Veterans bring tremendous value to the workforce. When they take off the uniform, they retain a number of attributes that make them excellent workers. Veterans perform well in a team, face adversity in stride, rarely call in sick and are highly dependable. Some leave the service after a four-year stint while the careerists serve 20+ years. Some of these lifers have a hard time adjusting to employment outside of the rank and file. While they may be accused of being institutionalized and not able to let it go, many of them would simply tell you they are allergic to stupid and hate the lazy. The structure, order and sense of purpose are familiar circumstances often missed in the civilian sector. For these reasons many veteran will start their own small business where they can create the environment, set the rules and be their own boss.
Here are 5 entrepreneur ideas for the Marine veterans:
Red Hat Breakfast Club
In every town across our country there are places where old men gather for breakfast and coffee. They muster early and spend several hours talking. Military retirees comprise these assemblies in the communities surrounding bases. Many of these old veterans have been out of uniform longer than they were in uniform. Human nature is such that vets grow nostalgic about their time in the service. This pride is manifested in many ways including the ubiquitous veteran hat. The stereotypical old Marine retiree wears a red hat and tells many sea stories.
Catering to this particular demographic an aspiring entrepreneur can open a small café that only serves breakfast outside the gates of Camp Lejeune, serving items that would be typically be found in the mess hall. Decorate it with old USMC memorabilia and use mugs, trays, etc. just like the chow hall. You can even yell at the customers in this environment and draft a few of them for a working party to assist in clean up. They will keep coming back and appreciate the camaraderie experienced in a place that will soon become a local legend.
Purple Dragon Bar
This one is a bit kitschy. Bars abound outside of military bases. What makes the Purple Dragon Bar different is embracing the stereotypes. The phrase Purple Dragon is the military’s OPSEC (Operational Security) campaign. Service members are reminded not to discuss operational matters casually as the information can make it to the enemy. In WWII phrases such as “Loose lips sink ships” were common. The message is the same today but may be rendered as “Loose tweets sink fleets.”
The common image is that of a drunken service member discussing sensitive or classified matters in a local bar while suspect characters with nefarious intentions listen attentively. Military folks have a certain type of humor that would appreciate the on-the-nose aspect of a bar called the Purple Dragon. This can be accentuated by the bar throwing Bon Voyage or Welcome Home parties for local deploying units. Décor can leverage the military surplus from the local area. The Purple Dragon’s speakeasy style V.I.P. section in the back adds a nice touch.
Leatherneck Lawn Care
Many small businesses advertise “Veteran Owned, Veteran Operated” but at Leatherneck Lawn Care it will be obvious. It starts with the uniform consisting of coyote-brown cargo pants and a long sleeve olive drab t-shirt. The company’s logo will be emblazoned on the left breast and the back of the shirt. It will consist of three chevron stripes akin to a sergeant’s rank, but with pruning shears underneath instead of crossed rifles.
Once lawn maintenance begins the work truck will raise a “range hot” flag and employees will put on hearing protection, a pith helmet, and protective eyewear. Riding mowers will come off the trailer with ground guides. Advertisements for the company will include promotions such as “Ask about our deployed discount,” “Mowing down the competition” and “Put a Staff NCO on a working party!” Instead of breaking the stereotypes, embrace it while getting some fresh air and physical labor.
Field Day Cleaning Company
Every Thursday in the Marine Corps is traditionally field day. It is a thorough cleaning of the barracks, common areas, and work spaces. A Marine may have a highly technical job or one that hones the various methods of killing the enemy, but once a week they perform the common tasks generally associated with a janitor. If you stay in uniform long enough you become the dreaded supervisor who inspects field day with excruciating detail. Why not put this experience to good use? The population of military towns remain in constant flux each PCS season.
Whether living on base or off, families must leave the homes (or quarters) clean upon their departure. These folks will gladly pay for expert to swoop in and do the job for them. Branding can be very similar to that of Leatherneck Lawn Care. As your reputation develops you can offer the “Guaranteed to pass inspection!” assurance. It’s simple work but will be steady with room to expand to multiple teams.
Ready-Step Outdoor Upkeep
In front of Marine barracks worldwide throughout history the command “Ready, Step!” can be heard. A line of Marines is observed moving forward one step at a time picking up trash, cigarette butts, and various debris. This ritual is known as police call. It is tedious work but leaves the area looking tidy and professional. One problem faced by businesses such as restaurants and convenience stores is that of a dirty parking lot. Customers thoughtlessly flick cigarette butts, gum, and balled-up receipts that quickly accumulate leaving the place looking worn and dirty.
Cleaning crews generally focus on the inside of building while trash does not fall into the purview of lawn and landscape workers. This gap can be filled by a two-man team of retired Marines who establish the Ready-Step Outdoor Upkeep Company. Services are simply outdoor trash and cigarette butt police call. The job could be done in a matter of minutes with the ability to service several businesses each morning. Old Marines get up early anyway and could have things knocked out in the morning before rendezvousing at the Red Hat Breakfast Club. Partnerships and collaborations could be entered with Leatherneck Lawn Care and the Field Day Cleaning Company.
As the New Year begins and we continue to face challenges in the economy, a few Marine veterans may want to “take the bull by the horns” and start their own company. Leverage the skills and experience you have in the simple things that aren’t often noticed. Blue collar work will always be around as others try to chase what may seem to be more lucrative endeavors. If you want to roll your sleeves up and pursue the challenge, be sure to use our 5 ideas for the Marine entrepreneur.