Real Leaders

Do Veterans Make Better Business Leaders and CEOs?

I have been fascinated in my years of working with military leaders, observing them once they pivot into leadership roles in the private sector.

The question I have always had is: do they make better CEOs and leaders because of their military experience, or are they successful in the private sector because they started as exceptional individuals in the first place. What does the military experience add? So, I have decided to share with you my recent conversation with a former military official who should know the answer to my questions. Here is what Derren Burrell, Founder of Veteran Ventures, had to say.

I‘m fascinated by the Bush Center Leadership program you just completed. Could you tell me about it and its value to leaders like you? Would you recommend it to others?

In May, I was accepted into the George Bush Institute Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program. For the last five months, I’ve had the honor of working as a scholar with an illustrious group of leaders in the veteran community. Working on solutions across the myriad of veteran issues (entrepreneurship was but one topic), all fifty of us came through with more drive, purpose, and ambition to be better leaders and servants to the veteran community and the world around us. This includes becoming more effective business leaders as well. It was a diverse group of veterans, and impressive to see their resolve.

Generally speaking, I think the business community has high regard for individuals who are trained military leaders. Do you see a fit between the skills learned and deployed in the military and effective corporate management responsibilities?

Absolutely! The skills exhibited by the Global 500 CEOs are the same attributes taught by our nation’s military. We have published a white paper on Why Veterans Make Better Entrepreneurs. This paper goes into great detail on how the skills developed in the military not only lead to success on the battlefield but also in the boardroom. 

To summarize this paper: grit, dedication, and discipline are critical factors in business operational excellence, and no one displays this better than a veteran.

You’re in the business of financing start-ups or early-stage companies run by former military personnel. How is this different from any other VC Fund?

VVC interacts exclusively with companies that have military veteran leadership, recognizing the value of military experience, training, and character in business operations. Our value proposition lies in our granular understanding of the military culture, significant connections within the federal government & defense industry, and working knowledge of the government procurement process.

What gives military veterans a possible accelerated ability to succeed in starting and successfully managing new businesses? Could you give me an example?

The military mindset is one of execution. The veteran’s battle-tested leadership gets things done, as there is no second-place option when serving our country. This same mission-accomplishment attitude follows them after they take off the uniform. History is filled with a plethora of examples of veterans who survived and thrived in the business sector. We are seeking to develop the next Sam Walton (Walmart), Fred Smith (Fed Ex), Jack Taylor (Enterprise), Ken Hicks (Footlocker), Richard Kinder (Kinder Morgan), Gail Linger (RE/MAX), Sam Shoen (U-Haul), and the list of disruptive veterans goes on. Military veteran-owned small businesses have accounted for a high percentage of job creation, economic growth, investor return, and innovation through competitive advantage. 

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