Many veterans are natural entrepreneurs. They're hard-charging, mission-oriented tacticians who never say die and have more grit than John Wayne in a western shootout.
But operating a successful business requires more than a mountain of grit and a can-do attitude. It requires research, knowing your target market, and building a trusted network of other vet and non-veteran business owners who braved the trenches and thrived.
The good news for would-be business owners is that you don't have to go it alone. Seasoned veteran business owners are ready and willing to help you.
Military.com has spoken to many veteran business owners and distilled their collective experience into three nuggets of business wisdom.
1. Build a Trusted Team (Networking)
The number of veteran-owned businesses is growing at a rate the United States hasn't seen since just after World War II. What's different now is that technology is connecting these vet business owners in new, mutually beneficial ways.
Many non-profit and corporate organizations have mentorship programs, such as Veterati, which links veterans with mentors in their field. Another great resource for vets looking for business mentors is VetToCEO, a non-profit dedicated to providing free business training, mentorship and other resources to start and run a successful business.
Veterans can also build their trust network through LinkedIn groups or by reaching out to other veteran-owned businesses.
Army veteran and J Dog Junk Removal and Hauling founder Jerry Flanagan said he is always willing to "take a call from a veteran business owner to give advice or point them in the right direction."
Likewise, Navy veteran Jeremy Coates, owner and operator of Invisi-shield, a car protective film application company, says that he stays connected to other veteran small-business owners through LinkedIn and they trade "war stories" and dish out battle-tested advice when a fellow vet is struggling.
2. Research, Research, Research
Veteran after veteran repeated this mantra: Know your market. Who are your competitors? How does your business model differ from theirs? What makes you stand out?
Sometimes, the easiest path to becoming a business owner is evaluating yourself and recognizing your skill set as an asset that you can use for starting a business.
Many financial business advisers say that the services and consulting industry is the easiest to break into, for a variety of reasons. It often has low start-up costs and taps into your expertise; this could range from tactical physical fitness to OPSEC/PERSEC to logistics and support.
The next step is to figure out who your competitors are, if any. Research their business model and see if you can provide a service that differentiates your business from theirs in some way.
3. Free Is the Best Price
You don't necessarily need an expensive business degree to learn how to run a company. There are many state and federal programs, as well as nonprofit and corporate organizations, focused on lending a helping hand to future veteran business owners.
Patriot Boot Camp, Bunker Labs, Veterati, SCORE's Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and the Small Business Administration's Boots to Business program -- just to name a few -- are all free or low-cost business resources for veterans.
Here are some great business resources to check out and see if they provide what you need to succeed: Patriot Boot Camp
Find the Right Veteran Job
Whether you want to polish your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.