Compelling Reasons: Why Veterans Make Good Franchisees

By guest contributor Chris Coleman

 

If you’ve ever done any research into the franchising environment, you may have noticed that many franchise companies offer Veterans a discount on their initial investment. Why is that? Well, there are a couple reasons why. First, this is a way for many franchisors to say ‘thank you’ for serving. Many of us feel you’ve gone above and beyond to protect our country and secure our freedoms. Second, there’s a general consensus that Veterans typically make great franchisees! Franchisors find that Veterans, with their leadership and teamwork skills and propensity for following a system, make ideal business owners in the franchise space. Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why Veterans are so sought after by franchise companies.

You can’t investigate this without first establishing a key finding. For many, that key finding would be the similarities that exist between franchise operations and the order and structure built into military service. We in the franchising industry know that a franchise is successful because the bedrock of its operation depends upon a defined set of principles and procedures that, when replicated, have a high chance of success. Our friends in the military community know that having a defined mission is essential to success; a successful mission, in turn, can usually be replicated, mitigating risk in future operations.

One example of those similarities is training. One of the key advantages of franchising is the amount of training and support that goes into the development of franchisees and their respective franchises. In the military, many of you began with basic training. In a franchise system, you may be required to attend their version of basic training, alongside other new franchise owners. Both are examples of an accelerated learning atmosphere where you’ll ramp up your knowledge of processes and procedures quickly. And we all know that the training doesn’t stop once you graduate from your basic course. The same goes for franchise support systems, all of which make ongoing education, training, and support a key ideological framework.

No discussion about Veterans and franchising would be complete without a reference to teamwork. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “teamwork makes the dream work,” keep in mind that it applies to franchise operations as well as military training and execution. Much of our military organizational framework is built around groups and teams of men and women – troops, squads, platoons, regiments, divisions, and so on. Franchises rely on the same framework, the same type of top-down leadership as the military, to ensure the success of their operations.

The remaining similarities are no less obvious. The ability to thrive under pressure is a suitable quality in both a Veteran and a franchise owner…neither are strangers to long hours, hard work, and a payoff for effort at the end of the day. Lastly, discipline will always win the day…the military and our Veterans depend upon it and strong franchise brands demand it. In some sense, we can actually tie teamwork and discipline together – successful teams tend to have some sort of accountability structure in place and good franchise companies facilitate accountability groups throughout their system to encourage franchise owners to be all that they can be.

There are plenty of statistics that speak volumes about Veterans and small business ownership. From 2012 U.S. Census Bureau and Small Business Administration information, data suggests that approximately 2.5 million businesses – nearly 9.1% – were Veteran-owned. Within the small business ‘space’, franchising itself is a successful business platform for many Armed Forces Personnel – Veterans, Family members, National Guard & Reserve, and even Service Members on active duty. Many reports detail that approximately one in seven U.S. franchises is owned by Veterans. Did you catch that? One in seven franchises is owned by a Veteran! There must be a compelling reason for that statistic…

While there are a lot of synergies between franchises and the military, researching the nearly 3,600 franchise concepts can be tricky. If you or someone you know is a member of the military community looking to establish a business foothold in civilian life, I recommend connecting with a local franchise consultant to help navigate those waters. And don’t forget what they say – ‘teamwork makes the dream work’…

 

Chris Coleman is a second-generation franchise consultant & a franchise owner with over 20 years’ experience in the industry. He and his team provide no-cost consultations to individuals seeking business ownership opportunities. Chris currently owns franchise territory in 4 states, sits on the Board of Directors for FranNet, and serves as Vice-Chair of FranNet’s Franchise Advisory Council.  Connect with Chris on LinkedIn here or visit FranNet.com for more information on franchising.

Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, email Kris@militaryconnection.com and tell us your story…

Six Tips to a Top-Shelf Business Plan

By guest contributor Will Katz

 

It has been my honor and pleasure to work with many veterans who have started small businesses. Over the years, I’ve noticed that people with military experience tend to be excellent entrepreneurs. Why would that be the case? Well, I don’t know this for certain, but I would imagine that the careers of most military personnel revolve around 1) creating a plan, and 2) executing that plan.

Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that entrepreneurship generally follows a similar roadmap. Entrepreneurs also create a plan, then execute that plan. With that in mind, here are six key points for anybody embarking on the process of business planning:

Begin with the end in mind. You might recognize this as Habit 2 of Dr. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is always a good habit, but especially so when it comes to business planning.

Of course, it may be somewhat challenging. If you have never written a business plan, the odds are that you have also not seen a wide variety of business plans. If you have not seen a lot of business plans, it may be difficult to envision what your completed plan might look like.

You should ask your network of peers and advisors if they might be able to share some business plan samples with you. If your personal network doesn’t include people who are well-versed in the business planning process, use this as an opportunity to expand that network a little bit. I would recommend that you begin your journey by attempting to read and review at least ten business plans. This will give you a baseline.

