What did the military teach this entrepreneur?

What could the military possibly teach entrepreneurs? Isn’t the military all about “obey, obey, obey” your superiors and no free thinking allowed? Isn’t entrepreneurship all about innovation, challenging established thinking and the status quo? It doesn’t sound like there would be a rich learning environment for the entrepreneur in the military. And if that’s what you think, then let me enlighten you.

For some context, you should know that I am a retired U.S. Naval Officer. I served during the cold war aboard USS Baltimore (SSN-704) an attack submarine. The “SSN-704” thing is the hull number of the ship — all commissioned US Navy vessels have them and it identifies the ship and its basic purpose or mission. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm I served aboard USS Mars (AFS-1) a surface ship. I also did a four-year tour in the Pentagon. After retirement I started and grew a successful management consulting firm, now in its 18th year. So, I am both a veteran and an entrepreneur.

I can state, without reservation, that the military taught me so many things that have been incredibly beneficial as an entrepreneur — critical things. Below are some of them.

Lessons For Entrepreneurs From My Military Service

  • It’s Not About You — Onboard ship it was always about the crew. Your thoughts and actions were for them; their safety, their training, their welfare. In this way, a ship could be truly great. So even if you’re the business owner, I believe your attitude should still reflect this lesson with your team. Your work, even your life, should be about others: your employees, your clients, your loved ones.
  • The Harder You Work, The Luckier You Get — Self-explanatory
  • Accept Nothing Less Than The Best From Yourself, And Those Around You — There’s nothing wrong with high standards, just make sure those standards apply to yourself first, then to your team.
  • Know Your Team And Associates: Their Strengths And Weaknesses — This lesson is essential if you are to get the best and highest out of your team. Empahsize and utilize their strengths, work to improve their weaknesses.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate — Your team needs to know what you’re thinking and where the organization is headed. You have to tell them, and keep them updated. You limit your team, otherwise.
  • Develop Your Team, Then Get Out Of Their Way — One of the biggest lessons I learned is to build the best team you can, tell them what needs to happen, then get out of their way. You’ll be amazed and what they can do — what they want to do.
  • Do As I Do: Character Matters — Let your team “see” you lead. Actions speak louder than words. Don’t ask them to do something you’re not willing to do. Show them you’re willing to get down in the trenches. Earn their respect and they’ll follow you almost anywhere.
  • Constantly Work To Improve, Yourself And The Team — Show everyone that you are always working to improve yourself, then ask them to do the same. They will, when they see you do it.
  • Don’t Give Up — Self-explanatory, but so critical. Things will get tough for you and your team at some point. Show some courage and perseverance. You never fail until you quit.

These are just a few of the lessons I learned from the military. Tell me what you think, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. And join this blog to get notified whenever I publish a new article.


Author Wayland Coker

My goal is to help entrepreneurs learn as much as they can about themselves and their businesses, and the vital connection between the two. I don’t intend this to be a monologue, but a dialogue. Please give me your feedback in the comment sections located at the bottom of each article. I will read every comment and respond as I am able. I am looking forward to connecting with you!

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