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By Debbie Gregory.

Many veterans transition out of the military with the skills and attributes necessary to succeed as veteran business owners. Often times, the main roadblock for these entrepreneurs is financing their new mission: to become a veteran business owner or a service disabled veteran business owner.

Investing in your business operations doesn’t always have to come with a big price tag, as there are some cost-efficient ways to invest in your small business to get it going and growing.

Begin by identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Invest in personal growth, so that you can turn those weaknesses into strengths. Take classes. Do your research on the web. Seek out tutorials. Don’t overlook the value of a digital marketing platform. Make sure you have a website.  Utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, Google AdWords, Instagram, etc. There are plenty of free resources available to help you navigate these waters.

If there are skills that you can’t or don’t want to do, and you don’t have the staff to do them, outsource! Perhaps tax returns, web design and the like are best left in the hands of the experts. You might even be able to barter services. And for those occasions when the work load is on an upswing, don’t rule out freelancers or temporary workers.

But when it comes time to assemble a staff, your hiring strategy should be based on talent, not functions. If your team is versatile with diverse talents, they will be better positioned to grow with the business.

Identify your business’s core values and build a team aligned with them. Having your values in place will give your business purpose and direction, and will in turn provide a culture for your employees to be proud of. Along with values, don’t underestimate the value of a corporate identity. You want to be your own company, not just a “light’ version of another company.

Have a rainy-day reserve account. As a business owner you’re probably thinking, “How in the world can I save for this?” The key is to start small and build up. This safety net will get you through rough times, which are inevitable.

Invest the time in writing Standing Operating Procedures, a set of step-by-step instructions to make sure there is a “Bible” for routine operations. Answer what tasks need to done? Who needs to do them? What are the best ways to approach these tasks?

VAMBOA storm

Leadership can be found at the core of every Veteran. Any service member who completed any length of enlistment has followed the orders of their superiors, and most have had some experience in a leadership role. Starting as low as E-4 on the rank hierarchy, many Veterans saw responsibility in extreme situations, that could have a major impact on the lives of their subordinates. Because of this type of experience, Veterans don’t shy away from the ultimate civilian leadership role of owning a business and being responsible for the livelihoods of their employees.

Possibly due to their military leadership experiences, Veterans are taking on the challenges of business ownership en masse. According to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA)’s Office of Advocacy March 2012 report, there are nearly two and a half million Veteran owned businesses in the U.S. Veteran owned businesses make up nearly 10% of all businesses nation-wide.  They also employ close to six million people, including fellow Veterans.

For a company to be considered “Veteran owned,” a Veteran must maintain at least 51% of the business’ ownership. The federal government, as well as state and local governments, make special provisions that protect Veteran owned businesses. They do so by setting aside government contracts specifically for Veteran businesses. Additionally, an increasing number of Fortune 500 companies have also made pledges to sub-contract with Veteran owned companies.

Studies have shown that 70% of American consumers would prefer to frequent Veteran owned businesses. The proof is in the dollars. Veteran owned businesses account for almost $1.25 trillion in sales receipts each year. Veteran small businesses make up 78.1% of small businesses, with yearly sales of $100,000 or more.

Veterans and service-disabled Veterans who are interested in starting their own companies, or expanding their existing businesses are encouraged to seek membership in the Veteran And Military Business Owners Association (VAMBOA). VAMBOA offers its members contract opportunities and networking contacts with large corporations. Membership is free.

Government Contracts

Obtaining government contracts can significantly increase a small business’ chance of success. The U.S. government awards close to $500 billion to buy goods and services each year. More than $100 billion of those contracts are designated for small businesses. Small business owners would be wise to capitalize on the government’s need for contracting them. However, contracting with the government is much different than selling to the private sector.

There are resources for small business owners who wish to locate and obtain government contracts. Federal Business Opportunities, also known as FedBizOpps.Gov, is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Their website, www.fbo.gov contains a wealth of information. The main function of the site is to allow government “Buyers/Engineers” to post, manage and award contract listings, and allow vendors/small business owners to search, view and retrieve the contract listings. Hundreds of opportunities appear on the site daily. There are currently more than 22,100 contract opportunities posted.

The FedBizOpps site also includes business training information and site user guides. The site posts information about events, news and changes in policy. Buyers and vendors need to set up a user account to access the site.

Another valuable resource that small business owners looking to obtain government contracts should utilize is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA works with federal agencies to ensure that at least 23% of government contracts are awarded to small businesses. The SBA’s website, www.sba.gov offers small business owners dozens of courses in government contracting. Each course is online and self-paced. These courses are free to use, but each course requires users to complete a registration form. The courses can be found on the website’s, Government Contracting Classroom portal.

The ability to obtain government contracts can make or break a company. Armed with the right tools, any small business can be awarded valuable government contracts. Make sure that your business is properly equipped to succeed.

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