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Beyond the Uniform

Beyond the Uniform is a show to help military veterans navigate their civilian career. Each week, I meet with different veterans to learn more about their civilian career, how they got there, and what advice they'd give to other military personnel.
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Nov 6, 2017

In this episode I share advice from the Beyond the Uniform community about how Veterans can best prepare for and excel at a civilian interview. 

This is a new type of episode, and I'd love any feedback on this approach. Usually, I interview military veterans about their civilian career. Today, instead, I'm going to dive into a specific skill I think would be helpful to veterans in their civilian career.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox – People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources:

Show Notes:

  • Jon Anderson - network!
  • Meg Potter: Two things: actually wear your interview outfit to ensure fit/comfort and work with a friend to rehearse/drill possible interview questions. Oh and actually familiarize yourself with the company and position.
  • Mark Mitchell: Read PCS to corporate America
  • Aaron Burch 
    • Learn how to interview: Watch sample interviews on YouTube. Learn the STAR method. Look up lists of behavioral interview questions. Prepare a mental list of 10-15 examples from your past experience that can be tailored to answer most of the behavioral questions you can find, and memorize those examples. Practice interviewing with someone, and record yourself, then watch with them and someone else and ask for feedback. Repeat this. 
    • Learn about the company: Google the company, their competitors, suppliers, and customers. If they are publically traded, read their annual report and listen to their latest earnings call. Research common interview questions and scenarios used at the company. 
    • Learn about your interviewer: Look up your interviewer on LinkedIn. Find out how long they've been with the company and their previous roles. Find them on Twitter or other social media and look for anything relatable. 
    • Learn about the position: Read and re-read the position description, noting key skills and experiences, then think of ways you fit the bill, either directly or indirectly. Look up the position on GlassDoor, TransparentCareer, etc. Try to find a loose connection with someone at the company who has or previously had the job you're interviewing for, and talk to them. 
    • Make yourself memorable: Depending on your skillset and the position type, make a "leave behind" to give your interviewer. Maybe it's an infographic. Maybe it's a book of previous projects. Ideally, it has some parallels to the types of work products you might expect to produce in the position. 
    • Execute: During the interview and where appropriate, sprinkle in anecdotes you uncovered during your preparation. Maybe it's a commonality you share with the interviewer. Maybe it's an idea for a new service. Demonstrate that you're already thinking of real ways to cut expenses or grow revenue, before you even have the job. Show genuine interest in the industry, company, and position. If you can't find genuine interest after all of this preparation, it's probably not a good fit for you. 
    • Follow Up: Depending on the size of the company and the industry, send an email or handwritten thank you card within 24 hours of your interview, thanking the interviewer for his/her time and expressing your continued excitement. 
    • AAR: Doing everything above isn't reasonable for every interview. Take what you learned, having done it all, and tailor your approach next time to what seemed like the most value added activities.
  • Richard Herron 
    • WRT the interview, be yourself. 
    • Think more about what career you want to interview for. A big help for me was finding a mentor to chat about options. Most people we dealt with were also on AD and hadn't seen the other side. Go on LinkedIn and cold email people that have the career you're considering. 
    • Thanks for BTU. I wish this existed when I was transitioning.
  • Jared Wymer 
    • In military terms, treat each interview as a mission. Just as you tailor your resume for a role, you should also tailor the way that you talk about your experience, the role, and the company. For instance (and get used to using the phrases "for instance", "for example", and "and by that I mean"), the same work that an active duty service member put into writing the resume that got them the interview (ex: SCOUR the company website so you understand [1] culture [2] business objectives [3] how you fit into the mix [4] how you add value [note: this is much easier with public companies who are required to disclose certain information]; look on websites like Glassdoor, O*Net, etc. to make sure you understand the breadth of what you can bring to the table; make sure you can speak to every line of the job description in a PAR or STAR format. I could frankly provide a whole layperson class/presentation on this, but these are some of the key actions.
  • Lee Haney: What we learned in the military still applies: nothing beats a Leader's Recon before a tactical movement! In this case, that means learning everything you can about the company and the role before the interview, including informational interviews with people who already work at the company with which you are interviewing.
  • Michael Beard: find veterans in the civilian industry you are targeting, and spend time with them in an informational interview. ask for blunt feedback on your resume and interview skills. use them to get the debriefing and feedback that most civilians are too cautious to give. An HR person will not tell you that you are coming across too stiff, or using too many acronyms, or not smiling enough.
  • Charlie Mello: Discuss how your skillset will provide and drive value to the company. It doesn't matter as much what you have already done....it matters more what you are willing to do to help the company grow
  • Brian Henry: I actually have 2 of Orion Talent's podcasts I'd steer them to that we did to address this question. Episode #5 addresses beginning the preparation process and Episode #7 hits a few of the most important questions to be prepared for and how to answer them. https://www.oriontalent.com/podcasts/
Nov 1, 2017

"At the end of the day no one is ever going to come to you as a veteran [with a job offer] - they're going to thank you for your service, but they're not going to make a job for you. Nor do you want them to make a job for you. The trick is getting in as many people's rolodexes as possible. And I kind of did that - unwittingly - while I was at West Point."
- Nicholas Loudon

Nick Loudon is the Chief of Staff for Eastern Air Lines. He started out at West Point, served in the Army as an Infantry Officer for 8 years before going to the Teachers College at Columbia University to earn his MA in Organizational Psychology and Leadership. He’s worked at the E-learning company, Rowan Technologies, as both a Program Manager and COO, and joined Eastern Air Lines about a year and a half ago.

Why to Listen:

In this interview we discuss a variety of topics relevant to veterans in any industry. Nick has great advice for veterans about checking one's ego at the door, rolling up one's sleeves and doing whatever it takes to improve whatever task you're given. He shows how a willingness to learn has allowed him to transition - and be successful in - wildly different industries. And how a mindset of happiness, learning and humility can make all the difference.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Show Notes

  • How did you approach the decision to leave the Army?
  • How did you decide to go to TC?
  • What led you to Rowan Technologies?
  • How would you describe what Rowan Technologies does?
  • What was your role like as a Program Manager?
  • How did your work change when you were promoted to COO?
  • What led you to Eastern Air Lines?
  • How would you describe what Eastern Air Lines does?
  • What do you do as Chief of Staff?
  • What resources - books, programs, podcasts - have helped you in your civilian career that you would recommend to veteran listeners?
  • Final words of wisdom
Oct 25, 2017

"We were sitting in one of [my wife's] guest rooms in her house in Abidjan, and I was trying to figure out what to do next with my life. And Emily said, 'You should do the GoRuck thing.' I don't think she knew what that meant and she certainly didn't have the vision for what it's become, and I certainly didn't at that time either. But that was the happy accident of - I need something to do and this could probably be it."
- Jason McCarthy

Thanks to Jared Wymer for the recommendation for this show.

Jason McCarthy is the Founder and CEO of GORUCK, a company he started nearly 10 years ago, a retail company that builds gear, hosts events, builds teams and strengthens the community. He started out at Emory University, after which he worked as an Analyst at Milestone Merchant Partners before joining the Army where he served for five years as a Special Forces Communication Sergeant. After the Army, he started GORUCK and has grown to a team of over 30 people, and over 100 Special Forces Cadre who lead our events.

Why to Listen:

  • Jason gives a very raw and honest assessment of his entrepreneurial journey that will be a huge resource if you're considering starting your own company, but also an exhilarating story no matter what your intended career path. 

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources:

Show Notes

  • You had a career before the Army - what led you to the Army?
  • How did you decide to leave the Army?
  • What was the genesis of GORUCK?
  • In the early days, what was your life like?
  • How did you finance all of this?
  • How would you describe GORUCK to veteran listeners?
  • Where is the company at now in terms of it’s growth?
  • What has been the hardest part of starting GORUCK?
  • What advice do you have for aspiring veteran entrepreneurs?
  • What can someone on active duty do right now to start preparing to start their own company?
  • Any resources (books, podcasts, programs, etc) you’d recommend to listeners?
  • Final words of wisdom?
Oct 23, 2017

In this interview I dive into an analysis of thousands of LinkedIn profiles to better understand how the length of someone's military service impacts what industry they go into, as well as where they live for their civilian career.

This is a new type of episode, and I'd love any feedback on this approach. Usually, I interview military veterans about their civilian career. Today, instead, I'm going to dive into a specific skill I think would be helpful to veterans in their civilian career.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox – People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources:

  • The full e-book that I'm using for this episode can be downloaded here: http://beyondtheuniform.io/how-time-in-service-affects-navy-veteran-careers-ebook/
  • The full list of LinkedIn Industries - and the sub categories I created for my analysis - can be viewed here: http://beyondtheuniform.io/industry-category-explanations/
Oct 18, 2017

"With all of these practices, if we drill down on what's actually happening with them, it is just a shift in your nervous system. Being able to connect the mind and the body and the breath via this system in your body that is designed to succeed and live inline with your values and goals."
- Dr. Dan Libby

Thanks to Tim Avery, btu #12 for the intro to Dan.

Dr. Dan Libby is the founder and executive director of Veterans Yoga Project (VYP). He has empowered veterans and their communities to access healing resources and find resilience both within themselves and through connection with others. He has also enabled yoga teachers and healthcare professionals to share these practices. He's a licensed clinical psychologist, and holds a B.S. in Psychology from the The University of Montana and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Clinical Psychology from St. John’s University.

Why to Listen:

  • Veterans on the show often talk about meditation as a ay to stay grounded and be more productive at work. This is a great episode for exploring that and other helpful practices to keep you at your best inside and outside of work. 

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources:

Show Notes

  • What was the genesis of the Veterans Yoga Project?
  • How would you explain VYP to someone on Active Duty?
  • Is there an experiential part of this we could start with to give listeners a sense of the sort of tools you provide?
  • In your work with Veterans, what are common objections or reserves you see about this sort of work?
  • What are aspects of your work that you have seen be most beneficial to veterans?
  • What other resources - books, programs, podcasts, etc - would you recommend to listeners
  • Final words of wisdom to audience?
Oct 11, 2017

"For example, we had a $180 headphone that wasn't working - it wasn't the right price point or form factor. Once we stopped trying to win there, and just focused on being great under $100, it was amazing the power that focus can bring to the team. Not spreading yourself too thin, but giving your team the one objective, the one hill - because if we can win here, a lot of other things will just take care of themselves."
- Jason Hodell

See the full show notes and more veteran interviews at http://www.beyondtheuniform.io

Jason Hodell is the CEO of Skullcandy, which markets headphones, earphones, speakers and other products. Skullcandy was founded in 2003 and acquired in October 2016 by Mill Road Capital for $200 million. Jason started out at West Point, after which he served as an Infantry Officer in the US Army for five years. After the Army, he picked up his MBA at Wharton. He had an impressive career prior to Skullcandy, which we’ll discuss in the interview, and joined the Skullcandy team initially as their CFO & COO, the company grew revenue from $210M to approximately $300M after 3 years, he was appointed as the CEO of Skullcandy.

Why to Listen:

  • Turnaround work at companies - Jason talks about the turnaround work he's done at companies, which may be well suited to many veterans. It involves rolling up one's sleeves, getting your hands dirty, and "improving the unit that is not the best in battalion."
  • Take the long view - Jason talks about taking the long view on your career and investing in learning domain or market expertise
  • Finance - Jason started out in finance, and talks about how this gave him the mental framework to think about companies and evaluate them as well as understand the nuts and bolts of any business
  • General Management - Jason has been CEO, COO, and CFO of some incredible companies and talks about why veterans may enjoy (and be well suited for) these roles.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources:

  • Resources for finance
    • Can check out syllabus for corporate finance class at Wharton and see textbooks (or at any leading finance business school) - here is on example.
  • Book

Show Notes

  • Jason's background
  • When you left the Army, you went directly to get your MBA - how crucial was that decision in your career path, and what advice would you give to veterans considering an MBA?
  • What was one of the biggest challenges you faced when leaving the military, and what advice do you have for those on active duty listening?
  • I’d like to focus on your role at Skullcandy, but what would you want listeners to know about your career path from Wharton to Skullcandy?
  • How did you first come onboard the Skullcandy team?
  • How would you describe your role as COO & CFO to someone on active duty? What did your day-to-day life look like?
  • You achieve an incredible turnaround - how did you go about this?
  • How would you describe your current role as CEO - what does your day-to-day look like?
  • How do you grow and get feedback?
  • What were the gaps you needed to fill in from the military until the CEO role?
  • What advice do you have for veterans seeking to be CEO of a company one day?
  • What resources - books, programs, podcasts, etc - have been helpful to you in your civilian career that you would recommend to veterans listening?
  • Final words of wisdom
Oct 9, 2017

In my interviews, we often use business jargon and terminology without explaining it. As Jason Hodell (BTU #122) said, "you've got to know the lingo." So, in this episode I dive into some of the most common civilian business terms I've had on the show. This is Part 1, so if there are other terms you'd like explained, send me a note about what terms you'd like me to cover for Part 2.