Beware of search engine results. Sure, you could type “business plans” into your favorite search engine.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait…I can tell you what you are going to get back. You will see all kinds of specialty business plan-writing products that will cost you anywhere from $79.99 to about $1,200. Search engines are wonderful, and I frequently wonder how I managed to get by without the ability to find out what time the nearest pizza restaurant closes. But when it comes to complex topics like business planning, I’m not sure that search engines are your best friend.

When it comes to business plans, results with high placement are often placed in your results feed because companies who sell these tools pay for that placement. Their job is to give you “business plan envy”. They want you to feel like you couldn’t possibly do this without them. They want you to think the business planning process is more confusing or more exacting than it really is.

There is no magic format. Believe it or not, there is no magic in how you lay out the sections of your business plan. I’ve seen great business plans with 4-5 sections, and I’ve seen great business plans with 12-14 sections. I’ve seen business plans funded for millions of dollars that were 4 pages long. I’ve also seen plans of every shape and size that were lacking in critical content.

I spent several years working with an aspiring pre-venture entrepreneur who was convinced that there was a magic business plan format. He created a plan and he sent that plan to dozens of potential funding sources.  Each recipient of the plan pointed to some issue or issues, and many of them pointed to different problems.  Every time he received a response, he passed it on to me with a note, making sure to tell me that he was unhappy that I didn’t see the issue ahead of the rejection!

In this case, my belief was (and still is) that the plan didn’t correctly identify a problem and his corresponding solution. The business notion underlying your business plan is always the main issue. But his belief was simply that if he wrote the “perfect” business plan, regardless of the underlying facts, he would get millions of dollars in funding.  (Hint: it doesn’t really work that way!)

Especially if you are in the earliest stages, it will benefit you to think of your business plan along the lines of a simple feasibility analysis. The simple act of viewing your concept and your business idea from that 10,000-foot perspective may well be revolutionary for you. Shoot for maybe 5 or 6 sections, each section being one page.  You may be surprised at how far that will lead you.

Research is key. There are a lot of different types of research that might go into a business plan. Foremost among those types of research, I would say, is “secondary” market research.

When it comes to market research, “primary” market research relates to the questions you ask customers and/or potential customers. “Would you buy this?” “How much would you pay?” “What should we call it?” It’s not that these are bad questions, but for most entrepreneurs, it is exceedingly difficult to design the right survey tools and get outside of your comfort zone far enough to ask them to people who will give you unbiased answers.

“Secondary” market research relates to existing sources of information that answer questions one might have.  If your business idea is related to after-market car parts, it would be helpful to know how many cars are registered in your metro area. If you are planning to open a nail salon, wouldn’t you like to know how many people in the area have received pedicures in the last six months? (Believe it or not, this is a question that could be answered!)

There are some amazing tools for research out there if you know where to look. Some are free to use, but some are not. Again, it is always a good idea to expand your personal network to help you learn what you know and what you don’t know. If you don’t know any librarians, it might be worth your time to meet one! I’m a big fan of the US Census Bureau tools (https://www.census.gov/smallbusiness/), as well as industry reporting from places like IBISWorld, Cengage, and First Research.

Be specific in your statement of purpose. Yes, you should be as specific as possible in all aspects of business planning. But the reference here is to the purpose for your actual plan.  I always like to see a sentence in the first couple of paragraphs that starts like this: “The purpose for this plan is….”

Maybe the purpose is to find a bank loan for 50% of the $100,000 you need. Maybe you are looking for early-stage investors among family and friends. Maybe you are simply putting together a document that will keep you on track as you develop ideas and one that will provide you with direction as you move forward. Whatever the reason is, put it in the plan.

Necessary, but not sufficient by itself. I’m certain that no battles have ever been won by planning unless the planning was backed up by robust action. Know that it will be the same way with your business. Planning alone will never compete with planning AND execution.  In your military career, how many of your plans survived first contact with the enemy? Probably not very many! The same will be true of your entrepreneurial pursuits. It’s great to have a plan. In fact, it’s critically important to have a plan.

Just be prepared to deviate from that plan when the situation calls for it!

 

Will Katz, MBA, CVA is a Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) and Accredited Business Planning Advisor (ABPA) specializing in valuation support for SBA lending. Will is also Director of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Kansas, where he helps entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Will has worked with more than 1500 business clients, including hundreds of military Veterans in the Ft. Leavenworth area. Connect with Will Katz on LinkedIn here

 

Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your small business planning process or military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, email Kris@militaryconnection.com and tell us your story…

VA Benefits: Some Common Barriers for Veterans

Obtaining your VA Benefits can sometimes be a slow and arduous process. There are more than 12 million Veterans over the age of 65. These Veterans, who have served in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and to Iraq and Afghanistan, are often battling for the benefits they deserve and many times have to fight to get. While we can all agree that Veterans shouldn’t have to fight for the benefits they rightfully deserve, understanding their struggles can better help to solve this ongoing issue.

