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Jean South

President and CEO of Hire Served

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6 Reasons “Entrepreneur” is the Perfect MOS for a Military Spouse

November 01, 2016

Entrepreneurship offers military spouses a few benefits that Jean South would argue are well worth the risk.

I’m not your typical Military spouse. Then again, I’m not your typical anything. However, I have the privilege of being married to a Marine Corps reservist and have lived through one combat deployment that took him to both Iraq and Afghanistan (two birds/one stone? Ugh!) I’ve worked for the government, been a leadership consultant, and now run my own business.

In my conversations with other military spouses and my own life experience, I’ve realized how perfectly entrepreneurship fits military spouses.

Let me start by saying the entrepreneurial journey isn’t for the faint of heart. It involves living life on a limb without the usual safety nets we have all come to treasure - that sense of security we get from a steady paycheck, the structure of a schedule created by someone else, the ability to slough off a day or two and know someone else will carry the load, and a boss to reign you back in and give your work direction. You’ll get none of that as you set out on the entrepreneurial journey. However, for my fellow military spouses considering taking the leap, here are a few reasons how our life of service goes hand in hand with entrepreneurship:

Experience - You’ve done it all before

Due to regular deployments and the need to keep our homes functioning as “normally” as possible while our spouses are in warzones, military spouses take on the roles of an entire C-Suite. As chief executive officers, we set the strategy for our families and decide where to invest our time. As chief marketing officers, we build our family’s brand through Holiday cards, birthday parties, and Facebook updates. As chief financial officers, we balance the books and pay the bills. As chief operating officers, we do everything from shuttling children/pets to scheduling maintenance for the things the Deployment Gremlin begins breaking as soon as our Warrior’s feet leave US soil.

These are the same skills you will use to run your business. You’ll set the strategy of your company, you’ll figure out how to execute that strategy, you'll determine how to market build your brand, and then you, yes YOU, will do all the things required to make it happen.

Adaptability - You wouldn’t know “status quo” if it hit you in the face!

In a world where change has become the norm and “adaptability” is the new buzzword on candidate resumes, military spouses laugh in the faces of adaptability coaches! We would be more befuddled if you told us to maintain the status quo than if you warned us of three upcoming major life changes (all in one day). For a military spouse there are no constants other than change and passion - passion for our spouse, our families and our nation.

The same is true with entrepreneurship. Nothing will stay the same, you will pivot a dozen times before you land in your sweet spot, you’ll change your logo midstream, and your revenue will come from places you never expected. For the military spouse, that will all be perfectly fine and even comfortable, because it is nothing to PCS five times in ten years across two coasts and three countries. The military spouse knows nothing other than change and adaptability, so this piece of entrepreneurship that makes our peers uncomfortable, is our version of normal.

Networking - You can work a room like it’s your job! (which is good, because now it is!)

When you become an entrepreneur, your mentors will immediately start pushing you to talk to go meet people - ALL the PEOPLE. Networking is a key to making your business work and to gaining enough clients to keep it afloat. I’ve heard entrepreneurs say networking is the hardest part of their job and causes them the most anxiety.

For the military spouse, building and maintaining relationships is second nature. As a reservist, my husband changes units every two years. For active duty spouses, you may PCS on that same cadence. When you have two years to get to know the people in your new community, you don’t spend much time on surface topics. You dive right in and quickly decide whether this person will or won’t be your new best friend. You don’t have the luxury of time, so you make value judgments midstream. You’ve learned to judge a person’s character swiftly and to identify areas you can help one another. Now you just parlay this ability into business relationships and you’ll be rocking it in no time!

So are you ready to take this journey?

I know I said entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart and it doesn’t offer the safety net of a typical job, so why would anyone be crazy enough to jump on this train? It’s because of what it DOES offer.

Entrepreneurship offers military spouses a few benefits that I would argue are well worth the risk.

Flexibility
On the days when the Deployment Gremlin strikes, you’re the boss, you get to decide that it’s okay to call the repairman and stay home to wait for him to arrive. This is infinitely better than going a week without a dryer since you burned all your days off or are saving them for your post-deployment vacation.

Mobility
You can build a business that travels with you as you PCS. Sure, you may experience some time zone differences from your customers, but you’re used to that already!

Identity
Because our lives are so incredibly intertwined with the military, it’s very easy to lose your identity and become (as I loathed to be called during deployment), “The Major’s Wife”. “No!”, I wanted to scream, “I am JEAN! JEAN, do you get that?!?!” We lose ourselves somewhere in caring for our families and running a household and rushing to answer the phone whenever it vibrates/dings/rings/lights up because it might be our spouse’s only communication opportunity all week. Running your own business doesn’t allow for that. It requires you to know who YOU are (your brand) and what YOU want out of life. It requires YOU set a vision and go after it. When you build a business that is all yours, it gives you back something we have all lost to the military in some form or fashion - it gives you back YOU.

If you’re ready to start this journey, there are a ton of resources available to help you get moving. I was introduced to Bunker Labs in Philadelphia and can’t say enough about my gratitude for this connection. If you need resources and don’t know where to go, email me at jean.south@bunkerlabs.org and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

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