This is a new type of episode, and I'd love any feedback on this approach. Usually, I interview military veterans about their civilian career. Today, instead, I'm going to dive into a specific skill I think would be helpful to veterans in their civilian career.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox – People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books
Oct 4, 2017

"I thought I was a big shot traveller until I met these people and I realized that I was nothing, and they were incredible. I've read books and seen movies and TV shows where people take their motorcycles around the world. It's easy to think  - that person's crazy or that person has a personal fortune or that that person has some unbelievable life circumstance that makes that possible. But when I met people in real life who had done these long-distance motorcycle trips, and I realized they're just ordinary people who and they're just really passionate and excited about what they do. And it's possible for anyone to do it."
- Tim Patterson

Listen to the full interview here

Tim Patterson started off at the Naval Academy as part of the mighty class of 2002. He served as an officer onboard nuclear submarines for 8 years. After his transition from the military, Tim spent over four years traveling the world. Two of these years were done by BMW motorcycle, where he rode over 28,000 miles along the Pan-American highway, from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. Studied Spanish in Guatemala. Survived Arctic weather, flat tires, and Colombian soldiers.

Why to Listen:

  • Time to reflect - many of my guests have talked about how they rushed into a career or into school and did not have time to consider what they wanted to do or take time to decompress after their military service. Tim took 4 years to travel the world, two of which were spent traveling more than 28,000 miles by motorcycle. He had more than ample time to think about what he wanted to do next.
  • Freedom - Tim is different from nearly every interview I have done to date. He is an example of complete freedom and autonomy after the military. He talks about it in a very real and personal way that shows that any veteran can do this too, and any veteran can pursue whatever dream they want to achieve.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources:

Show Notes

  • Tim's background
  • What did you do while on Active Duty to make this journey possible? How much money does someone on Active Duty need to save up to make this possible?
  • What led you to travel - was the certain moment when you knew you were going to travel the world? How long did you initially think it would last?
  • Could you give a high-level overview of what those four years looked like?
  • What was one of the most challenging moments of the trip?
  • Did you have a favorite location along the way?
  • Why might someone listening who is on active duty benefit from taking time to travel instead of going directly into a job or school?
  • How did you travels shape what you want to do for a career?
  • What resources recommend for traveling?
  • Could you talk about how you became involved journalism?
  • What is a typical week like as a journalist?
  • Where are you headed from here?
  • Final words of wisdom?
Oct 2, 2017

This is a new type of episode, and I'd love any feedback on this approach. Usually, I interview military veterans about their civilian career. Today, instead, I'm going to dive into a specific skill I think would be helpful to veterans in their civilian career: The Slight Edge. Special thanks to Ray & Samantha Allen for recommending this book to me in their interview.

The Slight Edge is a great book about how small, repeated actions on a daily basis can lead to massive changes in your career, personal life, and relationships. In this 15-minute episode, I dive into some key takeaways from this book that Veterans and Active Duty Members of the Armed Forces can use to advance in their professional and personal lives. 

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox – People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Links

Sep 27, 2017

“I'm not sure that I'm the best necessarily at starting a business from scratch - figuring out a business model in my garage, making this thing work, and taking all the risks there are in the startup phase. But I was pretty sure that I could take a business that had cashflows, infrastructure, and a business model and make it a lot better."
– Jim Vesterman

Jim Vesterman is the CEO of Raptor Technologies, which is the nation's leading provider of integrated safety technologies for K-12 schools. He got his undergraduate degree at Amherst College, after which he worked at both the Monitor Group and for a software startup. He deferred his MBA to join the Marine Corps as part of 3rd Force Recon Company. After he got his MBA from Wharton, he started an entrepreneurial vehicle called a search fund - which we’ll get into - called Liberty Place Capital. Liberty Place Capital ultimately purchased Raptor Technologies in 2012 and he has been running that company for 5 years.

The top two reasons to listen to this episode are:

  1. Perspective - Jim is the only person I've interviewed so far who had career before the Marine Corps. His look at re-entering the civilian workforce is compelling
  2. Search Funds - this is a great entrepreneurial vehicle well suited for veterans. Rather than coming up with an original idea, you can raise money to buy an existing business, which you can grow. Jim talks about how this process works, and why it may be appealing to veterans.
  3. Balance - Jim used used 5 vacation days and nights and weekends to raise money for his Search Fund - it's a great example of using one's extra time to further their career.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox – People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Links

  • Stanford has an incredible library of information about Search Funds that you can find here
Sep 25, 2017

This is a new type of episode, and I'd love any feedback on this approach. Usually, I interview military veterans about their civilian career. Today, instead, I'm going to dive into a specific skill I think would be helpful to veterans in their civilian career: Empathy. This has come up in many episodes as something that veterans have needed to develop to progress in their civilian career. A tool that I have found to be extremely helpful in my own life in building up empathy is something called: Non-Violent Communication (NVC).

In this episode we'll talk about how to build empathy (just like a muscle), and how identifying feelings & needs can uncover strategies to meet more people's needs (your team, your co-workers, your spouse, etc).

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox – People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Links

Sep 20, 2017

"I was a Signal Corps Officer trained in telecom - I managed switches and all those kind of things, so I really understood traditional telecom infrastructure. These engineers who became my co-founders developed a soft switch - basically, using a computer, you could control a big piece of hardware somewhere else to make a phone ring. What I knew was that was massively disruptive. And what we didn't know together was where that disruption was going to lead us.  And that disruption led us, eventually, to LiveOps."
- Patrick

Patrick is the Founder and Managing Partner at High Ridge Global, which is a private investment and advisory firm. He started out as a ROTC student at the University of Southern California, after which he served as a Signal Corps Officer in the Army for four years. After his service he got his MBA at Georgetown. He has worked at JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, was part of the Founding Team of LiveOps (a company that now has over $100M in revenue), and has founded, invested in, and served on the board of multiple companies.

Why to Listen:

  • Networking & Preparing for meetings (~43:00) - Patrick talks about how one of the best things you can invest in is your network. His personal story illustrates how his network led from one incredible opportunity to the next. But he also provides tactical advice about how to prepare for meetings that we haven't covered in other interviews.
  • Building expertise - although Patrick rotated between industries (finance, tech) and companies (JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, LiveOps, and more) he consistently built up expertise that he was able to leverage in his career. His thoughts for veterans about building up expertise and taking a 10-year time frame approach are incredible
  • Resources - Patrick has been part of incredibly successful startups and has started his own investing and advisory fund. He has coached many entrepreneurs and business operators. His advice - and recommended resources - are really priceless in this interview

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources:

Show Notes

  • Patrick's background
  • For someone on active duty, how would you describe High Ridge Global?
  • In terms of whereHigh Ridge Global is at today - what would you want listeners to know (head count, investments, etc)
  • Advice to evaluating an idea/
  • Skills veterans may need prior to starting a company
  • Many listeners to the show are interested in the world of finance - how vital is an MBA in this career path?
  • What was your experience like at JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, and how has that helped you in your current role?
  • Lifestyle differences between finance and startups?
  • What lead you to make the shift to startups and Live Ops?
  • What would you want listeners to know about your career path from Live Ops untilHigh Ridge Global ?
  • How did you go about starting your own investment company?
  • What did your day-to-day life look like when you first started?
  • What skills did you need to develop to start your own firm, and what advice do you have for veterans seeking to do the same?
  • What resources have been helpful to you that you would recommend to veteran listeners?
  • Final words of wisdom?
Sep 13, 2017

"We always say that you earn while you learn in this business. So even though we were both full-time active duty when we started this business, you can really build it into the nooks and crannies of your life, while just learning the process. Because there are people who are willing to hold your hands so that you can walk and then run in this business."
- Samantha Allen

Ray and Samantha Allen are both 2009 Naval Academy Graduates. After graduation, Ray went to flight school & became a Navy Helo pilot while Sam became a Marine.

Samantha served as a Marine for 5 years at Marine Special Operations Command (2nd MSOB) and weapons training Battalion. Ray is an HSC pilot now instructing at the Naval Academy.

The two live in Annapolis, MD with their three daughters, and have been building their business together for four years.

Why to Listen:

  • Direct marketing / network marketing - this is an often criticized & misunderstood space, but may be a great match for many veterans, as it: 
    • Is a people business (where vets typically thrive)
    • Is a business with training wheels (you get the support and mentorship you need as you grow)
    • Has a strong sense of community (which vets often miss post-service)
    • Includes a sense of purpose (which vets also miss post-service)
    • Has a lot of autonomy (to afford a flexible lifestyle)
  • Working with Spouse - if you're considering working with a significant other, they've got great advice.
  • Self-learning - they include a TON of incredible resources to check out, and the motivation to go with it

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources:

Show Notes

  • 4:00 Ray and Samantha's background
  • 4:47 - How would you explain to someone on Active Duty what LifeVantage is?
  • 7:58 - How did you both get started working with LifeVantage?
  • 12:00 - What was the starting point like?
  • 14:54 - When you first started what was the time commitment?
  • 17:16 - How do you spend your time today on LifeVantage?
  • 22:15 - How long does it take to make an income from Direct Marketing?
  • 26:30 - What is residual income and how do you make residual income in Direct Marketing?
  • 35:05  What are negative things that you hear about Direct Marketing and how do you respond to this criticism?
  • 38:08 - How is it working together as a husband and wife team, and what advice do you have for couples thinking of working together?
  • 41:51 - What resources - books, programs, websites - would you recommend to someone considering direct marketing?
  • 49:20 - What advice do you have for a veteran considering entrepreneurship?
  • 55:05 - Final words of wisdom?
Sep 6, 2017

"Working for this company, we started outsourcing to the Philippines, and we started doing more and more work with the Philippines. Eventually my buddy and I said, 'Why don't we setup a company in the Philippines to do the outsourcing for our employer?' So we pitched out bosses and they loved it. And so that kind of got our foot in the door."
- Justin Cooke

Justin Cooke is the Founder at Empire Flippers, a company that helps others buy, sell, and invest in profitable websites and online businesses. He started out in the Navy, where he spent 6 years as a Sonar Technician 2/C (STG2). Empire Flippers is an INC 500 company - Justin runs a 22 person team and has $27M+ In Online Businesses Sold.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

Show Notes

  • What is your remote lifestyle like?
  • What would you want listeners to know about your path from the Navy up until starting Empire Flippers?
  • How to form a good business partnership
  • What was the Genesis of Empire Flippers
  • How would you describe Empire Flippers to someone on Active Duty
  • You have seen a lot of success stories of people buying online businesses that they've then grow. What advice do you have for someone on active duty thinking of going down this path?
  • What skills do you think someone we would need to develop after the military before considering going down this path?
  • You had an incredible growth trajectory for Empire flippers. What advice do you have for other veteran entrepreneurs seeking to grow their company?
  • What resources, that could be books, podcasts, courses, have helped you with your startup that you would recommend other veterans
  • Final words of wisdom
Aug 30, 2017

"No matter what job you're doing or where you're going, you always want to be the best at your current role. I never imagined that I'd be in the sports industry, let alone the President of an NHL Hockey Team. I never imagined that I'd be at Goldman Sachs. When I was in the Army I just worked really hard, and then identified that my next step would be getting into the best grad school, and then I just focused on that. You just have to have this balance of short term and long term planning."
- Matthew Caldwell

Matthew Caldwell is the President and CEO of the Florida Panthers and Sunrise Sports & Entertainment. Matthew started out at West Point, after which he served in the U.S. Army for five years, conducting combat operations in Iraq and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo. Matthew worked as a Vice President at Goldman Sachs in their Investment Management Division, and then transitioned to Chief Operating Officer for the Panthers before being elevated to President and CEO. Matthew holds a JD/MBA from Northwestern University School of Law and the Kellogg School of Management

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • A guy that I most recently have really started following and has been Simon Sinek. About six months ago I found him, and he's done so much research and it's not specific to sports, or finance, or technology. His TED talk is: Start With Why - it's why great leaders inspire people to take action. It's a simple kind of concept but it's all about understanding why you exist. Whether you're working at Apple or wherever you have to figure out why... your purpose... your vision for the future. These are things we kind of did in the military but it's so important. A company like Apple, they exist because they're always challenging the status quo.  The book is fascinating because he covers sports teams, Martin Luther King, Google, Apple... it's very interesting.
  • He also has another book - Leaders Eat Last. I think people in the military will appreciate it.
  • iv'e gotten into sports books - culture and how people operate is so important to them. I read recently the Real Madrid Way - its the most valuable sports franchise out there. Steven Mandis is a Goldman alum too, and i reached out to him and we talked for an hour about why Real Madrid was so valuable and what they've done in the community.

