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Lessons from Veterans and Military Leaders

Entrepreneurs can learn from Military leaders’ skillful tactics — recruiting a dedicated team is the keystone to becoming a successful leader. It turns out, many valued military veterans talents transfer well to guiding a team through the ups and downs of launching and growing a business.

Here are some tips for business owners gleaned from the lives of America’s greatest military leaders.

George Washington

The Continental Army never numbered more than 35,000 men, and Washington never had more than a third of it under his personal command, yet he and his men managed to subdue Great Britain’s professional army.

As an early-stage entrepreneur, your team will be small, but with trustworthy people in place and proper coaching, you can better compete with the big guys.

“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well-tried before you give them your confidence.”

Robert E. Lee

Lee was widely adored by his men. In victory and defeat, they witnessed his great strength of character, his high sense of duty, his humility and selflessness. Even Northerners accepted Lee as the greatest general of the Civil War.

When you respect your employees, they will respect you. A happy team is a productive team, and when people believe in their leader, they’ll go to war for him.

“The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.”

Ulysses S. Grant

Grant made mistakes and learned from them. His drive and resolution made him a first-class general. During the Civil War, President Lincoln rewarded Grant with a promotion to lieutenant general and made him general-in-chief of the armies. Instead of establishing an office in Washington, he took the field with the struggling Army of the Potomac.
As an entrepreneur, you will make mistakes, but it’s how you learn from them that will define your success as a leader.

“One of my superstitions has always been when I start to go anywhere or do anything, not to turn back, or stop until the thing intended was accomplished.” 

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower had a way of saying the right thing to gain people’s cooperation, and his strong personality and good nature inspired trust, according to the U.S. Army of Military History. He was regarded as a natural leader who looked for ways to smooth over disputes and organize his men’s efforts toward a common goal.

When your staff is all on the same page, working together, your business will reap the benefits.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Schwarzkopf had a reputation as an officer who would risk anything for the soldiers under his command. When he heard word that some of his men had encountered a minefield in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf rushed to the scene in his helicopter. After being wounded himself by an explosion, he eventually led his surviving soldiers to safety.

As an entrepreneur you have to dig in on the front lines, right alongside your team. You will get the best work from your people if you’re willing to stick out your neck for them.

“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” 

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Veterans hiring program at Starbucks

Starbucks recently announced plans to hire at least 10,000 veterans and active duty spouses in the next five years, as part of a wider strategy of veteran support.

With more than 1 million active duty members of the U.S. military transitioning to civilian life in the coming years, the coffee chain sees the commitment as a strategic outreach to the veteran community and will also attempt to engage active duty spouses, a group who faces an unemployment rate more than double the national average. 

“The values we are creating for shareholders is tied to the values that guide us as an organization,” said Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in a statement. “As I look at the opportunity ahead of us, we’re going to need to hire men and women with like-minded values and the right job skills in order to continue our current levels of growth.”

Currently, Starbucks offers a specialized mentoring program for veterans, provided via the Armed Forces Network (AFN). The AFN supports transitioning military by ensuring new hires have access to the information and resources they need to become successful. With the commitment to increase military hires, Starbucks additionally will expand the mentoring program.

“Companies that fail to engage the military community to identify quality job candidates are doing themselves a tremendous disservice,” Marjorie James, executive director of Hire America’s Heroes, said in a statement. “Veterans and military spouses are valued members of mission driven teams and working with an organization like Starbucks gives them an opportunity to establish a long term career that builds on that purpose in pursuit of a common goal.”

In addition to adjusting internal hiring infrastructure, Starbucks is utilizing community stores to support services members and their families. Starbucks plans to open five community stores in U.S. joint base locations in the coming years. These stores will donate a portion of each transaction to local nonprofits dedicated to meeting the needs of service members and veterans.

