyone who has served in the Armed Forces knows what I mean. The days are long. The work is very hard. Combat, and the preparation for combat, doesn’t take a holiday. There are no weekends. You don’t go home at 5 p.m.,” says Paul A. Dillon, a Vietnam veteran and president of Dillon Consulting Services in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans have experience following and executing orders—but that doesn’t mean they can’t change course quickly if necessary. “The military teaches you to think and act flexibly. If your battle plan isn’t working, you pivot immediately to a plan that does,” Dillon says. “You have to be quick and think on your feet. Flexibility and immediate action are keys to survival.”
They work well independently and on teams
This flexibility means that veterans are often good at shifting between working independently and as a team member. “Veterans are trained to operate independently and carry out the general intent of their supervisors while requiring little to no supervision. They have the mental discipline to take independent action in the absence of supervision to accomplish the employer’s vision,” says Michael Gilbert, a Marine Corps veteran and founder of PounceLaw in Tacoma, Washington.
But teamwork is essential to military service, too. “If you’re going to be successful in the military, you need to work with all types and kinds of people—from all races, creeds, genders, backgrounds, and persuasions—and weld all of these disparate interests into a fighting force that’s going to defeat the enemy,” Dillon says. “Service in the military makes you understand the concept of ‘teamwork’ perfectly.”
You might qualify for a tax credit
In addition to the benefits of hiring a skilled candidate, small business owners who hire veterans may also qualify for tax breaks. “The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Returning Heroes Tax Credit, and Wounded Warriors Tax Credit give employers hiring veterans who meet certain criteria the chance to reduce their tax bill,” says Peter Yang, co-founder of ResumeGo in New York City. If you hire a veteran, check with your accountant to see if you qualify.