Why Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs

Last Updated Nov 12, 2010 11:43 AM EST

Veterans Make Great EntrepreneursThe data surprised the hell out of me: Veterans owned (fully or 50%) 3.6 million or 13 percent of America's 27 million non-farm small businesses in 2007. In fact, one in seven veterans are small business owners or self-employed, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). That's a much higher percentage than any other demographic.

So why is that? According to SBA Administrator Karen Mills (from a USA Today story), veterans have a tendency to pursue entrepreneurial paths - and find success along the way - because "They have leadership skills and decision-making skills." I would add organizational skills to that list.

Sure, the SBA provides tools and programs to help soldiers make the transformation from the battlefield to the marketplace. And the government provides loans, counseling, and training. But remember that many vets struggle with physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorders, not to mention the stress of re-entering the workforce or starting a business of any kind in this turbulent and uncertain business climate.

But something else is highly counterintuitive about veterans being suited to entrepreneurial life. Discipline, duty, and strict regimen are major factors in military life. In the business world, and especially for entrepreneurs, focus is indeed important but so is flexibility and adaptability. And managers can't successfully motivate employees the way officers "order" their troops. That's a whole different ballgame.

In any case, the numbers don't lie. It's really impressive. So if you're relatively young and want to become an entrepreneur, join the military.

In addition, of the 27 million non-farm businesses in 2007, 7.8 million were women-owned and 5.8 million were minority owned, generating a combined total of $2.2 trillion in revenues and employing 13.5 million people.

Here are some other interesting stats about small business America, from the SBA:

  • Employ about half of all private sector employees
  • Pay 44 percent of the total U.S. private payroll
  • Generated 65 percent of the net new jobs over the past 17 years
  • Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP
  • Are 52 percent home-based
Image CC 2.0 via Flickr user DVIDSHUB