For veterans, the gap between military experience and the work world isn’t always easy to bridge. The good news is that many of the skillsets that you learned while in the service combined with your innate character traits can contribute to your success as a small business owner.

The proof is in the numbers: according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans own nearly 2 million companies and employ more than 5 million Americans. The most popular business segments for these business owners include professional services, construction, retail and healthcare.[1]

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The pull to business ownership among veterans makes “perfect sense,” according to J. Michael Haynie, director of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans & Military Families, which says veterans remain more likely to own a business than nonveterans and often tend to out-earn non-veteran entrepreneurs.[2]

“Where the rubber meets the road, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are as entrepreneurial as they come—a fact contrary to the perception that the military is universally rigid and bureaucratic,” Haynie told the House Committee on Small Business. “In fact, our service members are trained to make things happen, often in the face of dynamic and resource constrained environments.”[3]

High levels of resourcefulness tend to pay off in the small business world. Securing financing, hiring employees and finding new customers all require tenacity and perseverance—both of which are highly valued in the military environment.

7 Traits that You Probably Already Possess

Here are seven more natural strengths that veterans can lean on to turn their business ideas into successful enterprises:

1. They know how to lead. Veterans are trained to lead and motivate others. They learn how to set goals, delegate tasks and build strong teams. This is an essential quality for business owners who want to grow beyond being sole proprietors and spearhead successful teams.

2. Discipline and planning skills are built in. With no one “looking over your shoulder” to make sure you’re taking the right steps, business ownership becomes a real exercise in discipline, focus and planning.  And while the occasional distraction is perfectly normal, entrepreneurs who wear many different hats require high levels of discipline to achieve both short- and long-term goals.[4]

3. Solving problems comes naturally. From the first day of bootcamp to the time that they retire, veterans are learning how to think critically and develop creative solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems. These skills are invaluable in the business world, where problem-solving is a daily task.

4. They have networks to tap into. A veteran’s extensive network of contacts will come in handy when they’re looking for new customers, tapping into financing sources, signing on new partners or hiring staff.

5. Veterans bounce back quickly. Resilience is important in the military, where individuals learn how to address setbacks, bounce back from them and move onto the next project. The business world is fraught with roadblocks and obstacles that may knock some people down, but that the average veteran will be well prepared to handle.  

6. Work ethic is a military fundamental. Veterans are dedicated to their work and they are always willing to go the extra mile to get the job done, preserve lives and/or complete missions. This work ethic transfers well into the small business arena.

7. They’re in it for the long haul. Veterans have a strong sense of duty, integrity and responsibility—all qualities that are essential in an arena where two-thirds of small businesses close within two years.[5]

Thriving Under Pressure

Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and military personnel possess the training, experience and discipline needed to be able to remain calm in the face of adversity. Whether they’re responding to an irate customer or calming a disgruntled employee, veterans know that a level-headed approach will prevail. They carry that knowledge with them into the small business arena.

“Whether it’s a small, medium or large venture, veteran business owners create and share incredible success,” the National Veterans Foundation (NVF) says. “They possess the drive, passion and dedication that every business needs to thrive in today’s ultra-competitive market.”[6]

Starting your own business can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. If you’re a veteran who possesses work ethic, drive and skills, you’ll stand the best chance of success in the business world.

For more information, visit PNC's Starting Your Own Small Business page.

Get Help Solving Your Business Challenges at