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Military Traits That Serve Entrepreneurs

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By Debbie Gregory.

A disproportionate number of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) have military experience when compared to their civilian counterparts in the business world.  It is not a secret that skills acquired during military service provide individuals with a strong sense of leadership, as well as the ability to assemble a successful team. For military and veteran entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of launching their businesses, they would be well served to tap into their military training.

First and foremost, military training has taught servicemembers to lead with a clear vision and plan. Strong leaders have the right assets and tools in place to build trust and confidence in any situation. A leader should be a visionary and have greater foresight.   A leader should have the ability to accept and embrace failure.

Additionally, it is paramount to know and have a clear vision of your mission. By having a defined goal, you can then break that goal down into smaller, more manageable steps towards completion. Keeping mission focus at all times and also allow your people to be creative and innovative.

Your team is very important to your success.   Be sure to build a team that is prepared to pitch in and move out of their comfort zones.   When you embrace cultural diversity and different ways of thinking, you tap into a much greater pool of talent. Encourage your team to use their strengths to help your company succeed. Working as a cohesive unit will promote a sense of camaraderie which will help you through difficult times that may arise.

It’s no easy task to navigate the road to entrepreneurship. But if you’re a servicemember or a veteran considering this path, you already embody the courage, discipline and commitment it takes to begin this journey. It may not happen overnight, but in the end, the reward will be well worth it.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

The Value of a Business Mentor

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By Debbie Gregory

Once you launch your own business, there’s no boss to turn to for advice or direction when you need help.  There is not a playbook and having the benefit of someone who has “been there, done that,” otherwise known as a mentor, can be an invaluable resource.

Once you have a clear idea what you want and need from a mentor, it will be easier to find one who is a good fit for you.  

Your mentor will be taking on an incredibly important responsibility, so make sure he or she is up for the task. You want someone who will listen and advise and who is available when you need help and advice. You also want someone who will tell it straight and offer conversations that are constructive, respectful, and specific.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are independent organizations that are funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA), state and local governments and resources from the private sector.  SBDC’s provide resources for entrepreneurs. Additionally, SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteers and expert business mentors, offers free face-to-face meetings with one of their mentors to discuss your business ideas. There are currently 320 chapters throughout the U.S. with over 11,000 volunteers.

Another option for finding a mentor involves participating in social events. By attending conferences, speaking events and networking events, you will learn more about your industry and meet the people who are already established in it.   These people make excellent mentors.

Startup incubators thrive on brainstorming and locating these incubators and asking if you can drop in may be a win-win for you and your business.

The reason LinkedIn was launched was to broaden business networks between prospects, customers, suppliers, distributors, consultants, funding sources and analysts, so don’t overlook those in your network and their contacts.   Linked In is a wonderful way to network and expand your connections in many areas.

People who run companies within your industry who target a different segment or location of the market may also be willing to help you.

Successful business owners know what they don’t know. Mentors can help you overcome those obstacles. Once you have your business running smoothly, you may be able to pay it forward, and you can volunteer to become a mentor yourself.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

 

E-commerce Tips

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E-commerce Tips

By Debbie Gregory.

Many veteran business owners and VAMBOA members began their entrepreneurial journey by launching E-commerce websites. E-commerce, short for electronic commerce, is also known as internet commerce and refers to the buying and selling of goods or services via the internet, as well as the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions.

With global retail E-commerce sales are projected to reach $27 trillion by 2020 so you can see why this is such an attractive way to begin a business. But before entrepreneurs jump into the water, here are a few tips to aid in the success of an E-commerce business:

It begins with reaching your audience. If you’re looking to do business online, that’s where you are going to find the majority of your customers. So purchase your domain name, design your web site and set up your social media accounts. Blog, blog, blog. Add a podcast. Optimize your store for mobile.

If you aren’t great with technology, outsource the things you need help with. For example, when your customer adds a product to their cart, does your web site immediately let them know what others products previous purchasers have added-on as a suggested bundle? If a customer is about to abandon their cart, does your website know how to entice them back? If you don’t know how to build in these options, outsource them to someone who does.

Because you are at a disadvantage when it comes to your customers being able to see and touch (and smell) your product in-person, offer incentives such as free shipping or a money back guarantee if it makes financial sense to do so. Encourage your existing customers to leave reviews of your products by offering a percentage discount on their purchase to thank them for their time.

