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Is Your Business Battle-Ready?

Statistically speaking, military veterans are disproportionately more likely than their civilian counterparts to create successful businesses. And on average, those vets create businesses that are larger, more profitable and more valuable than the ones the rest of us build.

It makes sense, when you think about it. The fog of war and the start-up years have some things in common: You work with incomplete data, in chaotic circumstances and with fewer resources than would be ideal.

During "Operation Iraqi Freedom," Charlie Gilkey's job was to get trucks from point A to B without being blown up. Nowadays, through his popular blog Productive Flourishing, Gilkey advises business owners on building valuable companies using some of the same leadership and productivity philosophies he learned in the military.

Here are four of Gilkey's orders to business owners looking to build a valuable company:

1. Debrief when things go wrong
As a plans officer, Gilkey sat down with convoy leaders to understand missions that backfired. Gilkey's job was to document problems and then communicate work-arounds to other platoons so they would be safer.

Gilkey now coaches business owners to conduct a rigorous postmortems on projects that go awry -- unearth the problems, develop a work-around and communicate the fix.

2. Serve your people
As a platoon leader, Gilkey learned that leadership is about serving your people, not the other around. Now he coaches business owners that effective leadership requires putting the needs of your team before your own.

3. Learn to stomach a "shit sandwich"
"Some days, no matter how much you plan, you get handed a shit sandwich," says Gilkey, whose time in Iraq helped him develop mental toughness. If you want to succeed, you need to cultivate some version of the same.

4. Nurture multiple back-up plans
In a time of war, you always want more than one option for getting a job done -- a plan A, B and C if need be. In more peaceful environs, Gilkey coaches business owners to have multiple streams of revenue to avoid the risks involved of keeping all of your revenue in one basket.

Is your business ready to do battle?

(photo courtesy of

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John Warrillow is the author of Built to Sell: Turn Your Business into One You Can Sell. He has started and exited four companies and was named one of America's most influential marketers by BtoB Magazine in 2008. Think you can sell your business? Take the Sellability Index Quiz.
Follow him on Twitter @JohnWarrillow Become a fan on Facebook
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