I recently ran across an interview in Inc. where the serial-entrepreneur Steve Blank talks about how his military background help lead to his business success. 5 “Military Secrets” Behind Steve Blank’s Entrepreneurial Success covers how the military helped Blank become a successful entrepreneur. The key areas where his experience prepared him included:
- Technical Training
- Creative Problem-Solving
- Recognizing Opportunity
What hit home for me was looking back at my military, he really hit the nail on the head! At the time I had no idea how many of my skills would translate into the civilian world, but now I understand that every area he discussed applied to my entrepreneurial experience.
As many of you know, the military is often on the cutting edge when it comes to technological innovation and never in my life would I have ever thought that having the chance to see and utilize technology in the military would have helped me one day become a tech entrepreneur. Just seeing technology evolve as quickly as it did during my time in the Army taught me how it could be a powerful force multiplier on the battlefield. In business I quickly understood that no matter how small my company was, I could often utilize technology to my advantage to level the playing field and compete against any company no matter how big they appeared.
In regards to other areas Blank discusses, like problem-solving, recognizing opportunity and responsibility, I now can look back and clearly see how the many challenges in the military taught me how to quickly adapt to almost any business situation. Bottom line is that the soft skills you learn as a leader in the military prepare you for running a business in more ways than you can imagine!
The last area Blank hits on is perspective. When discussing failure in the context of a real life and death situation he faced, Blank stated that, “You can describe that until you’re blue in the face, but unless you’ve lived through it you never had the context. If you were anywhere near a combat zone–then, or now if you were in Iraq or Afghanistan–failing had a very different connotation.” I often say the same thing when I talk to others about how my experience in Iraq has made almost everything I do as an entrepreneur seem easy. No matter how many times I have failed, I have always bounced back because I thought about how nothing I faced in the business world has ever compared to my experience in combat.
So if you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, you need to understand that you have the soft skills that you need to successfully start a business. There will still be much to learn, but rest assured, you already have a huge leg up on your civilian counterparts, just like Steve Blank had when he began his career in Silicon Valley.