Show Notes

Please note that I type these notes during the interview so there are likely to be misspellings, grammatical errors, and misquotes. This is not meant to be a verbatim account of our conversation, but a VERY basic text transcript of our discussion.

  • How did you approach the decision to leave the Army?
    • It was the toughest decision I've ever had professionally. I went back and forth on it a bunch of times. I was in the Army for five years - the first three I was deployed, in Iraq, Kosovo, or a build up for that. It was very high tempo. Ironically, when I was deployed, I actually really enjoyed it and felt like I was making a difference and serviging a highe rpurpose. When I got back, I was stablized for a year, the garrison lifesytle at my base in Germany. I went back and forth for a year but realized I enjoyed teh Army most during dpeloyments, and that's not all the time. I didn't know if I wanted to go special ops and sustain that op tempo for long-term. Ultimatley I decided I wanted other things besides the Army. I didn't think I could deploy every year even though I enjoyed it. I thought graduate school was a natural next step and then se
  • How did you decide on a JD / MBA program?
    • I always liked business and reading the Wall Street Journal and hearing what companies are doign and reading Good to Great. I thought an MBA was very suitable in opening me up to different industries. When I started researchign schools Noerthwestern was my top pick - I love the Chicago area and their culture. They ahve this very integrated, but also very exciting JD/MBA program that was in three years. I thought I'd get a taste of both business and law. I applied to a bunch of buisness schools and thought if I could also get a law degree it'd make me better at busienss or maybe I'd like law instead. Most programs are around four years and it's a lot of money. For me it was a good fit.
    • For advice for other veterans, it really did work out for myself. I had all this leadership experience, I had lived overseas and had a good world view. So I had a good view of what was out there - for me to come home, as much as I had an interest in business I had no idea if I would be a consultant, a lawyer, finance - I was all over the map. For me it was a three year reset. And the networking aspect was most important. If you go to West Point for four years and then five years in the army, that's nine years of uyour life (one third of your life at that point) where you're just with a mlitary segment. It's a secdluded world. To get out and meet people from different backgrounds, hear about what they did and what they did in the workforce, that experience was very eye opening to me. I learned what they did and they were a great resource. It was the perfect transition point for me.
    • Some of my friends got work experience before grad school and I can see the value of that. When people were talking about a case study, i didn't have any context for what they were talking about.
  • What lead you to Goldman Sachs?
    • Most people in business school go to all the networking events, take classes, talk to people and build from the bottom up. I want to be in Private Equity, in the MErgers & Acquisition world. They identify an industry and then start interviewing in certain geographic areas. I looked at I knew I wanted to go to business and enjoyed those classes and then - what company do I want to be most associated with. I did an exhaustive search and talked to consulting companies, and General Electirc, Proctor and Gamble, etc, but I felt like I connected with the banks. I like JP Morgan & Chase, Goldman, etc - I connected with the people at Goldman. They were diverse, hardworking, and wanted to be in an environment like that.
    • There were three areas: the trading side of the house, i enjoyed that mentality but didn't know long term. Investment banking house where working on big deals with major institutions. But ultimately the investment management division was a good balance between working with big institutions on how to invest their capital but also resonate with me long term.
    • There were a few West Point guys who mentored me.
  • For someone on active duty, how would you explain the work you did at Goldman Sachs?
    • It is a great firm - over many generations they've produced great people who have done great things for the country.
    • My every day life there I worked on a team with about six individuals managing thirty or so accounts. Big families, foundations, non-profit, another company's assets, etc. We were the intermediary between the client - what are their needs, what are they trying to do - and then sit with all the experts at the firm (in research, or investing in Europe, or Latin America, etc). We'd be the intermediary between them and the resources at Goldman. A lot of my job was listening to my clients, hearing their needs, running around and talking to different departments and then making recommendations.
  • What advice do you have for a veteran aspiring to work at Goldman Sachs?
    • The banks or any firms on Wall Street generally like military. They appreciate the tenacity, the hardwork, the comraderie - the characteristics of many service men and women. You put the organization first. The company is more important than the individual. That's not common everywhere. A place like Goldman really values that. It is a tough firm to get into - they usually only hire right out of college or an MBA or other graduate program. They value talent and intelligence and very diverse backgrounds.
    • If you have an interesting story and they think you can add a lot of value at the firm, they know they can teach you all the finance technique. It's just a matter of hustling to get in front of the right people. I've gone through a job search a lot of times - it's a matter of reading and talking to the right person. Sometimes you do 20 coffee chats and yuo don't feel like you're making any progress, and then the 21st meeting and it's the perfect meeting. but if you didn't go through all the reps before that you don't know how it would have worked out.
    • I was at school in Chicago and was interested in going to New York. And I wasn't able to get a time to meet with anyone else. I sat at Starbucks all day emailing people and calling them and I figured since I was in NY I might as well try to meet with people. And that got me in touch with someone who was at Credit Suisse who was West Point, he had a few minutes available and I sat down with him. I was open and honest that Goldman was my first choice,; and he introduced me to someone at Goldman. 30 interviews later I got a job there.
  • What lead you to make the transition to the Florida Panthers?
    • I was at Goldman and one of the unique aspects of their culture is that the junior people are the ones who are encouraged to get out there and kick up new business. Typically in firms more senior partners are trying to drive new client relationships. At Goldman they send out their more junior folks. So I was out there talking to institutions and big family offices trying to get them to invest at Goldman. So I was out there hussling and same thing as I did whe ntrying to get my first job. I started a relationship with another West Point grad, Vincent Viola. he ended up becoming a client at Goldman, and was great at investing his capital. We built this great report with him over time and he took a liking to me as a younger West Pointer who got his start on Wall Street. It was very familiar with his background. He went trading and came from Brooklyn (I'm from Staten Island). After a few years he asked me to come and join his family office. So I jumped at the opportunity. As much as I loved Goldman I thought it was something I couldn't' pass it up.
    • I was dreading going to the guy who hired me and probably got ten seconds into my pitch and he said, 'I would love for you to build a career here, but you gotta jump on this.' So i started working directly for Vinnie. He had purchased the Florida Panthers hockey team. He always wanted to get into sports - it's hockey in South Florida, which is tough. We knew there would be a big challenge, he said, I'm a very hands on operator and could use someone I could trust.
    • I signed up for it, and moved down to South Florida. I live in Miami, started off being an ownership representative giving him advice on how to improve the franchise. how to sell season tickets and get the stadium packed. They ended up giving me the COO role as a permanent role. As the franchise turned around 1.5 years later, and he named me the CEO and President.
  • How would you explain your role as CEO?
    • I was a huge sports fan of every sport. There's actually another West Point graduate, Eric Joyce, who was an Assistant Captain for the West Point hockey team. Eric was his guy to help out on the hockey side. And he's done a great job and is the assistant GM. Initially I focused more on the business side - it was more selling the team and keeping the budget straight and sending reports to people about our marketing plan and sales plan. everything that happens off the ice.
    • Right now there's different periods where things change dramatically. We're in the office season so things aren't top of mind for people. However, for the business side of the operation its an important time to knock out some long-term projects. A big thing we're doing right now is formalizing our marketing plan, getting feedback from all the different departments on what will be our slogan this year, how to attract more fans, how to get a big excitement around opening night. It comes on October 7 and so we hit the pause button and think about our identify, our team and how to tell our story to our fan base.
    • We're also very active in our grassroots - sports aren't front of mind - we go door-to-door and go to local boys and girls club events and anything to support our team and show our presence. There's more of an emotional presence between the team and the community
    • After labor day the whole coaching staff and players and hockey side comes and then its about supporting the training camp. And it's ver intense and we want to make sure the fans have a great experience. Visiting suites and clubs and showing them a great time in the stands.
    • Additionally, I'm President of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment that operates  - we got Bruno Mars and John Mayer coming through. All the ushers, all the ticket tapes, all the people who run food and beverages. We want to make sure they have a great experience.
  • What advice do you have for a veteran seeking a career in the sports industry?
    • I don't know if it differs much from other industries. a lot of companies value how interested you are in something, and if someone is leaving the military in six months you need to start reaching out to sports teams or anyone who has any connection there. Go on LinkedIn or Facebook see who you know - give them a call. Start hearing things. See if that sounds interesting. Do you know anyone in the NY area? Get introduced and start having that conversation. Any industry will respect a veteran reaching out. It's not that you have to prove anything. They won't hire you because of your specific job in the military they just want to know you did a great job. No matter what job you're doing or where you're going, you want to be the best at your current role. You can fall into the mistake of coasting or thinking of what you'll do next. The problem is you never know where your career will take you, and it's important for recommendations and when you want to tell stories in interviews and why you did a great job in the current job where you are. Just worked really hard and identified my next step and just focused on that. You gotta have a balance of short term and long term. Research industries, do a great job.
  • What resources - books, programs, seminars, conferences - have helped you in your civilian career that you would recommend to other veterans?
    • A guy that I most recently have really started following and has been Simon Sinek. About six months ago I found him, and he's done so much research and it's not specific to sports, or finance, or technology. His TED talk is: Start With Why - it's why great leaders inspire people to take action. It's a simple kind of concept but it's all about understanding why you exist. Whether you're working at Apple or wherever you have to figure out why... your purpose... your vision for the future. These are things we kind of did in the military but it's so important. A company like Apple, they exist because they're always challenging the status quo.  The book is fascinating because he covers sports teams, Martin Luther King, Google, Apple... it's very interesting.
    • He also has another book - Leaders Eat Last. I think people in the military will appreciate it.
    • iv'e gotten into sports books - culture and how people operate is so important to them. I read recently the Real Madrid Way - its the most valuable sports franchise out there. Steven Mandis is a Goldman alum too, and i reached out to him and we talked for an hour about why Real Madrid was so valuable and what they've done in the community.
  • Final words of wisdom?
    • Taking a risk. Quick anecdote, when I was in business school I was able to sit with the student admissions team. I sat in the room and heard right from the Director of Admissions who was letting people into Kellogg. And they said they see resumes from veterans and have no idea what it says. As much as we try to dumb it down and not use acronyms, it still sounds foreign to people. It's difficult to pull info out of veterans. We're trained to always put the organization first and focusing on the unit. We're trained not to self promote. It's a tough thing to do - you've gotta spread the needle about promoting yourself and clal someone and explain why they should take your call or why they should get on the phone with you.
    • As a veteran you don't want to ask for favors - you want to be rewarded for performance without pounding your chest. It's this difficult balance. IF you feel like you're self promoting you probably arne't- it just isn't. if you don't do it, no one will.
Aug 23, 2017

"I spent about $1,800 buying bags and thinks, built my own website and started trying to sell coffee online. So basically I started Black Rifle Coffee from a passion that I sought to test out."
- Evan Hafer

Evan Hafer is the Founder & CEO of Black Rifle Coffee, a small batch coffee roasting company. He started out at the University of Idaho, after which he spent 14 years in the U.S. Army as an infantryman, a Special Forces soldier, and a CIA contractor.

I came across Evan in a 2016 Forbes Article about the Top 25 Veteran Founded Startups in America.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • Forbes Article about the Top 25 Veteran Founded Startups in America.
  • Coursera is fantastic. It has an online catalgoue from Penn State, Stanford, Michigan. I signed up for courses from Wharton. It's a great outlet. YOuv'e got a lot of access to Coursera.
  • Udemy is another great online learning - courses from specific personalities.
  • Lynda is a fantastic resource - it's amazing.
  • The first thing I do is google it and then take a course on it. How do I built a dashboard with my KPIs based on division. I can't tell you how to do that based on military experience - but I can google this and find classes on how to plug this in. It may take a few days - you can't be too impatient.
  • One of the best books I've read - Good to Great and Built to Last. I've read Good to Great - listened to it or read it, probably six times. These are some of the best books that I've read.
  • Podcasts: every day I can get into a half hour on marketing, or leadership / management - any time I can spend 30 minutes listening. It might not be the most sage advice at that time, who knows what type f

Show Notes

Please note that I type these notes during the interview so there are likely to be misspellings, grammatical errors, and misquotes. This is not meant to be a verbatim account of our conversation, but a VERY basic text transcript of our discussion.

