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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” (https://militaryconnection.com/blog/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 https://militaryconnection.com/blog/vets-make-good-franchisees/, 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…

 

Signed into Law: The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

Signed into Law: The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

Patricia Kime, writer for Military.com, reported early last Wednesday that after decades of negotiations, President Donald Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law late Tuesday.

The sailors, Marines and other service personnel who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam have been fighting for the passing of H.R. 299 for decades. Before this legislation, the specific diseases connected to Agent Orange exposure exposure were recognized only for ground troops. This new law extends that recognition to all those who served off of the coast of the Republic of Vietnam and Cambodia between January 1962 and May 1975.

This change in legislation stands to benefit an estimated 90,000 veterans who were exposed to the chemical herbicide agent produced by Monsanto in the 1960’s. The medical conditions of these veterans who served off the coastline will now receive the same considerations as ground troops and will have their disability compensation fast-tracked. Agent Orange-associated illnesses range from respiratory cancers to Parkinson’s, heart disease and certain types of diabetes. 

Veterans who have previously had claims denied are now eligible to resubmit along with those who were deployed in the Korean Demilitarized Zone from 9/1/67-8/31/71. An additional group covered by this new legislation is the children of veterans who served in Thailand from 1/62-5/75 who were born with spina bifida. 

Not everyone is celebrating this new legislation. The Military-Veterans Advocacy group has some significant concerns about the wording of H.R. 299. The bill covers Blue Water veterans that were up to 12 miles off the shores of Vietnam and Cambodia. The concern of the Military-Veterans Advocacy group is for the Blue Water veterans who are outside of this perimeter of the predetermined area but still within the South China sea and subject to the waters and chemical runoff of the heavily impacted Mekong River. Military-Veterans Advocacy has previously filed a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of the Blue Water veterans over the denial of benefits. 

Rep. Mark Takano, (Democrat, CA) is one of the original drafters of the legislation. He also chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Takano has been quoted as saying that Congress has now “righted a terrible injustice.”

“We can finally tell the tens of thousands of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War but wrongly denied benefits that justice is finally coming.” 

While the signing of the legislation should absolutely be viewed as a victory for all Blue Water veterans, this win does not mean the end of the war. Provisions are now in place for tens of thousands of additional veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. However, the work is not complete until every benefit is available to every exposed veteran, no questions asked.  

With additional benefits come additional costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these changes could cost as much as $1.1 billion over 10 years but the Department of Veterans Affairs has a much higher estimate of $5.5 billion. Non-disabled veterans can expect additional fees on VA-supported home loans (less than a percentage point). 

 

The Home of the Free Because of the Brave: Memorial Day 2019

The Home of the Free Because of the Brave

 

You’ve heard it said before: we are the home of the free because of the brave. Or perhaps “all gave some, but some gave all.” Or even, in the words of Lee Greenwood, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free and I won’t forget the men who died and gave that right to me!” There are countless colloquialisms, sayings, poems and songs that can be applied to Memorial Day.

 

An unofficial holiday that sprung from the ashes of the Civil War, Memorial Day, as we know it, came to be in 1971. The fourth Monday in May each year, today is the day we remember the soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom as Americans.

 

Memorial Day, for my non-military family, was about barbeques and family, laughter and fun. There was a parade that went through Rosebank in Staten Island, NY, but I don’t remember paying much attention to the reason behind the holiday. Fast forward to 2010, and I attended my first Memorial Day service in honor of a soldier who was no longer with us. My husband’s grandfather, who lived to be nearly 90, served in WWII. His son made the military a career and just a month after Grandpa left us, his little town in Northern NJ honored him and his sacrifices on Memorial Day.

 

It was breathtakingly beautiful and achingly heart-wrenching, all at the same time. I found myself gasping for air as they handed flowers to his daughters. I didn’t know him when he was in the service, but it didn’t matter. As they honored him that day, I couldn’t help but envision Grandpa as a young soldier, in his crisp uniform, ready to take off and storm the beaches at Normandy.

 

9/11 Reflections: Alan Rohlfing, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired)

911rohlfing

For me, as for many of us, the morning of September 11, 2001 started off like any other. It was a beautiful day in St. Charles, Missouri. My wife & I had one young son & one on the way. An Army guy, I was a traditional National Guardsman and a small business owner with about 1,000 things going on at any given time.

I was in the process of taking my son to daycare when I first heard news of the attack. As I started the car & turned on the radio, it was the only news on every station. The second plane had already made impact by the time I tuned in. I recall that news reports were relaying some concern over a few other commercial airliners that weren’t communicating with air traffic control, with the talk of scrambling military fighter jets. I prayed that those pilots wouldn’t be placed in the position of having to shoot down a commercial airliner.

