From Battle Plans to Business Plans

From Battle Plans to Business Plans

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


Well, the results are in – Veterans are entrepreneurial. Whether or not we know it, and whether or not we do anything to confirm it, is another matter – but you can ‘rest easy’ knowing you’re more likely to succeed as a small business owner than your counterpart in the general population, one with no military experience.

Notice I didn’t say anything about guaranteed success. As I’ve said in this blog’s space before, small business is risky. I’ve always thought, though, that it’s what we’ve been through – from the adversity, to the training, to the opportunities to lead, to the expectations that we’ll be flexible and adaptable – those are some of the intangibles that stack the entrepreneurial deck in our favor, even if just a little bit. 

Another one of those intangibles, a really important one that’s hard to measure, is our ability (and susceptibility) to plan – to plan for the best and worst cases, to plan for contingencies, and to plan for second- and third-order effects. From battle plans to business plans – our background in the military community makes us more likely to succeed because we’re more likely to plan.

President and former Soldier Dwight Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” It could be argued that truer words have never been spoken, because it’s what we discover (or uncover) during the planning process that can make all the difference. But with as much planning as you, the small business owner, might engage in, keep in mind that you’ll need to be ready to adjust fire just as soon as things go sideways.

We have plenty of advocates in the civilian sector that want to help us succeed in small business, and most of them that I’ve spoken with over the years agree that we, collectively, have what it takes. Case in point #1: a colleague of mine that works for the Small Business Development Center system has worked with hundreds of clients and reviewed countless business plans. When advising prospective entrepreneurs, he doles out his own words of advice, such as those in an earlier post we titled, “Six Tips to a Top-Shelf Business Plan” ( When business planning, he recommends beginning with the end in mind, being wary of search engine results, being specific in your statement of purpose, and backing up your plan with robust action. Keep in mind that, as far as business plans go, there is no magic format or layout, and research is the key to a solid plan.

Case in point #2: a franchise consultant I know, one that regularly presents at transition workshops, tells me that there’s a general consensus among the franchise industry that Veterans make great franchisees (in other words, as small business owners). In an article found on our blog at, he offers up his take on why U.S. Census Bureau data suggests that approximately 2.5 million businesses – nearly 9.1% – are Veteran-owned, and why nearly one in seven U.S. franchises is owned by a Veteran. He touches on how proper planning is the foundation for so many other success factors that franchisors seek: quality training, risk management, discipline, and the ability to work under pressure. I second that assessment, and add a few more of my own tips for the ‘would-be’ entrepreneur…things that become second nature with constant and consistent planning.

What are those extra tips that might help you plan your next business venture, you ask? Well, they include defining success (success isn’t always measured in dollars and cents, but without spending time and energy in the planning process, that may be hard to nail down; figuring out your comfort level with risk (with proper planning, you can identify where your risk lies and determine the best way to mitigate that risk); building your team (as in, surrounding yourself with good people…professionals who have skillsets that you don’t (but need); and managing your brand (be your own brand ambassador for your small business…clean up your online image if you need to, then walk the walk.)

So, at the end of the day (or at the beginning of your next venture), just remember how valuable the planning process will be and embrace it accordingly. A few more words from someone more famous than I would be, “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Many successful small business owners can also attest that, “no business plan survives first contact with the customer.” But in the process of planning, with what you’ve learned along the way, you’ll adapt and you’ll adjust…it’s what we do. And more often than not, we’ll succeed…

Until next time…


Former Marine Celeb Chef John Besh Gives Back

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By Debbie Gregory.

Before “celebrity chef,” “TV personality,” “philanthropist,” “restaurateur” or “author” appeared before his name, Louisiana native John Besh served his nation as a United States Marine.

The son of a fighter pilot, Besh enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from high school, serving with the 1st Marine Division, the 4th Marine Division, and I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Besh credits the Marines Corps for his culinary expertise. In fact, many veteran entrepreneurs cite the military as a source of the qualities that make them successful in business: a sense of leadership, mission, focus, organization skills, and selfless service.

These attributes have served Besh well, and have become the hallmark of the Besh Restaurant Group. Combat also gave him perspective, allowing him to keep kitchen disasters in context by not sweating the small stuff.

Each November, Besh’s restaurant group hosts a free social gathering celebrating the Marine Corps birthday, and the brotherhood for which the military branch has become famous.

