Hi this is Pete Blum bringing you another episode of the Veteran Connections Podcast where my mission is to help transitioning Veterans and Veterans already out of the military engage with the business community, and to share the knowledge and tools needed to successfully start a business. The Veteran Connections Podcast brings you experience and advice from fellow Veterans who are business owners and have made the transition from the military and into the business community.
There are Veterans transitioning out of the military every day. Some of them have an idea or a passion that they want to turn into a business. Having the right connections can be the one thing that makes the difference between a success or a failure. In this Veteran Connections Podcast I will be talking to Veteran business owners about what steps they are taking, the hurdles they have ran into, what advice they have for you, and what they hope life will look like a few years from now. With these real life interviews and real life results you can gain the expert knowledge from those that have been there. From your military brothers and sisters.
I have interviewed many Veteran business owners in various stages of their business, some in their first year all the way to those that have been a successful Veteran business owner for quite some time. They all have different stories and paths to starting a business but the thing that they all have in common is their drive, determination, and passion for what they are doing. Today I wanted to share my own transition story so that you can see why I am so passionate about doing this podcast.
I have actually made several transitions in my life while on my journey to find my purpose and my passion. I served in the Navy and the Marine Corps. Now I am an IT professional that embraces technology and social media. I have a strong passion for helping others, especially my Veteran brothers and sisters. I volunteer time with Project Transition USA, Racing4Vets, and Veterati to help Veterans gain an edge when it comes to transition or to be there when they need advice on various industries or life in general. I am an Associate Instructor with FourBlock, the CIO of Solvability, and the Co-Founder & Host of the Veteran Connections podcast. Pete Blum
My story starts at the age of 17. My best friend talked me into joining the Navy with him as part of the buddy program. Turns out he had flat feet and could not join, but I decided to go for it. Leaving home for adventure and the possibility of traveling the word sounded awesome.
- Boot camp and then training to be a Parachute Rigger
- Stationed in the Philippines with the air wing at VRC-50
- Culture shock
- Many amazing times- water ski, Jest, monkeys
- Starting a family- first daughter born in the PI
I look back at the squadron’s mission of constantly moving people and cargo to where it was needed anywhere in that region of the world and I remember all the people I met and the places I got to see. I am still friends with many of those people today.
When it was time for orders I decided to get out. PI was considered shore duty so I was up for sea duty and with a new family, I did not want to be deployed and away from them.
This was my first big transition. Without research or planning I decided to go back home to Cincinnati, OH. It turned out there was not a need for a parachute rigger there.
- Worked a couple jobs, Didn’t cut it
- Went back to the Navy recruiter to reenlist, Nothing available
- Went across the hall to the Marine recruiter who said the same job was available
- I ended up in Logistics
- Boot camp again at Parris Island, SC (best shape of my life)
- Popeye the sailor man
- Logistics training in Coronado, CA
- Stationed at Camp Pendleton with HMLA-367
- Deployed on USS Tarawa (6 months)
- Got to see more of the world, most memorable was Australia
Speaking of seeing the world I got to be on Americas Funniest People singing to the song “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys- squadron featured
- After being back for a while went on another deployment to Japan
- While there we did a special deployment on the USS Kitty Hawk
- (did you know there was an escalator on an aircraft carrier, not me)
- We also went to Korea, living in tent city was fun, just kidding
I learned to sail while in Japan, that was awesome
- Back to the states
- From CA to Quantico, VA
- Stationed at HMX-1 (Presidents Helicopter Squadron)
- My time there was great
- Visited the White House several times (took the kids to the Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn, Christmas)
- Met President Bill Clinton in the oval office
But as happens in life everything was not a bed of roses
- Deployment takes its toll on families
- Ended up Divorced
Between divorce, knee trouble, and wanting to do IT I decided to get out
- (had done IT as a collateral duty)
- (after hours I worked at a little internet coffee shop in Q-Town called General Java’s)
- (had even taken classes for IT)
This was another transition that I was not really prepared for
I had decided to move to Tampa, FL and settle down. Sort of start over with a new job in a new place, with the beach not far away. I had 30 days terminal leave saved up so plenty of time to find a job.
