December 3, 2023


Supportive Business Potential

Veteran entrepreneurs bring desirable traits to the table when starting businesses | Business

Veteran entrepreneurs bring desirable traits to the table when starting businesses | Business

ANDERSON — In 2015, when Stephen Frank decided to transition his chiropractic clinic into an integrated facility in order to expand his service offerings, he approached Star Financial Bank, which referred him to Bankable to apply for a Small Business Administration loan to help offset the expenses.

Frank sailed through the application process seamlessly and, seven years later, continues to provide physical therapy, rehabilitation and weight loss services to an expanding clientele.

He pointed to one element in his background that he believes has helped him, not only in his efforts to secure financial backing, but in managing the day-to-day operations of his business: the life lessons he learned during his time in the Army Reserves in the early 1970s.

“Be good to people,” Frank said. “Do your job and do it well. If you’re just after the money, it’ll come, but it’s not supposed to work that way. You put the people first and then you get rewarded by getting an income.”

As a veteran, Frank is part of a growing subset of entrepreneurs who are exercising more influence in the business world, according to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. America’s veteran population currently stands at about 19 million, according to the agency. Many of them have joined other entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses since the onset of COVID-19.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 6% of U.S. businesses are owned by veterans. In Indiana, the concentration is slightly higher: 6.1% of Hoosier firms are veteran-owned — 6,230 businesses, which employ a total of 92,575 workers.

Seasoned by their experience in serving their country, veterans bring a valuable set of skills with them into the business world, according to many creditors and others who provide assistance and consulting services.

“Strong work ethic, perseverance, making a plan and working the plan are all traits that we see veterans bringing to the table,” said Terry Truitt, president and CEO of the Flagship Enterprise Center, an Anderson business incubator which supports small businesses through coaching, real estate, and capital acquisition.

Other veteran business owners point to more tangible examples from their military experience that have helped them in their entrepreneurial journeys.

“They teach you leadership skills, and also how to work as a team and build a team and that’s exactly what we use here,” said Jason Oakley, who co-owns Oakley Brothers Distillery in downtown Anderson with his brother Jerrad. In the 1990s Jason Oakley spent four years in the Army, where he flew helicopters on training missions and spent a year working in criminal investigations. “It’s just about using those skill sets and working through them.”

According to Truitt, veterans also frequently bring with them a sense that they can be depended upon, which, even subconsciously, can persuade potential lenders to take a chance on them.

“There is a sense of confidence that veterans will see things through, that they can get things done,” Truitt said.

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.