November is National Veterans and Military Families Month. We honor those who have served and the loved ones who support them by highlighting the significant contributions veterans make in the business sector, including accounting for nearly 5.9% of all businesses, employing nearly 4 million people and generating $947.7 billion in receipts.

More specifically, we have asked five veterans-turned-entrepreneurs to share how their military training and experience helped prepare and shape them as leaders of business. They responded candidly, with an authentic perspective that serves to provide insight as well as inspire.

 Business owners open their storefront at a ribbon-cutting ceremony
Pressed — A Creative Space owners Ashley and Jon Thompson say that Jon’s military background shapes their team-first mindset and helps attract loyal customers. — Pressed — A Creative Space

Ashley and Jon Thompson, owners, Pressed — A Creative Space

Who we are: A unique Fayetteville, NC destination filled with items for free spirits, curious souls and magic makers for a one-of-a-kind retail experience.

When my husband was in the military, we learned to work as a team. We had to be ready for anything, whether it was a last-minute deployment or a last-minute training exercise. We learned to be resilient in the face of constant change. Running a business together has many similar ups and downs that we have been able to navigate together just like we did while he was in the military.

For example, when the pandemic changed the way our retail store operated, we quickly came together and came up with our plan to move forward. We both know how to work under pressure and lean on each other during tough times. The military taught us how to overcome so many obstacles, and we are both very grateful for that experience. Follow Pressed — A Creative Space on Instagram & Facebook.

 A bearded man in a baseball hat pets a brown horse
War Horses for Veterans helps combat veterans and first responders build communication and leadership skills through therapeutic horse programs. — War Horses for Veterans

Patrick Benson, executive director and co-founder, War Horses for Veterans, Inc.

Who we are: A mission-based organization, located in Stillwell, KS, that offers exceptional horsemanship as a means to provide combat veterans and first responders with the tools for personal and professional growth.

My experience in the military gave me the ability to make decisions quickly and under pressure. In combat, your well-thought-out plans can be rendered useless in an instant. You have to be able to change course at a moment's notice to successfully complete your mission. In one particular engagement in 2003 in Fallujah, Iraq, our vehicle broke down and we were surrounded by anti-American protesters. At that moment, I had to prioritize the tasks to get us out of this situation. Being in charge of the team, I gave commands to keep the protesters at bay while getting the vehicle operational and taking enemy fire.

As the leader of our organization now, when faced with a multitude of challenges at once, I’m able to focus, stay calm and quickly find the solution to successfully navigate the obstacles. Follow War Horses for Veterans Instagram & Facebook.

 A man rolls a ball on a large, grassy space on a sunny day
Discipline, risk reduction and leadership are among the guiding principles Matt Butler developed while serving in the Air Force, which he utilizes as founder and owner of Rollors. — Rollors

Matt Butler, founder, Rollors

Who we are: Destin, FL-based creators of an exciting outdoor game for all ages that combines elements of bocce, horseshoes and bowling, who employ other veterans in crafting the wooden game pieces contained in each set.

There are a lot of helpful skills that I learned from serving in the military, like risk reduction, leadership and discipline. In the military, there are always risks that can never be fully avoided, but we are taught to evaluate those risks and to develop strategies to limit them. Prior to executing any type of military operation, there is always a phase of planning. In business, that would translate to a business plan that lays the foundation of executing the business.

When it comes to leadership, it takes someone who is going to put the needs of their followers ahead of their own. Those followers could translate into people who work for you or even the customers themselves. Being a leader also takes discipline, which means you have to stay on task and be focused. Entrepreneurs are always wearing multiple hats when they first start a business, which calls for a high level of discipline to accomplish everything in a new and growing business. Follow Rollors on Instagram, Pinterest & Facebook.

 A man wears a hat and sits a table with grilled meat and a liquor bottle beside him.
Jason Murff is dedicated to camaraderie through good food and humor, and his military experiences allow him to be a respected, valued and successful business owner. — Grill Your Ass Off

Jason Murff, CEO, Grill Your Ass Off

Who we are: A veteran-owned, Houston, Texas-made gourmet food business that is focused on delivering high-quality seasonings, sauces and beef jerky branded to fit the military and veteran lifestyle.

I had no idea the life skills I acquired while serving in the Army as an 11B would build the foundation needed to scale Grill Your Ass Off. Being an enlisted private, you tend to spend most of your time in the push-up position. One of the things that I observed from the front line was the power that leadership holds. The leadership I experienced was toxic to the growth of its followers. Recognizing this early in my military career shaped my idea of what a true leader looks like. One must hold themselves to their core values and put the team first, no matter the situation. What I craved as a soldier was a leader who was willing to continue to work with and serve the team even as a person in authority, by empowering their followers, taking risks and being accepting of constructive criticism. I was able to learn not only from my failures but also from the failures of others — a great tool for saving time and money in business.

My time serving my country helped me gain the discipline needed to take risks and the experience needed to know what not to do as a leader striving for success. No war has been won by a single man, and no business has ever scaled without a team. Follow Grill Your Ass Off on Instagram & Facebook.

 Three men wear matching t-shirts, standing on a country dirt road in front of a green landscape and blue sky
KC Cattle Company’s owner Patrick Montgomery attributes his entrepreneurial skills, like the ability to be nimble in stressful and challenging situations, to his military service. — KC Cattle Company

Patrick Montgomery, founder & owner, KC Cattle Company

Who we are: Weston, MO providers of the highest quality farm-to-table wagyu beef, naturally raised by Veterans who are passionate about making every meal an experience.

The synergy between a military career and entrepreneurship is substantial. Veterans are no strangers to hard work, leadership, discipline and adapting to changing circumstances. As you can imagine, these qualities are necessary to be successful as an entrepreneur — specifically, a start-up. When stuff hits the fan as a business owner, it is not your first time being in a stressful situation, when level-headed thinking is required for mission success.

An adage you hear from day one in the military is, “You can have the best battle plan in the world, but when the first round flies, you need to be able to think on your feet.” Substitute "battle plan" for "business plan" and you have my number one piece of advice for entrepreneurs. Follow KC Cattle Company on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 10, 2021