Start building a sales funnel. Think “Do you want fries with that order?” If your customer comes in for one thing, you’re going to ask if they’d like anything else before they cash out.

The more value you add — through freebies, up sells, and add-ons — the more trust you’ll build with your customers, and customers who trust you will spend more.

Building a good relationship with your customers will increase the chances that they will refer others to you, boosting your business even further.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

Intrapreneurs And Are They Good for Veteran Owned Businesses?  

By Debbie Gregory.

They think and behave like business owners, but they’re not. They are invaluable to the health of a company. They demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit within an existing organization.  They are the person(s) within an organization who are provided the freedom and resources to initiate projects, business ventures, etc. In a sense they are your employees who are internal entrepreneurs.

They’re called intrapreneurs.

For companies eager to welcome and embrace people who are creative, proactive, and flexible, the rewards of employing intrapreneurs can be tremendous.

How do you identify an intrapreneur?

Intrapreneurs are usually not primarily money motivated but are more success motivated. They understand that if they do their work in a way that shows the organization they are someone it can’t afford to lose, the money and advancement finds them.

Intrapreneurs treat their job as if it were their own business. They are driven to find resourceful ways to approach challenging situations.

Intrapreneurs are resilient and not afraid to change course. They don’t fear failure, but rather view failure as an opportunity for growth.

Intrapreneurs behave authentically and with integrity, while exhibiting the traits of confidence and humility.

Intrapreneurs are masters of building relationships, assisting others where and when they can, and not being shy about asking for help when they need it.

Intrapreneurs are in demand simply because they make companies better. Employees stay in their roles long-term because they’re challenged and fulfilled by the work they’re doing, and companies thrive because they retain the best people and best ideas and allow them the flexibility to run with their balls.

So now that you know how to spot an intrapreneur, how do you hire them?

People tend to associate with those who share the same beliefs or behaviors. So it stands to reason that a company founded with an entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial emphasis will become a magnet for more of the same. Employees recommend the company to others who share their values. A company needs to conduct itself with integrity if it expects to find those traits upheld in its ranks.

Hiring intrapreneurs is to a company’s advantage, especially a veteran owned small business. Having employees who take ownership of their work will be reflected in the company’s products and services.

When intrapreneurs work at solving problems, they foster the growth of other talented intrapreneurs and integrate more new ideas for the good of the entire company.   They also inspire others to do more and think outside the box.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

How to Build and Improve Your Credit Score

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By Debbie Gregory.

Building a solid credit history and maintaining a high credit score can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life and on your Veteran Owned Business. Not only is a high credit score essential for things such as qualifying for a loan or obtaining a credit card, but it is also important for less obvious things such as obtaining cell phone service, renting a car, and maybe even a job.

Your credit score is based on your FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850, and is based on these factors:

  • How much money you owe
  • The regularity of your payments
  • The types of your credit
  • The length of your credit history
  • How many credit requests you’ve made.

If you’re at the top with a score between 800 and 850, you have exceptional credit and are considered to be a prime candidate eligible for the lowest interest rates. This is your reward for having a long credit history without any late payments, as well as low balances on your credit cards.

If your score is between 740 and 799, you have very good credit and are considered to be financially responsible.

If your score falls between 670 and 739, you have good credit, and are around the same range as most Americans, who have an average FICO score of 704.

A score between 300 and 579 is a poor rating. And there are those who have no credit. But don’t despair, these scores can improve.

If you need to improve your score, avoid quick-fix efforts which are most likely to backfire. Raising your scores after a poor mark on your report or building credit for the first time will take patience and discipline. If you are having trouble making ends meet, contact your creditors and explain the situation. You may be able to obtain a time extension or fees waived.

Be responsible and don’t over extend yourself, consistently pay your bills on time, and limit the amount of credit you have requested so that you can get started on the right foot or rebuild a damaged credit score.

If you need to establish credit, talk to your bank and see if they will approve you for a small loan or a low-limit credit card. You can make the payments and pay if off improving your score. Many banks that might not approve you for a credit card will do so with a savings account acting as a security deposit with their institution. You can also start with a gas or retail store credit cards too.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

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