Strategies for Veteran Entrepreneurs

While survival was the name of the game for many small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s entrepreneurs see a sunnier future ahead. In Meta’s most recent Global State of Small Business report , small business owners in North America feel confident about surviving for at least another six months under present conditions. That’s excellent news for veteran-owned enterprises strategizing how to progress to the next stage of success.

Here are three ways veteran-owned enterprises can forge ahead and find success, even in the current uncertain economy.

Make Global Connections

No business can expand without searching beyond its borders for new customers. Expanding into new markets offers new customer bases to sell your existing products or services. Global expansion is an easily reachable objective if you have the appropriate connections and adequate technology.

According to Meta’s report, although SMBs represent 95% of all companies worldwide and 60% of total global employment, they have lesser rates of participation in international trade than larger businesses. The report found this is partly due to limited access to information rather than a lack of financing. In addition, SMBs have encountered international trade challenges since the pandemic and continue to experience export disruption resulting from geopolitical uncertainty and the decline of global economic growth.

At the global level, 34% of SMBs that effectively export products or services say having contacts in foreign markets helps increase their sales in those countries. That means it’s essential to establish connections worldwide. A good start is joining networking groups with an international focus, employing people with overseas connections, and partnering strategically with other companies that already have access to global markets.

Alabama VetStart - Alabama Small Business Development Center

The U.S. Commerce Department offers a slew of solutions to help American small businesses expand globally. Some particularly useful ones include:

  • Interact to Global Markets: Check out these 12 Export Solutions that offer advice about how to export, interact with foreign customers, manage trade challenges and expand into new markets.

  • Commercial Diplomacy: There are international offices that assist U.S. firms surmount trade obstacles.

  • Global Market Finder: This instrument helps you identify potential export markets for your products. For example, if you export fresh pears, you can discover annual data on unit prices for each country and growth rate. The tool immediately provides the top 5 countries for a specific product and offers analysis for all the countries where a product was exported.

  • USA Trade Online: If you want more information about specific foreign markets, opportunities, and global competitors, the USA Trade Online application enables you to dive deeper into trade data. You can search on the country of destination, importing country, classification, ports of export, value, quantity, etc. And you can arrange on growth rate to discover the newer markets for your products.

  • U.S. Commercial Service: If you need local export assistance, the U.S. Commercial Service has trade professionals in over 100 U.S. Commercial Service offices nationwide and more than 70 international offices.

  • If you were stationed overseas, don’t hesitate to draw into any connections you made there. Even if you don’t believe your contacts can’t help you, ask—you don’t necessarily know whom they know.

You also need to make sure your website is global-friendly. Hiring developers experienced in constructing e-commerce sites adaptable to your target markets is critical. Find out which project management platforms your international partners and distributors use to make operations seamless and pay for top security controls to protect your company’s information.

Hire Right

The Great Resignation saw 47.8 million workers depart occupations last year, and the “quitting” trend has persisted into 2022. That’s dreadful news for former employers but could mean good news for veteran entrepreneurs seeking to hire experienced talent to help grow their companies. Per the Meta report, the small businesses more than doubled their employment rate throughout the year, from 11% that hired in January to 24% that added workers in July.

According to a recent report by McKinsey, the “competition for talent remains fierce,” so veteran entrepreneurs need to comprehend what employees want from their employers. McKinsey reports that workers leave to find enhanced career development and advancement prospects and make more money. They also want inspiring leadership, meaningful employment, and the flexibility to work remotely, at least some of the time.

Military Veteran Entrepreneurship - Military Supportive Colleges

Veterans are ideal employment candidates for nearly any industry, as many are cross-trained with the skills that suit various positions and have the excellent work ethic any employer desires. However, a MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index found that although more than 80% of veteran- and non-veteran-owned small businesses say it’s essential to concentrate on employing veterans, only about 10% of small businesses have intentionally recruited military veterans. 

To locate vets to employ, you can start at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services. Here you’ll find advice and resources for recruiting and training veterans to work for your company. You can designate a preference for veterans when signing up on large job placement platforms such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter.

Use Digital Tools

There’s a digital instrument for just about anything and everything you need to help grow your business. Adopting the proper technologies and tools for essentials like project management organization, customer service, internal operations, communication, accounting, supply chain management, digital marketing, and more contribute to your company’s competitive edge.

The October 2022 Global State of Small Business report affirms digital tools’ vital role in how SMBs connect with customers and generate sales. Nearly two-thirds of SMBs (63%) on Facebook generated some portion of their revenues through digital channels. In addition, digital tools for connecting and marketing to consumers continue to be the focus of SMBs globally and have had a significant impact on increasing sales and customer bases.

Key tech trends to be cognizant of and contemplate incorporating into your business operations

  • The Rise of Social Commerce. Social commerce, also dubbed “social selling,” is a digital marketing strategy that enables social media consumers to browse and purchase products and services without ever exiting the app. Shopify, a prominent e-commerce platform, claims the leading platforms for social selling are Facebook and Instagram.

  • Lights, Camera, Videos. Using digital tools to create eye-catching videos should be at the top of your priority lists. Videos are not just for social media but are prevalent across the board. Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing Survey indicates that instructional and presentation videos are valuable tools for small businesses.

Read Also: Legal Entities for Rural Entrepreneurs

Help to Grow

As you navigate your small business through various phases of growth, you don’t have to strategize on your own. The SBA’s Veteran’s Business Outreach Center (VBOC) offers resources to veterans interested in starting or growing a small business, including workshops, training, and counseling. Also, SCORE business mentors can help you start, expand, or transition your business. Make an appointment with a mentor online or in person today!