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A lot of the freedoms we have in our country we owe to our veterans. They put their lives on the line to defend our rights, whether it be voting or launching our own businesses. In honor of Veterans Day 2020, we have gathered the best advice from veteran entrepreneurs, founders, and authors to share what their time in active service taught them about being a leader in today’s world.
Founder & President of Chicago Veterans
Kevin Barszcz is a Navy veteran and the Founder & President of Chicago Veterans. Their mission is to empower military veterans to take control of their transition throughout life by sharing information and building a positive social support system. Barszcz started his organization after returning home from active service in 2012 and connecting with other members while studying at Depaul University.
“I was blessed to be exposed to many different leadership types in the military. While I didn’t’ agree with every leadership style, they all had one very important trait among them: they were all very effective, high producing leaders. Not all their methods were the same, but each of them were able to motivate their team and accomplish their mission even under the most difficult and stressful of situations.
“I try to take the best of each leadership style from my time in the Navy and implement that into my daily life. Having a regular daily morning routine and waking up early no matter what time I go to sleep the night before is extremely important for my productivity level. A morning routine allows me to start each day with a positive attitude and a clear vision for the day.
“I am also a true believer in setting goals. Whether in my personal life or my business I set regular goals. No matter what leadership style I was under while in the military, they all set measurable goals. I still live by what I learned in the military, if we can’t measure it, we can’t improve it.”
Mitchell Boling, SMSgt, USAF, Ret.
Author of Leadership: A View From The Middle
Mitchell Boling is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran and author of Leadership: A View From The Middle. In his book, Boling relays stories that led him to become a better leader and discusses how successful leaders should manage their team by treating them as equals, not as subordinates. When he isn’t busy sharing his words of advice, you can find him cooking ribs and Christmas turkeys in his outdoor smoker.
“Being an enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force for twenty-five years taught me a lot about leadership. I worked on the flight line as an aircraft maintainer, which included working long hours in what always seemed to be the worst working conditions. Working in an environment like this cemented two things in my mind: One, relationships matter, and two, we lead by example from wherever we are.
“Relationships matter because people had to work together to get the job done. Aircraft maintainers were known for doing whatever it took to accomplish the mission, even if it meant working around the clock in any weather or combat posture. We did this for the mission, and we did this for each other. Having good relationships with our coworkers (and now, customers) is paramount in any leadership role, especially as an entrepreneur. It becomes the foundation for growth.
“We lead by example from wherever we are. What this means is that we do not have to be at the top to be the leader. We can lead from wherever we find ourselves, which I refer to as the “middle.” Whether it is leading a small work crew at three in the morning to repair an aircraft, or sweeping up a hangar floor right along with the lower ranking service members, we can lead from the middle. The most important thing anybody ever said to me in my Air Force career was when my immediate supervisor said, “How can I send you out on a job that I’m not willing to do myself, first?” His statement created an epiphany in my mind, that I would follow this guy anywhere. He led by example, and I attempted to model my career after the example he provided.
“As entrepreneurs, we must lead by example, too. Sure, the entrepreneur might be the ‘top dog’ in his or her company, but for them to realize success, they must get down into the trenches with the workers (the middle) and lead the effort. Doing so will also energize the workers because they see the boss working right alongside them. It gives more meaning to the task at hand, which in turn, creates better products and services. Better products and services create profit.”
Founder of KNOWRX
David Franklin is a U.S. Navy Gulf War veteran and startup founder of KNOWRX. He also runs an annual Vet Success 10-week transitioning webinar for active duty personnel, veterans, and milspouses. During his time, Franklin earned two Navy Achievement Medals and a Sailor of the Year nomination. Currently, he gives back to the community by sitting on the board of Operation Supply Drop.
“The Navy taught me as a leader to serve, not just for the larger mission, but the people around you and within the community. Service is a great characteristic of leadership that builds unity and credibility and requires humility.
“Additionally, my Naval service taught me to be resilient, adapting to change while having the passion to preserve and keep moving forward.”
CEO of 1st Sip Brew Box
Dennis Guy is an Army Veteran and the CEO of 1st Sip Brew Box. Launched in 2016, 1st Sip Brew Box is a craft beer media company with a subscription box model. Every month, they bring awareness to large and small businesses by featuring merchandise from top breweries and other gear to help hop lovers experience craft beer differently. Dennis also hosts The Daily Sip podcast which is all about the love of the craft.
“Since I was a child sitting on my grandfather’s porch hearing stories of his time in Vietnam, the brotherhood and camaraderie he experienced…I knew right then I wanted to walk in his footsteps. All through high school I studied military science and trained every day and enlisted right when I graduated.
“During my enlistment I learned if anything stands in the way of your goals you have two options: to make excuses or find the best way through or around. I did not know the full effect of understanding this until I started my company. We had to pivot and stay nimble every step of the way. Without this philosophy that I learned through my experience and time with the military I would not be the leader I am today.”
Founder of Coastal Coffee Roasters
Brad Mallett is a U.S. Air Force veteran and founder of Coastal Coffee Roasters. This coffee company was sparked by his family’s passion to share fresh, organic coffee with the world. Additionally, Mallett is the founding partner of Oak Road Brewery located in Summerville, South Carolina. Thanks to his many charity efforts over the years, he received the Outstanding First Year Rotarian award from the Summerville Rotary Club.
“My advice can be summed up in one word: perseverance.”
Founder of The Genius Academy and The Queer School
Asa Leveaux is a veteran of the Oklahoma Army National Guard and founder of The Genius Academy. This training and development agency is designed to help both entrepreneurs and startups fulfill their goals. He is also the founder of The Queer School, which is an online personal development platform that provides the LGBTQ+ community with better opportunities as professionals and individuals. Asa also hosts The Entrequeerneur Show, which promotes visibility for entrepreneurs in the queer community.
“What my time in military service taught me about leadership is that you are responsible for everything that does and does not happen in your organization. This hit me deeply in 2012 when I was addressing the families of the unit that I was now in command of to deploy to Afghanistan. As I looked at their eyes in the pews of that chapel at Camp Pendleton, I knew that they were trusting me with their most loved humans.”
How will you be celebrating Veterans Day 2020? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.