From the military to entrepreneurship – when should planning begin?

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VCBC is the leading organisation for supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses in the military community. We are committed to assist veterans, transitioning service members and their families.

Whilst the sense of purpose, community and self-identity within the military is second to none, it is also distinctly controlling, structured and rank heavy. Many people during their careers find themselves yearning for a greater level of freedom and autonomy. Military service can be the best job some people ever experience within their careers. However, what happens to those who no longer want a job, but carve their own path and create their unique impact on the world. 

For those looking to start their own business, both serving members and partners, the key to a successful transition is to commence planning early. Potentially as early as the day you sign up. Whilst many people choose to spend their whole career in the military, the majority do not. Once the seed of thought has been planted to pursue self-employment, the planning process should begin.

As early as possible, testing the viability of a business concept should occur. This can happen whilst still serving in the military. The concept of the minimum viable product, or MVP as articulated in Eric Ries book, The Lean Startup, should be put to the test. At this time, preservation of time and capital (your money) is critical. Testing your concept in the market as early as possible, even in a very underdeveloped form can lead to valuable insights as to the long term viability of the product. Clearly define your audience. Who they are, what they feel, what they love and dislike and then tailor your product or service to the problem you are solving for them. 

Expect and embrace failure. The whole point of the MVP is to learn.You need to get legitimate feedback from outside the circle of your partner, mates and mum.  Making mistakes early and being able to adjust is the start of a never ending process in business. The environment, economic conditions, technology and our culture is in a constant state of change. The sooner the budding entrepreneur understands this and learns to adapt the better for their long term chance of success. From the ashes of failed ideas and poorly implemented launches come the lessons which are required to build understanding and acumen in the world of business. Embrace it. 

Use Defence policy to support your transition. Once you are actively testing your idea in the market and are considering transitioning out of the military, you can use Defence policy to support and manage this process. Flexible work arrangements, Part time leave without pay, taking leave (especially long service) at half pay allows for a higher level of security in managing the delicate transition period. 

Some roles and ranks may be better suited to accessing flexible and part-time solutions however fight for your rights to access the policies that are there for you. Understand that you should still give 100% to the ADF and support your teammates whilst you are on-duty, however seek the flexibility to protect the security of your transition and access to housing and medical entitlements. 

On the civilian side of the great transition divide, self-employment offers control and flexibility over what you do and when you do it. It is not without a lot of hard work and commitment, but that’s no different to a military career anyway. 

The Veteran Community Business Chamber membership is open to current serving members of the Australian Defence Force to support in the planning and development of your transition. Start planning early, seek guidance from those who have walked your path and are here to support your transition. 

Author. 

Peter Liston

Pete is a former Australian Army Officer who transitioned successfully to self-employment. A passionate advocate of veteran community entrepreneurship, Peter has co-founded several businesses with Duntroon classmate Matthew Moseley including trusttheprocess.com.au 

Peter and Matthew are the co-founders and co-CEO’s of the Veteran Community Business Chamber. 

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VCBC is the leading organisation for supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses in the military community. We are committed to assist veterans, transitioning service members and their families.

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