This week is National Small Business Week, and like everything else, things are changing this year, we are all learning how to pivot.  National Small Business Week is usually during May, but it was postponed until this week.

The SBA is doing a virtual conference, and many of our businesses have been learning how to pivot. The New England Veterans Chamber of Commerce brought together military-connected (veterans, military, and family members) leaders from across the United States and created a webinar series “We are Stronger Learning from Each Other”, this can be watched as webinars (https://nevcc.org/webinars) or you can listen to them as Podcasts https://anchor.fm/lisa-ducharme.

Over the last 4 weeks I have been thinking a lot about 9/11, and the businesses and resources that have been started since then, and I did podcast on my reflection.  The most important thing that I learned while reflecting is how much we learned in the military, whether we were the military member or the family member.  I know, I am both!  We spent our military careers learning hundreds of lessons that we can use in life and business.

This week is a perfect time to reflect on the lessons you learned in the military, and start utilizing those lessons.  To help you out, below are the top 10 lessons I learned in the military, that I use in business every day. You will notice, that the lessons we learned are great for any business, whether you are military-connected or not. 

This is the perfect time to create positive outcomes, be unique, and get creative. I know that many of you are afraid and that is perfectly normal. The most important lesson I learned in the Air Force was that sometimes you have to keep going even if you are afraid.

Top 10 Business Lessons I Learned in the Military, that work for all businesses:

 Integrity: Doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

 How to be resourceful: There are many times we didn’t have the resources we needed in the military, and we had to get creative. For example, every year we run out of pens and money to buy pens, so as we started to get closer to the end of the fiscal year, we would have everyone start looking for pens, in their desks, etc.  It’s amazing when we looked how we would find so many pens.  It’s the same in way business, sometimes the resource is right in front of you.

Preparation:  We learned how to prepare, not only for the day, but also for the week, months and years.  Preparation is the key to success in your personal life and business. One of the best ways I found to prepare, is to look at the big picture and see what I need to do and come up with a plan. If you don’t have the time, the next best thing is to take the first 15 minutes of your day, to prepare.

Forming a Tribe:  Think about all the people around, who do you know that you are willing to be your real self with.  “Got your 6” is a term we use in the military, and if you think about who has your back, connect with them. Remember, it’s not all about you, it’s also about the people around you.  Your network is the key to both building a business and in providing any business an ad-hoc Advisory Board and/or focus group and candid feedback. 

Perform under pressure:  Whether you were deployed or not, we learned to perform under pressure.  Everyone can learn to perform under pressure, by looking at the big picture and then take the tasks in parts and pieces.  If you are under immediate pressure, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and just look from a high level, and it’s amazing what you see and how quickly you can adjust.  The most important thing to remember, is you are never alone, there are resources out there.

Consistency:  When you say you are going to do something; you need to do it.  If you have to change, you need to explain why you needed to change.  People need to trust that if you say something, you mean it, so any changes need to have a solid reason, and not just because you changed your mind.

Discipline: Discipline is really a sense of confidence and responsibility.  In business we always want to instill confidence and responsibility in our employees.

Don’t be afraid to challenge a decision:  OK I admit, this is not something everyone learned in the military, and there are some instances, this is not a good idea.  However, in my case, and my career choice, it was the right thing.  I learned if you address an issue respectfully and professionally, even if the end result is a no, at least your brought it up.

Keep looking through the stacks: Remember, everything is layered and, in the military, we learned that sometimes there are too many layers, so you need to look to see if the layers are needed, or if you have too many layers in your organization.

Be optimistic: Even in the most challenging of moments, there is something positive.  They say optimism is a force multiplier and I know it is with me. If you think about every negative that has happened in life, there is always something positive, even if you don’t see it right away.

If you are in business, you have already made it through a lot, don’t give up, this too will pass.  We have been through 13 rescissions since WWII, and each time we come out stronger, new inventions, new processes, and new opportunities.  Remember, you are never alone, there are organizations out there to help you!

 We are in this together, and we will make it through this together! Lisa Ducharme, Executive Director, New England Veterans Chamber of Commerce.  Lisa@NEVCC.org