Recruiting Veterans for Entrepreneurial Jobs

One of my clients is a successful national financial institution who often recruits candidates for 1099 positions. These team members are not "employees," but rather are entrepreneurs building a book of business under the company brand.

Recently, we discussed an issue they struggle with in hiring former military service members into these roles, because of a common perception that veterans are not well-suited for positions which are entrepreneurial in nature.

Following are three suggestions I asked them to consider to re-frame their thinking around this issue:

  1. An entrepreneur is a unique individual, veteran or not. By definition, an entrepreneur is someone "who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so." An individual confident enough to invest in themselves and take daily responsibility for their own income, growth, and contribution has the makings of an entrepreneur. This individual will forgo a steady paycheck in exchange for the unlimited potential and independence possible with running their own business or venture. Veterans are highly skilled at dealing with the unknown and unpredictable. Their military training prepares them to anticipate change, plan for the unexpected, adapt and overcome in challenging situations. Like civilians seeking to become entrepreneurs, veterans often approach the entrepreneurial process for their own reasons, goals and motivators.
  2. Entrepreneurship is highly desirable to veterans. Many veterans leaving their military careers embrace the idea of being an entrepreneur because they are ready to run their own business and be accountable only to themselves. They may come from a perspective of not wanting to report to "the man" or seeking the flexibility and independence to create unlimited income. I've worked with veterans who left the military and became small business owners of companies that offered everything from plumbing services to insurance products to leadership training to clothing. Veteran entrepreneurs also work as independent contractors to the defense industry, where they can leverage their military background and experience using the products and tools civilian companies are designing. The possibilities for veterans who are entrepreneurs are unlimited!
  3. Give them the rules, tools, and systems, but tie their work to mission. As civilian companies recruit for entrepreneurial jobs, such as sales representatives, it is advised to consider some nuances when talking to veterans: For instance, instead of simply explaining the process and logistics of starting a business under your company brand umbrella, empower your veteran leaders with a clear understanding of the mission of the work. When tied to mission and service, veterans perform better. They are accustomed to serving a higher purpose and being loyal to the mission. Every job has a mission and separating the "what" from the "why" is key to engaging veterans.

The statistics back up the notion that veterans make great entrepreneurs. Consider this data from the Small Business Administration:

According to the most recent data, there is about one veteran-owned firm for every ten veterans, and veteran-owned firms employ 5.8 million individuals. A recent SBA study also found that … veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. 

Civilian biases and perceptions about veterans often deter entrepreneurial companies from seeking and recruiting military talent. These companies might perceive veterans as too set in their ways, accustomed to receiving direction and non-creative to be an independent business owner. The contrary is true. When companies consider the resiliency, resourcefulness, self-reliance and leadership skills veterans learn in their military career, it becomes obvious why they make great entrepreneurs!

About Lida Citroën

Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at and on Amazon.

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