“Don’t let technology make a monkey out of you and your idea as well as raid your treasury before you launch. Define your business vehicle and its journey first. Then pick the right technology tools to make a successful trip.”
When you have completed the above definition and planning process you will then be in a position to astutely select the tools you wish to use along the way and apply them successfully.
You will be able to network your vehicle, pick up riders as industry partners, and attract revenue fuel in the form of customers by marketing and social networking based on the thorough definition and content of your business plan.
Don’t let technology make a monkey out of you and your idea as well as raid your treasury before you launch. Define your business vehicle and its journey first. Then pick the right technology tools to make a successful trip.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ken is SCORE and Micro Mentor Counselor currently living in Hastings, Minnesota. His interests range from existing small businesses to startups. He specializes in strategic, market and business planning as well as advising on government contracting and business operations for small enterprises.
“If you’re a veteran who wants to be your own boss, it may not be obvious how to get started. Here’s what they told us:
1. Take advantage of the help available to you
Vets who want to start their own businesses can run into a unique problem: There are so many programs and resources out there to help, they may not know where to start.
Misty Stutsman, director of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, said there are several hundred programs developed to help vets start their own businesses.
“There’s a huge navigation issue that veterans are now facing,” she said. “With all of those resources, you can kind of spin your wheels.”
Stutsman suggested that vets start by finding local groups and resources, as well as consulting their network of fellow vets to see what groups they found most helpful.
The military’s transition assistance program, or TAP, includes a section focused on entrepreneurship called Boots to Business, which can help vets learn the basics of entrepreneurship and get a grasp on the support programs available to them. Vets who have already separated from the military can get a version of this training by signing up for its sister program, Boots to Business Reboot.
“SBA has this amazing myriad of resources,” Stutsman said.
Larry Stubblefield, associate administrator for SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development, said his organization can help veterans find mentors, navigate lenders, learn how to market themselves and much more.
“We have 22 Veterans Business Outreach Centers located around the country,” Stubblefield said. “They’re like a one-stop shop for transitioning service members, veterans, military spouses.”
And the cost is already covered by your tax dollars, typically.
“The vast majority of our resources are free to the recipient.”
3. Find a mentor
“The folks who go out and connect … you’re much more likely to be successful than going at it alone,” Stubblefield said. “Entrepreneurship is definitely a team sport.”
If you know fellow vets who started their own businesses, reach out and ask them for advice. If you don’t, look into the SCORE program, a volunteer initiative associated with SBA that helps vets find business mentors.
“SCORE’s been around 56 years, now, and it’s what is called a resource partner of the SBA,” said Jay Gladney, a certified SCORE mentor. “We actually extend their … personnel resources to allow them to better serve SBA clients.”
SCORE connects budding entrepreneurs with mentors who have successfully grown their own businesses, often in the same field. The mentors can help budding entrepreneurs hone their ideas, improve their pitches to lenders and plan for growth and next steps.
“There are very few brand-new ideas out there,” Gladney said.
But the fact that someone has probably already tried your business idea in some form can work to your advantage – it gives you the opportunity to learn from their successes and failures.
“Learn as much as you can about the industry, the product and the service that you’re going into, so that you’re going in with a much better possibility of success,” Gladney said.
Gladney and other entrepreneurship experts told Military Times that it is important to make sure that your idea has enough target consumers who are eager to buy what you’re trying to sell. This probably means doing more than just asking your friends and family what they think.
Gladney suggested that entrepreneurs create surveys using free online tools to help them better understand what the consumers they’re targeting really want.
“You can actually create a small survey to ask people about what it is that you’re creating, whether they would be interested in buying that, and even ask them the price points,” he said.
5. Build a business plan
You’ve surely heard that you need to make a business plan before you launch your own company. But what exactly is a business plan?
You should be making a “fairly robust document” in the range of 15 to 20 pages, Gladney said. And it’s important that you physically write it out, rather than just having a vague sense of it in your head.
“Getting it written down is important, because it forces them to be specific and to make it make sense,” he said.
Ask your network of mentors and advisors to help.
And once you write the plan down, it doesn’t become an infallible document that should never be changed again, said Stutsman of Syracuse’s IVMF.
“A business plan becomes a living document,” she said. “ It’s not something that’s set in stone.”
