“Starting a business doesn’t mean that all you have to do is hang out a shingle and magically things just start appearing. You have to really ask yourself if you have the mentality to deal with all of the uncertainty that you will experience. If you do have that mentality, then you should go for it.”
Meet Lisa Rosser, U.S. Military Veteran, founder and CEO of The Value of a Veteran and past Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award winner. Our team had a chance to catch up with Lisa and ask her about her experiences as a Vetrepreneur.
Q. How was the Value of a Veteran started?
A. Initially, it just began with a simple hiring guide I wrote called 76 Tips for Developing Your Military Recruiting Program. I wanted to write out the business case for hiring a Veteran. Veterans have incredible value, but their skills need to be properly aligned to what a company needs. The guide showed how to align a Veteran’s skillset to a role, help companies make sense of all the different sourcing options out there (there are a million different ways to hire a Veteran), and market to Veterans. When the guide was finished, I started marketing it on LinkedIn. It really hit home with a lot of people, and I started to get inquiries asking if I did any training related to the information in the guide. I didn’t have any training program in place, so I decided to create one. Before I knew it, people were paying money to come to this training and I realized - There’s a business here! That’s really what started it all. The Value of Veteran was a beautiful alignment of the training, change management, communications, and recruiting skills I learned in the military. I couldn’t believe I could use so many things that I was passionate about and find a way to make a business out of it.
Q. Tell us about your time in the military. What roles did you have that prepared you for your role as founder and CEO of your business?
A. I was in the military for 22 years—10 on Active Duty and 12 in the Reserve. When I was on Active Duty, I was a telecommunications officer. In that kind of job, you train people on how to work different systems, how to run help desks, how to man command and control centers, etc. So, training other people has always been a big part of my responsibilities no matter what my actual job title has been. Once I moved into the Reserve component, this pattern continued. I worked for the U.S. Army Human Resources Command and helped them identify different ways to bring individuals into roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. That was a challenge. It’s easy to move a unit into that kind of situation, but it’s harder to move an individual to fill a particular role. I worked with them to identify processes and procedures that would do this effectively. I also worked for the U.S. Army Forces Command, which is basically in charge of all the Army’s U.S. assets. That, too, was a lot like staffing (although it’s a little more complicated than that). Understanding what skills are needed, which resources are needed—I built those kind of skills through my military service. When I developed my own company, it was nice to pull all of that experience together.
Q. How can companies go about recruiting Veterans the right way?
A. Often, at a big company, a Veteran won’t have a chance to get his or her foot in the door due to very specific criteria requirements. To make matters worse, applicant tracking systems (ATS) came into play in the 2000s and now a computer is deciding whether or not someone meets that narrow criteria. Those kind of systems look for very specific keywords. If the applicant doesn’t have those keywords, he or she is turned down. If a company uses that kind of system, they’re going to screen Veterans out. The good news is that companies have come a long way in finding alternate ways to get Veterans through their systems. In some senses, choosing a Veteran just comes down to being willing to take a leap of faith. It’s taking a step out and seeing how the Veteran does have the skills the company needs, even if he or she doesn’t have the exact form of experience on a resume that the company has decided on upon criteria-wise. If a company does take that leap of faith, it will pay off.
Q. Speaking of leaps of faith, you took a leap of faith when you started your business. What’s surprised you most in your entrepreneurship journey so far?
A. I think I’ve been surprised and encouraged to see that people are truly interested in taking steps to improve Veteran recruitment. Many companies have embraced our training, and I’m happy to see company after company really making that kind of an effort to seek out Veterans. I was also surprised that you can have a legitimate business doing training and consulting on Veteran employment. To this day, I have to let people know that The Value of a Veteran is not a nonprofit. I don’t run my company to benefit Veterans, I run it to benefit companies (which ends up tangentially helping Veterans). Most CEOs will tell you that talent is their company’s biggest need. They need skills and people who can be innovative and think on their feet. Our job is to show them that Veterans can do that. We need to show them that Veterans shouldn’t be excluded or considered “less than” any other talent pool. Veterans should be considered at least equal to any other talent pool, if not better. My thought is “better”, but at least equal.
Q. We agree. What would you say to employers about why this is?
A. Military work teaches some of the hardest skills to teach. How do you innovate? How do you respond appropriately under pressure? There’s no sitting down in a classroom, reading a book, or writing a paper in the military. You learn skills through experience. If employers look at Veterans with this in mind and understand what unique skills and experiences Veterans bring, they’ll benefit from having this mindset. They’ll be surprised at just how fast the service member they hire will learn what they need to learn. Once they see the talent they’ve hired, they’ll want ten more employees just like the one they hired. That’s exactly what we want people to see. The Value of a Veteran is a popular phrase these days, but I think the name pretty much sums up what I want people to walk away knowing after training. I want them to understand that a Veteran is going to be tremendously valuable in terms of skills, attitude, and aptitude. I want business owners to realize that first and foremost.
Q. You’re in a unique position as a woman, veteran, and a minority business owner. What piece of advice would you give other entrepreneurs who have a similar background?
A. Take advantage of the opportunities out there, because there are a lots of them! Corporate America wants to support women-owned, veteran-owned, minority-owned businesses, but they might not know how to find you. Knowing that corporate America is looking for that helps you balance out your business’s opportunities and clients. You don’t want all government clients or all corporate clients. It depends on the economy and who’s buying at the moment, so you have to be flexible. You have to go after every opportunity. Don’t just put all your eggs in one basket and expect that to be your livelihood. I would also encourage anyone looking to start a business to explore whether or not being a business owner is right for you. Sometimes, people go into starting a business with romantic notions of having all of the time in the world (and there can be some level of truth to that). However, starting a business doesn’t mean that all you have to do is hang out a shingle and magically things just start appearing. You have to really ask yourself if you have the mentality to deal with all of the uncertainty that you will experience. If you do have that mentality, then you should go for it. I think sometimes people are hesitant to move forward if they don’t have a particular skill they think they need. But no one is going to have all of the skills they need. The real question is this: Can you assemble a team of people who do know how to do that skill? Can you assemble advisors who can help you learn how to do that skill? Then you can do this. You don’t have to know everything in the beginning, you just have to have the right mentality.
The Value of a Veteran is a woman-, veteran- and minority-owned small business that provides human resources consulting and training for organizations that are seeking to improve support, recruitment and retention of military veterans.
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