Tips for U.S. veterans looking to starting a business post-service.
Serving in the military is a great education that provides numerous opportunities for success later in life. Armed with discipline and drive, vets have a particular skillset that makes them ideal candidates to start a business. An entrepreneurial quest offers the benefits of flexible, hands-on work and, for many vets, this type of challenge is just what’s needed to bring a sense of structure and purpose to their lives outside of the work they’ve done as they’ve served our country.
If you’re a U.S. veteran starting a business, but you’re unsure exactly how to begin, here are some tips and resources that can help get you moving in the right direction.
1. Do your research.
Even if you’re the very best at what you do, if there’s no demand for it, you will have a large uphill battle that may not prove to be worth your time. That’s why it’s imperative to research your market before you put in your time, money or other resources.
To start, you must first decide where you want your business to be — will it be something local or will it be online? Once you know your location, you’ll want to consider your competition — consider finding out how many other businesses are there doing what you want to do? How much do they charge for their services? Can you be competitive and still meet your costs? Is there room for growth? All of these are important factors in establishing a business plan and finding funding.
Beyond that, there’s a lot to think about before starting a business. You’ll want to consider what type of business (sole proprietorship, limited liability company, corporation, etc.) you’re going to start and what effect that will have on you. Will you be the sole owner or will it be a joint venture? How will this affect your taxes and other infrastructure? If these are things you aren’t too well versed in, research is essential, and a good place to start is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They have a comprehensive list of business structures and the tax implications of each to help you in your process.
Now that you have a premise of understanding of what your industry and company structure will entail, it’s time to start putting together the information about your business.
2. Write a business plan.
This can be a tough task, but don’t let this challenge hold you back. You can start small — choose your business name. Once you have that, draft up what you know your business will do, goals you want to accomplish, how you’ll market your business and details about your competition (and how you’ll address any problems) that you found in your research.
December also happens to be National Write a Business Plan Month, so if you get stuck along the way, remember there are plenty of guides and tutorials online that can help you understand what you’ll need to do to get started. You can use this guide on Military.com to see an example outline of a business plan. This can help you get going, as you can fill in the elements you know and discover where you need to do more research or what questions you still need to answer.
3. Find your funding.
There are numerous veterans small business loans available, and some are even geared specifically toward veterans with lower credit scores. You can start off by contacting your local banking institutions to see what kinds of programs they might have available. You also can find a lot of valuable resources for veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Of course, you can always opt to provide your own seed funding, especially if you have the funds readily available or don’t have a lot of initial costs for getting started.
Most startups have many stories of relying on credit cards to make ends meet early on. If that’s something you’re considering doing, there are several smart credit card strategies to get you on your way. For example, you can use a credit card’s introductory 0 percent interest financing to buy equipment and pay for upfront expenses.
And if you have the cash to pay your credit card bills in full, you can consider using a cash back rewards credit card to maximize the value of your business purchases. Chase credit cards like the Freedom and the Freedom Unlimited offer 1 percent and 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase, respectively, which means you can put that savings on your upfront purchases toward growing your business.
But, like with anything else that comes with starting a new business, you need to weigh your options. Another option that is good for getting rewards on your purchases as you get your business up and running is the Discover it Cashback Match card, which offers 5 percent cash back on purchases made on Amazon, as well as at department stores and Sam’s Club on up to $1,500 in purchases through the end of 2016, plus unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Practically every major issuer offers a card with cash rewards or promotional financing, so if either of those strategies appeals to you, shop around for one that makes sense for your wallet (and your credit).
4. Set up your business.
Now that you have all the finer points of running your business smoothed out, it’s time to put it all into action. You’ll want to register your business name with your state business and get your tax ID number. This is also the time to get all the licensing and other legal documents you’ll need. A local Veterans Business Outreach Center, through the Small Business Administration (SBA), can help you with training, counseling and mentorship to help you get your business off the ground on solid footing.
5. Do what you love and know.
Building a business around something you already know and love puts you one step ahead of the game. The less you have to think about just getting through your day, the more time you’ll have to spend thinking creatively about growing and improving your business.
There’s a lot to learn about running a business, but there are resources for veterans out there to help you along the way. And they don’t all require you spend any additional money, as you’re likely tightening your budget as you get your business up and going. In fact, the SBA has a free training program — Boots to Business program — that offers a three-part workshop to help veterans understand some of the basics of starting and running a business. Any active military members who are currently transitioning out of the military, as well as their spouses, are eligible for this training program.
Ultimately, the goal is to inspire, empower and equip all veterans with the knowledge and resources necessary to move forward on the path to entrepreneurship. Military training builds a young person up to do noble things, and it is with this in mind that we strive to support all aspiring veteran entrepreneurs in their goal of business ownership and success.
Need help with your resume? Take advantage of our free critique today!