Veterans & Start-ups

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Veterans & Start ups

Defence members transitioning to civilian employment is a hot topic these days, largely due to the new Government initiatives announced in November supporting this, as well as the excellent work being done by organisations such as With You With Me.

Many great articles and blogs have already been written in this area – not only aimed at assisting Veterans in understanding the transition process and what civilian employers expect of them but also targeted at civilian employers to help them understand the valuable capabilities a veteran brings to the table.

One area, though, that has not received much attention is Veterans transitioning to start-ups. This is surprising for several reasons.

Firstly, because of the Government’s focus on innovation and Turnbull’s concept of the “ideas boom”, but more importantly, because Defence members are taught to be innovative, resourceful and hard-working – exactly the traits a successful start-up needs.

To address this deficit, here are some similarities (and differences) between Defence life and working in a start-up to expose transitioning Veterans to start-ups and help them determine if this is an area they may want to work in.

It may also highlight to start-up founders the key skills and attributes that a Veteran would bring with them that may help their new business succeed.

Operational deployment vs a start-up

If you ask Defence members what their best experience has been, many would reply that it was when they were on operational deployment.

This may seem paradoxical, as during this time they would often have been working extremely long hours under (sometimes enormous) pressure; however, most Veterans thrive in this environment – working as part of a tight-knit team on something that matters.

In many ways working for a start-up can have many of the characteristics of operational deployment.

Sure, no one is getting shot at or making life or death decisions (which being a Veteran myself, I would never try to diminish). However, there is still tremendous pressure that start-up members can be placed under.

For example, a mistake at an early stage in a start-up can sink the entire venture, and pressure on decision-making certainly mounts when the business only has enough cash to pay staff for another few weeks.

In addition, long hours are part and parcel of the start-up journey. It is common for employees to work through the night and on most weekends.

For some Veterans, though, having worked 6.5 days a week throughout a 7-month operational deployment may have prepared them for this.

It is not all bad news, though. The team camaraderie most Veterans enjoy during an operational deployment is alive and well at a start-up company.

The entire team, working together towards a common goal, is the only way a start-up will beat the odds to become a success.

And the high-pressure stakes involved simply reflects the amount of responsibility a start-up employee has, which is something that several Veterans crave.

Responsibility and having the buck stop with them is essential to some Veterans because it means that their actions have meaning, and the work they are doing is essential.

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