How does my military experience translate to the business world? I’ve thought about this question many times. They are, in fact, quite different situations. Through assessing my skills as a veteran, they weren’t necessary technical skills that have helped me the most. But there are several skills/habits I learned in  seven years in the Army that have lasted. 

Adaptability/Flexibility/Problem Solving

First and foremost, learning these skills has been the most helpful. Before going to Iraq, we did a lot of training. Then, faced with combat, the rules changed immediately. There was no training that prepared us for what it was really like. You had to quickly learn how to deal with chaos and lousy situations and become a problem solver.

As a business owner, I’ve often had to fall back on the skills of adapting to a changing situation and sometimes chaos. It’s certainly not always fun but sometimes you just have to deal with it.

Communication

The communication skills I learned in the military have translated to business success. Learning how to communicate clearly is imperative. If communication is “fuzzy” or misunderstood, it can lead to disaster.

The same is true in business. The greatest difficulties I’ve run into have been when communication isn’t clear and understood by every party. Moreover, in the military you need to learn how to communicate and interact with many different types of people—those who outrank you, subordinates, peers, people from different cultures, difficult people, the list goes on. That’s been very helpful for me in my business.

Humility

The humility I learned from being in the Army has been useful in running a business. In the military, there are many instances where you need to check your ego and just deal with things. The Command Sergeant Major (the highest enlisted rank) in my Battalion used to enjoy telling us to “suck it up” when there we had to do something we truly didn’t want to do.

As I think of times in business where I’ve had to deal with things like an upset or challenging client or vendor, humility has been a helpful tool. Sometimes you just have to suck it up.

Respect

The military builds respect into you. It’s not necessarily “reverence” that I mean. I never felt lesser than anyone. But I learned to respect a good leader, respect a good platoon, respect that there are sometimes situations where someone has more knowledge or experience than me—and have respect for the larger mission. It’s respecting what you’re doing by taking it seriously.

One of the biggest ways respect has helped me in business is knowing to respect that there are many different types of smart people with many different points of view. I’ve learned to respect the fact that I may not always be the smartest kid in the class and that we’re all different.

Teamwork

You can’t get by in the Army or as a business owner without teamwork. We don’t get through challenges alone. We need to be able to work well with others to get things done.

As a business owner, I know how my military skills have benefitted me. If you’re a business owner who hires a veteran, or is considering hiring a veteran, know they’re bringing a lot of transferrable skills.

About the Author
Michael Keiser is Co-Founder of coaching, marketing, and advisory company E Circle Marketing.

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