Five soldiers turned entrepreneurs reveal how their experience in the military prepared them for life as a business owner.
Success in Life
"We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
In honor of Veterans Day, BusinessNewsDaily spoke with five veterans who used the skills gained during their time in the military to jump-start a successful business career.
Mary Kennedy Thompson
After eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Mary Kennedy Thompson jumped into business in 1994 when she opened a Cookies by Design franchise. That, however, was just the start for Thompson, who soon opened two additional franchises in the next three years. Thompson built upon that experience when she started working in the corporate offices of Cookies by Design. In 2004, she became president of Cookies by Design and two years later she was named president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.
Thompson credits her time in the Marines with providing a foundation for future success.
"Being a Marine taught me that leadership is about leading by example and that particular leadership trait can take you and your business very far," Thompson said. "It’s the leadership trait missing most in businesses today. I saw franchising as an opportunity to control my destiny and be able to lead a team to achievement while building a life for me and my family. I loved the opportunity, challenge and team building that I have been able to do."
It is no surprise that longtime F-15 fighter pilot Jim Murphy named his company Afterburner Inc. That time in the U.S. Air Force helped provide Murphy with the background he needed to start Afterburner, a company that offers team- building events and corporate workshops to companies of all sizes.
"I learned that there is a process that is simple to teach while also being scalable, which helps leaders lead and businesses grow," said Murphy, CEO of Afterburner. "The biggest piece of advice that I could give to current military veterans is that they often underestimate their value with the training and skill set they receive from their military experience, most notably accountability and execution."
Dave Povlitz served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Korea before beginning his business career. In 1974, Povlitz founded Professional Building Maintenance Inc., a janitorial service company. Povlitz began experimenting with franchising in the early 1990s when he founded Anago International. Today, the company operates offices across the United States as well as one in South America.
"The skills I learned in the military will be used over and over in directing an organization," said Povlitz, chairman and founder of Anago. "These include giving orders, building a team, establishing work orders (sequences of responsibility), monitoring for quality control, writing job descriptions and trust."
However, one skill sticks out above all the rest, Povlitz says.
"As a radio operator for S-3 Battalion HQ, I learned the importance of communication," Povlitz said."In the military, good communication can save lives. In business, good communication can help companies thrive. In the business world, leaders need to be able to convey their messages clearly and effectively and it taught me the importance of active communication. As the CEO of Anago, it is my duty to create the message for the entire system, and my training really helped with that."
Jack Riggs served as lieutenant governor of Idaho and an Idaho state senator before being named CEO of the restaurant chain Pita Pit in 2006. Riggs, however, says his real business training came as a result of his career in the military.
After serving as a medical doctor in the U.S. Air Force, Riggs transitioned into the world of business by starting the first immediate-care facility in north Idaho, he said.
"In military service, you learn a great deal about systems, communication and discipline," Riggs said. "You also learn about teamwork and chain of command. I definitely used all of those tools when I became a 'business owner' in 1985 – and I have used them since in my political career, as well as now, as CEO of Pita Pit USA."
A missed opportunity helped lead John Quattrocchi to become the president of gym franchise Workout Anytime. After working in avionics and missile-guidance systems for the U.S. Air Force, Quattrocchi applied to a job with Delta Air Lines, but was rejected. That rejection, however, led him to start working in the fitness industry. After nearly four decades in the industry, Quattrocchi was named president of Workout Anytime.
Leadership, however, was nothing new to Quattrocchi, who credits the Air Force with helping him along his journey.
"One of the major things that the military taught me was that people can often do more than they think they are capable of doing," Quattrocchi said. "It expands your mind beyond the individual to focus on operating as a team. That was the mindset that I have always had in business, but in business I quickly realized the better you are, the more you make. I always focused on creating a strong central team to make sure the business was succeeding at all levels."
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