  • How did you make the decision to leave the Army?
    • Jioned National Guard in 1995 while in College. Was still in 2015. 20 years in active duty or in the reserves, and 8 years with the CIA as a contractor
    • Had been thinking about it for 2 years. I had another business in Idaho - fly fishing, white water rafting, etc. I was planning on getting out and going to grad school or something like that. I was burnt out on deployments, coming up on 20 years of military service and wanted a change
  • What was your first job search like out of the Army?
    • I didn't really have one. I knew I was going to start my won business. I had been roasting coffee for ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan. I had purchased another company a few years before. I wasn't thinking of doing an online roast to order coffee company. My wife and I were thinking of opening a coffee shop. We had gone back and forth on what he had wnated to do. Ultimately we wanted to try to test the market. Didn't want to spend $100k trying to get a coffee shop. Ultimately, I wasn't sure if we could make it work. I could build a website and invest a limited amount of capital - I spent about $1,800 byying bags and thinks, built my own website and selling coffee online
  • What was the genesis of Black Rifle Coffee?
    • I was roasting enough coffee at the time for a few different restaurants and few friends. When I stood up the website and started selling online, after my first month I repaid the money I paid into the company. I was fairly convinced at the end of first month
  • For veteran listeners, how would you describe Black Rifle Coffee?
    • A lot of people say, I need a full blown business plan. Well, I'm a military guy and we go through a lot of planning and cycles around the planning. Every plan doesn't survive first contact. It's fine to do a five paragraph mission order, but the mission statement can't be around the idea - it needs to be around your life. My mission statement was: I will become economically emanicapted from the government and be able to feed my family through my own endeavor. Then I put out a combination of things I could do iwthin this operatino order. A lot of guys become wrapped around a tactic - I have to be THIS. I didn't I was just attached to the idea of being free from the US goverment and drove into marketing and branding and tact. If I can market one of the skills I have - I was roasting coffee and doing outdoors-e stuff. Black Rifle COffee was built out of these two things. Then I started to get a positive Return On Investment really early. If I spend $10 I can make $20... i can actually make a profit. Especially if I start to scale. I started in my garage with $1,800. I didn't hire any employees for my first year. Just me and my wife (part time for about 6 months of that firs tyear) . I was doing customer service, packaging and shipping, photography, social media, website. I was a one-man show. A lot of guys thought that seemed fairly difficult. I only slept about four hours a night for th efirst year of the business - 7 days a week. I had a thermarest in my office. I hired employee #1 after the first year. After the second year I ahd 26 employees. Now I have 84 employees. I've never taken out any debt in my company - no investment. I run it completely off it's own profit margins. I've scaled the company, continued to purchase everything and anything through the profit.
    • I can beat up my employees over $0.03 and a box. If I'm going to buy 12 tonnes of cardboard from China I know exactly how much that will be. There is nothing I wouldn't tell you about this business. I can tell you down to the cent for the last 2.5 years.I'll spend an hour or two in fulfillment, and hour or two in purchasing. Just packing a box and understanding exactly how I want the product to be displayed when it hits their doorstep. The customer needs to understand that no detail can be overlooked. I try to drive a detail oriented ship. We miss things but it's not because we're not trying it's because when you send out a few thousand shipments a day, you miss a few things. It's not as precision as I'd like it to be.
  • At what point were you able to start paying yourself a salary?
    • 14 months - it was a few thousand dollars a month. Now, we'll do over $20M annual this eyar, and I still only pay myself $70k. I went from $2k to $4k in increments. But I've only paid myself for over one year in the last two and a half years. The more money you take out of a business the less it will grow. A lot of guys make this mistake really early. We sold two houses, and my wife and I went from making $250,000 per year as a high paid contract for the government to making NOTHING. For over a year nothing. I had sold two houses, a truck, all my guns, just to keep going. My wife was ready to kill me. It's definitely worth it. I've got a 40k square foot building a 60 kilo roaster - all of them are
  • What did you do on Active Duty to help in startups?
    • I was doing payroll in mission planning and our budget for our small indigineous force. I thought, if I can run this Afghan with a third grade education, if I can train them to do these multi-level kinetic operations this can translate to business. I thought of it as a small business. If you don't run your budget in a strict and proficient way you're setting yoruself up for your own failure.
    • I had the unique opportunity of working with some guys who had run a small business. My original mentor was a SpecOps guy and he transitioned to a small business. It was always in the back of my mind - I was going to be a business owner. Every part of my service - how does this translate into the business world. When I transitino out I need to be able ot translate this into something I can monetize.
    • Not - I need to be able to tell these stories. How do I take these skills and use them on the outside? They're very unique skills that very few people acquire. Military people are some of the most complex problem solvers in the world. When I look at my service - always look tot ranslate what you're doing now into what you're doing
    • Seek professional development opportunies. Seek some skills that the military can pay for but it might not be translatable to your MOS right now but how about your future. I went to a lot of schools when I was in and would come back when I was home and take professional development training. There's this total access to online learning There are so many different ways you can learn that you don't need the US military - but you have the ability to have the military pay for all the training you want to do. I've sat in on university classes to learn about economics
  • Resources
    • Coursera is fantastic. It has an online catalgoue from Penn State, Stanford, Michigan. I signed up for courses from Wharton. It's a great outlet. YOuv'e got a lot of access to Coursera.
    • Udemy is another great online learning - courses from specific personalities.
    • Lynda is a fantastic resource - it's amazing.
    • The first thing I do is google it and then take a course on it. How do I built a dashboard with my KPIs based on division. I can't tell you how to do that based on military experience - but I can google this and find classes on how to plug this in. It may take a few days - you can't be too impatient.
    • One of the best books I've read - Good to Great and Built to Last. I've read Good to Great - listened to it or read it, probably six times. These are some of the best books that I've read.
    • Podcasts: every day I can get into a half hour on marketing, or leadership / management - any time I can spend 30 minutes listening. It might not be the most sage advice at that time, who knows what type f
  • What has been the most challenging moment to date?
    • WHn you have 80 people who work fory ou you develop personal relationships with them. It's an ecosystem - people rpovide the balance in the ecosytem. Terminating people or repurosing them - having really frank discussions with people in general about work performance. These are incredibly difficutl things to do. A loto f business owners avoid tough discussions with employees, and I know why. I want the best for people - however, some people will never conform to the environemnt you're trying to build. You may love them and appreciate them - but they may not be a good fit for the ecosystem. The ahrdest part is managing people - it's very difficult. Knowing you like people but they don't fit into your company this is a really difficult challenge. Because the company's ecosystem always has to be in balance. Hire slow, fire fast. It doesn't mean firing will be easier but yo have to do it to grow the company.
    • A redwood grows really well in a redwood forest. It doesn't grow really well in Sonora. Just becasue they don't fit in in your company doesn't mean they won't fit in somewhere else. They'll be good people wherever they go. It might not be a good cultural fit. We tend to over exagerate people's failures - it may not be a failure on either part it may just be confomring to the envirnonemnt. It's a difficult part for managers - you're done here. I try to say this sin't a good fit how do we make you succeed somewhere else.
  • What has been the most rewarding moment to date?
    • Not just one moment - I always tell people when I was in the government it wasa  pleasure to serve the country. But I got to the point where Iw asn't enjoying my job or my profession. Here right now in my life, I go from my house - two little girls 3.5 and 8 weeks, a beautiful wife and a loving household. And I go to my place of work, ten minutes away, full of people who are competent and they love me and I love them. Every corner of my life - even though there is stress - there is great people and nothing in my life doesn't insprie me at this point. I don't drag my feet going anywhere. I've never had that before. It's very strange to look forward to every day or every minute of my life. I think that's the greatest achievement I've had - I've been able to rapidly change my life. A lot of my professional life i was unhappy - now every day is a challenge. The people around me are fantastic and excellent people. It's so rewarding to know I looking forward to it.
    • I started with my goal of economic freedom. Everyone needs to define what happiness looks like. I love to work, the art of business. But I love rolling up my sleeves and going to work. So happiness - I'm emanicipating myself from government service. I need to create enough welath to become happy. A lot of people say happiness is about wealth or a means to an end. If you're not happy along the way - yo have to enjoy the mountain climb not just the summit. YOu can't just look back - oyu have to enjoy the climb.
  • What advice do you have for veterans thinking of starting their own company?
    • You have to be dedicated to being a business man. Even though you served you country and that's an admiral thing, the people of the United States don't owe yuo anything. I'm not trying to be negative - you have to be able to translate things into a new profession. You need to concentrate on the future not what you've done in the past. You need to find what you've done in the past you can leverage to be a better busienss person. You have to be humbled at the alter of business - the world doesn't owe you anything. It doesn't owe you anything. It helps you've got dedication and complex probelm solving skills. You need to be more committed to this than anythign else you've done before. Themost stress I've experienced wasn't being shot at - it was having a wife and child at home and knowing they have to be fed and what I did on a daily basis was going to provide a good or bad life for them. That's the most stress I've had in my life - it's constant and heavy. You have to dedicate yourself, and humble yourself. You have to take it on like you've never taken on in your life. you have to be so committed to it - you have to prepre for the worst and hope for the best
    • In many ways you're discounted because of your service - you don't have any business experience
  • What does the next 12 months look like for BRCC?
    • We're going to move out of Salt Lake to another state. We're moving the corproate headquarters to Colorado Springs. The enxt twelve months we'll open up 12 brick and mortar stores, logistics in different states and state specific roasters. And we'll have some joint projects going on with some veteran companies. And I think the next twelve months will be really big.W e launch our franchise initaitive in 18 months. Th enext twelve months will be a lot of work, we'll expand quite a bit. The big expansion is september of next month.
Aug 16, 2017

"It was like an apocalypse movie and it was the day we launched Plated - the worst day in the history of the internet. And then our cargo container got picked up in the storm surge and sucked out into the river. The only thing that kept our business from getting flooded out of business was that thumb width 220V electricity cord that got tangled around a phone pole and didn't get sucked out to sea. It was just a lesson in perseverance."
- Nick Taranto

Nick Taranto is the Co-Founder & CEO of Plated, a company whose "Mission is to Help People Eat Better, and Live Better." Plated has raised over $55M in funding, and been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NYT, Wired Magazine and more. He started out at Dartmouth College, after which he worked at KOMPIP Microfinance before going on to Harvard Business School. After HBS, he graduated from the Marine Corps' The Basic School, where he Drilled as an active reservist for 3 years. He also worked at Goldman Sachs as a Private Wealth Advisor prior to starting Plated.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • There's a great book by Ben Horowitz at Andreesen Horowitz - the hard Thing About Hard Things. Before becoming a VC, he was an entrepreneur and started a few businesses. He talks through his experience and takeaways for aspiring entreprenerus.
  • A resource I go back ot again is entrepreneur.com - you have to sift through some of the news, but there are a lot of great articles about building a business. raising money, hiring, firing, building out a sales team, operations, different contracts and negotiations. Entrepreneur.com is free and a great resource
  • Wired Magazine's article on Nick

Show Notes

Please note that I type these notes during the interview so there are likely to be misspellings, grammatical errors, and misquotes. This is not meant to be a verbatim account of our conversation, but a VERY basic text transcript of our discussion.

