It should be no surprise that skills learned in the military such as decision-making under pressure, organization, and leadership translate well to the corporate boardroom. And those skills tend to make a big difference, with companies led by former military officers tending to show better performance.
People like Fred Smith or Sam Walton have become household names for their business success. Lesser known is their service prior to the companies they founded.
Also read: 10 entertaining military podcasts you need to know about
After World War II, nearly 50% of veterans went the entrepreneurship route, though that number has substantially declined today. Still, there are currently around 3 million veteran-owned businesses.
Here are 9 companies started by military veterans.
1. RE/MAX, cofounded by Air Force veteran Dave Liniger
Prior to founding “Real Estate Maximums” — better known as RE/MAX— Dave Liniger served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
From 1965 to 1971, he served as an enlisted airman in Texas, Arizona, Vietnam, and Thailand, according to his LinkedIn.
“The military really gave me the chance to grow up. It was fun. I thought it was a fabulous place,” he told Airport Journals. “It also taught me self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.”
After he got out of the military, he started flipping houses for profit, and eventually got his real estate license. He cofounded RE/MAX with his wife Gail in 1973.
2. Sperry Shoes, founded by Navy veteran Paul A. Sperry
You can thank a former sailor in the US Naval Reserve for inventing the world’s first boat shoe.
In 1917, Sperry joined the Navy Reserve, though he didn’t stay in for very long. He was released from duty at the end of the year at the rank of Seaman First Class.
Still, his experience there and further adventures sailing led to the founding of his company, which eventually created the first non-slip boating shoe. He founded Sperry in 1935.
During World War II, his Sperry Top-Sider shoes were purchased by the boatload by the Navy. Now nearly a century later, they are still a favorite of sailors everywhere.
3. FedEx, founded by Marine Corps veteran Fred Smith
Back before FedEx was the behemoth logistics company it is today, founder Fred Smith was observing how the military was getting things from point A to point B.
After graduating from Yale University, he was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and served two tours in Vietnam. He earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts,according to US News.
Only two years after he left the Corps, he started Federal Express.
“Much of our success reflects what I learned as a Marine,” he wrote forMilitary.com. “The basic principles of leading people are the bedrock of the Corps. I can still recite them from memory, and they are firmly embedded in the FedEx culture.”
4. Walmart, cofounded by Army veteran Sam Walton
WalMart is the largest company in the world.
It was founded by a former Army intelligence officer named Sam Walton.From 1942 to 1945, Walton was in the Army and eventually rose to the rank of captain. His brother (and cofounder) Bud served as a bomber pilot for the Navy in the Pacific.
According to the company’s history, Sam Walton’s first WalMart store, called Walton’s Five and Dime, was started with $5,000 he saved from his time serving in the Army and a $25,000 loan from his father-in-law.
5. GoDaddy, founded by Marine Corps veteran Bob Parsons
The company responsible for registering a large portion of the world’s web domains, GoDaddy, is the brainchild of Marine veteran Bob Parsons.
Parsons enlisted in the Corps in 1968 and later served in Vietnam, where he earned a Combat Action Ribbbon, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Purple Heart for wounds he received in combat.
“I absolutely would not be where I am today without the experiences I had in the Marine Corps,” he writes on his website.
In 1997, he started GoDaddy. In 2014, it filed for a $100 million IPO. He left the company around that time to focus on his philanthropic efforts
6. WeWork, founded by Israeli Navy veteran Adam Neumann
Hot coworking startup WeWork is the 9th most valuable startupin the world, and it was started by a veteran of the Israeli navy.
Adam Neumann started a coworking office space for entrepreneurs in New York City back in 2011.Today, WeWork has 128 offices in 39 cities around the world.
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Neumann served as a navy officer there for five years before moving to the US in 2001.
7. Taboola, founded by Israeli Army veteran Adam Singolda
Another veteran of the Israel Defense Forces is Adam Singolda, the founder of content recommendation engine Taboola.
Like many other successful Israeli entrepreneurs who served in the IDF (military service ismandatory in Israel), Singolda developed many of the skills that would help his company later on in the military intelligence field.
He ended up serving for seven years as an officer with the elite Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s version of the NSA.
He started Taboola back in 2007, and you have surely seen his work under the many millions of articles who feature “Content You May Like” that the company generates at the bottom. Taboola raised a round of financing in 2015 that put its value at close to $1 billion.
8. Kinder Morgan, cofounded by Army veteran Richard Kinder
The fourth largest energy company in North America was cofounded by Vietnam veteran Richard Kinder. Along with his business partner William Morgan, he started the company in 1997.
He earned his law degree at the University of Missouri before serving in Vietnam as a US Army captain. He was in uniform for four years as a Judge Advocate General officer (aka a military lawyer).
9. USAA, founded by a group of Army officers
It may not be a huge surprise that USAA — a company that exclusively caters to military veterans and their families — was started by veterans.
Interestingly though, it doesn’t have just one founder. It has 25.
Back in the 1920s, it was pretty hard for military service members to get (or keep) auto insurance, since it was either way too expensive or likely to get cancelled since they moved around so much.
So Maj. William Henry Garrison and 24 of his fellow Army officers got together in 1922 and formed their own mutual company to insure themselves, according to Encyclopedia.com. Today, the United Services Automobile Association provides insurance, banking, and investment services to nearly 12 million members.
Disclosure: I personally have USAA insurance and use its banking services.