Women Veterans in Business
Military veterans face a numerous amount of issues upon returning home. Our communities have changed drastically on the way our veterans are treated since the Vietnam War, but we still have more work to do as a nation. Military personnel gain a wealth of knowledge while serving that contribute to a vast range of skills that can be very beneficial in the corporate world and public sector and possibly even more beneficial with self-employment. Women veterans, also dealing with issues upon returning home, must be able to apply valuable lessons when choosing to become an entrepreneur.
Since running a nonprofit entity called I Will Survive, Inc. to provide economic support, prevention education, and health & wellness services to those at higher risk and those affected by breast cancer, I am able to apply military skills with day to day operational management, strategy planning, and more.
We learn how to lead and follow, are ethically sound, and encourage our team so we all win together. As a woman, we have some of these traits naturally– we call them nurturing. Most veterans are also able to become great decision-makers with limited resources, a critical skill that entrepreneurs need to be able to apply often. Women in the military learn how to work with our male counterparts and often times have to be even tougher to prove ourselves. We can decipher advantages and disadvantages quickly in order to put best practices into place with effective growth strategies.
There are 2.2 million living women veterans. When we exit the military, we still deal with the issue of working to prove ourselves. We do not fit the typical idea of a veteran, especially not a combat veteran but we need to not be fearful of using the veteran status or title. We should be proud to use it. I am now. I struggled with the term in 2010 when I received an honorable discharge from active duty. It was the mirage I saw in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom that helped me exit and begin serving in a new light as an entrepreneur. The mirage I saw was of my dear mother, whom I lost to breast cancer.
Additional skills I am able to use as a woman business owner are team building skills and time management skills, which are crucial to anyone in business. Being able to quickly prioritize tasks and build an effective team or grow human capital truly enriches a business. Even when a team member may not be able to bring the best they have to your organization that day, it is our job or the job of a properly trained human resource staff to assist in seeing what the issue is with care and concern.
Being a woman veteran in business means we still have to work hard to prove ourselves. There are a lot of negative stigmas about veterans and posttraumatic stress disorder. Reality is, we all have had a difficult situation we have encountered that was stressful. In order to prove ourselves, we simply need to keep these four things in mind at the forefront of our business.
1. Decision Making
When making decisions we need to listen to voices unheard as well. There are several politics involved in certain business decisions. We are not perfect and may not always make the right business moves. That makes us human, but avoiding some of the unnecessary heat that can come with not thinking through a decision before making it can truly hurt our business for the long run. Susan G. Komen may still be going through some heat with Planned Parenthood as they lost some support since the incident occurred.
If an individual does not believe in your values for the company, they may not be a good fit for your team. If an individual does not have any values as an individual, they too, may not be a good asset to your team. Gandhi, I believe, says it best:
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
Leaders need to know how to lead and follow. When working with my team, I am not afraid to pull my sleeves up or get in the trenches. Team members gain more respect for their leaders when they are able to do this. We also need to be able to see how to make each new candidate to the team feel like their input is valued, boost morale when needed, provide somewhat of a mentorship “open door” policy if needed, and be able to identify skills that match up for each mission to accomplish goals effectively and efficiently.
4. Self Love
I always end an interview by asking the most important question, “what do you do for you?” This is the most important question when interviewing a new member to your team because as women, we tend to take care of everyone else before ourselves. In the public service industry, we are also taking care of everyone else before ourselves. My goal is to ensure no one is burnt out like we can sometimes feel in the military. I tend to provide tips to human capital for anyone who may say they do nothing for themselves. I am not fearful of adding these individuals to the team, but I am careful.
About the Author:
Anisa Palmer, a native of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, graduate of Georgia State University and the University of Central Florida, Combat Veteran of the United States Army, is the Founder and Executive Director of I Will Survive, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer of Survive International, LLC. Connect with her at AnisaPalmer.com