But I had not done the research or networked and made connections with people or companies.
So that first year I actually went through 7 jobs. It was not because I was a bad worker. I worked hard. Being in the military had taught me to be on time, work hard, be a team player, and all that. Basically it was related to not being a cultural fit, not the right kind of team environment that I was used to, or what seemed like a great deal was more like a bunch of empty promises.
For example in an IT services company you can have client work to do or be on the bench if there is nothing available. Promises of lots of client work that never happens means a lot of bench time and bench pay is not the same a client time. That makes a difference when you have bills to pay.
I found a great fit though and really enjoyed it, however eventually there were cut backs and layoffs so I found another opportunity in Orlando and moved there. After three years I got the opportunity to go back to the company in Tampa so I did. I was there like another 9 years before I got caught in another layoff.
This time transition was even harder though. After many years of bonuses and raises we tend to change our lifestyles a bit. I had remarried and had a son, bought a nice house in a nice neighborhood, that kind of stuff. Also I had been in a more senior position but all I was finding while job searching was more entry level positions or ones that required a degree.
I was out of work almost a year, I almost lost the house, I had to give up a lot of things.
Once you go through all your stock, your 401k, your savings things start getting desperate and you will do just about anything for work. In the middle of all that my wife passed away, it was a depressing time in my life.
It was about this time I started getting my LinkedIn up to speed and I decided to start networking with people and going to job support groups. I turned to my military brothers and sisters to find out if they knew of positions available. Heck I asked everyone.
A fellow Marine told me about a workshop for Veterans that was guaranteed to help me get my LinkedIn profile into high gear and help me network with the right people. I went. It was the Project Transition USA LinkedIn workshop hosted by Nancy Laine on MacDill AFB. It is primarily to help transitioning military coming off of active duty have an easier transition but they help other Veterans as well. Not only was the workshop top rate but there was a LinkedIn group for continued support after the workshop.
Through improving my profile and through networking with others I was able to get the message about my skills out there. I kept going back and helping out. I really wanted transitioning Veterans to know what to expect on the outside, how to prepare, and to be able to help and mentor them. This became my passion, helping other Veterans. There were others in the LinkedIn group that were interested in working with and hiring transitioning military and Veterans. Nancy put the word out about me.
One of the people from the group that reached out to me gave me a chance to show them my skills. That person, now my boss, is Jenny Clark. It went from part time work to a full-time position with Solvability. So as you see transition is not something you do alone. It is a journey not just about you but also about those people you meet along the way that help you.
You know having great leadership, great organizational skills, and even passion cannot help you unless you can actually get in front of the right people. You need to network, you need to find mentors that can advise you on your goals or share knowledge with you on the industry you want to work or start a business in.
Now working for a small business like Solvability or starting your own small business has its advantages. Primarily you have the ability to make the decisions and decide what direction you want to go in but more importantly I feel you have the ability to be influential in other people’s lives.
Jenny strives to make a difference for the government contracting world and for small businesses. She provides information and training to help small businesses network and reach their goals. She helps them understand the rules and pass audits. Annually she has the Florida GovCon Summit and brings the industry leaders together so small businesses can learn from them and network with all who attend.
To take this support to those that need it she also decided to start podcasting which leads into the story of the Veteran Connections podcast you are listening to today. Jenny and I started the Florida GovCon podcast. It is an extension of what she already does and provides valuable information on hot industry topics related to federal or government contracting, aerospace and defense, cyber security, accounting and audits, and more. Now at first we took turns doing a series at a time. Jenny did hers on the topics I just mentioned. I did a small business success series and then another series on Veteran Connections. That second series was something I was so passionate about we turned it into a full-time podcast.
