The Struggle is Real
By Scott Kinder
I know what you are going to say before you even say it.
“It isn’t going to happen to me.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is?”
“But I’m Special (so Special in fact that the Army made me wear a tab on my shoulder announcing it to the world)…”
Ok, the last one is in jest but I know what you are thinking about starting your own company. I know it because I thought it – to be honest – sometimes I still think it. But, then I think back to the advice I would take if I had access to it – and this post is born.
I’ll keep it as simple as possible and list three things I think are absolutely a necessity before starting a business. But, there’s a caveat – this post is somewhat assuming that you have the capital needed to build your dream, the time and support necessary, and a skill or product that will solve a problem someone (somewhere) is experiencing.
1. PACE Planning
In Special Forces it’s drilled into you early and often to develop a PACE plan for anything and everything you do. This plan covers Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency plans for routes, gear, personnel, actions upon contact, etc. etc. etc. We know it, we live it, and we love it. But then we leave the military and we forget to put this simple process in place within our new venture. Plans are great, and we all obsess over them and in making them look pretty. Then at the first sign of failure we quit. Abort! Things aren’t going as planned – stop everything and analyze where we went wrong!
Keep PACE in mind when you are developing your next plan. From your Business Plan to planning daily activities – think of PACE and how you can incorporate it.
2. Course of Action (COA) Development
You are going to fail. Your good ideas are going to suck. You are going to have to take a good hard look at those finances you thought would cover you for the entire first year. People are going to lie to you and tell you what a great idea you have and how easy life is going to be. You are going to watch Shark Tank and think “That Mark Cuban doesn’t look/act so smart – I could do what he does…” And you know what? You are going to fail. No one is going to value the expertise you gained over 1 or 9 deployments to “the box” and no one is going to care that you were the Soldier of the Year in 1998.
3. After Action Reviews (AARs)
If there is one thing I learned from my time in Special Forces, it would be the value of the After Action Review. EVERYTHING YOU DO NEEDS TO BE ANALYZED AND ASSESSED FOR IMPROVEMENT. Can I make that any clearer? At the conclusion of every meeting, phone call, vendor call, sales event, keynote talk, anything… you must conduct an AAR that (at a minimum) discusses one thing to improve and one thing to sustain. Here’s the kicker though – learn to ask others these things – don’t just do it yourself. Take advice, ask questions and learn from what you’ve done. Making a mistake once is a mistake. Making it again and again is a habit.
So why do I bring up these points? I’ve been in business for almost three years now and it has been harder than the “Q course” or any military course (including SERE) I’ve attended. I’ve fallen prey to each of the above three points so trust me when I tell you: you will have to adjust your plans. You will have to “react to contact” and realize life isn’t going to be as easy as you thought. You will have to adjust fire many times along the way. But, when you are prepared that’s ok. It’s only when you aren’t prepared that the unexpected crushes you. Thriving in the military is easy – be in the right place at the right time in the right uniform and you’ll most likely be ok.
Being in business and trying to support yourself and your family is a whole different game. No one is going to care what you have going on at home, or the issues your kids have because you were gone their whole life. Clients are going to take up more time of yours than you ever thought possible and are going to complain over the smallest issue. You will have to learn new things like social media and embrace people you’ve never met. And you will have to do it all with a smile on your face.
So yes, the struggle is real and it’s not going away. Learn all you can when you can and never be afraid to ask for help. Keep driving on and never quit. Never surrender. Celebrate the small victories and capitalize on them.
The struggle is real, but it won’t kill you.
Scott Kinder is a former US Army Special Forces (Green Beret) and the author of Ground Truth: Enhance personal and organizational leadership skills and accountability through lessons learned from elite Military Special Forces. Scott is also the CEO of The Kinder Group, a consulting firm specializing in Operational Intelligence, Corporate Training, Leadership and Executive Coaching, Business Intelligence, and Strategy.