Hitting the business bullseye

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Leaving the Armed Forces you are well equipped with the drive it takes to master the business world. Skills and determination combined with the right support make ex-Forces personnel perfect entrepreneurs.

Last year 414,000 new businesses started in the UK, but a further 328,000 businesses failed. Becoming an entrepreneur is no easy feat. Alongside funding and a good mindset, you need a flawless business plan and support from someone who has been successful before.

Despite the challenges, becoming an entrepreneur is worth the work. Being your own boss, making the major decisions that affect your business and doing something you love might sound impossible, but it is the ideal option for service leavers.

CHALLENGE

Peter Mountford is a successful entrepreneur and chairman of Heropreneurs, a charity helping veterans start their own businesses. Since the charity was created, Peter has mentored 45 entrepreneurs. “Creating your own successful business is an incredibly hard thing to do, we take our response very seriously,” says Peter.

“We’re not just promoting it for the sake of it: we provide support but also challenge people. If something isn’t suitable, like the wrong business model, we will diplomatically tell them that,” he adds.

Heropreneurs isn’t trying to make every veteran a businessperson, it is about helping those who already have a plan in place. “We’re not trying to push people; just trying to do our best to help people thinking of starting their own business,” says Peter.

Having somewhere to turn for advice, support and expertise is invaluable for service leavers looking to start their own business. “There is a huge need for it,” explains Peter. “I think the challenge is getting the message out to the community that we exist.”

Andy Grant served as a Royal Marines Commando for seven years. He retired after being hit by a bomb during a routine foot patrol that left him with life-changing injuries. “Despite the 27 injures when I was blown up I still had my leg, it was just very badly damaged,” recalls Andy.

“I tried for 18 months to keep the leg in the hope I would regain my normal life but, in the end, I opted to have the leg amputated for a better quality of life.”

After spending time learning how to walk again, and getting used to life as an amputee, Andy decided to start his own business. “I realised I had a unique story and by continuing to live my life to the fullest despite the setbacks I had been through it was inspiring to people so I began to share my story,” says Andy.

SUPPORT

Now running his own business as a motivational speaker, Andy gives talks to businesses, sports clubs and in schools. His first step was to seek advice from a life coach who had already been successful. Seeking advice and support from someone already in business is an essential step for entrepreneurs.

Heropreneurs asks veterans firstly to fill out a form that asks questions about them and their business plan. “The initial meeting is for us to see whether somebody is the right person to start a business, so it’s a bit of a vetting process first of all,” explains Peter. “If they pass that test we then go find a mentor for them.”

A mentor could be anyone – they don’t have to be from the same area of business, it is their knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes that is valuable. “Our mentors aren’t getting involved in the day to day running of the business, the most effective way they work is to sit down and come up with the key matters that need to be addressed,” adds Peter.

SKILLS

Serving in the Armed Forces teaches you skills that are key to becoming a successful entrepreneur. “The Marines have something called the commando ethos. Determination, adaptability, unselfishness, fortitude,” says Andy. “Without a doubt my experiences within the Marines gave me the foundations to make it on my
own after leaving.”

As a successful businessman and mentor, Peter has seen these skills showcased again and again. “They gain lots of skills that are transferable into business life such as leadership, organisation, discipline, resilience, and tenacity: those are all relevant skills you need when creating your own business,” enthuses Peter.

While support is vital to success, the most important person who can consistently motivate you in business is yourself. “You need to have a lot of drive and determination as working on your own, no one will push you unless you push yourself,” stresses Andy.

DETERMINATION

While you might leave the Armed Forces with the skills to motivate yourself, it is often a lack of business know-how that sees veteran entrepreneurs failing. “They don’t have the commercial skills or networks needed, our mentors fill in that gap and we like to help our members network too,” says Peter.

Along with support from friends and family, having a mentor to support you can replicate the camaraderie experienced in the Military. “When in the Armed Forces people have a network and community they rely on,” adds Peter. “When they leave that disappears, you need to replicate that on civvy street.”

Looking back, both Peter and Andy wish they had asked for help earlier. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice,” encourages Andy. “Seeking a mentor early on is definitely a must.” His thoughts are echoed by Peter: “That’s huge added value, I wish I had a mentor when I started, it is so invaluable: entirely free, independent, unbiased. The feedback is extraordinary.”

The skills you learn during your time in the Armed Forces and a good business plan combined with the help and expertise of a businessperson can lead to success. Working for yourself, doing what you love could be your ideal path on civvy street.

FIND OUT MORE

For more information about Heropreneurs visit www.heropreneurs.co.uk

To learn more about Andy Grant’s story visit www.agmotivation.co.uk

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