Jenny supports the military as well. Some of her family members served in the military. She is also part of the Project Transition USA group and has volunteered time to assist with strategic planning and other items. Now for me, aside from being the CIO, doing LinkedIn training, and offering podcasting services I also have the flexibility to help Veterans with Solvability. We expanded the annual summit to include a Veteran Connections Day where I host an all-day event geared towards transitioning military and Veterans that have already transitioned who need help finding a career or want to start a business. I brought together Veteran business owners, Veteran non-profits, Veterans who are experts in their industry, and even a Veteran photographer (Glenn Nielsen) who took free professional profile pictures for Veterans.
Between the Veteran Connections podcast and our annual Veteran Connections Day I have been able to make a difference in Veterans lives and that is a very rewarding feeling.
- Several programs for federal contractors to help them be successful
- Online courses
- One on one coaching
- Podcasting services
- LinkedIn training
- The Florida GovCon podcast
- And the Veteran Connections podcast
For transitioning Veterans wanting to start their own business here is an action items list
Start with creating a fantastic LinkedIn profile to better help you network and connect with people in the industry, possible business partners, investors, and the community. Join groups to help you reach out to many more people and spread awareness about your brand and desire to help others.
Think about your social media presence, clean it up if necessary. It may be time to swap out photos with guns or beer with more professional photos of you interacting and helping the community. You want your brand to look good across social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Research your idea to be sure you are going to provide something people need. If it helps Veterans that’s a bonus in my book!
Find a great mentor or two or three. Use Veterati. I am a mentor on there so look me up if you need advice.
Utilize programs available in your area that can help you become a Veteran entrepreneur.
Locally in Tampa, FL we have Operation Startup and the Tampa Bay WaVE just to mention a couple. These types of organizations are scattered across the country like The Rosie Network.
Another great opportunity for Veterans attending a college or university is FourBlock’s Veteran Career Readiness program. Many Veterans that have gone through the program have been able to find an excellent career or have started their own company.
Finances are always an issue when starting a business. Most of us did not win the lottery first and then go hey I want to start a business. First of all you need to have at least three months saving to live on and pay your bills while you get things up and running. If you retired from the military you at least have that paycheck to rely on each month. The rest of us need to have a job and work on starting up our business on the side. Often times people will find a business partner who is willing to invest in your idea and join your team and they contribute capital to get things started. You could also work with a venture capitalist who is just looking for something to invest in without becoming a partner.
One place you can check into for getting help with finances is StreetShares. They have multiple ways to help out Veterans wanting to start a business and of course it is run by a Veteran.
Be prepared to work hard and not give up. It takes long hours, trial and error, and being able to get up from failure
Choose your team wisely. A great team working together almost always leads to success.
Hopefully you have learned a little bit about what not to do because I sure did not do things right when transitioning a couple of times. This information and this podcast are to help you become a success story. I want to hear your success story.
If you are a Veteran business owner and have a great or funny story to tell about starting your own business get in touch with me. I would love to hear your story and share it with the rest of our Veteran community and all of our civilian counterparts.
Here is that link to the Americas Funniest People episode where HMLA-367 (Scarface) sings the song “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGv3NCE1-80&t=23s
The Florida GovCon podcast- http://floridagovcon.com/
Project Transition USA- http://projecttransitionusa.com/
Operation Startup Tampa Bay- https://www.operation-startup.com/
Tampa Bay WaVE- http://www.tampabaywave.org/
The Rosie Network- https://therosienetwork.org/
The Veteran Connections Podcast provides advice from Veterans for Veterans. A lot of people like you and me that have been through the military have the same thoughts and a lot of the same questions. We may have even had the exact same struggle. I hope you find some answers as you go on this Veteran Connections journey with me where we will learn, explore, and get answers to your questions.
Another great resource for Veterans wanting to start their own business is the Small Business Administration (SBA)
If you need more information or want assistance implementing one of the things you learned about today you can contact me. I can teach you techniques and strategies to help you connect and network in the business community so you can reach your personal or professional goals. Email me at email@example.com and let me know how I can help you!
I hope that you have enjoyed this podcast episode and if you have a burning question that you would like to get answered by an experienced Veteran business owner about starting your own business go ahead and email me. I will be sure to answer it in a future episode!
Thank you for listening! -Pete