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Veterans May Suffer From Government Hiring Freeze

On Jan. 23, in accordance with his promises to shrink the size of the government through attrition, President Trump announced a federal hiring freeze. And now this across-the-board halt to all new and existing government jobs, exempting only national security, public safety and the military – may have a negative impact on Veterans.

Unless of course military members go to work for the Veterans Affairs Department. As recently as 2015, some VA hospitals were facing staffing shortages that left as many as half of the critical positions open. Currently, 4,308 jobs are listed as open at the VA. More than 1,100 of those listings are for physicians; 1,185 are for nurses at various levels — from licensed practical nurses to nurse practitioners. Another 284 are for positions that have direct contact with veterans to help them access benefits. Shrink that number of employees any further, and the two-year backlog may return, or at least that’s what some journalists and experts are concerned about.

And vets won’t just lose out on VA services because of the hiring freeze; they’ll also lose out on jobs. About one-third of civilian federal employees are vets, thanks in part to the preference given to qualified vets in government hiring, and out-of-work vets will be hit particularly hard by this measure.

The VA isn’t the only agency that will be hit by this freeze. Many agencies will be affected. It remains to be seen how well this freeze will pan out, and there are certainly hopes that the powers that be know what they’re doing and have an effective plan to follow.

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Interview with General Colin Powell

In a multi part interview, General Colin Powell speaks with Veterans of FreeEnterprise.

The first thing you need to know about Colin Powell is that you should address him as “General Powell,” not “Secretary Powell.” The second thing you should know is that he is funny—disarmingly funny, in fact.

One of the most esteemed leaders in U.S. military history, Powell joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) as an unsure college student, eventually serving in the Army for more than three decades. Powell, who served as President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, was promoted to the rank of general in 1989, the same year President George H.W. Bush tapped him to become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After a brief retirement, Powell returned to public service in 2001, when he became the first African American Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. Powell left that position in 2005 and has since devoted himself full-time to his philanthropic and professional work.

Looking back on his decades-long, boundary-shattering career, Powell says that his military background has had a profound impact on his success.

Full interview here

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Veterans to receive IVF treatment from VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs will start offering in vitro fertilization services to injured veterans for the first time in March, under new rules.

The move comes just a few months after Congress dropped a ban on the procedure for veterans and their spouses, the result of a year long push from advocates who called the restrictions unfair to individuals who sacrificed for the country.

Limited fertility counseling is already available to veterans, and active-duty troops who suffer service-related injuries are eligible to receive advanced fertility treatments including IVF services. But existing rules had blocked VA from matching all of those military offerings until now.

Though the procedure is considered controversial by critics — in particular, conservative Christians — VA officials in the new rules described IVF as “a common and medically accepted procedure for addressing infertility that cannot be overcome with other types of infertility treatment.”

Lawmakers who approved the change argued the existing rules unfairly penalized veterans whose injuries were so severe they forced them out of the ranks, since individuals who remained on active duty had access to the procedure.

The new rules state that VA will offer IVF as a family-planning option “when clinically appropriate to a veteran who has a service-connected disability that results in the inability of the veteran to procreate without the use of fertility treatment, as well as a spouse of such veteran.”

Defense Department officials estimate nearly 2,000 troops received debilitating injuries to their groins or genital regions from 2000 to 2013, and another 300,000-plus experienced some type of head injury, which can also impact sexual performance or drive.

In a statement, officials from Wounded Warrior Project — who helped lead the congressional lobbying effort to change the rules — called the news a positive and perhaps overdue step ahead.

“WWP is pleased the VA will now offer reproductive treatments similar to what active-duty service members already receive,” the statement said. “We were honored to have led a coalition advocating for this benefit so that these veterans can start families.”

Specifics on available appointments and services will be outlined at local VA facilities following the 60-day review period for the rule change.

The legislation passed by Congress covering veterans IVF treatments also included new rules for reimbursement of adoption expenses for veterans. VA officials said specifics of that program will be included in a future rules release.  

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