  • You joined the military later than most - what lead you to join the Marine Corps?
    • My career has been very non conventional. I didn't have a big picture plan when I was 21 or getting off active duty about startups. The idea of "living in beta" or testing hypothesis for your business and your life and career as quickly as possible
    • I was 26 years old when I commissioned in the Marine Corps. I had gone through OCS and was looking at either going into consulting, which most of my peers in business school were doing, or accepting a commisison. I thought long and hard about this before graduating from graduate school. It was hard because no one coming out of HBS had gone active duty since World War 2. When I asked people for advice they thought i was crazy for "throwing my life away." None of that feedback made sense to me. It wasn't until I talked to David Gurgain, who is a professor at the Kennedy School and a politial commentator on CNN, and he served in four different White Houses. Most importantly he went to Law School and then commissioned in the Navy after law school. he said "you should go do it and you'll never regret it." That's how I feel about itt. I was older than almost everyone in my platoon. But i saw it as a Now or Never proposition and knew I would regret it if I didn't answer the call.
  • What did you learn in your time in the Marines that has helped you as an entrepreneur?
    • I specialized as an Infantry Officer before going the Reserves side and serving iwth a few different companies all over the East Coast. In my Infantry training in the early days of getting the business off-the-ground was incredibly useful. Operating under ambiguity. Being able to preserve emotionally, psychologically and physically. We had a lot of challenges getting the business up and off the ground. Putting one foot in front of the others and having a big mission ahead of us. When yo're growing an organization it's important to make a mission crystal clear so that people can internalize it and get the big picture. So the day to dya may be a slog but you're getting out to work something bigger than yourself.
  • What aspects from the Marines did you most need to leave behind as an entrepreneur?
    • I've thought about this a lot.When you don't have a miltiary background it's easy to romanticize what goes on in the miltiary. The Marines has the best brand in the United States - they haven't missed their recruiting qouta in a long time because their brand is so strong. There are definitely live of martial life that do not extend into the world of entrepreneurship or starting your own business.
    • The biggest is dealing with beauracrcy. So much of the miltiary is waiting for the mission to come down. In startups, especially in the early days, it's all on you to figure out what th enext plan is, what the risks are, make those assessments, prioritize the entire world that is in front of you and develop an action plan. I tend to do best when there is no structure. Where it really is incumbent on me to develop and hold myself accountable and develop a plan. I do less well when given a plan and need to execute it. I was pretty happy to leave behind the beauraucy and think creatively and operate independently.
  • Between USMC & Plated?
    • Coming off active duty I didn't know waht I wanted to do with my life. I spent time Active Duty with the Marine Corps but was feeling a little lost. I was in my late twenties, had a fiance who had been working "Real jobs" and I hadn't yet had my first "real job" outside of the miltiary. I wasn't sure who I was supposed to be, what I was supposed to do. The thought of working 7am to 7pm in a job I didn't care about depressed me pretty fundamentaliy. I went to Wall Street for about six months and reinforced how different life paths could be. I saw my bosses on the desk on Wall Street who by all measures were successful - making a ton of money, had families, were running books of business - but many of them seemed to be lacking happiness, a bigger mission, and I knew that I didn't want to put my head down, grind it out, put up the periscope ten years later with  acareer I wasn't satsified with, beholding to a very large paycheck.
    • That's when I really started to look around and see that the world of startups exsited. This was 2011 so back a bit, when the fad for entrepreneruship hadn't really taken off like it has today. There weren't as many resources in New York i could go to and ask about what their path to building a successful multi-million dollar business was. I was able to team upw ith a business school friend of mine in New York - he had built a data storage company straight out of college (Josh Hicks, my co-founder at Plated). We did this Founder Dating thing for three months - figured out if we'd worked well together. We did volunteer work togetehr in Hataii for a couple of weeks and had been through some tought stuff together. I approached him as a mentor of sorts, and we figure d
  • How to vet a partner
    • There is so much that can and will go wrong - it's like developing a battle plan, everything looks great until it makes first contact with a customer. It's really improtant to decide - are you up for starting something on your own. Do you want a co-founder? If it's tough to ride the ups and downs alone, a co-founder is very helpful. If the answer is yes, it will be the most dillutive decision you make in terms of your equity. You're giving half the company away before the company even exists - so it's a ;big quesiton. But the way I've always thought of equity is you're going to reduce your total stake in the enterprise, but it's worth it to take that hit if you're increasing your probability of success by an equal or greater ratio. You're giving up 50% of business, but are you increasing probability of success by more than 50%? For me the answer was yes. I needed a co-founder, to go into battle together. The next question was who and what sort of skill set. It's a really important question - human nature is to work with people similar to us. Who talk and think the same way. It can actually hurt your probability of success, especially in the early days. So finding someone with complementary set of skills was important. It started with diagnosigin myself and fiding where I  was weak and strong, and where I want to spend my time, and where I want to complement this. That self examination is really crucial.
    • I knw I didn't want to do the coding or financila modeling. I wanted to be out selling and hustling. Developing the mission and vision and hiring employees and generating business. I needed someone who was more comfortable workign behidn the scenes, making sure the website worked, making sure we had the right spreadshets and wharehouse management point.
  • What was the genesis of Plated?
    • Josh and I had been working on a totally different idea and it wasn't working. It was going nowhere fast. We were working out of a friend's office and went for a walk in Central Park - a mile around, we would just do laps and laps talking and bouncing ideas off of each toehr. We came to this realization that this idea wasn't going to work. We knew we were going ot work together - we had been through months of intense work nto killing each other and actually liking it so we asked: what comes next.
    • We had been thinking through this meal kit concept for some time. On this walk around the resevoir at the end of a couple of miels of walking we turned to each other and said - this is what we need to do. This is what the next attempt at starting a business will be.
    • One was that food industyr trend in general. And out of personal need - our own experience
    • On the food industry side we had done hundreds of case studies in business school, but only one case remotely related to food - a cranberry manufacturing case. So we didn't really understand the size of the market, what they looke dlike, what the opportuniteis were, what the weaknesses were. As we explored that we realized (1) food is an ENORMOUS industry. Healthcare is bigger but incredibly regulated. While food is regulated it isn't nearly as tough to build a business as in healthcare. (2) as we looked across the landscape we realized that no one had built a large business in food with data. There had been big failures in the 90s and 2000's like WebVan - one of the first e-commerce companies, an online grocer who raised almost $1 Billion dollars from the best investors and now a case study as one of the worst failures. So fast forward from their failure to 2012 there really hadn't been data technology and innovation in a long time. It didn't make sense why that was the case.
    • The other realization for us was that we were both athletes - I'm an Iron Man Triathlete - it was hard, complex and expensive to get good food into our tummies. It took a lot of time to figure out what to eat, especially when it came to cooking. We found the more you cook the happier you are, the cleaner the food, the more control you have - this mattered to us in a big way. There was no way to make cooking to work for us, esepcially in NY  - the lines at stores can take an hour to get through. Working in Wall Street I put on 20lbs in six months, just sitting at my desk all the time and felt like crap. It was the first time I felt I lost control over what I was eating and what was going on in my life.
    • So between it bein ga huge market without a lot of data and technology and that problem we thought we could build a better food business with data and technology at the core DNA
  • For an active duty listener who is not familiar with Plated, how would you describe Plated to them?
    • We deliver everything you need to cook a chef designed meal at home in about thirty minutes. All the spices, meat, protein, kale, basil, plus a chef designed recipe card with an image of the final meal and some really easy to follow steps that anyone can use to get a good meal to your table in thirty minutes.
    • We've got over 15 options each week, the menu changes every week, our recipes change based on what you like and don't like and we deliver it directly to your door.
  • What has been the hardest moment since starting Plated?
    • We had a really tough time getting the business going. Five years out its easy to tell a success story, but the first year we ran into obstacles and a literal flood at every turn. First, Josh and I had been working on different ideas for six months prior to starting Plated. We had burned through our savings, our IRAs... we were out of money. it was go and raise money from other people, or go and get jobs, and neither of us wanted to do that. Which meant we had to raise money from outside investors on Day 0. Neither of us had done anything in food or e-commerce or building a consumer brand. You imagine we found people to pitch for our fledgling company and they would say - you've never done anythign remotely related to this! Why should we give you money!?! We quite literally had doors slammed our face. We talked to 200 people in three months and the only yes we got was from my dad, who was by no means wealthy. I grew up in a very privileged household where eduction was always first and foremost but he wasn't in a position to fund the business. He gave us enough money for ramen but it wasn't enough to get the business up and off the ground. It was incredibly humbling as we tried to convince people that we were going to accomplish this thing in the world but got rejected at every turn
    • Eventually we cobbled together some funds. I met this group of Angel Investors - people who fund very early stage businesses. They were former Israeli defense commandos. They had moved from Israel to Silicon Valley and had built two very succesful businesses and sold them for hundreds of million of dollars. They liked the Marine Corps story, our hunger and passion, and we raised our first money from those Angels. They took a big chunk of the business in exchange for the cash they put in - very dilutive, but we didn't have an option. Either stop our dream or keep going. So we had a little bit of money, but it didn't get easier from there.
    • I'm putting a book out later this year or early next year. I tell some more stories in there - The Evolved Eater - a quest to eat better, live better and change the world.
    • I tell the story of having a little bit of money to run the business, but we were working out of my apartment on my couch. I was going to the local grocery store and buying chicken by the pound and we'd pack it and hand deliver around Manhattan, really hustling. We realized we needed a professional fulfillment center if we were going to growth the business.
    • We looked all over NY for space that was refrigerated. We couldn't find anything. But we found a refrigerated cargo cater that they used to ship bulk goods across the ocean. We rented one of these things and parked it in Brooklyn that we rented on a month-to-month basis. This 40 foot long cargo crater we plugged into a 220V yellow cord the width of my fund and we started taking our inventory and run our operations from there right on the East River. Beautiful view of Manhattan right on the water. It was all fine and good until Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012. It was also the date we officially launched as Plated. When Hurricane Sandy came down - it was really something to behold. The city shut down for DAYS! No electricity, elevators not working, traffic lights not working. It was like an apocalypse movie and it was the day we launched Plated - the worst day in the history of the internet. And then our cargo container got picked up in the storm surge and sucked out into the river. The only thing that kept our business from getting flooded out of business was that thumb width 220V electricity cord that got tangled around a phone pole and didn't get sucked out to sea. It was just a lesson in perseverance
  • Was there a point at which things changed - where you knew this was going to succeed?
    • It took a year of just grinding it out. Then we got some press - just through hustle, telling reporters our story, asking them out for coffee. That early coverage led to the folks from Shark Tank reaching out to us. We didn't apply, they reached out to us - the Producer said we love your story and think you'd be a great fit. They flew us out to LA in July of 2013 - one year after we officially incorporated we were at the Sony lot filming for Shark Tank. We filmed thought it went well - didn't hear anything from eight months! Now we're starting to get nervous because the whole idea was to raise money but also the publicity of getting in front of 10 million households on a Friday night.
    • To make al ong story short, we got a call an producers gave us one week that the show was going to air. We were two years in business and not seeing any breakaway velocity. A few hundred orders a week, just grinding things out. Then our Shark Tank episode aired and it was an inflection point - we had sprinted to get a nation-wide system in place. We wanted to take advatnage of the nation-weid media. We saw 1000X increase in traffic to our website - even with all our planning, th esite still crashed. It was great. We saw more revenue th emonth following the airing than we had seen in the entire history of the business leading up to that point. That coverage and demand it generated validated that this is not just an idea that works ro in San Francisco - this appeals to folks all over the country in every zip code. That gave us the confidence to raise our first "real" money - our Series A, which was $15 million. It also validated that we could go then build TV advertising and investing to really grow the business faster. It wasn't until two years into the business that we had that validation
  • What advice do you have for someone on active duty who is thinking of starting a company when they get out?
    • It might be hypocritical advice, but it's a really hard transition, going from the military straight into a startup lifestyle. Goign from having a persribed routine of what to wear and eat and then having complete and total freedom over everythign you do. It can be completely overwhelming. The advice I would give is - if at all possible, go try and work at a startup (fi you want to be an entrepreneur) at another startup for 3 months, 6 months, a year. See how startups succeed or fail and try to learn on someone else's dollar before hussling on your own. There's no susbtitute for doing it yourself, but there's SO much to learn and it is so incredibly hard that you want to give yourself as many advantages as possible. If you can find a team taht will give you a shot - that you can learn how young businesses operate, what financials look like, what building out a team means, what hiring and firing means in the private sector, getting those skills and expereinces - it'll be invaluable when you go out on your own
  • What resources have been helpful to you - books, podcasts, classes, etc - that you would recommend to other veterans thinking of starting a company?
    • There's a great book by Ben Horowitz at Andreesen Horowitz - the hard Thing About Hard Things. Before becoming a VC, he was an entrepreneur and started a few businesses. He talks through his experience and takeaways for aspiring entreprenerus.
    • A resource I go back ot again is entrepreneur.com - you have to sift through some of the news, but there are a lot of great articles about building a business. raising money, hiring, firing, building out a sales team, operatinos, different contracts and negotiations. Entrepreneur.com is free and a great resource
  • Final words of wisdom?
    • Whether you go or build a business on your own or join a team that is already operating, there is such a hunger out there for veterans. Especially post 9/11 veterans. Everyone is looking to hire vets both for waht they can bring to the table and it's also a great story to tell to everyone. There can be challenges in translating what it means to how you can help build or run a busines,s but don't give up if at first it's a challenge
Aug 9, 2017

"Wouldn't it be great if our country didn't have to care about Iraq's oil, or the Middle East's oil? Maybe we should start an energy related business - ok let's go figure that out. That was roughly the thought process that gave us the left and right limits of starting an energy business. That started a process where we just endlessly turned over rock, after rock, after rock trying to find something, while absolutely not knowing what we were doing. Then we eventually stumbled across something where people would pay us money for it. So we just said let's do more of this thing and do it in as many spots as possible.  "
- Chris Boggiano

Jon Boggiano and Chris Boggiano are the Co-Founders of Versame, which leverages technology for large scale impact to improve early childhood education and language development. Versame has raised $2.5M in funding and is a team of sixteen.