One of the biggest barriers to receiving benefits is the lack of necessary proof for the Veteran. A Veteran must provide proof of their current disability and demonstrate the medical link between their disability and their service time. For some, this link is easier to prove than others. Combat injuries that are well documented within a soldier’s service record are easy to prove. However, for servicemembers who face a disability years after they have served, the causal link is much more difficult to prove.

In addition to proving the link between the current disability and the decades-old injury that caused it, Veterans need detailed statements as to how the disability has negatively impacted their lives. Private medical records, VA medical records, and statements from family, friends and any other medical and social work providers can help. Proving the severity of the disability can be a long process with many necessary and frustrating steps along the way.

For many veterans, the struggle begins with actually obtaining service records. In 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed most of the records collected prior to that point. The VA is required to assist Veterans in finding and obtaining their service records, but Veterans might be able to speed up the process if they are able to ensure that all locations have been notified of the need.

In addition to the NPRC, Veterans can also contact The United States Army and Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRC), the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), and the Naval Historical Center. JSRRC specializes in supporting Veterans who need to prove PTSD and Agent Orange claims. NARA stores the official records to all those who were discharged from the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The Naval Historical Center houses deck logs and ship histories, which might prove critical when attempting to substantiate an Agent Orange claim.

When all else fails, buddy statements can serve as evidence of service time and injury. However, even this is not without difficulty. Elderly servicemembers might not be able to connect with their service buddies for a variety of reasons.

Once a Veteran has obtained the necessary proof, there is still an incredible backlog to actually obtain benefits. In many cases, the backlog is more than two years. Additionally, the Board of Veterans Appeals has a three-year backlog.

In many of these cases, time is not a luxury. These veterans are sick and aging. It is estimated that around 3,000 Veterans die each year while waiting for their disability benefits.

Aging Gracefully in the VA: Collecting Disability Benefits in Your Golden Years

Aging Gracefully in the VA: Collecting Disability Benefits in Your Golden Years

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

There are over 76 million baby boomers in the United States. Over 10 million of those baby boomers are Veterans. When you include the Silent and Greatest Generations, you are looking at nearly 15 million Veterans who have reached retirement age and may be in need of senior services beyond just a customary discount.

Senior Veterans have an increased likelihood to not utilize their VA benefits to their full extent. In many cases, seniors might not actually even be aware of the benefits for which they are eligible. The underutilized benefits begin with compensation. Most elderly veterans are entitled to receive compensation above and beyond the service-related compensation. In fact, there are a variety of health care programs that are actually common benefits for those who might need them.

Did you know that Elderly Veterans are entitled to Aid and Attendance? This is a program available for veterans who need help with basic daily functions. Bed-ridden, blind, nursing home Veterans can all enlist the help of an attendant to assist with their daily needs. Housebound Veterans who are unable to leave their home as a result of their disability are also eligible for similar services. Adult Day Health Care can also be life changing to elderly Veterans in need. As we age, our needs change, and Adult Day Health Care helps address and fulfill many of those needs. From companionship to recreational activity and care from therapists to nurses, the care provided might literally be life changing.

When health care needs go beyond the scope of companionship, Home Based Primary Care might be the route a family would want to take. This program brings a VA doctor into the home of the Veteran. That VA doctor will supervise an entire team that will meet and perform services within the home. This option is for veterans with health issues that are beyond the scope of care that can be provided by a clinic. Homemaker and Home Health Aides are available as well to help with daily care. This service would be customized for a Veteran who requires daily living assistance.

As age and illnesses progress, more intense services may be required to fully assist in the patient’s care. Palliative Care tends to those needs with the goal of managing pain, suffering, and symptoms. Palliative Care comes into work with the veteran and their families to evaluate the needs of the patient and put a plan into place that will best control a patient’s symptoms. When a patient is given less than six months to live, Veterans are eligible to receive Hospice Care.

Veterans that are confined to their home or live too great of a distance from their local VA are eligible for Skilled Home Health Care. The VA contracts with a local provider to ensure the needs of the Veteran are appropriately met. The care doesn’t end with the Veteran. The VA understands that the family of a Veteran can get worn out as well. Respite Care comes in to give the family of the elderly or infirmed Veteran a break from their day-to-day responsibilities and work.

The VA is aware that different cases require different solutions. Telehealth gives nurses and doctors access to monitoring equipment so that a veteran can stay in their own home while still receiving care. Veteran Directed Care provides case management and allows a Veteran and family to completely customize a health care plan to ensure their needs are being met. This might include skilled in-home services, daily assistance or medical needs.

Our Veterans are aging with every passing day. As their need for care increases, it is likely that the types of care provided will increase as well. For now, however, the list of care options is fairly comprehensive and many of the options will help address those needs.

