Starting your own business – A new battlefield for veterans

Gerald Anderson is a Veteran and Business Advisor with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted by College of the Canyons.

By Gerald Anderson

Signal Contributor

When someone transitions out of military service, one of the inevitable points of “culture shock” is the need to earn a living. Whether to keep a roof over one’s own head or to provide for a family, there is a need to earn a living.

The initial choice is … get a job or start a business? If you choose to start a business, there are some considerations that may assist your decision-making.

Military service is unlike any other profession. Not only are there a multitude of unique activities and specialties, but military service requires a special kind of commitment and sacrifice. There are qualities and character traits that make a member of the military effective.

Owning and operating a business also requires a heightened level of commitment and sacrifice. Many hours handling a wide variety of responsibilities, working long hours without much free time, stressing over the obligation to pay others before you pay yourself are just a few examples of what may happen. There are few ways to avoid these types of issues, but you can manage them.

With transition into civilian life, there are certain comparisons with military life that will be unavoidable and inevitable. Civilian life for a business owner will be a different type of battlefield for sure where competing for dollars can be a blood-letting sport! Some contrasts to consider with the transition:

·         Military life calls for execution of existing action plans with defined customers, prescribed materials and deadlines.
A business owner must create innovative solutions for the marketplace with access to global resources and attract a variety of customers.

·         Military life has an existing organizational structure, fully operational support system, processes and procedures.
As a business owner, you have an opportunity to develop your own business model, define the infrastructure and choose the labor resources for the team, create and implement processes and procedures.

·         In military life, activities are defined, scheduled and executed according to a distinct time frame and frequency.
A business owner can be flexible with time management, the ability to determine the optimal pace for task/activity completion and frequency.

If a veteran chooses to start a business, then a strategy to navigate in the civilian environment will be essential.

In military service, the organization drives the processes. As a business owner you are the “driver,” or the fuel to propel the business forward. There is an opportunity to leverage others’ talents and skills. If the choice is to start a business, keep a few things in mind:

·         Can you clearly communicate the business idea to someone else?

·         Do your homework and determine if there is potential market demand for the product/service you are considering, if possible.

·         Are you ready to dedicate your time to the new business with a limited amount of free time?

·         Determine the amount of capital needed to move forward with the business, if possible.

·         Describe your potential customers’ characteristics.

·         Define the uniqueness and value of the product/service for potential customers.

·         Research your competitors.

·         Can the business be started on a part-time basis while you continue to work?

·         What is the motivating factor for starting the business?

There are many resources available for assistance as you consider becoming a business owner. Regardless of the type of business that you choose, if you are not up for some “battles” then you may want to consider pursuing a job. Time is a limited resource and your time is valuable.

Gerald Anderson is a Veteran and Business Advisor with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted by College of the Canyons (COC), serving Northern Los Angeles County – the Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, and Santa Clarita Valley. The column reflects the author’s views and not necessarily those of The Signal. For more information about how the SBDC can help your business, please call 661-362-5900, or visit



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