From the battlefield to the kitchen, this award-winning chef has dedicated his life to the service of others. Besh has been active with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, the oldest and biggest donor of need-based scholarships for military students. He has also served the UDT-Seal Association, a Veterans Support Organization that offers scholarships to the children of fallen warriors.

Additionally, Besh has worked with the Delta Veterans Foundation, which helps wounded warriors transition back to civilian life. He has also worked with the Wounded Warrior Project and the USO’s Operation SAFE Return campaign to create family centers for the loved ones of wounded warriors as they get medical care.

Lastly, Besh is proud to have partnered with Baton Rouge-based emergency reconstruction specialists Arkel International, for which he creates high quality, ready-to-eat meals for distribution to thousands of emergency response teams and sustained strategic operations in the U.S. and around the world.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Expansion of Boots to Business Program: Military Connection

boots to business

By Debbie Gregory.

Considering an exit strategy when moving from one career to another can be challenging, but for military personnel it may be much more complex. Servicemen and servicewomen know that they will be moving to civilian status in a given amount of time. The skills they acquired in the military may not easily translate to civilian careers, thus many veterans opt for entrepreneurial endeavors.

One program is making that transition easier, particularly for those considering business ownership when they leave the service. Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the US Small Business Administration (SBA) as a training track within the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program.

SBA and Defense Department officials are now expanding the Boots to Business program beyond transitioning troops to any service member at any time in their career. The program offers courses that service members can utilize while they are still enlisted to begin their track to post-military self-employment opportunities. Officials advise that it is prudent to begin exploring post-military opportunities well before they separate. When space allows, the program is also available to military spouses.

The two-day Boots to Business course offers valuable information to any service member who wants to learn about business ownership. This insightful experience offers an overview of business fundamentals and techniques for evaluating their business concepts.

“It takes a while to learn the language of business,” said Barb Carson, Acting Associate Administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development. “It’s not that troops can’t quickly learn if they have to. But it helps to have some exposure to market, time to get some capital together, time to test the idea out before launch.”

According to the SBA, veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Ten percent of all small businesses in America are veteran-owned. More than 27,000 separating service members have participated in Boots to Business training over the past three years.

Subsequent to the two-day session, an eight-week online course is an option through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. James Schmeling, co-founder of the institute, said that the courses allow students to use the information in months for short-term projects, or years later for long-term goals. He added that the extra planning time also can calm the military-to-civilian transition for many service members, allowing them to switch careers with a clearer vision of their path ahead.

“So for those who take the courses earlier, it gives them more time to identify business opportunities, look at ways to mitigate risk,” he said.

More information can be found at

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit, the go to site.

Military Connection: “Shark Tank” Veterans Episode: By Debbie Gregory

Shark Tank Veterans episodeSince 2009, hundreds of entrepreneurs have braved the waters of ABC’s “Shark Tank” for a chance to sway the panel of sharks to invest in their business or product. Just in time for Veterans Day, 2014, the reality show will be airing an all-Veterans episode.

As most people know, “Shark Tank” is a reality television show that allows entrepreneurs to make a sales pitch to a panel of established tycoons, called sharks, in the hopes that the sharks will invest in their business or product. The sharks can choose to make investment offers to the contestants or opt out on a deal. But sometimes, the sharks offer deals that are like a feeding frenzy. Contestants should beware when the sharks start circling.

Many clever products and brilliant business people have appeared on the show and made big deals, but for most episodes, the sharks are the stars. The current list of sharks include: Kevin O’Leary, a financial investor who made it big after selling his software company, Daymond John, founder of the FUBU clothing brand, Barbara Corcoran, a New York real estate mogul, Robert Herjavec, who founded two successful internet security companies, Lori Greiner, the “Queen of QVC,” and Mark Cuban, software tycoon and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, arguably the most recognizable shark.

Veterans and fans of the show won’t want to miss the episode that airs on Friday, November 7. For once, the sharks will not be the stars of the show, instead, Veterans will steal the spotlight. A Marine from Columbus, OH, an Army Captain from Louisville, KY, and a Navy SEAL from Tucson, AZ will attempt to capture the sharks and earn money for their businesses.

This special episode of Shark Tank is a great way to show Veterans how entrepreneurship can be a viable option for them after they separate from the military. The all-Veterans episode also gives the show’s viewers further insight into the struggles that Veterans have transitioning when their service to their country is through.

Be sure to check your local listings for ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit, the go to site.

Military Connection: “Shark Tank” Veterans Episode: By Debbie Gregory