I hadn’t left the driveway yet, and I looked in the rearview mirror at my young son, sitting in his car seat. I remember having that sinking feeling that so much of our world had just forever changed. I knew our military world had just changed, too, but I doubt anyone could have predicted how much. As a member of a Field Artillery battalion’s operations staff, there were exercises in the coming training year that I was helping to prepare for, and the artilleryman in me knew we were going to have to ‘adjust fire’ regarding our yearly training plan. I figured that our combat arms unit, part of the Missouri Army National Guard, would deploy…it was just a matter of time.

And deploy we did, just like the rest of the Active and Reserve Components. We deployed more than once, and to various parts of the world. I was already a combat Vet – I deployed with the 1st Infantry Division to Operation Desert Storm a decade earlier, while on active duty – but I didn’t have a young family back then. Sitting in that driveway, looking at my young son & thinking of the one we had on the way, I was worried for their safety & the world they were going to grow up in.

Fast forward to 2017. I hung up the uniform for good last summer, and a bittersweet day it was. I imagine the events of 9/11 – and the subsequent training, unique duty positions, and deployments –  altered what would have been a shorter military career. Like many of my colleagues, I’ve missed years of family time. I’ve lost Brothers & Sisters to combat and to suicide. I’ve forged some incredible friendships and witnessed some awesome things through a multinational lens. These 17 years have come and gone with blinding speed, and it seems like the next time I turn around, it will be the 25th or 50th anniversary of that fateful day. But I know, beyond all doubt, that we will never forget…

-Alan Rohlfing, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired)

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

 

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

By Debbie Gregory.

 

A few of their names may sound familiar, and a few may not. But two things that the following men all have in common are that they are billionaires, and they all served in the U.S. Military.

S. Daniel Abraham, Army- As the founder of the Thompson Medical Company, Abraham made his fortune with the product Slimfast, a line of weight loss shakes, bars, snacks, packaged meals, and other dietary supplement foods. The line was sold to Unilever in 2000.

John Paul DeJoria, Navy- Thirty-eight years ago, John Paul DeJoria partnered with his friend Paul Mitchell, to start a company that would support the success of hairdressers and provide luxury hair care at an affordable price. With $700 of their own money, the two grew the product line from two shampoos and one conditioner to a diverse product line that includes styling tools and the largest global cosmetology and barber school franchises.

Charles Dolan, Air Force- Dolan began his successful career by packaging, marketing and distributing sports and industrial films. He went on to found Home Box Office, or HBO as it is more commonly known. He is also the founder of Cablevision.

John Orin Edson, Army- Edson began selling his own racing boats from a parking lot in Seattle, Washington. He eventually bought the rights to Bayliner Marine and developed the company to where it was valuable enough to Brunswick to purchase it for $425 million. Ever since, it’s been smooth sailing for the Army veteran.

David Murdock, Army- Murdock began a career in real estate, acquiring many businesses, including the pineapple and banana producer Dole Food Company. Following the death of his third wife from cancer, Murdock has been involved to finding a cure, advancing nutrition, and life extension. He established the Dole Nutrition Institute to advocate the benefits of a plant-based diet to promote health and prevent disease.

 

Vietnam Veteran Works to Reunite Families with Their Fallen Heroes

Vietnam Veteran Works to Reunite Families with Their Fallen Heroes

Vietnam Veteran Works to Reunite Families with Their Fallen Heroes

By Debbie Gregory

Army veteran Johnie Webb, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), has spent much of the last 30 years helping reunite families with their fallen heroes.

The DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of missing military personnel to their families and the nation.

A few years after serving in Vietnam, Webb was assigned to the Central Identification Laboratory and he was tasked with locating the remains of fellow servicemembers who never made it home.

Then, in 1985, Webb was chosen to lead the first recovery team into Vietnam to search for the remains of the victims of a B-52 bomber crash site near Hanoi.

Today, the DPAA teams work with the Vietnamese government as they search for roughly 1,600 Americans missing from that war.

The agency’s mission has expanded to include recovery efforts from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and other conflicts.

Now 72 years old, Webb’s main role is to keep families and veterans service organizations up to date on DPAA’s efforts.

This is important since a site can take months or even years to excavate, and if the tedious process should reveal human remains, it can take even longer to identify them.

On June 12, 2018, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recommitted to recovering and immediately repatriating the remains of prisoners of war and soldiers declared missing in action during the Korean War as part of a denuclearization agreement signed in Singapore.

