10 June 2017

Military Entrepreneurs - How Balancing a "Heart to Serve" with a "Profit Motive" Can Be a Recipe for Entrepreneurial Success for Veterans

This has been a week filled with emotions as I found myself meandering down memory lane. The years I spent serving my country were by far the best years of my life. Reinventing myself as an entrepreneur is definitely becoming a close second in terms of career satisfaction.  The satisfaction level of owning a business may have happened sooner if I had acquired the special sauce "profit motive" early on.

The "profit motive", an absolute essential in business is often a difficult topic for veterans to embrace. After all, the "heart to serve" is generally the number one motivator for them in the  military. The good news is that it will also serve them well in entrepreneurship. But failing to integrate the two will result in more than one failed endeavour.

When I was invited to be a navigator for the Prince's Operation Entrepreneur hosted by Dalhousie University this week, I was all over it. This week long intensive entrepreneurial program brings serving and retired military people together for a week of learning about business. The program was impressive and the soldiers and veterans who took part were inspiring.

There's a lot that takes place in the classroom and I'm a proponent of teaching Business Essentials to new entrepreneurs.  Let's not forget that there are certain lessons that  can only be learned with boots on the ground  - the topic of "profit motive" is one that I hold dear. I know that when I bring it up in the early days of entrepreneurship, I can literally see the discomfort with the topic. But the truth is, when we learn to balance that "heart to serve" with the "profit  motive" that business requires, we elevate our chances for success.

Entrepreneurship is an excellent choice for many veterans. They already have many of the core competencies necessary for success in business - that "heart to serve" is definitely the icing on the cake.

Soldiers have excellent skills in adaptability, we can stay the course even during the tough times. Communication, leadership and networking come natural to us. We not only set goals, we get the job done.

The one where I had the biggest learning curve was adopting the "profit motive" essential to business success. This week as I spoke with these new entrepreneurs I saw the same reaction that I had experienced in the early days. When asked whether I charged for my coaching - I said that I charged what I was worth.

Some struggled with that as they responded with "I'm not in it for the money." to which I responded "You won't be able to live your passion for long if you don't balance that big heart to serve with some practical common sense business motives around profit." That has been the biggest learning curve for me.

It's ok to want to make money. We all need money to survive. Money is just the medium through which we exchange service or as my friend reminded me - it's a measure of the pleasure you give your clients. It isn't some social evil. If you offer something that people want and appreciate, they understand why you get paid for that service. You are worth it. 

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