The Job Search: Navigating a Job Fair

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

(This is one of a series of posts relating to the job search. Check back weekly for observations on a variety of employment assistance topics.)

Career fairs, hiring events, job fairs, career expos…whatever you might call them, if you’ve looked for a job anytime recently, you’ve probably been to one. And love ‘em or hate ‘em, many of us consider them a necessary evil, one of those aspects of the search for employment that would be hard to replace.

Job fairs come in all shapes and sizes, from the “one employer at the local career center” variety to the 150-employer extravaganza that was advertised at the regional or national level. Since many of you will find yourself at that registration table sooner or later, we’ve put together a list of things to be sure and do and things to avoid at YOUR next hiring event.

Do your homework. Pre-register for the event and try to get a listing of those companies attending in advance. If you have the opportunity, do a little detective work…research them & get a feel for their open positions. You’ll be able to talk intelligently about the company with the recruiter and you’ll give a great first impression. And don’t rule out companies just because they’re recruiting for positions outside your career field. Remember, this is a networking event. And while you’re at it, network with fellow job seekers & other professionals in the vicinity. Remember, many times it’s who you know…

Dress professionally. For more information on that topic, see last Friday’s post on Dressing for Success. I’ll place an emphasis on comfortable shoes, and call them a necessity for a day like this.

Accessorize with a portfolio. Have a clean pad of paper with a list of questions. Take good notes for follow-up after the fair…but remove the page from the top of the tablet when you’ve completed the interview with each recruiter. Yes, the interview. Think of a job fair as a series of mini-interviews…lots of chances to make great first impressions.

Bring business cards. A professionally designed card, tailored to introduce you as a job seeker, is a must! Resumes are your second choice…ask the recruiter which they prefer. Bring different versions of your resumes if you’re searching for different types of jobs, and have them tucked in a separate folder inside your portfolio.

Minimize your chances of bad breath. Watch what you eat. This is especially true for those fairs in the afternoons, where it’s just too easy to have onions or garlic on what you eat for lunch. Be careful not to drink coffee or smoke right before the event, and you may want to use a strong mint right before entering the fair.

When you first arrive…smiling is required. A recent study indicated that smiling faces were easier to remember. Start with the gatekeepers and others in the queue waiting to enter the event. Obtain a floor plan of the event and locate your targeted employers. Walk the room first, if needed, to relax and get the feel of how the recruiters are working their stations.

Put the phone away. Unless you’re bumping phones to trade contact information with the recruiter, or showing an employer how well you create mobile-friendly apps, just put it away. Enough said.

Listen. Process what questions are being asked of the recruiter by other candidates while you stand in line, waiting. Try not to ask the same question others have asked…especially if the recruiter knows that you were within earshot and should have been paying attention. Listen to what the recruiters are asking the other candidates, for these same questions may be asked of you.

Meeting the recruiter. Don’t just walk up to a table and interrupt the current conversation; wait your turn and be polite. Some employers will have long lines, which will deter (and discourage) some jobseekers. The amount of time you will have with the recruiter can vary from mere seconds to minutes. Take notes if possible and offer your business card or resume.

Sell yourself. Prepare (and rehearse) your one-minute elevator pitch, highlighting your unique value proposition…what you can offer the employer. Be prepared to talk about your military history and work experiences, as well as your skills and abilities. Questions not to ask: Are you hiring? What kind of jobs do you have? What does it pay? All those indicate you haven’t done a lick of research about the company’s opportunities for employment.

Before you leave each table/recruiter/mini-interview, take the initiative and ask, “What’s the next step?” Don’t be offended if the recruiter tells you that they don’t need your resume and you’ll have to apply online for their open positions. If you have time, ask if there are any suggested tips for completing their online job application. Request the recruiter’s business card for future correspondence, shake hands, and thank them for their time. Move away and finalize your notes.

Follow up. Email each recruiter (with whom you had a meaningful conversation) a note about 2-3 days after the event, thanking them for their time and recapping your conversation (this is why your notes are so important). Attach a PDF version of your resume, so they’ll have it digitally.

Finally, here are some recruiters’ pet peeves: Too much cologne or perfume. Weak or sloppy handshake. Too many filler words (“like’, “you know”). Walking from booth to booth, picking up swag. Even worse – walking up to a recruiter with a bag full of stuff and then fumbling for your resume/business card, which happens to be stuck to the free pen you picked up from another recruiter.

One last note about career fairs…keep in mind that these events aren’t all about YOU and open jobs…these events are about networking with companies that you’d like to work for. If you get a referral for a job, consider it your lucky day. It means that you did everything right to warrant that recommendation…

 

Do you have any tidbits or success stories from your experiences at career fairs? Anything that might benefit others in the military community, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

Remembering George H. W. Bush

Remembering George H. W. Bush

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

He has returned to Washington, DC for one last visit before his final resting place. He has been visited by many, including his faithful service dog, Sully, who has sat in empathetic mourning in front of his flag-draped casket. Flags across our country fly at half-mast and our social media feeds are flooding with stories of his greatness. Whether you loved him during his career or opposed him, George HW Bush’s legacy surpasses the politics for which he is known.