In a statement signed by both leaders, the countries agreed to the recovery of the remains and the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Nearly 7,800 American troops remain unaccounted for from the 1950-53 war in the Korean Peninsula. About 5,300 were lost in North Korea.

Military Memories Wanted by Library Of Congress

MilitaryMemories

Your Military Memories Wanted by Library Of Congress  

 The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center collects and preserves the firsthand interviews and narratives of military veterans from World War I through the present.  The VHP also collects oral histories and memorabilia of military members who died in service from Gold Star Family members.

In addition to audio and video recorded interviews with veterans and family members, the VHP accepts memoirs and collections of original photographs, letters, diaries, maps and other historical documents from veterans who served in the military from World War I through the present.

The VHP relies on individuals and organizations to contribute veterans’ stories to their collection.

For more information:  http://www.loc.gov/vets/

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

By Debbie Gregory

The Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) was legislated by Congress and implemented by the Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure the accuracy and fairness of combined disability ratings of 20% or less assigned to service members who were discharged between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009.

The review gives a veteran a second look at a disability process and corrects any errors that the service may have made, which may result in either a modification to their assigned rating or disability retirement.  

When a servicemember receives full medical retirement, they are eligible for health care and a stipend for the rest of their life. A 30 percent rating or higher gives the veteran retiree status, which includes a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And a review by PDBR cannot hurt a veteran’s existing rating. Those who apply but are not granted a review or a change in status can still continue receiving services from the VA.

The top three medical conditions that result in a favorable recommendation are back ailments, arthritis, and mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress.

So far, only 19,000 veterans have applied, although it is estimated that some 71,000 veterans are eligible for at least a disability rating review. If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

The majority of applicants, some 70 percent, have been Army, 20 percent are Navy/Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force, and less than one percent Coast Guard.

The process does require patience, as the wait for a decision can be lengthy, but in the long run, the process can be a game-changer for disabled veterans and their family members.

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

By Debbie Gregory.

Life after military service can be a smooth transition for some, but for many servicemembers, the struggle is real. That’s why there is the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which aims to get servicemembers ready for their next step in their lives, be it education, employment or entrepreneurship.

TAP reform has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill in recent months. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, introduced The Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Bill” Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act of 2018, named for a friend of the congressman’s who committed suicide.

Mulder retired from the Navy in January 2017 after a distinguished twenty-year career as a US Navy SEAL. He was a highly decorated combat veteran with numerous awards throughout multiple overseas deployments. His awards included three Bronze Stars with Valor.

“If we do a better job equipping our servicemen and women on the front end of their transition, we can reduce the number of veterans who struggle with unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of intervention,” said Arrington.

The legislation, if passed, would specifically restructure TAP to require servicemembers to choose specific career-oriented tracks that best suit their post-service plans and would require them to take part in one-on-one counseling a year prior to separation.

Furthermore, it would also authorize a five-year pilot program that would provide matching grant funds to community providers that offer wraparound transition services to veterans and transitioning servicemembers.

Finally, the bill would restructure five days of TAP to devote one day for service-specific training, another for employment preparation, two for the service member’s track of choice — either employment, higher education, career and technical training, or entrepreneurship — and the last for a briefing on Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

The bill has support from Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The Transition Assistance Program is a joint program administered by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

 

National Security Concerns Cited for School Ban

National Security Concerns Cited for School Ban

National Security Concerns Cited for School Ban

By Debbie Gregory.

 

The University of Management and Technology (UMT), long an educational destination for active-duty military members, has lost tuition assistance (TA) reimbursement from the government.

 

Tuition Assistance is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Congress has given each service the ability to pay up to 100% for the tuition expenses of its members.

 

UMT has been on probationary status since January due to what the Department of Defense (DoD) termed “national security concerns.”

 

In December 2012, the FBI made two very public raids of UMT and the northern Virginia home of university president Yanping Chen Frame and its academic dean, her husband J. Davidson Frame.

 

“UMT was disappointed that the Department of Defense suspended its participation in the Tuition Assistance program before UMT had any notice or opportunity to respond,” Dean Frame said in a statement.

Since military-affiliated students make up the majority of the student population, this could impact the school’s future.

A school spokesperson said in a  statement that the school is working to resolve the issue and hopes to be reinstated into the TA program as soon as possible. Meanwhile, it “is committed to working with active duty military students to explore other avenues for funding their ongoing educational programs.”

Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a DoD spokeswoman, said DoD counselors are available, in person or over the phone, to discuss students’ options with them — whether it be transferring to a new institution or pausing their studies.

Tuition assistance will cover tuition, as well as course-specific fees such as laboratory fees or online course fees. The benefit does not cover books and course materials, flight training fees, repeating a course, or continuing education units, which may be covered by other funding opportunities.