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Economic Development People Viewpoints

Veterans should participate in the system they defend

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Jim-Provo-columnBy Jim Provo
Guest Columnist

Many veterans spend 20 to 30 years of their lives defending what this nation stands for “¦ but rarely take the time to participate in the freedoms they have helped protect.

This is a real shame. If anyone deserves to reap the benefits of being an American, such as our free market economy,  it is those who have devoted, and in many cases sacrificed, life and limb for its preservation.

There are two great opportunities for veterans (or anyone for that matter) to participate in the economy of our nation. One is through investing in the stock market. The beauty of this form of participation is that it can be simple and easy. (Some things in life are easy, and some simple, but few are simple and easy.)

And with a few exceptions, investing is unbiased. Your shares of a stock or mutual fund will fluctuate no more and no less than Warren Buffet’s shares. The market is blind to race, color, creed, sexual preference, gender and age. All the market asks is for you to participate and be patient.

But that is a topic for another day.

The other great opportunity to participate in capitalism is business ownership. As much as business owners love to complain about taxation, regulation or some building restriction (myself included), small business ownership provides an opportunity to be a participant and beneficiary of the economy.

So why should anyone want to own a business?

  • Control.
  • Responsibility.
  • Risk. (Yes, taking a risk can be a positive for many people.)
  • Helping others.
  • Reward, monetary and otherwise.
  • Getting to work with those you like. (You hired them.)

Please note that each of these reasons has a yin-yang component that may be a reason for you to not want to own a business.

These same reasons give us insight into why veterans make great business owners:

  • Vets want to, or even need to be in control, and are used to doing so.
  • Vets want to take responsibility and do not shy from it.
  • Vets are accustomed to, and even enjoy some risk. They have learned to embrace and evaluate risk.(Business has monetary and pride risk more than physical risk.)
  • Vets volunteered, at least in part, out of a desire to help others.
  • Vets enjoy the culture of a tight-knit unit, and can recruit and train to replicate that culture in their business.

Additionally, military service develops the skills most needed in business owners:

  • Goal-setting and mission-accomplishment focus.
  • Prioritization.
  • Planning and execution of a plan.
  • Conservation of resources.
  • Talent optimization of others.
  • Proficiency in the “Great ates” – communicate, delegate and motivate
  • And many others that come from years of military service.

Many businesses seek out veterans to hire as employees because of these talents and skills. And many vets find great jobs with great pay filling these jobs. But I think our veterans should consider another option: become an employer rather than an employee. Become an owner and set your own course. Participate in the system you defended.  As Abraham Lincoln said: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Jim Provo is an Economic Development Specialist and a Veteran Business Development Officer with the U.S. Small Business Administration, a retired Navy submariner and a business owner. Contact him at james.provo@sba.gov or (302) 573-6294, Ext. 227.


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