Stutsman said that business owners should go back to their mentors and advisors, even long after getting their businesses off the ground, for advice and help adjusting their business plans to meet changing conditions.
6. Figure out financing
Launching a business will require money. Depending on your business, it could be a lot, or it could be a relatively modest amount. But regardless, you’re probably going to need to find a lender.
One of the first things that any lender will want to see is a business plan and market research that shows that your idea is viable.
“Lenders are going to be looking at that,” said SBA’s Stubblefield. “They’re not just going to, you know, hand you money.”
Even once you have all that material together, chances are that you’ll still have a hard time getting a loan by just walking into your nearest bank.
“Banks are generally a little difficult for startups,” said SCORE’s Gladney. “There’s no track record for success of the business for a startup, and so therefore the bank has less data on which to evaluate the risk that they’re taking.”
Another great resource is the SBA’s Lender Match program. Just fill out some forms online and the service connects you with possible funding sources, all of which have been approved by the SBA.
7. Talk with your family
Your personal and family finances – credit scores, debt, collateral, etc. – will affect your ability to get a business loan, Gladney said.
And of course, the inverse is true as well: Whether your business succeeds or fails will have a big impact on your family’s financial situation. So starting your own business needs to be a family decision.
“You absolutely must have … partner/family buy-in, or you’re doomed to fail,” said Janet Harris, director of recruitment for Dream Vacations, a franchise brand that helps entrepreneurs launch their own travel businesses.
One way to minimize your personal financial risk is to start slow, said Stutsman of Syracuse’s IVMF.
“Don’t quit your day job … Don’t cash out your 401k on an idea,” she said. “It’ll take a while to get to cash flow. It’ll take a while until you can take an income without hurting your company.”
In addition, Gladney recommended setting up a separate legal structure for your company, such as an LLC, so that the company bears more of the financial risk, not you. But even if you take all these steps, starting your own business is still a big risk.
“You have to assume the risk if you want the reward,” Gladney said.
8. Consider franchising
Starting a business from scratch will require you to do marketing, accounting, website building and much more. Are you an expert in all of those areas? Are you ready to pay someone else to help?
If not, franchising might be a great option.
“If you have a franchise, it’s like a box with a big bow on top,” said Janet Harris of Dream Vacations. Inside that box, you’ll find marketing, accounting, training and other help.
Of course, that help comes with extra cost.
SBA’s Stubblefield said that while franchisees can typically expect “a lot of support from corporate headquarters,” they are also likely to have much steeper startup costs.
Franchisees also typically have monthly franchise fees, or royalties, marketing expenses, material costs and other ongoing expenses.
That said, the franchise system is often a very good fit for veterans, Harris said.
“Franchising is a road map, so you follow that road map to success, which is also what … men and women in the military do,” she said. “That makes them very comfortable, and it also gives them more confidence.”
VetFran, a branch of the International Franchise Association, has online advice and resources for veterans interested in franchising.”
“Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act became law earlier this month, allowing veteran small business owners to acquire those pieces of equipment and personal property that the federal government no longer has any use for, effectively free of charge.”
“Scattered in warehouses throughout the country are the kinds of federal resources that can help make small businesses thrive — laptops and office furniture, construction equipment and farm tools that have been gathering dust, unused and unseen, year after year.
Meanwhile, thousands of American service members are returning home from war, taking off their uniform then taking a chance: trying to scrounge up enough resources to start their own small businesses, all too often struggling to stay in the black if and when they get off the ground.
Even in an era of such political gridlock, it just made no sense for these two problems to co-exist.
As of a few weeks ago, they no longer do.
Now that farmer in southern Illinois might not have to stay up at night, worried about how he’ll possibly be able to pay for that generator.
Now that veteran who returned from war and went back to school can get the computers she needs to open the doors to her very own practice.
And now American taxpayers will no longer have to foot the bill to store all those resources that belong in office buildings and cornfields.
A win-win, by anyone’s estimation.
There’s a reason veterans are twice as likely to start or lead their own companies as civilians, with roughly 10 percent of small businesses across the country run by those who’ve served, including 80,700 in Illinois alone.
It’s because no matter where they were deployed, no matter which branch they call their own, those who’ve worn the uniform have a kind of courage instilled in them that’s impossible to root out — the type of resilience and determination that can turn a longshot idea into a smooth-running, profit-making business.