 

Born June 12, 1924 in Milton, MA, George H.W. Bush was one of five children for Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. A young man headed for collegiate life, Bush was extremely impacted by the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. Six months later, on his 18th birthday, George Bush enlisted in the US Navy and subsequently became one of the youngest aviators in naval history. His three years in the military was only the beginning of his lifetime of service to the American people.

 

By 1948, George Bush was out of the Navy and a graduate of Yale. Upon his graduation, he moved with his family to Texas and began his career as an investor in the oil industry. He founded his own oil company and was a millionaire by the age of 40. From there, he launched himself into the field of politics. His initial run for US Senate resulted in a defeat in 1964. However, that loss was followed up with a win for the 7th District for the US House of Representatives just two years later. He won re-election in 1968 but suffered another defeat in the US Senate election of 1970. He had already garnered the attention he needed, however, as President Richard Nixon took the opportunity to appoint Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations in 1971. By 1973, he was Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  

 

Bush’s run for the Oval Office began in 1980, but he was defeated in the Republican Primary by Ronald Reagan. Reagan subsequently selected Bush as his running mate and this Republican ticket was elected in 1980. Bush used his eight years as Vice President to head the war on drugs, which became a popular slogan of the decade. He also headed the task force on deregulation.

 

After two terms as Vice President, Bush became the first incumbent VP to win the Presidential election. He defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis and began what would be a foreign-policy presidency.

 

In those four years, Bush’s presidency saw a series of military operations and historical events. From Panama and the Persian Gulf to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, foreign events helped to make Bush’s term memorable. These events also led to a variety of issues in this new, post-cold war environment. A domestic economic recession, foreign wars, and foreign policy issues combined to give Bill Clinton the edge in the 1992 election.

 

Despite leaving office in 1993, George Bush remained active in the public eye. It was just eight years later that he would officially become George H. W. Bush, as his son, George W. Bush, became the 43rd President of this great country.

 

It is no doubt that our 41st President was a great man, a good leader and a wonderful husband, father, grandfather. While his son was in office, he was called into service yet again. This time to work side-by-side with former political adversary, Bill Clinton. The two were thrust into humanitarian projects and through working together, became friends. In fact, his son, George W. Bush, once joked that during Clinton’s surgical recovery, he likely “woke up surrounded by his loved ones: Hillary, Chelsea…my Dad.”

 

It was those humanitarian lessons that taught us some of George H. W. Bush’s greatest lessons. We learned that there is always more we can do – more ways we can help. His time to be in the limelight was technically over and he would have been within his rights to want to enjoy his retirement with his wonderful wife, Barbara, by his side. Instead, he spent much of his golden years trotting the globe, helping those in need.

 

Through his relationship with Bill Clinton, he taught us that the past is the past and we can overcome personal differences to truly make the world a better place. What they demonstrated is something this country is sorely lacking.

 

Even Clinton has made this observation:

“I think people see George and me and they say, ‘that is the way our country ought to work.’”

 

President Trump has declared today, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning in honor of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush. He has been lying in state in Washington DC in the Capitol Rotunda since Monday. He will make his way to the National Cathedral for his State Funeral Service. After the State Service today, “Special Mission 41” will take George H. W. Bush home to Texas where he will ultimately find his final resting place on the grounds of the library that bears his name.

 

The Job Search: Dressing for Success

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

(This is the first in a series of posts relating to the job search. Check back every Friday for observations on a variety of employment assistance topics.)

You know what they say…you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Whether it’s reporting in to your new military unit or trying to land a job, many of us still believe that good first impressions are crucial. For the next few minutes, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the ‘land a job’ arena, from the perspective of proper dress during an interview.

Many civilians think that active military and fully separated Veterans have the wardrobe thing all figured out. They see us looking sharp in a parade or a recruiting commercial, but may not realize that while many of us were issued our uniforms, we also had it drilled into our heads exactly how to wear them…by memorizing ‘wear and appearance of the uniform’ regulations or just by verbal instructions from our favorite drill sergeant.

But when it comes to the civilian side of the wardrobe closet, especially for those of us still serving or in the initial stages of separating, things may be woefully inadequate. In fact, I’ve known plenty of Soldiers over the years that had exactly “0” civilian suits on hand. If only we could wear our most comfortable field uniform to the job fair and our service dress to the interview…

For now, let’s move forward under the premise that wearing a military uniform of any type is not an option. You may be like most other humans and cue up your best Internet search query to get smart on what you should wear at different points of the job search. During the interview process, specifically, the clothing you select is indicative of your respect for the interviewers and the companies they represent, as well as how seriously you take the interview itself. The better you dress, the more seriously you will be taken and considered. No doubt about it.

