Service veterans returning home after tours of duty will find much support should they want to go into business. Entrepreneurship is a great option for veterans, given that they bring a variety of skills and capabilities learned from the military—from technical expertise, leadership ability, organizational acumen, and adherence to command and structure.
Veterans make up nearly one in 10 small-business owners in the United States, according to statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners last reported that there were 2.45 million businesses with majority ownership by veterans, accounting for sales of $1.22 trillion and employing 5.793 million people.
The leading industries represented by veteran-owned companies include:
- Professional, scientific, and technical services (16.9 percent)
- Construction (15.5 percent)
- Services (9.9 percent)
- Real estate (8.9 percent)
- Retail (8.1 percent)
Many resources and services are available to veterans through government agencies such as the SBA, SCORE, PTAC, and SBDC as they start on their quest to business ownership.
Boosting the potential for veteran-owned business development was the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999. The law established service-disabled and veteran owned businesses as a class equal to minority- and women-owned business classifications for Federal contracting. The law requires that prime contractors add Veterans to their subcontracting needs, leading to the inclusion of SD/VOBs to major corporate contracts for the first time. This act established the annual government-wide goal that no less than three percent of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards were to be to businesses owned and controlled by service-disabled and veteran-owned businesses.
The SBA, for instance, administers the Veterans’ Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program in 20 regions across the country. The mission of the VBOC program is to be the “Boots on the Ground.” It acts as the SBA’s business counseling agency to military veterans, active-duty military, National Guard members and Reservists, service-connected disabled veterans, and to spouses and widows.
VBOC offers veterans services that include:
Pre-business plan workshops - VBOC helps veterans conduct entrepreneurial development dealing specifically with the major issues of small-business self-employment.
Concept assessments - VBOC assists veterans in assessing their entrepreneurial needs and requirements.
Business plan preparations - VBOC clients get help in developing and maintaining a five-year business plan, including such elements as the legal structure, equipment requirements and cost, organizational structure, a strategic plan, market analysis, and a financial plan.
Entrepreneurial training and counseling -VBOC, working with other SBA resource partners, targets entrepreneurial training projects and counseling sessions tailored specifically to address the needs and concerns of the service-disabled and veteran entrepreneurs.
Mentorship - VBOC counselors may conduct site visits with veterans in order to ensure adherence to their business plans and will review financial statements in order to help ensure the desired results of the business are being attained.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offers business services to veterans through its Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP). The VEP is designed to make it easier for small businesses to access federal services and receive information on best practices.
Another enticement for veteran-owned businesses is that many corporations are adding these firms in their supplier diversity programs, such as how they do for minority- and women-owned diverse firms. Veteran firms can complete an online self-certification (registration) form at many corporations in order to start the process or upload their NVBDC certification.
A leading veterans’ certification agency is the National Veteran Business Development Council, a third-party, not-for-profit foundation created for the purpose of providing a credible and reliable certifying authority of a veteran’s business ownership and control. The NVBDC has the support of the veteran community including the Veteran Support Foundation, Vet Biz Central, VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, and several private industry corporations. These organizations, federal agencies, and private industry giants have consistently supported the veteran community through hiring programs, community outreach and continued support for military members and their families. The council estimates that the total spend available to qualifying veterans’ businesses is more than $80 billion annually.
In addition, corporations, through their supplier diversity initiatives, also participate in many procurement fairs, seminars, and workshops for veteran business organizations, such as the National Veteran-Owned Business Association, the National Veteran Small Business Coalition, and the National Veteran Small Business Conference.
There are many resources available for veteran-owned businesses, many of which actually aim to give these businesses an advantage. Have you found any resources that you feel are critical to their success?