TechVets The Podcast: Why do veterans make excellent entrepreneurs?

TechVets The Podcast: Why do veterans make excellent entrepreneurs?

Meredyth Grant

In this show we’re getting ready for Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world’s largest festival of entrepreneurship by talking veteran owned tech start-ups.

Charlie Jacoby is joined by British Army veterans Jim Hook who is the founder of Seven Technologies Group and Oz Alashe MBE, founder and CEO of CybSafe. Also joining us is Heropreneurs CEO Becci Parriss and TechVets CEO James Murphy.

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What’s in this TechVets podcast?

Key Points:

  • Service in the armed forces provides you with the skills required to set up and run your own business.
  • Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. The highs are higher, but the lows are lower. For some, it’s not the right decision, and that’s ok.
  • Networking is important for two main reasons; get advice and expertise from others, and as a form of soft selling.
  • Selling is critical to the success of a business, but the hard sell is often not the right approach. It’s about forming relationships over the long term and helping to solve a problem for someone.

Synopsis:

Jim Hook, founder Seven Technologies Group begins by talking about why service personnel should take the step into entrepreneurship upon leaving. He says he advises people to take the risk and go for it, since if after a year or two the idea isn’t working, then you are still highly employable and will be able to find a job afterwards. The best way he can describe it is that people have a ‘false fear’ of starting their own business.

James Murphy, CEO TechVets says he sees a similar fear through TechVets with ex forces personnel worrying about getting a job, rather than looking at it from a more constructive viewpoint; what can I offer? What do I want to deliver? Do I want to be a part of something or build something for myself? Moving on he talks about the common traits possessed by members of the armed forces and their usefulness in entrepreneurship. He points out the grit, resilience, and the ability to plan and see it through are valuable skills learnt in the services, which directly apply to the start-up economy.

Becci Parriss, CEO Heropreneurs agrees with James; focusing in on planning, and the idea that service personnel should look to use the last few years before leaving the armed forces to begin planning their business. This provides time to understand the market, plan, and consider whether entrepreneurship is the right path for you.

Becci then introduces the theme of placing importance on using your network to help you decide whether you’ve got a good business idea that addresses a genuine concern. She recommends reaching out to as many people as possible or using services such as Heropreneur’s mentorship programme to get objective feedback.

Oz Alashe MBE, founder CybSafe mentions the importance of realising that sometimes entrepreneurship is not for you and that it’s perfectly ok to decide to get a job rather than setting up your own business. He notes the stress of cash flow, and the fact that you are responsible for the financial wellbeing of staff. Of importance, he notes that many go through the service being handed their next posting, whereas in entrepreneurship, you will have to be a self-starter. The highs of entrepreneurship are so much higher, but in an instant, you can hit the lowest lows as well.

Linking to the importance of networking, Oz mentions the fact that your network can provide the hard skills that you as an individual may not possess. He uses Cybsafe, his own company, as an example. Once he came up with the solution to his problem, he realised he needed the input of psychologists, computer programmers and data scientists to build a workable product. This is a skill possessed by many in the services. Even the most junior of commanders need to be aware of the strengths of individual members of their team, and use them as assets, for an operation to be a success. By bringing in other people, you are able to get different perspectives to get to the optimal solution.

The issue facing leavers though is that they often see themselves as poor networkers. But this is foolish, as they are often excellent at it because they have grown in a culture where when they need expertise that they don’t possess they will go to those who do and ask for help.

The conversation moves towards how you can feel more confident networking, and the advice is given that you shouldn’t view it as a hard sell, where you are trying to part ways with cash in hand. Rather, you are trying to sell your credibility as someone who is an expert and in turn when the person you are conversing with, or someone they go on to converse with needs what you are offering, they will come back. In fact, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to sell what you’re offering, because what you’re selling solves a real problem and so in a sense you are doing them a favour by helping fix a problem they are having.

James brings home the point that when people say they don’t like sales, or networking to gain leads, he will always respond by saying it’s tough. The reality is you must sell to have a successful business. No sales, means no money coming in, and with that no money to pay the bills. Those that can become accustomed to this reality will be able to go far further than those who continue to shy away from selling.

James wraps up by talking about the benefits of the military community and how they can be a powerful tool for ex-service personel to leverage. There are thousands of people out there who have set up their own businesses who would be happy to take time out to talk to you and give you advice. He also notes that you can talk to not just those who have set up their own companies, but also those who work in jobs in the industry you are looking to enter.