Balancing business ownership with military service
For more than a decade, VtSBDC has actively supported veterans and service-connected Vermonters. VtSBDC works with service members as well as their families and business partners to prepare the business to be as healthy as possible going into a deployment, mitigating the threats of closure or severe stress. VtSBDC advisors also assist the person who is responsible for the business on a day-to-day basis while the service member is deployed, approaching the situation through the lens of temporary business succession.
“The goal is to ensure that the business remains profitable and sustainable during the service member’s absence by addressing the challenges of both the service member and those who run the business during deployment,” said Nancy Shuttleworth.
Nancy, Charles Ininger, Steve Densham, and the rest of the statewide team of VtSBDC advisors recognize the extraordinary work the military does to help families and service members prepare for deployment on a personal level. However, they observed a need for support on the business end so they developed the easy-to-use Business Readiness Guide as well as a Guide for Service Members Returning to Business.
Charley explains, “When working with veterans and active members of the service, you have to remember to have patience and understanding of their level of commitment to the service. This does not always allow for the typical timeline of task completion that we often expect from other clients. Enter, the Business Readiness Guide as an important tool to resolve that issue because it provides a flexible framework with checklists, worksheets and more that meet service members where they are.”
Nancy agrees wholeheartedly: “Veterans approach their business with dedication and a ‘can do’ attitude. Due to their training they are generally process-driven, and understand how to navigate challenges. Veterans are always very grateful for SBDC services, for our advising assistance and to connect them with other federal and state resources.”
While service member business owners are encouraged to connect directly with an Advisor for no-cost, one-on-one advising, VtSBDC created the Business Readiness Guide digitally and in print format for easy access, and so service members could get a head start. The newly updated Guide is designed to be included with all materials given to deploying service members and families who either own or are associated with a business. In addition, there is a PowerPoint presentation detailing the Guide with instructions on how and why to use it. The National Guard will incorporate the recorded presentation into scheduled deployment events as hundreds of Vermont National Guard members prepare to leave Vermont for active duty. These materials will be even more important in the months to come.
VtSBDC Advisor and veteran Steve Densham states, “The pre- and post- deployment guides are valuable in that they present an “Op Plan” (Operations Plan), a tool that is not situation specific but supports a step-by step, empirical process that is the basis of both military and business planning. I have always stressed the importance of letting business owners know about VtSBDC’s support capabilities, essentially to ensure that after deployment there is a business to come back to.”
According to the Burlington Free Press (July 31, 2020), hundreds of Vermont National Guard members are preparing to deploy between October and the first half of 2021. With 10.6 to 11.3 percent of all businesses in Vermont owned by veterans (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), a large number of business owners will be on temporary leave.
Service members leaving their homes, families, and jobs will have a myriad of obligations to contend with. Those who are business owners or in charge of a business will have even more to manage. VtSBDC hopes that the Business Readiness Guide will alleviate some of that stress, and that the Returning to Your Business Guide will pave the way for a smooth transition upon the veterans’ return until they can meet directly with a VtSBDC Business Advisor.
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