With Veterans Day around the corner, I am reminded of one of the questions I got the most during the past decade writing my USA TODAY column: why aren’t more small business owners hiring veterans?
It was a very legitimate question. The fact is, since 9/11, American veterans have come home to a very icy employment picture. For much of that time, veteran unemployment figures typically were several percentage points higher than the national average. For instance, in 2011, the number of veterans out of work stood at 12.1%. In 2012, it fell to 9.9%, but even that was several points higher than the national average. Happily, veteran unemployment continues to fall. Today it hovers around 7%.
So yes, the good news is that employers seem to be warming up to the idea of hiring vets. The only real question is why did it take so long? Veterans generally make very good employees, especially because of their training and background.
And, if you think about it, that same training also means that veterans tend to be excellent entrepreneurs and small business owners:
- Veterans understand how to create a plan, implement and execute it
- Many are trained to be leaders
- They understand systems
- Hard work and commitment are in their bones
Yet veterans face the same challenges that all small business owners face, as well as some unique to the veteran experience. Like all small businesses, finding the training and assistance needed to succeed can be tough. Beyond that, veteran entrepreneurs who are disabled or have other trauma-related issues have their own, unique set of issues to deal with.
So for all of the men and women who were brave enough to both serve our country, as well as who want to start a business (or have), here is a list of resources to make your entrepreneurial life easier:
- VA.gov Veteran Small Business Portal: Here you will find a wealth of information from the Veterans Administration of veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses programs. Look also at the VA Business Accelerator program.
- The SBA Veteran Entrepreneur Page: Tons of great info here. See also the SBA Office of Veteran Business Development, and their Veteran Business Outreach Centers.
- Maybe my favorite program that the SBA offers is ‘Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup.’ The program is aimed at those service members “possessing the training, experience, and leadership skills to start businesses and create jobs. The SBA wants to help even more veterans grow their businesses and create jobs [so] we have worked with our expert network of Resource Partners . . . to provide transitioning service members the knowledge, tools and resources they need.”
- SCORE Veteran Fast Launch Initiative: This program is a package of free services and software, combined with SCORE's mentoring program, in order to help veterans start and succeed as small business owners.
- The Department of Labor Veteran's Employment & Training Service (VETS): Where veterans go for all sorts of work assistance.
- The National Veteran Owned Business Association:
- The Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities: This cool program offers vets experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business.
- Patriot Express: There are many lending options designed for the veteran entrepreneur, but the best place to start is here, with this designated SBA veteran loan program. A list of other SBA loans can be found here.
- And if all of this isn’t enough, then check out this great download, Veteran’s Small Business Resource Guide, put out by the SBA. It contains checklists, resources, advice, tips, and a lot more.
How have you or someone you know made the transition from veteran to small business owner? Share your story below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.