Every day I have the opportunity of choosing which “uniform” I am going to wear. Most days I chose to throw on a suit & tie in the morning and an apron in the evening, cooking dinner for my family. However, some days my “uniform” is chosen for me by the United States Army. This uniform is unlike any other uniform in my closet. It is unique and I cannot wear it for any other purpose except to serve my country.
As a Soldier in the United States Army for the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of serving my Country and dedicating myself to defending the American way of life. My day to day responsibilities over the years have consistently changed with new roles and duties required. Currently, I have the privilege of serving as the Commander of a military police unit, located right here in Central Ohio. Every month I have the ability to have a direct impact on my community and make a difference in the lives of the Soldiers under my command.
When I launched my own law practice this year I began to think about the skills that I’ve used throughout my military career and how I could leverage those skills to be successful as a small business owner. I began to think about what sort of things I do every day that help me successful as a Soldier and whether that would translate into being successful as an entrepreneur. What I found is that there are many skills that have been gained from my service that are having a direct impact on my success as an entrepreneur/small business owner. These skills are things that every entrepreneur/small business owner should integrate into their everyday lives.
Leadership Creates Vision
Leadership is not about standing in front and barking out orders. Leadership is understanding the problem, analyzing potential solutions, making an informative decision, then requesting feedback on how you can improve for next time. As a leader in the military, it is my responsibility to develop the overall training plan for my organization. This plan is my opportunity to create a vision of what I would like the organization to look like down the road. The plans I develop are a broad-brush stroke. Think of it as a children’s coloring book with an outline of the picture but no color is added. As the year progresses I add in additional “color” in order to create a perfect picture of what my end goal looks like. There are times when I may have to color over certain portions but that is all a part of the refinement piece of planning. Refining the plan does not affect the overall picture because the vision never changes.
A small business owner should approach their business in a similar fashion. Create an overall plan of what you want to accomplish. This plan doesn’t have to finalized or look like a Picasso picture. The plan is your vision of what you want to accomplish. After you’ve created your plan, break it down into small pieces. Determine what you want to accomplish my quarter, month, week and see how accomplishing those pieces fits into your overall strategy. When you feel like you have a good plan, set it into motion but don’t forget to periodically pull it out and assess yourself against that plan. There are many people who will have a lot of education and experience who will tell you exactly how your business plan should look in order to be successful but at the end of the day, success is defined only by you!
Determination Is Defined from Within
Spending “quality” time outdoors with only the guy/girl next to you and nature all around you for a training exercise might be a miserable experience to some but to an Army Soldier it’s called a great training opportunity. When I throw on my duty uniform, pack my rucksack, and kiss the family goodbye as I head out the door I don’t think about the miserable experience in front of me. I think only about my duties and focus on accomplishing my mission. You may ask how I’m able to do this and I’ll give you a simple answer – Determination. When I put on my uniform, I understand two things 1) the situation I am in is only temporary and 2) this is the job I signed up for. As a Soldier, I know that whatever task I am participating in is only making me a better member of the organization and I know the people around me have the same perspective I do.
Being an entrepreneur/small business owner requires the same mindset. You have to expect to work more hours, go to more events, and talked with more people then you’ve ever been required to do before. You have to be determined that no matter what may be thrown your way that 1) you will not fail and 2) the situation is only temporary. When we take the opportunity to create a positive mindset and take each event as an opportunity to grow and develop it creates positive results down the road. Remember success is defined from within!
Courage Is Not the Absence of Fear
F.D.R. once said that “Courage is not the absence of fear…” I say courage is the embrace of fear, acknowledging it exists, and then not letting it overcome you. The American Flag on my Army uniform flies “backward.” People sometimes asked me why my flag is facing the wrong way. When someone asks, I always take the opportunity to tell them that the reason the flag appears that way is because when a Soldier runs toward the danger the flag should appear as it is flying in the wind towards that danger. Our flag being displayed that way is a symbolism of always having the courage to move forward in spite of what may be in front of you.
As an entrepreneur/small business owner, you have to take the same approach. It is perfectly acceptable to make mistakes, that’s how you learn and grow but not making a decision because you are afraid to fail will create failure every time. When you make a mistake, courage is about acknowledging it and integrating the lessons learned into your future decision-making process. There are many people along your path who will tell you that your idea will probably fail. These individuals may use statistics, tell you stories they’ve heard, or tell you about their own failures. Each person will have their own reason but none of them should be a reflection of your abilities to succeed. As a small business owner, you have to have the courage to ignore what is being said and to focus on the task that you’ve set ahead. Remember you define success, don’t let someone define it for you.