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Make a High-impact Transition

There must be a thousand ways to plan and organize your transition to civilian life, and most Marines have no problem seeing where they will land. For some of you, however, the whole process could be mystifying. Where to go? What to do? When to move? Whom to see? Why there? How much commitment will be necessary? Let me try to offer a couple of ideas.

The Multimillion-Dollar Question

As you survey your friends and contacts you can quickly identify those who know a considerable amount about some industry you could find appealing. It is not necessary that these people have any job of great importance in that industry. They just have to know a lot about that business. Teachers know a lot about education. Real estate agents know a lot about real estate. Bankers know a lot about finance. Defense contractors know a lot about the procurement process. Consultants know a lot about the industries for which they consult. Janitors know a lot about commercial building maintenance. You get the drift. Just make sure you are considering industries in which you might want to spend a couple of decades.

Once you have identified this list of people, contact them and ask them this question, "In your opinion, what are the three greatest unserved needs in your industry?" Tell them to sleep on the question for at least a day or two. Then give them a call and ask for their answers. Make sure you understand what they are saying, and then collect the ideas in one place. Index cards can work, as can computer files in Microsoft Excel. You should collect these things like you used to collect shooter's marbles when you were a kid. Each one should represent a ticket to a great job, if not a great company that you create yourself.

The biggest "challenge" should not be much of a challenge at all. If it is, drop the idea. Here's the challenge. What solution can you personally deliver for each unserved need? Make sure that your solutions are substantiated by your background. Write your resume around each solution. Identify key words relating to each problem and your solution, and enter them into your resumes (note the plural). Then get busy networking your services with your solution to the problem that you have now anticipated. Guess who your network "candidate A" will be for each need that is identified? Exactly -- it's the person who spotted it for you! If you cannot come up with a solution that you can deliver to a particular need, ignore the need. The result of this exercise should be a stack of solutions to unserved needs that you have accumulated from a list of people who know their businesses. Next? Score the ideas.

Your Personal Scorecard

In my book, Will It Fly? How to Know If Your New Business Idea Has Wings ... Before You Take the Leap, I crafted an "Innovator's Scorecard" that was calculated to help entrepreneurs score their new business ideas. We used it extensively in the courses I taught at Columbia University and elsewhere. I offer it to your attention for the following reason: for each idea, you should create your own scorecard using your own personal criteria. Along the left-hand vertical side of a piece of paper, list all of the things that are important to you. Each idea uses one sheet of paper. Let's try some examples:

  • Cash compensation.
  • Equity in the company.
  • Location.
  • Cost of living.
  • Commuting distance.
  • Family/friends in town.
  • Personal knowledge of work.
  • Weather.
  • Available housing/right price.
  • Proximity to fishing/golf/hunting/hiking, etc.
  • Proximity to the arts.
  • Proximity to great restaurants.
  • Proximity to firing range.
  • Duration of your delivering your solution.
The next step is to take the row along the top and place a list of important screens: weight or importance, score, total. The weight should be small, medium, or large or one, two, or three. The score should be anything between 0 and 10, graded just like you were graded in school. Multiply the weight times the score and place that number in the total on the far right. Then at the bottom right corner, tally the number for that idea. The idea with the highest number in the bottom right box wins. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Example of a typical scorecard.

  Weight Score Total
Cash compensation 3 8 24
Location 2 10 20
Cost of living 3 4 12
Quality of available housing 1 6 6
Proximity to family/friends 2 8 16
Proximity to things I enjoy 3 9 27
Total     105
NOTE: Some items have a reverse polarity. Look at the cost of living. If the cost is really high, the score is really low?right? The score here is a 105, and you should use this score to compare to the scores of all of the other opportunities.

Creating a New Enterprise

To be sure, this article is about helping you transition into the best job waiting for you in the civilian sector. It happens to use a tool that I created in Will It Fly? -- which is all about creating new companies. You should not hesitate to ask yourself if the solution you have crafted might best be delivered through a new enterprise from scratch or from a franchise license. The missing ingredients in most of these ventures are the energy, discipline, integrity, ingenuity, and drive that you learned at The Basic School and refined to a high pitch during your career.

This article first appeared in Marine Corps Gazette.

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Tom McKnight is a financier in Washington, D.C. who specializes in new enterprises, real estate mortgages, and the legal infrastructure of finance including credit. He is the author of a book about the earliest moments of a new venture's existence called "Will It Fly?" (Prentice Hall), a book that was listed by Crains Business Publications as one of ten essential reads by entrepreneurs, a list that includes such noted authors as Drucker, Sun Tsu, Machiavelli and Covey.

He holds a B.S. in Business from Miami University (1970) and a Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University (1972). He is a member in good standing of the bars of Maryland, New York, Ohio, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the United States Supreme Court. From August 19, 1963 to September 19, 1966, he was a United States Marine.

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