Not since the end of WWII has there been this much focus on Veterans. The news is not all good, but it seems to be getting better on some levels. Veteran owned business are seeing somewhat of a resurgence since 2001, but we need to do more, and we need more veterans starting businesses.
1. Evaluating where you are - Are you being pushed or pulled? Is this a dream of yours, or someone else. I suggest the Personal Business Model Canvas to get a handle on the big picture. This will help you see where the gaps are, and how to fill them. This is a process, and can actually be fun. Try it.
2. Get it down on paper (or iPad, you know what I mean) - If you are looking for financing this is a no-brainer, you will have to have a written business plan, but the real reason YOU should write it down, is so YOU can be convinced. If you can't make a reasonable argument to yourself, no one else will buy it. Business Plan Workshop
3. Know your Financials - Understand cash flow projections, importance of a balance sheet and why good credit and collateral will grease the skids. Don't be under-capitalized, this will cut your dream short quickly. Cash Flow Workshop
4. Market Research - Do your due diligence. Know your customer. Know your customer. Know your customer. Know your industry, and how it works. Also, missing something like an environmental study, or realizing supply chain issues a week before opening can bring everything to a halt.
5. Seek out experts - They are everywhere, in your office, on the battlefield, miles up hanging on a boom or sliding around under a humvee. There is nothing like experience, but it is up to you to evaluate it and utilize it. Don't ignore state or federal resources, use everything you can and take advantage of your benefits. Don't leave any assets on the table. YOU earned it, and you will need it!
6. Talk it over with the family - without good buy in from your family, starting a business can be heading for disaster before it even gets going. Involve your family in all aspects, especially the finances. You, your family, and the business will be better for it.
7. Have a Plan B - if things can go wrong, they will. I'm going to say it one more time, and then you won't hear it from me again. "Plan, Plan and then do whatever it takes." We are not talking about a getaway plan, but contingencies. Having backup finances, or even temporary employees in the wings is just good planning. Being too successful at startup can be a problem as well.
8. Lean on those that have your back - you know who most of these people are, but don't limit yourself to close friends and family, there are many other that what to see you succeed. Ask around!
9. Take a breath - put your ducks in a row.
10. OK, Hit it running - do what you do best and then just keep doing it. Nothing makes up for hard work. You know about sacrifice and hard work, so just get it done.
Ok, this is the same thing we tell everyone, whether they are Veterans or not, except about taking advantage of benefits or sacrifice, or ducks in a row (we don't really talk that way around here). Business is not easy, and one reason that not everyone attempts it. If this is your path, let us know, we can help and really do want you to succeed.
All the folks at the Maine SBDC wish you well in your endeavors.
Thank you for your service and sacrifice.