Yet thanks to a number of factors, the number of veterans leading their own companies is plummeting as compared to generations past. While a staggering 49.7 percent of World War II veterans went on to run or own businesses, followed by 40 percent of Korean War veterans, just 4.5 percent of those who served after Sept. 11, 2001, had launched their own businesses as of late 2016.
We know that veterans are far more likely to hire other veterans, especially those who are struggling with the wounds of war, both visible and otherwise. So fewer vets at the helm of companies means fewer vets throughout the ranks, too. Fewer learning the ropes of an industry. Fewer climbing the ladder to the top. Fewer who, someday, might start a business of their own.
My hope is that this bill will help change all that, beginning to reverse the trend of entrepreneurship among recent veterans and, in doing so, getting more of our heroes get hired and trained today so they can succeed tomorrow.
These women and men risked their lives for the rest of us overseas. It was way past time for us to pass legislation that looks out for them when they step back onto U.S. soil.
So to all those veterans who own or are looking to start small businesses, this bill is for you. And all you have to do to begin laying claim to those unused items and their untapped potential is click here to contact your local state agency.
In this Feb. 14, 2018, photo, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speaks to Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit, on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP) “
“The Air Force will hold its first Air Force Pitch Day on Mar. 6 in New York City, offering startups the chance to win small awards for their innovative ideas that same day.
The service has allocated up to $40 million for the event. Startup companies and small businesses will have the chance to win up to $158,000 each.”
_____________________________________________________________________________ “Many mind-blowing ideas are being birthed in U.S. startup companies, but the Pentagon largely misses out on them,” Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a statement. Pitch Day will mirror private sector pitch competitions, allowing for a smarter and faster delivery of awards during the event.
Roper’s further commentary on the event clearly reflects that he wants to avoid the sluggish contracting process of the federal government. “For our big bureaucracy, awarding a contract in months is a flash. The Pentagon must do business at the speed of ideas: inspiring and accelerating startup creativity toward national security challenges,” Roper said. The Air Force posted topics online Nov. 29. They are the subjects and problems that the Air Force is using to guide the pitches.
The service also released further criteria to help guide those who wish to submit their ideas. The ideas must have the primary task of advancing national security in the air, space and cyberspace. To make this as clear as possible for contestants, the Air Force outlined three areas of particular interest:
*Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Network Technologies
*Battlefield Air Operations Family of Systems Technologies
Submissions for pitches opened Jan. 8 and will continue through Feb. 6. Then the Air Force will take a week review the submissions and invite finalists. On Pitch Day, the Air Force will select same-day winners and award payments via credit card.
Any award will be a nondilutive, meaning startups won’t have to give up any ownership stake for the investment. Participant companies must be U.S.-based and more than half of its owners must be U.S. citizens or legally reside in the country.
In 2018, the Air Force hosted a similar type of pitch event called Spark Tank, during which airmen were “able to compete and pitch their ideas to increase the lethality of the force, and to reduce the cost of bringing power to the fight,” as Secretary Heather Wilson said. Of course, that event differed in that it was limited to only Air Force service members pitching. “
The market is over $100 billion (according to Market and Markets) and will grow to $170 billion (USD) by 2020, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.8 percent from 2015 to 2020. The cybersecurity insurance market is expecting significant growth and should reach $7.5 billion in annual sales by 2020, up from $2.5 billion this year.
But in 2015 signs were showing that the valuations and dollars heading to cybersecurity companies had begun to cool. Specifically, some are “predicting a measured slow-down leaving a slew of Seed/Series A funded companies without a Series B sponsor.” Median security EV/revenue multiples have declined from 5.5x in 2013, to 5x in 2014 and 4.5x in 2015.
That said, the problems still remain. Enterprises large and small, government agencies and individuals are still being targeted and compromised with increasing frequency. 2015 alone saw a reported jump of 48 percent in compromises that were reported, and successful detected attacks have been rising at a compounded annual growth rate of 66 percent year over year since 2009. The annual cost of these attacks range from hundreds of billions to trillions depending on your estimation methodology and sources (considering theft of IP versus just cleanup, for example).
Nobody has built the silver bullet solution to solve the problem and significant opportunities exist if entrepreneurs are really providing new solutions to the problems that exist and loom over the horizon in the form of technologies or services.”