What Marine Corps Combat Tactics Can Teach You About Business

Staff Sgt. Evan Eldridge provides watch for his team as they prepare to board an MV-22B Osprey.
Staff Sgt. Evan Eldridge provides watch for his team as they prepare to board an MV-22B Osprey. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Devan Gowans)

In 2004, in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, Capt. Brent Morel found his recon Marines in the center of a well-planned enemy ambush. A host of 40-60 insurgents rained fire down upon his column. Morel did what was obvious to him.

Charge into Enemy Fire

Ordering the remaining vehicles to take up a flanking position, Morel led the charge straight into the face of the enemy ambush. Shocked by the aggression of the Marines, some of the enemy attack was broken up and retreated. However, with his Marines still taking heavy fire from the significant number of enemy that remained, Morel knew he needed to act once again.

Leaving the relative safety of his new position, he set out again to lead his Marines through the ambush. It was during this final assault to relieve his Marines that Morel was struck by a withering burst of machine-gun fire. For his actions that day, Morel was awarded the Navy Cross for selflessly sacrificing his life to lead his Marines.

Such leadership is needed not only in the streets of Iraq and the valleys of Afghanistan, but also once you return stateside in the boardroom.

Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

In the military, we learned to adapt, improvise and overcome to be successful on the battlefield. Transferring those skills to the business world is also a key to success. By outmaneuvering the competition, you can put their business in your dust trail and continue on mission. Sometimes, a straight assault is the best tactic; sometimes, it is not. But it is always advantageous to protect your flanks.

Build Your Team

To protect your flanks, veterans can support one another through mentoring, referrals and networking with other veterans, such as with Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit that provides educational programming, access to resources and a thriving local network to help military veterans and their spouses start and grow businesses.

Use your network as a reconnaissance team and know what adjustments your competition may be making so that you can continue to stay ahead. By expanding your network, you will have the ability to see more of the battlefield and maintain your forward assault.

Business Is a Battlefield

While it may seem easy to achieve these goals and walk into the business world expecting it to treat you better because you are a veteran, you are in for a rude awakening. Business is a battlefield that will be as unforgiving to you as the enemy was overseas. The market will show you zero mercy. You have to fight for every deal and every dollar, each and every day.

The Bottom Line

Morel died in combat doing one thing -- taking care of his Marines.

Transitioning to the civilian workplace can seem daunting, but you have the skill set to thrive. To be a catalyst for change, you first have to believe that the skills you learned in the military make you well-equipped to succeed in business; just don't go it alone.

Connect with other veteran entrepreneurs and industry leaders. If veterans work together to protect our flanks, we will all move forward and continue to be successful, both in the boardroom and sandbox.

Marine veteran and social entrepreneur Andy Williams has been passionate about real estate since his days in Iraq. His most recent venture included an entrepreneurial position with B2R Finance, a Blackstone Tactical Opportunities venture launched in 2013 to create added value to residential real estate investors. 

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