Too many military veterans put off starting their own business, convinced that it’s simply too complicated and too costly. Moreover, it can sometimes be hard to see how previous military experience can be converted into civilian start-up experience. But there are plenty of military vets who have made the leap from the military to the entrepreneurial sector. And so you can too! To get you started, here are 5 Key Steps for Veteran Entrepreneurs to Start a Business.
Step #1: Think of a unique product or service offering
The first of the steps for veteran entrepreneurs to start a business is a concept for a new product or service. However, it’s not just a matter of coming up with a new product or service. It’s also a matter of coming up with a new product or service that people actually want. Don’t assume that just because you’d spend $50 on a widget, so would someone else.
That’s why the most successful entrepreneurs will always test their ideas. Before ever putting them into practice.
As part of this testing process, you can either adopt a formal or informal approach. A formal approach is way more expensive and involves you doing market research studies. This helps to gauge the level of consumer demand for your product.
The informal approach relies much more on developing an intuitive feel for your product. And its place within the existing marketplace.
During a summer BBQ party, for example. You might ask your military buddies how much they’d pay for a particular product. Or whether they think it might actually be a concept worth pursuing. Think of it as free market research!
Step #2: Develop a business plan
Sooner or later, you have to put all of your great ideas into a business plan. Don’t worry – this is not meant to be a permanent document that locks you into a certain kind of business.
But it’s definitely one of the important steps for veteran entrepreneurs to start a business.
Think of it as a living, breathing document that consistently evolves. It’s a document that can be adapted. If you’re thinking of attracting potential investors to your ideas. Or if you need to hire a business consultant to help you out along the way.
A classic business plan will include a brief description of your product or service. And how it fits into the broader marketplace. It will also include a summary of how you plan to market and sell the product. And why your product has a competitive advantage against potential rivals in the marketplace.
It will also include some “snapshot” financial statements. Giving a sense of how you plan to break-even and eventually make a profit.
The business plan will also include a discussion of the competitive landscape. The famous billionaire investor Warren Buffett always talks about “building a moat” around a product. And that’s something you will have to keep in mind, too. Sometimes, this “moat” consists of intellectual property such as a patent or trademark.
It may even consist of access to low-cost resources that your competitors simply can’t match. But there has to be something about your business that protects it from rivals, right?
Step #3: Build a cash reserve for three months of operation
If you haven’t already, you will need to raise sufficient capital. Enough to keep your operations going for at least the first three months. That will give you enough time to get your business up-and-running. After all, you can’t expect to have a lot of initial customers on Day 1.
Also, since you will presumably be working full-time on this new venture. You need to have enough cash to cover all your cost of living expenses. Most small business experts now recommend having at least a three-month cash reserve.
You don’t need the fortune to get started, however. There are some businesses that you can launch with less than $1000. And even some that you can launch for less than $100.
The good news is that you no longer need an official corporate office. Or even a retail location to establish your business. You can launch a company out of a kitchen, home office or basement these days. There have been stories of military veterans starting mini-manufacturing operations out of a tiny two-car garage!
Step #4: Build your marketing and promotion strategy
The reality is that, in the world of business, it’s not necessarily the case that. “If you build it, they will come”. You need to think very carefully how to create word-of-mouth awareness of your business. And how to introduce yourself to potential clients.
The good news here is that social media is an extremely powerful tool to build brand awareness. Setting up a Facebook page is free. And you can very quickly combine Facebook with email marketing (also free!) to bootstrap your company’s marketing strategy.
The hard part for many entrepreneurs is coming up with a unique brand identity. One that will help them stand out in the marketplace. But that’s not the case for veteran-owned businesses. There are many examples of veteran business owners adapting their military experience. Who comes out to form a unique brand identity.
Some veteran entrepreneurs, for example, have created “uniforms” based on military fatigues. Others have used military terms and slogans to come up with a unique mission statement.
Step #5: Run your business from the cloud
These days, you don’t have to invest in expensive software that you install on a big desktop PC. Most entrepreneurs simply run everything from the cloud. Everything from their bookkeeping and accounting to their marketing and HR. The one big advantage of cloud-based tools is that they are very affordable.
That’s why it has been included in our steps for veteran entrepreneurs to start a business.
Often, you can use a free, scaled-down version of the software until you reach a certain size. At which point you would convert to a paid version of the software. Moreover, if you run your business from the cloud, it means you can keep tabs on your business from any digital device. Not just a single desktop PC that happens to have the software installed on it.
Once you’ve completed these five steps for veteran entrepreneurs to start a business. The only thing left to do is convert all your tactics and strategy from theory into practice. Most entrepreneurs make strategy and planning a very iterative process. So that they are constantly fine-tuning how they run their business.
To make that a reality. You will need to set aside time every month or quarter to make sure that you are really fine-tuning your business. And not just “winging it” until you reach profitability.
If you have a solid business plan in place. And if you have really thought about the target demographic you are trying to reach. You will soon join the ranks of other successful veteran entrepreneurs.