While the way we dress for a job interview isn’t the only criteria on which we’ll be judged, it is the most obvious. Other nonverbal factors include things such as your choice of accessories, firmness of handshake, degree of eye contact, and overall projection of confidence. All are important, to be sure; for the rest of this post, however, let’s focus on attire. We’ve broken down some tips and techniques into recommendations for men and women, with some general tips to serve as bookends. While we didn’t write these rules, feedback from many employers and hiring managers over the years indicates that job searchers should sure pay attention to them.

Tips for everyone. Make sure to wear deodorant, brush your teeth, and comb your hair (sorry if that goes without saying). Bring along breath mints if you won’t be able to brush your teeth before the interview, but don’t eat the mints or chew gum during the conversation. Don’t wear scented items like perfume and cologne; I’ve spoken to more than one interviewer who was allergic to a particular scent being worn, and those particular interviews weren’t exactly enjoyable experiences.

Tips for women. Acceptable attire for women usually includes a suit or conservatively tailored dress, with a coordinated blouse. Avoid blouses or sweaters that are transparent, are tight fitting, have low necklines, or have details that detract from your face. Wear plain-style, non-patterned hosiery, of a color that flatters your skin tone. Wear flat shoes or low pumps in colors that avoid making your feet a focal point. Limit your jewelry: avoid dangling earrings, and wear no more than one ring per hand and a dress watch. You may want to consider manicured nails with clear nail polish. Make your primary accessory a portfolio or small briefcase (don’t carry a purse and a briefcase…choose one or the other).

Tips for men. Feedback indicates that men should wear suits of a solid color (navy, black, or gray, in pinstripe or solid) with a white, long sleeve shirt. Ties should be conservative (silk or silk-like, tied with a half-Windsor knot) and of a color that strongly contrasts with the color of your shirt. Wear professional-looking, lace-up shoes with dark socks, coupled with a leather belt that visually blends with or matches your shoes. Again, wear limited jewelry – no more than one ring per hand and a dress watch. Ensure you have neatly trimmed nails and accessorize with a portfolio or small briefcase.

More tips for everyone. In general, dress in a professional and conservative manner. Ensure your clothing fits well and is clean and pressed. Stay away from denim. Remove facial and body piercings, cover up any visible tattoos, and fix your hair so that it’s conservative in color and style, if possible.

If you haven’t taken anything else from this short post, make sure and put conscious thought into what you wear to the interview. A good rule of thumb is to dress for the job you want five years from now, not the job you want today. Some say to choose the same clothing you’d expect the boss of the company to wear.  Some will tell you to dress conservatively. The point of it all, however, is to keep the focus on the interview, not what you’re wearing.

Do your homework and know the business climate and culture of the company you’re interviewing for, if at all possible. Dress your best for the interview, regardless of the dress code at the organization. Dressing for success will feed into your confidence level, which will be on full display during your interview. And go knock ‘em dead, sweaty palms and all…

 

Do you have any ‘lessons learned’ from your job interviews as you transitioned from active service to the workforce? Anything that might benefit your brothers- and sisters-in-arms, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward

The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

It’s that time of year in our household: the birthday and holiday season, which means an influx of items into our house which is already stuffed beyond what I find reasonable. There are seven of us in my family, and 5 of our birthdays fall between October 22 and January 4. Combine all of that with Christmas and you have loads of goodies coming through the front door and a desperate need for some gently used items to go out as well.

We do our best to reuse as much as possible and hand down clothes from child to child. Some of the outfits that are currently hanging in my youngest son’s closet have been worn by four other boys before him and we will be passing it along after his next growth spurt. While I love our little system, not everything can be easily handed down and not every family has a system quite like ours.

I happened upon the Military Order of the Purple Heart several years ago during a pre-Christmas purge. Like so many families with young children, I found our house inundated with more stuffed animals than we could reasonably handle. Our standard donation collection location did not accept stuffed animals. The thought of tossing these toys, which were in near perfect condition, prompted me to look for a donation place that would repurpose them into homes that could use them.

 

I did what any Xennial would do – I posted on Facebook and asked for a recommendation. There was one answer that resounded: The Military Order of the Purple Heart.