Jon started out at West Point, after which he served for five years in the Army, most recently as an Operations Officer & Battle Captain, 1st Infantry Division. After his transition from the Army he worked at Carrier Corporation for three years, before starting his first company, Everblue. Jon is a Sloan fellow from Stanford University.

Chris started out at West Point, after which he served in the Army for five years, most recently as Operations Officer, 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command. He worked at Tessera for one year prior to starting his first company, Everblue. Chris is also a Sloan fellow from Stanford University.

I came across Jon and Chris in a 2016 Forbes Article about the Top 25 Veteran Founded Startups in America.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

Show Notes

Please note that I type these notes during the interview so there are likely to be misspellings, grammatical errors, and misquotes. This is not meant to be a verbatim account of our conversation, but a VERY basic text transcript of our discussion.

  • You each separated about two years apart from the Army - what lead  you each to decide to transition from the Army?
    • Jon: Older than Chris, so transitioned first. Was fortunate that he started just before 2011. Got to experience Army before and after transition. Post-9/11 Army was much more innovative. It shook off the beauracratic shackles. I was stationed in Germany for over five years; it was great but intense. Between training and deployments was gone for most of that five years. As I started thinking about having kids, the future looked like back-to-back deployments with training in between. At that point decided I as going to get out - if I was going to do it, I wanted to have a plan and attacked getting out spending 1.5 - 2 years getting out. Still in the Reserves, but mainly got out for the op tempo
    • Chris: Combination of op tempo. 9/11 happened my senior year so I graduated into an Army at war. I was deployed back-to-back - same decisions of not knowing if and when it would end. Uncertainty was a big factor. For better or worse what was most interesting assignments was early on in career was fortunate to do a lot of interesting things. The nature of the beuaracacy was part of it too - the Army functions amazingly, even in the best of times, it's limited in its ability to innovate.
    • Jon: One thing i was looking for was a better meritocracy. Early on in the Army everyone got promoted at the same time and the same assignments. There were small differences, but for the most part there wasn't differentiation between good and bad officers.
  • What was your first job search like, and what advice would you have for veterans about their transition?
    • Chris: it's impossible to know what it's like on the other side until you get there. The thing I didn't expect was that in the Army there was this binary expectation: career or getting out. When I left the Army the company I went to thought I'd be there for a very long time (decade long). One year later I was leaving to start my own company. Going out with the expetation of doing the best you can and if you move on that's ok. I had a lot of guilt when I left that first company. For better or worse it wasn't the right fit and taught me what I don't enjoy and lead to Jon and I starting our own company together. In the long-0term it worked out but in the short-term there was a lot of stress.
    • Jon: For me a lot of my preparation was reading books, and going through the Cameron Brooks program. Talked to 25 people who made the transition ahead of me and gegtting their advice. SOme of that advice was to make a list of personal goals and values, and dust that off around tax season. Make sure I'm following that and staying true to it. I didn't just want a job - I loved the work hard play hard mentality of hte Army. I didn't just want a job I wanted great people.
  • How did you two start to work together?
    • Chris: OUr dad was a cop and mom was in education so entrepreneruship wasn't in our head. We hadn't thought a lot about it. We had worked together throughout school at West Point and would work together. We were in the same Brigade and deployed twice together in the same unit - we were workign together pretty closely in the military. I moved to Charlotte, NC because Jon was located here. We had worked together in the past, and when we took the plunge to startups it was a natural transition to work together in that capacity. The startup piece was the bigger of the two.
    • Jon: when Chris moved to Charlotte, our dad was always doing business things on the side. He was always a community activist, so we didn't start out wanting to be entrpereneurs but just looking at small scale business ideas. Two events stand out. I got out and enjoyed my job and we made a concious decision to become entreprenerus. Chris, day one, came back and said 'this is not what I want to be doing' If his experience had been different may not have started a company together. That started the idea of the week phase.
    • I had done really well at Carrier doing sales, and my boss left to go to another company. Ultimately led to the decision - are we going to be entrepreneurs.
  • Was your work experience prior to startups helpful?
    • Jon: For me it was, at Carrier. You just gotta get one thing to work in one area and you can scale it. Understanding finances, which I never dealt with in the Army. It's not you can't learn these things, but having had the big corproate expereince made it clear I didn't want to do this, and gave me some training that helped in my startup. It made my decision all the clearer - I can't imagine going back to cubicle now. Not having had had that it would have made that option seem more appealing
    • Chris: The transition I did in short order, but I did make a transition from the Army to civilian world, and then to startups. I'm glad they were staggered. As much as the company I went to knew i wouldn't last there, do think it was hlepful. It gave me time to build an identity and make the transition. It allowed me to separate the two parts of who I was, and then in an intentional manner make the leap to an entrepreneur. It would be more painful and risker for me to jump from one into the other.
    • Jon: We joke about this all the time with recent veterans; my wife calls it "command voice". You have to stop using acronyms, stop cursing, understanding business acronyms. I read a slew of books and that helped with the transition but it takes time to desensitize and be able to relate to civilians. you need to plan for a transition period. There's teh identity piece of not having the team. It took a few years to form a community. In Europe on the miltiary base we all did everything together. We had a forced commiunity in the military. In the civilian world you may have nothing in common with your neighboars.
  • How did you choose to start a company?
    • Chris: for me it was a process of elimination. I looked at 'what am I going to do in my life' most of my peers went to grad school, work at a big corporation, or work for other federal agencies. these were the three main routes - I didn't think I wanted to do any of those. I didn't want to go abck in the Army. I can't tell whether I changed or the world changed - I didn't know ANY startup language when I started this. I didn't know about VC, revenue, etc. So it was a process of elimination, getting out mypersonality I had a more of a chip on my shoulder and more committed to going after it. The biggest thing the military helped me with was that working for something I cared about - 'we're in Iraq... I wish we weren't here. We probably wouldn't care if there weren't oil. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to rely on energy. Let's start an energy company' That was roughly the point of starting our first company, and then endleslly turned over rock, after rock after rock. It's hard to overstate how little we knew but being motivated to figure problems out as they came to use.
    • Jon: My advice for anyone transitiong is to be deliberate. The people in the military are usually drivers - so be deliberate. The business world for me was still very restrictive. I wanted to control my own destiny. I wanted to choose when I take vacation, that's why I left the mlitary. I like building things and making things - I like creating things. I wanted to have more ownership about it. I also wanted a bigger purpose. All of our companies have been social mission companies - wanting to make the world a better place. We were sitting down on a Thursday evening - are we going to do the startup thing.
  • What was the Everblue experience?
    • Jon: we ended up selling it after about four years. We chose a problem we wanted to focus on and then from there we did a "movement to contact" - develop the intelligence around the enemy. We talked to every expert we could, and in that process became knoweldable experts. That took about two years. IN that process became experts. People said 'if you could solve this porblem, we'd pay you' but without those two years of turning over rocks... we wouldn't have foudn it. I don't think it's about the idea - it's about the idea you're solving. If it was obvious the problem you're trying to solve it would already.
  • How did you make money?
    • Jon: We did a lot of the research while at other companies. Chris gets the credit - he jumped off his job and started full time. Anyone in the military if I said in the next year you need to replace your salary, I think anyone in the military can do that. I give Chris credit for tdoing that because he did it first.
    • Chris: For me it was really scary to think about taking that leap. the exercise that was most helpful to me. I got out of the Army and bought a house and the mortgage rates were higher then than now. My wife had a lot of student loan debt - financially even being in the corporate sector I had so many expenses - gym membership, laundry, etc. There's this fear of - what can I do if I don't pay the bills. What liberated me was: what happens if I don't pay the bills. It was just my wife and I at the time. She had just graduated from grad school. The day I quit, she was working at B&N for $8 / hr, so household income was $20k per year. We had all these bills, and I thought what happens if we burn through savings and the bank takes my house... we'd move in with our parents and go get a job again and figure it out. We have a family and support network to get through it. It wouldn't be pleasant, but compared to things I saw in the Army, it's not that scary. We thought we'd do energy audits on homes when we started out. We had lined up thousands of homes of work. Along the way we got training on this. Jon threw up on Google Adwords a one page website that offered training. People started to call to ask for training - then we shifted to a training business that over the next year or two we grew to 100 or so locations.
    • Jon: The biggest risk in a startup is trying to do too many things.
  • Stanford Sloan
    • Chris: I didn't want to go to graduate school. Jon nagged me and we applied together. I had a ten day window to get my application together and we applied together. It was the most flippant application ever. I was pretty truthful about why I considered this. When we interviewed they asked what happens if we only accept one of you. I said, both or neither of us. I'm very glad we went there - that's where Versame came from. Jon is potentially more thoughtful than me and it balances out my riskiness
    • Jon: Even though we had an epic success we were intent on starting another company. We still felt like amatuers. We had never had any formal business training. So I wanted to address our weaknesses. Second, we had just made a lot of money and Stanford was an adventure. It was the reward for having had the success of Everblue. It was a nice break a one year program. It was the experience of doing something different. I had moved seven times in three years. I was feeling th eitch to do something new.
  • What was the genesis of Versame?
    • Jon: When we had Everblue, we straddled education and energy. When we sold Everblue we had expertise in two domains. When we went to Stanford we decided to go deeper into one of them. Energy was making a lot of progress. It was really taking off and it still is. It's a national security issue. When it came to educaiton we struggeld with the technoloyg and the people we were training. It felt like the impact we coul dhave on people was much greater. If it was an innovation that involved technolgy - we turned over every rock. We were about to walk away - it's an in person business. There was nothing moving the needle at the time. Then Chris read an article in the NYT about an infant training lab at Stanford. She was so excited someone was taking an interest in her work - ifyou really need to impact life outcomes you need to start at birth and do it before kindergarten
  • How would you explain Versame to someone on Active Duty?
    • Jon: We're envisioning reimagingin education. not education at a classroom but at home. We're giving parents the tools and helping them apply the research to grow happy succesful children. We'll help you do that through the technology and tools to do that. But you need to start at birth.
  • What was the first year like starting Versame?
  • What has been the biggest challenge so far?
    • Jon: Biggest change in perspective is that the people in need of help is the agencies in the medical industry. The tools we build help teachers, nurses, therapists - the people who are caregivers. We're trying to change a mindset - most poeple are worried about safety but not about brain development. They don't think about education until kindergarten or preschoool. There are some subculttures that believe this, but we want the mindset change across America.
    • Chris: your memory of childhood is spotty. Many people think you're as smart as you are and you were born that way. YOu don't remember your parents teaching you and hleping you. People attribute intelligence to genetics rather than environmental factors. Research suggests parents can have a MASSIVE impact on their child's success in life.
  • Starting a business with family
    • Chris: research says that more likely you'll fail; it's harder to have tough conversations with family members. Little problems become big ones. The most improtant thing is that you should have a business partner - it's more fun. You should be able to have a good fight and get over it. We fight all the time but it never sticks. There's not a grudge - we can have our disagreements and it's not a big deal. If I wasn't in business with my brother this is the qulaity I would want with someone else.
    • Jon: I would add that whether siblings or others, the most important ingredient is the partners and the suppor tnetwork. I think it's essential to have partners - your energy level and momentum it helps carry you. If all the stress is on one person's shoulders
    • Chris: a lot of ivnerstors won't invest in solo founders. IF yo uhave someone else to pull you through you're more likely to stick it out. From a statistiacal stnadpoint most buisnesses are successful with two or three partners. It's more fun when you have more people to be together.
    • Jon: Defense Secretary Mattis says leaders need to be learners. I think this is true no matter what you're doing. We knew nothign about hardware but we attacked that. We've done well with that - we're the ifrst to ship a product in our Stanford cohort, you have to attack what you don't know. Yo8 uneed to ask for help and advie. That's tough for veterans. I've gotten over that - you gotta ask for help, and people are more than happy to share it.
  • Resources
    • GOOGLE!
    • Jon: it's the best form of online learning. Career advice books are great. If you're a big believer in the mission of the miltiary you'll learn how improtant business is to the strength of our nation. Our economy and the businesses we build enable us to pay for a good military. Business is part of the life time of service. Read books that frame business in the sense of innovation. I'm loving Elon Musk's biography.
    • Jon: I always ahd this mindset with EverBlue that everything will be better in three months. But I've always felt on the cliff's edge... I've learned to live with this fact and realize this is normal. that fear of failure never goes away. Just accept it. Dealing with a team, there's always some personal issue. I thought if I solved one issue my team would be perfect. I know realize this is the core of my job- keeping my team performing. These are two norms taht never chagne. You'll never feel successful, you'll always have the same stress
Aug 2, 2017

