Women make up only 4.4% of all veterans, but that percentage has grown dramatically — up 76% from 2008 to 2012, according the SBA Office of Advocacy. Veterans are 45% more likely to be business owners than non-veterans. “In a significant way, veteran small business owners continue to serve America in a big way by employing more than six million workers, running one of every 10 small companies, and generating more than $1.2 trillion in receipts every year,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.
The rate of women starting businesses is 50% higher than in general and the rate for women veterans is even more dramatic. Nearly 100,000 businesses are owned by women veterans in the United States, generating nearly $16 billion in revenue, according to the National Women’s Business Council.
Three of these women told me how military service cultivated their leadership skills.
Resilience, adaptable leadership, goal-driven. For Phyllis Newhouse, the Army enhanced the leadership skills that being one of 11 siblings had already begun to develop. “You couldn’t be shy [in my family].” said Newhouse. You had to speak up for yourself. Her sisters and mother were her role models.
Newhouse was a sergeant in military intelligence. Women were few and far between in the Army, let alone in cyber security. She learned through the school of hard knocks. She had to have a thick skin and be resilient.
Newhouse started Xtreme Solutions. Her team, with permission, hacks Homeland Security, the Army, Pentagon, Delta, NBC, Bank of America, among others, to find security vulnerabilities, then fixes them.
In the Army, Newhouse learned to lead deliberately as well as what was needed at different stages of her company. As Newhouse has grown her company, she evolved from a direct leader to a strategic one in the same way you would if you advanced up the ranks in the military.
When the company was small, she provided leadership at the direct level; Newhouse influenced the work face-to-face, with instructions, encouragement, and recognition. As the company grew she provided leadership at the organizational level, Newhouse coordinated with both higher and lower staff. Now that the company is larger, Newhouse provides strategic leadership, she provides the vision to direct her entire team. From that flow the goals, plans, and benchmarks that let people know they are moving forward.
Newhouse learned to be goal-driven. When an opportunity to be mentored by the owner of a billion-dollar business presented itself four days before Christmas, Newhouse didn’t hesitate. She jumped on a plane. Fourteen months later, her own business had tripled.
Teamwork, leading by example and always debrief. Christine Lantinen’s family has a strong tradition of military service.With the support of her parents, she enlisted at age 16. She rose to the rank of sergeant. When the US Army first introduced forward surgical teams (FST) — small, mobile surgical units — in the 1990s, Lantinen was handpicked to be part of one of the first teams. Later, she drilled teams so they could set up and break down Combat Support Hospitals (CSH) quickly.
Lantinen bought Maud Borup, which made confectionery. She closed its retail operation and started selling wholesale to buyers at mass, specialty, grocery, club, drug and online stores. Within 12 months, the company grew from $100,000 to $2 million. Recently, she opened a factory in her hometown — Le Center, MN. She’s grown the company from eight employees to 65.
When she had trouble getting a loan, her father’s best friend put up land as collateral. She paid back the loan quickly then qualified for an SBA loan on her own.
In the Army, Lantinen learned that leadership is a critical skill. When you go into battle, you need to look after each other, and that’s what she and her employees do. Maud Borup was recently honored as 100 Best Companies to Work For by the Minnesota Business Magazine.
Lantinen also learned the importance of leading by example in the Army. There is no “Do as I say, not as I do” at Maud Borup. Lantinen is a role model to her employees. When failure happens, it’s often due to a break in the line of communication, she said. She learned to debrief in the military and uses the technique extensively.
Organizational and prioritization skills, and the ability to multitask. Marian Kahn joined the Army as a captain. She already had her Masters in nursing, was a nurse practitioner and had years of work experience. As a reservist, you wear many hats so Kahn became more organized, improved her ability to multitask, and became better at prioritization. She uses all these skills in the company she started.
When Kahn returned home from active duty, she worked in oncology at a hospital on the team doing bone marrow transfers. It was stressful and exhausting. She worked 60 to 70 hours per week. When she needed to care for her mother-in-law, Kahn joined a medical weight clinic so she could cut her hours to 20/week. She loved the work.
To be closer to family, Kahn and her husband decided to move from Atlanta to Michigan. With the advice of her former boss, she opened a medical weight clinic and wellness center Wellness NP of Michigan. Starting a medical clinic was expensive. She funded the business with personal savings, an SBA loan, and a loan through a social lending platform, StreetShares. The founder of StreetShares, Mark Rockefeller, a veteran himself, has made getting a loan for veterans starting companies very easy. It was easier to get a loan through StreetShares than the SBA, said Kahn.
Lessons women can learn from veterans. It’s interesting to note that two out of three women veterans interviewed started their businesses with outside funding. That’s a much higher rate compared to most women. With a sample of three, it’s impossible to draw a conclusion.
But a few possibilities come to mind. Maybe military service builds the confidence that some say makes women reluctant to seek outside funding. Or, perhaps, veterans have a better network that helps them find out about loans specifically for them. Of course, it may be that service in the Army shows that a person has the kind of grit that entrepreneurs need.
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This article was written by Geri Stengel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.