Veteran Entrepreneur Profile: Rex Caswell
Can you talk about your Navy background, and some of the skills you acquired in the Navy that have helped you in your civilian career?
I served seven years in Naval Aviation stationed at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. I belonged to a squadron assigned to search and track Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean and off the east coast of the U.S. Our success depended on teamwork between aircraft and surface ships to find, isolate and destroy potential enemy submarines.
During my time in the Navy I gained many skills. I learned how to analyze obstacles, to find opportunities that were not apparent, how to be flexible and to always move forward towards success. Being a service member taught me that I can do more than I ever thought possible; it pushed me to a level I didn't know I could achieve. This is something I've relied upon in my entire career.
What led you to an entrepreneurial path in your civilian career?
Like many veterans, I chose to open a franchise post active-duty. At 23 years old I was full of energy, grit and thought I could do anything.
I loved it, and built a successful business, but one of the key lessons I learned over the years was to only take risks that are calculated. Jump in with two feet by all means, but make sure you have your ducks in a row first.
For example, do your due diligence. If you choose to open a franchise, call as many people as you can who own and operate both the type of business you want to open as well as other franchises too. Talk to them about what it involves. Talk with trusted advisors like an attorney or accountant. Get a full picture of what you are about to take on before you jump into it.
Also, in today's litigious environment one of the most important things veterans can do is to protect themselves and their assets through incorporation. If it is your dream to start and build a business — go for it. I believe strongly that nobody is better qualified to do this than a veteran. But be sure to follow the steps that will set you up for success from the start.
Tell us about what you do at CT Corporation, and the work you do with veterans in your current position.
Today I am the Vice President of Sales at Wolters Kluwer's CT Corporation. CT has provided incorporation and compliance services to American business for more than 100 years. My team and I work primarily with small to midsize businesses, helping companies to form, stay compliant and grow. I especially enjoy working with entrepreneurs who are veterans.
Starting a business can sometimes feel a little like being in a war zone — you don't know where or when the next challenge or obstacle will hit. My team helps business owners overcome challenges by providing the information and resources they need to incorporate, remain compliant and ensure a long and fruitful existence.
What skills and experiences do veterans have that you believe are beneficial to an entrepreneurial career?
One in every 10 entrepreneurs in America is a veteran. Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than those with no military experience, and the most recent U.S. Census recorded 2.45 million veteran-owned businesses employing close to 6 million people and representing 9 percent of all U.S. businesses.
So not only does the background of hard work, leadership, discipline and dedication make veterans successful entrepreneurs, it makes them successful employers and a critical part of the U.S. economy.
Starting a business takes tremendous courage as well as discipline and determination, exactly the qualities that are taught in the military.
What general advice would you have for service members ready to enter the civilian job world? Or for veterans who are still looking to get their civilian career on track?
No matter what path you decide to take in life — whether you want to become an entrepreneur, a business executive, a chef, whatever it is — remember the training you received in the military.
As you became a soldier remember how, for every mission, you learned to map out your objectives and criteria to build a plan, and then execute on your plan. The same discipline applies in building a business or your career. If you take time for solid planning, you'll make mistakes but the plan will underpin everything you do and provide the roadmap you'll need when things get tough.
Also, nothing brings home the importance of having a strong team than when you are under fire. With a good team, anything is possible, and the same is true in civilian life. Don't try to go it alone. Take advantage of the wealth of programs available to assist as you transition into civilian life. Examples of these include:
- The Small Business Administration has a veteran business outreach program designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as training and mentoring, with Veteran Business Outreach centers around the country.
- “Boots to Business,” an SBA supported program that teaches the fundamentals of entrepreneurship to veterans transitioning out of active duty.
- The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) provides mentoring to small businesses and has a number of experienced entrepreneurs with military backgrounds.
Be sure to request your military records as most programs will require proof of service in your application materials.
Finally, when you achieve success in your business or your career, remember where you came from and hire others who were once where you are now.
Years ago I partnered with an organization called Recruit Military to begin hiring veterans, and it was one of the best decisions of my career. I would encourage all businesses out there — businesses of all sizes - to hire more veterans or partner with more veteran owned businesses. You won't be disappointed. Former members of the military know how to deliver on the mission.
As vice president of sales for Wolters Kluwer's CT Corporation, Rex Caswell helps corporate legal departments and small businesses find ways to embrace regulatory compliance solutions and best practices while reducing operational and brand risk. A veteran of the United States Navy, Rex has served in various sales positions and leadership roles at LexisNexis, OneSource and Thomson Reuters Westlaw. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati and his MBA from Florida State University.