"There was a point in time that we had $719 left in the bank. There were late night discussions sitting around the table and talking about what we're going to do; how we're going to inform people that they don't have jobs. How we're going to inform our larger investors that we ran out of money and we're not going to make it. And we turned that around in the middle of the night with one particular investor who became of strategic importance and that was in the same year that we were acquired."
- John Gossart

John Gossart is the Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer of GoodWorld (www.GoodWorld.me), the FinTech startup revolutionizing philanthropy and social payments.  GoodWorld was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2016 and D.C.’s Best Technology Startup. Prior to GoodWorld, John was an original partner at RideScout (www.RideScout.com), the tech startup acquired by Daimler-Mercedes in 2014.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, John served over 22 years in the U.S. Army and Government, work that took him to various locations across Africa, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and Europe, most recently serving as a deputy director of special operations and counterterrorism policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

He graduated from Boston College and has a Masters in Public Policy and Fiscal Management from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, where continues to teach policy and economics as an adjunct professor.

John’s indie rock band StoneDriver (www.stonedriver.com) recently released their first studio album "Rocks" and in between GoodWorld, teaching, and shows he lives a quiet life in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia with his wife, Lisa, and their four sons.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • The article where I found John in Forbes can be viewed here - https://www.forbes.com/sites/marklrockefeller/2016/11/11/the-top-25-veteran-startups-in-america/#5120ea756e84, The Top 25 Veteran-Founded Startups In America

Show Notes

Please note that I type these notes during the interview so there are likely to be misspellings, grammatical errors, and misquotes. This is not meant to be a verbatim account of our conversation, but a VERY basic text transcript of our discussion.

  • How to explain Good World
    • Trying to solve the problem of friction-less payment experience. In the charitble giving spac eright now. Allow make people to make donation to causes with just a hashtag or tweet. They have 3k charity partners - save the children, PETA, green peace, salvation army, etc - when they post o nsocial media if you tweet back with # donate, his technology kicks in, processes that donation through a CC transaction and adds it to the charity. You get a response on social networks
    • Working with charity right now but talking to companies about how this might apply in other locations - donations to colleges, commerce, political donations
  • After 22 years of service in the Army, what was your first civilian job search like?
    • Not help on inspiration or advice - it was happenstence
    • Was in Yemen with three people he tuaght with at West Point - they reached out because they had an idea for a transportation technology startup and were looking for a guy to help with revenue and finance
    • They reached out and he was in a military mindset - he didn't even answer the first time they reached out. He didnt' know about apps or startups. Ignored it, a few months later when he was in Pakistan, after they launched at SXSW he was in a different spot - hadn't been home much in the last ten years, his sons were in high school and college - he was looking for a change.
    • He made a hasty decision and decided to join. He was really tired too from the military. Took steps to get out, thought he'd work with them for 6 months and wouldhave time to figure out what he wanted to do next
    • Two things happened ^6:30
    • (1) The adrenaline rush he liked in th emilitary abounds in the startup world
    • (2) They didn't fail - two years later they were acquired. both financially and personally and professionally it was a life changing experience.
  • luck is a residue of skill
  • What skills did you carry from the military and have to develop in your first startup?
    • There were certainly attributes and skills and perspective that you pick up in mltairy service that are unique to military service and are helpful in the buisness world or specificially the tech startup
    • There are more things that yuo need to leave behind
    • They maybe served you well in the military, but they won't serve you well outside
    • At the beginning, a co-founder would come to his dining room table at 6:30am (their office) and they would open up their personal laptops and start trying to figure out what to do
    • The idea they had was huge and inspiring... but what they were supposed to do, he had no idea and felt in above his head
    • As they started working the business development side of things he was frustrated that he didn't get a response in 24 hours. But the world odesn't work like this - you'll get a response 3 weeks later as if they still got it. THe heirarchy and protocal that are second nature in the military you need ot leave behind - they odn't work well in flat, dynamic, tech startups. Working with engineers is unique and takes skill as a leader to collaborate with them
    • Respect - everyone on the other side of the table. Always giving them the benefit of the doubt. Checklist mentality - people make fun of him, but its VERY helpful to them as a company. These are the things we need to get done before we go live with this new feautre or this new product line.
    • Preparation - the premium placed on preparation in the military before executing.
  • What was RideScout journey like?
    • Their CEO was always consistent on this is going to be a incredible company
    • The four co-founders were all coming from differnet skill sets
    • Joseph (CEO) was th evision guy and the evangelist - always larger than life - on stage and in the elevator
    • John was rolling up sleeves and trying to figure out how to create sustainable revenue
    • John had his down a lot and could have head up more. Jospeh always had his head up and he had to fight to get him to look at the details
    • It happened very quikcly - talking to some entities about raising a few million dollars from firends, family and angels Trying to raise an institutional insittuion, when Dymler came in we thought they were goign to lead our Series A financing. Instead they were looking to acquire them from the start.
    • At this point had 15-16 people (some part time) when they started talking about an acquisition
    • Then went to 50+ employees after acquisition
  • What was the origin story for GoodWorld?
    • They launched RideScout out of incubator called 1776 in DC. In the course of launching the company there and working there and growing their team, he came to know other entrepeneurs in the building
    • one was Dale - his co-founder. It was her idea and she's the FOunder & CEO
    • She had a great idea, an intern, and a laptop, and an engineer collaborator
    • She didn't have any corporate sturcutre. He was advising her on how to take it to the next step. He is the COO and CFO hats
    • The more he came to know Dale, the more he learned about the idea and he thought about the possibilities in this space. It was cool to go to market in philanthropy. Jesuit educated and he always though philahthpoy would be what he'd have to do on the side, but this was the opportunity for his day job to help causes he cared about
    • he found himself thinking about this at night and coming up with ideas with Dale as they were being acquired
    • By the time they were acquired in 2014 he was neck deep in teh acuisition. Then they had a HUGE budget and needed to get going with it. In the course of this he helped her raise the firstbit of money and the light went off. They raised $500k in days. It struck me that people this really resonated
    • 19:00 raised $500k in days
    • Ended up raising $1.6M in their first seed round with instituational finace people as leads
    • While this was unfolding ti became clear - if I'm going to do this I need to committ to it. How could I make the transition without leaving too much money on the table at RideScout.
    • he negotiated a deal to phase himself out and still retain big parts of his equity
    • I was making a lot of money at Dymler - but I would have been a subpar executive and subpar co-founder
    • The idea was too big to pass up -wasn't financially smart in the short term but my passion was with GoodWorld
  • Co-Founders
    • joseph came up with idea, Craig was already out and put in some money. He was a second time entreperneur, and had already started a company that had exited. Joseph had the big idea while on active duty, Steve was just getting out of the military (22 years) and he was the last one to join the core team - during the transition he was workign with them. Everyone was a veteran, but they were in different points of serve
    • If you're starting your own thing, there are two things that are easy to give and hard to take away: titles and equity
    • if you're going to make someone the co-founder
    • When you incoporate, one-time you can give founder shares by the IRS. these are the best shares to have and yuo can only do this once. You shouldn't enter into calling someone co-founder or anythign with a c (CEO, CFO, COO, etc) - if you lack business and instituional expertise you can bring them in and if they don't stay it doesn't vest and then you don't get stuck with themif they don't stay with the company
    • Sometimes people want to find an engineer to make CTO and co-founder. Maybe you need ot just find an engineer - try them out and you can make them CTO later on, but don't jump into it
  • What advice do you have for veterans aspiring to entrepreneurship?
    • Don't believe your own press - this is more true for transitioning veterans today than ever before.
    • My accomplishments look good on paper - there are MANY people around me  who he considers WAY more accomplished than him.
    • 28:23
    • For veterans transitioning now we are in such a divise point in political scene. The narrative that both side want to cling to - which is popular with people - is this big narrative of how much we owe to vetarans for servie. I don't disagree with this - I'm very grateful to everyone in uniform who is protecting me and my way of life and allows me to do what I do. I'm very thankful for this.
    • Btu this has become conflated with another narrative -t hat veterans are OWED other things. Financial fudning for thier startup - what if it's not a good idea? What if they're not a good entreprenuer? Just because he's a veteran doesn't mean you should invest in their company
    • I worry we're building our soldiers iwth a sense of entitelement that there is an expectation that when they step out in the civilian word they are owed soemething
    • For me I'd argue I got more out the Army than they got out of me. We were 100% square when we got out of the miltiary. They gave me the best leadership experience possible in incredily high intensity sitautions. I have not one complaint about the ledget between me and the Army. And I'm still getting paid a pension and some disablity
    • To walk out and think I'm entitled to somethign because I'm a veteran
    • I don't want to be entiteld to funding because I'm a veteran, but because it's a good idea, and people think I can do this
    • If it comes down to me and the guy next to me there may be attribtues that are particualr to beeing a veteran that give me an edge
    • Today I start the converstion that I'm an entrepreneur - not tha tI'm a veteran. Oh by the way I'm a veteran
    • I get the sense that there are a lot of people who think everyone is a hero and is entitled to something
    • I've been out for a while and I do see people who are treading water
    • The best way to get a step up is the fundamentals - if yo have a real solution to a real problem and a good team and product - cahnce are you'll be succesful. Veteran piece may help you at the margins. But without the fundamentals it doesn't matter
    • 34:43 - 35:16
    • there was a period when we had $740 left in the bank - how would we tell people they don't have a job. how do we tell investors - we turned it around in the middle of the night with one investor.
    • you need ot be prepared for this - it might not work it. The market is VERY efficient - you need to listen to it. It's not just about starting new things - when you get out of the military and work for a normal company and you turn to your boss and say I've got a dentist appointment today - they say, that's not my problem you need ot be at work. We learned in the military you gotta let me go ebcause I've got a dentist's appointment.
    • As a veteran - you were given a lot of what you were owed - thanks of grateful nation competitive paycheck etc. it comes down to fundamentals - if you
  • How would you describe your role as COO & CFO?
    • One of the reasons he got the bug when he started in startups is because it reminded me a lot of my scrappy days as chief of staff at brigade or exeuctive officer or operations officer. YOu never had the same day twice. I like taht. you're moving from crisis to crisis or executing quickly with little resources, problem sovling, etc. I loved this in the miltiary and I ahd some jobs in the miltiayr that were'nt high paced and i quickly sought the next thing because it wasn't fulfilling. The COO role in a startup is you never know what the day is going to bring. There are a lot of things in the day you didn't know yhou were goin gto have to face when the day started
    • you'll hvae to call people in and fire them and search for people to hire - you're looking to model out their expenses and burn to see to the day when they'll run out of money. i want this date burned into th eminds of everyoen in teh organiztaion. The way we change this is bygetting more money or more partnerships or more funding
    • I don't have a normal day - i go to NY and SF asking epople for money, negotiating with strategic partners I want to brin gon. I look half my time looking inward and making sure trains are going to run on time.
  • What resources have you found helpful that you would recommend to other veterans?
    • I don't have a great answer
    • I was never good at reading the seminal biography of military leaders
    • The pro dev reading list that followed me around in my career that everyone was reading... I was not drawn to those things
    • When I got out there are always startup books that are hot that everyone is reading
    • Reading is critical - you shouldn't take a meeting without learning everything you can about the person across the table
  • Final words of wisdom?
    • When we were acquired I felt very conflicted and wanted to hang out. You need to commit to what you're doing. I see a lot of people who fancy themselves vetraprenerus. They don't want to take their hand off their paycheck or that comfortable thing. There is an opportunity ocst for 8 hours a day doin gsomethign else. It'll make you less likely to succeed in something else
    • If everyone could start something huge on the side and not leave your day job until it was huge, everyone would do it
    • If where you want to be is starting something new, you need to committ to that. There should be risk, there shoul dbe people who think yo're crazy, and you should be a little anxious and a little scared
Jul 26, 2017