 

I had never heard of them before that point, but I was convinced within three clicks of a mouse. Since then, it is the only place I donate – and here is why:

 

  1. Members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart are combat wounded veterans. These men and women served their country and came home with battle scars. They take their experiences and “pay it forward” by using their energy and resources to help current active duty servicemembers, veterans and all military families.
  2. They pick up at my door. Does it get any easier than that? The Military Order of the Purple Heart has contracted with Green Drop, a charitable organization that both assists in raising funds for its partners and handles the pick up and delivery of donated items. Simply put, Green Drop converts your lightly used items into funds that are critical for the organization of your choosing – in my case, the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
  3. I can schedule my pick ups online. I just pull up GoGreenDrop.com, click on “schedule a pick up” and type in my zip code. They keep track of me by my last name and phone number. Not thrilled with having them come to your door? No problem! There are drop off locations as well (just click on the appropriate drop down).
  4. They email me. I get a confirmation AND a reminder. Let’s be real – I’m a busy mom with five active kids. I’m lucky I remember anything. I need the reminder. My reminder email comes through a day before my pick up and I put my bags by the front door. When I get up the next morning, I put them on my porch (you designate the pick-up location: porch, driveway, front of house, side of house; depending on your home style) and then I don’t think about it again. By the end of the day, the Green Drop folks have stopped by, collected my gently used items and left a receipt to say thank you.
  5. Receipts! Speaking of receipts – I’m married to an accountant so we account for every single item that gets donated. Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart keeps your donation receipt accessible. So – when tax time rolls around and you need proof of your monthly donations, simply hop on that website again and look up your history by your phone and zip code.
  6. Don’t forget the environmental impact! My donation might end up on a shelf at a second-hand store or be given directly to someone in need. Either way, it isn’t ended up unused (like it was in my house), collecting dust or worse – taking up space in the dump. We donated a bear that could sing and read stories. I love the idea of a little girl or boy listening to those stories and singing along, just like my kids used to do.
  7. Finally – and for me, most importantly – donating to The Military Order of the Purple Heart provides me a way to help when finances are a little tighter than we like them to be. (Remember the five kids? They aren’t cheap.) I don’t always have discretionary funds and sometimes I have to make sure the bills are paid before I can put my dollars towards helping others. Green Drop and the Military Order of the Purple Heart take my donations of goods and turn them into donations that help actual people. I love that.

 

So as you dive into the holiday season, if you are looking to purge in your own household, please consider having Green Drop pick up your gently used items. If this holiday season brings you lots of joy – and lots of items that are brand new but won’t find a use in your home, please have Green Drop pick them up. The Military Order of the Purple Heart could use them and the financial resources that your items will bring.

Here is a comprehensive list of items accepted by Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart:

Clothing & Shoes

 

All men’s, women’s, children and infant clothing including outerwear, underwear, shoes and boots, jackets, ties, shirts, dresses, blouses, sweaters, pants, hats, gloves, handbags, purses, raincoats and overcoats, swimsuits, sandals, shorts, sleepwear, jeans, T-shirts and formal wear.

 

Household Items

 

Cosmetics and toiletries (unopened), eyeglasses and sunglasses, artificial flowers and trees, umbrellas, yarns and material, knick-knacks, antiques,  jewelry, luggage, buttons, musical instruments, towels, area rugs-6×9 or smaller, Christmas and seasonal decorations, novelties, framed pictures and paintings, yard tools, hardware tools, bedding, draperies, blankets, bedspreads, quilts, sheets, pillows and pillow cases.

 

Kitchenware

 

Cookware and bakeware, dishes, utensils, flatware, silverware, pots and pans, Tupperware, glasses and cups, serving plates and trays and canning jars.

 

Games/Toys

 

Fisher Price and Little Tikes items, bicycles, tricycles, board and other games, stuffed animals, software for Playstation, Xbox and Wii.

 

Small Appliances

 

Irons and ironing boards, sewing machines, microwaves, clocks, hair dryers, electric griddles, blenders, coffee makers and toasters.  

 

Electronics

 

Flat screen TV’s, computer items including towers, printers, flat screen monitors, hard drives, software and accessories, telephones, smart phones, answering machines, portable copiers, fax machines, calculators, stereos, DVD players, video cameras and equipment and radios.

 

Sporting Goods

 

Camping equipment, roller blades, ice skates, golf clubs, baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, tennis, lacrosse equipment and accessories, skiing equipment and boots and fitness items.

 

Books, CDs & Videos

 

Hardback, paperback and children’s books, CDs, DVDs, Blue Ray movies, electronics, books and record albums.

 

Small Furniture

 

Furniture weighing less than 50 pounds such as end tables, coffee tables, lamps, night stands, wooden chairs, rocking chairs, stools and plant stands.

 

Do you work with an organization that provides assistance for Active Duty Military, Veterans, Spouses or families? We want to hear your story! Please email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

Cost of Living Adjustment Boost in 2019

COLA Increase Planned for 2019

 

Effective this December, over 67 million Americans will see a 2.8% cost of living adjustment added to their federal benefits. For the first time in six years, military retirees and disabled veterans will receive an increase of over 2%

 

The increase was announced in October by the Social Security Administration and the news immediately made headlines. The 2018 COLA was 2%, which was a significant increase over the previous 3 years, which showed a total of 2% increase from 2015-2017.

 

While SSA is able to boost its COLA without an act of Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs is not. Therefore, this increase only applies to beneficiaries of Social Security payouts. However, Congress recently passed a bill that was signed into law that increased several Veterans benefits, which include clothing allowances, dependants compensation and other cost of living issues.

