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Veterans in Business: A conversation with Chris Diaz of Serve1

November 01, 2016

We recently sat down with Chris Diaz, CEO and co-founder of Serve1 and former Fleet Marine Force Corpsman for the U.S. Navy, to talk about entrepreneurship

We recently sat down with Chris Diaz, CEO and co-founder of Serve1 and former Fleet Marine Force Corpsman for the U.S. Navy, to talk about entrepreneurship. As a thought leader in military and performance psychology, Chris is working to understand and share the science of the mind. His company, Serve1, is a human performance think tank that helps its clients to tap into their mental potential.

Comcast Business: You spent six years in the U.S. Navy before going back to school and starting your own business. What is the most critical piece of advice you have for a veteran looking to start his/her own business?

Chris Diaz: There’s no time like the present! Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity—that doesn’t exist. If you have a thought or idea that has the potential to change the world, your life, or your community, go do it. Now is the best time. It’s the only time you actually have. Do it.

Comcast Business: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a veteran business owner and how did you overcome them?

Chris Diaz: First let me say that my perspective and experience is unique to me. I wouldn’t want to speak for any other members of our active and reserve military, or their spouses. That said, one challenge I’ve experienced is that – frankly – entrepreneurship ISN’T part of our direct training. And we don’t have enough exposure to people and stories of veterans who have gone on to start their own businesses. Did you know that 7-11, General Motors and Johnson & Johnson have all been led by veterans? Comcast founder Ralph Roberts was also a former Navy man. I didn’t know this until very recently.

To that point, I would encourage entrepreneurs with a military affiliation to get out there and tell their stories. It’s important to demonstrate that there is life after service – you can forge your own path your own way, and others have done it too. Many experiences in the military provide opportunities that translate to the outside world. It’s not as different as people think.

Comcast Business: What specific challenges do veterans face (versus civilians) when it comes to small business ownership and entrepreneurship?

Chris Diaz: If anything, I think that I have far more opportunities because I’m a veteran and not a civilian. There are so many programs available to us! For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provide numerous programs, training and funding opportunities to help us get started. In the private sector, there are collaborative workspaces/business incubators like Bunker Labs and Benjamin’s Desk that support veterans, as well as companies like Comcast that consciously seek out veterans to join their workforce.

Comcast Business: What is your view on the role of technology in running a business? How do you use technology to run YOUR business?

Chris Diaz: Technology plays a critical role at Serve1, and for any modern business. At first, we leveraged technology to help us prove critical assumptions about motivation, collecting data from sports teams and performing psychological assessments on motivation and emotional intelligence that would be interesting to coaches and athletes that want to perform. Now, we are building technology to broaden our reach and test these assumptions. Using machine learning, we’re able to leverage our assessments to predict performance outcome – minutes played, goals scored, etc. We rely on statistical software like MATLAB to run analytics, and of course make use of the internet to stay connected with our clients. For example, we use Skype to conduct performance coaching remotely.

As for running the business itself, we leverage a small CRM system to care for and manage customers, and the Microsoft suite of services for product management. We also rely on Square to accept payment.

Comcast Business: What attributes do you think veterans possess that give them an advantage when it comes to running their own business?

Chris Diaz: Although we’re all unique, there is a common thread that ties us together – service. Not just “the service,” but service and sacrifice for something bigger than ourselves. In the military, you are surrounded by people who are different than you, and you come together to work for the collective good. And you get to see the impact of that collaboration. If that doesn’t lend itself to starting a small business, I don’t know what else could possibly prepare you for that.

Comcast Business: What are some of the best resources veterans should tap into in order to grow their business?

Chris Diaz: Veterans need to lean on each other! I recently gave a talk on pushing the limits of human performance at the 2016 Pat Tillman Leadership Summit powered by the NFL. For those of you that don’t know, the Pat Tillman Foundation offers what could be compared to a “Rhodes Scholarship” for active duty service members, veterans and military spouses. My involvement in this organization, and many others, allows me to build not just connections, but relationships with others involved with the military.

That said, don’t be close-minded. As a society, we like to talk about the military/civilian divide, however it is very hard to find someone who is not one degree removed from someone in the military.  Those “plus ones” are so eager to help and support active service members and veterans because they recognize the sacrifice we make in serving our country.

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