 

“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans

“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Top ten lists…it seems like they’re everywhere, and about everything. For many of us, it’s a method of focusing and organizing so we can prioritize our time and energy on what we’ve deemed the ‘most important’. For others, it’s just a catchy way to encourage a reader or a viewer to linger a few more minutes.

Whether you cut your teeth on the humor of David Letterman’s regular ‘Top Ten List’ segment or you find such lists a really valuable use of your time, it should come as no surprise that examples abound on the top ten reasons employers should hire Veterans.

A quick Google search will pull up results from the U.S. Department of Labor (“Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), BusinessInsider.com (“10 Reasons Companies Should Hire Military Veterans”), Military.com (“10 Reasons to Hire Vets”), MakePositive.com (“5 Good Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (“Top Ten Reasons to Hire Members of the Guard and Reserve”). Some of those lists were compiled with the help of military veterans, some were put together by employers, and some were assembled by federal, state, and local agency personnel who have a stake in the employment assistance space. And the shocker is, all of them are correct, to some degree…it’s just a matter of perspective.

I put my first of such lists together in 2010, when I started working with the Show-Me Heroes Program, a partnership between the Missouri Division of Workforce Development and the Missouri National Guard that sought to help our state’s Veterans find meaningful employment. My original list expanded and contracted as I spoke with more and more employers and reflected on my own years of experience in the U.S. Army.

I often shared my list with job seekers from the military community that I came across, for this list of reasons to hire Veterans is as much for Veterans themselves as it is for business owners and hiring managers. Once employers ‘get it’, there’s not usually a need to go on and on with them. For those looking for a job, however, it’s important that they know how those in the employment assistance arena are advocating for them. They need to know that we’ve ‘talked the talk’, so they can put things in place to ‘walk the walk’, so to speak.

Once job seekers read through my list or any other, they should take inventory of the things that might very well make them the best candidate for the job. They should incorporate those soft skill sets and experiences into their resume, their cover letter, and answers to potential interview questions. That’s how they can communicate what they bring to the table. That’s how they can communicate how they can make a positive and lasting impact to that civilian employer’s workforce.

From the front lines to the assembly lines, much of the training, the challenges, the adversity…those things do, indeed, translate. I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard from countless employers that hiring someone with military experience made a sudden and lasting impact on their workforce.

So, here’s my perspective. I was initially going to say, “this list is in no particular order,” but in fact there is an order to my list. It’s an order that I put together based on nearly a decade of meeting with employers to discuss the prospect of hiring Veterans for their workforce. My Top Ten list includes these elements…

  1. Leadership Experience.
  2. Strong Personal Integrity.
  3. Ability to Work as a Team Member and Team Leader.
  4. Performance under Pressure.
  5. Possession of a Valid Security Clearance.
  6. Strong Work Ethic.
  7. Specialized Advanced Training & Technical Skills.
  8. Flexibility and Adaptability.
  9. Discipline.
  10. Attention to Detail.

When I first penned this list, I struggled with how short it was. I thought that there were many other attributes that were front and center in the people with whom I served…attributes and soft skills that could really make an impact. After taking some time to look through some old award narratives and evaluation reports, and touching base with some human resource managers that I knew, I felt that I could justify a few more.

  1. Ability to Work Efficiently & Diligently in a Fast-Paced Environment.
  2. Commitment to Excellence & History of Meeting Standards of Quality.
  3. Ability to Conform to Rules and Structure.  
  4. Initiative & Self-Direction.
  5. Respect for Procedures and Accountability.
  6. Strong Sense of Health, Personal Safety, and Property Standards.
  7. Ability to Give and Follow Directions.
  8. Hands-on Experience with Technology and Globalization.
  9. Systematic Planning and Organizational Skills.
  10. Accelerated Learning Curve with New Skills and Concepts.

But wait, there’s more. Some of us have more of these soft skills than others. Some of us have spent decades in uniform, others just a few years of an initial enlistment. Different Branches of Service have put emphasis on different areas in different times, and training that the Soldier received in the ‘70s is quite a bit different that what the Sailor received last year. So, I added a few more to the list…

  1. Diversity in Action and Strong Interpersonal Skills.
  2. Emphasis on Safety in the Workplace.
  3. High Levels of Maturity and Responsibility.
  4. Motivation, Dedication, and Professionalism.  
  5. Triumphant over Adversity.

I’m pretty sure I could keep going, but I’m going to stop right here. These are just a few reasons why employers value military experience in their workforce. If you’re a hiring manager, I’m sure you get my point. If you’re a job seeker from the military community, I encourage you to figure out which of the items in this ‘Top Twenty-Five’ list resonate most with you, at least in part because of the path you’ve followed. Be able to make the connection between items on this list and essential elements in the job description and do your best to communicate what you bring to the table…to the person that’s sitting across the table from you during your next job interview. Cheers!