"To find meaning in what you do - that can be in anything. That could be in what you do for a living, or running a podcast to help veterans, that can be volunteering somewhere. For me, for so long in the Army that was my identity and who I was. And once I was out of that, I didn't know who I was anymore. To do what you love and do what you believe in, as a living is a great gift."
- Garrett Cathcart

Garrett Cathcart is the Southeast Regional Director at Team Red, White & Blue - an organization that enriches the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activities. He is also the Chief Community Engagement Officer at VETLANTA. He started out at West Point, after which he served in the Army for 8.5 years, with two years in Baghdad as a Recon Scout Platoon Leader and then as an Aide-de-Camp to Commanding General. After his transition from the Army he worked at NuVasive as an Associate Spine Representative before joining team RWB.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • Podcasts & Websites
    • 80,000 hours - it was started by an Oxford philosophy professor who lives on $35,000 per year. 80k hours is about how many hours you work in your lifetime. It's about what you should do for a living and what will make you happy
    • NPR - How I Built this podcast
    • Tim Ferris podcast
  • Books
    • Colin Powell - it worked for me

Show Notes

  • What would you want listeners to know about Team RWB?
    • We enriches the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activities.
    • They work in 43 cities, and 213 nationally. In any given week there are local events. Anyone can participate - yoga, crossfit, ruck, hike, pub trivia, bowling, etc.
    • When people get out of the military they miss hanging out with good people; they miss that camaraderie. They want to build authentic and genuine relationships
    • Leadership development program and community service projects
    • Veterans are leaders - get out there and lead and the community is better for it
  • Leadership Development Program
    • One of the best leadership development directors in the world
    • They are building their own content - some form the military and some outside of the military
    • 125,000 members and all are volunteers
    • The way they reward people is by developing them as a leader
    • Giving people the tools to make RWB better and their community better
    • Nike donates shirts, and each Team RWB member gets them - it's a great sign up community
    • Building the airplane while they're flying it - some of the content is created, some is not yet
    • It will be at EagleLeader.com
    • Sign up at TeamRWB and you'll get access
    • Will send to seminars as well
    • This is open-soured leadership - wanting to serve veterans, enrich their lives, and make communities better
  • What’s the origin story on Team RWB?
    • Mike Erwin was an Active Duty Army Major in 2012. He saw a need and wanted to help wounded veterans. There were initially athletes and advocates.
    • Ran the Twin Cities marathon and started running money as a non-profit
    • As they grew they noticed that EVERYONE was signing up to be a mentor and advocate. Very few people wanted to be an athlete. Everyone wanted to serve and give back
    • So they reevaluated their model - what if we had a model where civilians could be part as well, and help close the civilian divide and no one is a helper or someone who needs the team... everyone is on the same page
    • There's a sea of red shirts with the eagle on it at events now
    • Started growing into different cities
  • Based on your work with Team RWB, what would you want listeners to know about their transition to a civilian life?
    • You will miss the military; you tend to remember the great things and forget the bad stuff
    • 11:00
    • It's important to have a network when you leave - you're going to need people who have understood what youv'e done an where you've been
    • It helps you get your legs underneath you
    • There's a lot of ways to serve once you get out
  • How to get involved
    • It costs nothing - just your time
    • They have great partners in the corporate side to make sure this is free for everyone
    • Activities range from anything and everything, just getting people together
    • Go to TeamRwb.com and click on Join the team
  • How would you describe your role at Team RWB to someone on Active Duty?
    • He's in command - everythign that happens in a region good or bad is on me
    • A lot of folks make it happen, I adminster the budget, oversee the leadership and devel;pment program, speak on panels, engage with corproate sponsors and VA
    • The VA sends a lot of folks to them because TEam RWB is consistent - find other people who understand yuo
    • Relationship building - a little bit of a budget
    • They're a 5 year old startup that is 120k people
    • The Volunteer leaders really run everything - they recognize them and help develop them and support
  • How did you make the decisions to leave the Army?
    • Always thought would be 5 years and out
    • Almost resigned from West Point to enlist after 9/11
    • Joined insurgency at its height and itwas a tough year - lost four of his guys and his commander, as well as his best friend from West Point
    • Non-stop trainign at home and then back at Baghdad
    • Took over advisign the infantry batallion and he really enjoyed the operations side
    • At the end was going to get out and join the State Department, mainly becuase he was tired from the op tempo. Turned in his resignation paperwork and 3 months later called into his commander's office. He convinced him to stay in and mentored him. Gave him control of ALpha Troop, and move to Fort Collins in Colorado Springs time, and told him he'd be the first mechanized group to command in Afghanistan.
    • He took the post and went back to Afghanistan
    • Finally decided he needed to build a family and turned in his resignation letter again
    • There was a new 2-star and he was put up to be an aide
    • He couldn't find a clean uniform top, and could only find a small one (which he doesn't wear) - it was skin tight like a wetsuit
    • The General said, do you work out?
    • They had a lot in common and he said he didn't want the job
    • The General called him and told him he had the job
    • Learned more in one year about Leadership from General Joe Anderson - he was an amazing leader and Garrett still applies lessons he learned from that one year
  • What was your first job search like and what lead you to NuVasive?
    • Met a gal in Beverly Hills
    • Didn't care what he was doing as long as he was making money
    • Contacted a JMO recruitig firm - first two hung up since he had bummed around for a few months post-transition
    • Third JMO recruiting firm said he should do medical devices
    • He knew nothing about sales or medicine, but he was done for it
    • They flew him to Memphis - went to some concerts, slept a few hours and went to interviews
    • Went down to the lobby and everyone was way more prepared than him - copies of their resumes, black binders, pressed suits
    • He quickly printed out his resume
    • He had 5 separate one hour interviews
    • his first one was the person he asked to print out his resume!
    • He gave him 0 points for preparation and 100 points for innovation
    • he had lots of stories to share
    • he got an offer and the an 2nd offer, and one was in LA so he took it
  • What was your role at NuVasive like?
    • He was in operating rooms with surgeons, and he was so uncomfortable
    • He had no clue what he was doing
    • He was with the top surgeon at the hospital and he asked Garrett's opinion... he didn't even understand the words the doctor was saying
    • He took doctors to dinner told about products and got their business
    • he didn't like it - lacked a sense of purpose
  • What lead you to Team RWB?
    • The girl and State Department job didn't work out and he didn't have a plan
    • Out of the blue a friend from Afghanistan called him (Joe Quinn) - he had gone to Harvard after the Army
    • They hit things off - hadn't talked in two or three years adn he pitched him on working at a non-profit
    • Didn't want to do this because thought he would be poor
    • He went to the website and checked it out and went to an event
    • Didn't want anything to do with other veterans at the time
    • He got there and experienced it and was working out and felt a tension lifted
    • Without realizing it saw what he was missing
    • Two years have been incredible for me
  • Advice for non-profits
    • He had a short stint in the corporate side
    • Find meaning in what you do
    • 10:17 - could be what you do in your job, volunteering... anything
    • For so long in the Army this was his identity - a Cavalary officer who had been to Iraq and Afghanistan. Afterwards he didn't know what to do
    • To love what you do is a great gift (30:52). It's different every day and Im still passionate about it
    • You can make a good living and learn a lot
  • Any resources - books, podcasts, articles, etc - you’d recommend to veteran listeners to help them in their civilian career?
    • 80,000 hours - it was started by an Oxford philosophy professor who lives on $35,000 per year. 80k hours is about how many hours you work in your lifetime. It's about what you should do for a living and what will make you happy
    • At a certain point - the more money you make it doesn't make you happy... maybe $50k or $75k.
    • There are great books and podcasts here and resources to see what you want to do
    • NPR - How I Built this podcast
    • Tim Ferris podcast
    • Colin Powell - it worked for me
  • Final words of wisdom?
    • I don't have anything fogured out
    • I was lucky in finding a job I love
    • I have a twin brother who was in the Army and got out
    • He got to go to Harvard & Dartmouth and is now a big consultant
    • Someitmes I get jealous of the paycheck
    • He tells me I have the greatest job in the world
    • I make my won schedule, have a big impact
    • Enjoy where you are - don't always be thinking ahead and what the next step is
Jul 19, 2017

"I told my wife: we're going to do this when we get out of the military. That was a tough pill for her to swallow. And you can't really blame her. If you ever tell your wife that you're going to get out of the service and sell bottle openers, she might think that you've been around too many explosions and she might think that you're crazy."
- Elijah Crane

Elijah Crane (Eli) is the Founder and CEO of Bottle Breacher, a company that creates hand crafted 50 caliber bottle openers made by Military Veterans. As President of Bottle Breacher, Eli has grown Bottle Breacher’s annual revenue to over $5 million in 2015, applied for and received 7 patents, and Negotiated a partnership with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank. Eli started out in the Navy, where he served as a SEAL for over 15 years. He started Bottle Breacher while on active duty and has run the company for nearly five years now.

The top 2 reasons to listen to this episode is:

  1. Starting a company while on active duty: Eli was making over $22k per month while still on active duty, and had plenty of traction by the time he transitioned to his civilian career
  2. Growth of an empire: He talks about how he grew from $350 / month to over $1 million a year... all before even appearing on ABC's show, Shark Tank
  3. Shark Tank: Eli shares what his experience was getting to Shark Tank, and how he scored a deal with Mark Cuban & Kevin O'Leary
  4. Persistence & Scrappiness: Eli talks about how he earned a PhD in failure starting his own company

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • Check out Eli on ABC's Shark Tank here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHTlFtRtkG8
  • Books
    • Rich Dad Poor Dad
    • Mark Cuban's book

Show Notes

  • 2:44 - Eli's background
  • 4:00 How did you make the decision to leave the Navy?
  • 4:45 - Did you work at the Acumen Performance Group while on Active duty? What did you learn there?
  • 5:45 - What was the genesis of Bottle Breacher?
  • 7:30 - What tipped you over to thinking of doing this full time
  • 12:25 - What was it like starting a company while on active duty, and what advice do you have for veterans looking to do the same?
  • 16:05 - What was the application process like for getting on Shark Tank and what advice do you have for other veterans looking to do this?
  • 29:30 - How have Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary helped the company so far?
  • 32:15 - What has been the most challenging aspect of running a company?
  • 36:18 - What skills have you had to develop since leaving the military and any advice for resources (books, courses, conferences, etc) that you would recommend to veterans?
  • 38:40 - What advice do you have for someone on active duty wanting to start their own company?
  • 41:41 - Final words of wisdom?
Jul 12, 2017

“You know sometimes - for example, even over this holiday weekend - people will ask if I had to work on a certain day. This is my life! This is what I do. It's always funny because what your life looks like is - for me - this is what I want to make my life's work. It's what I'm passionate about and what I enjoy doing."
- Alex Stone

Alex Stone is the Founder & CEO of Athletes of Valor, who’s mission is to help veterans transition from service to career by leveraging the power of collegiate sports. He started out as a Sergeant in the Marine Corps, after which he worked as a Product Manager at Wellpower Sports Co, and then at Under Armour as both a Development Manager and then Product Line Manager.

The top 2 reasons to listen to this episode is:

  1. Sports Industry: Alex worked his way up in the sports industry to work at his dream job at Under Armour. He talks about this route, and why it might appeal to other veterans
  2. Starting a company: Alex is doing his life's work and has built Athletes of Valour from the ground up. Any veteran interested in starting their own company would benefit from this
  3. Collegiate Athletics: This is a great route for veterans, and one that boosts their engagement and fulfillment at school. Alex's organization helps veterans get into collegiate sports and has a lot to say about this

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0817919341/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=transparentte-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0817919341&linkId=cff433522a1e724fcc9dcd7c91e4149c

Show Notes

Note: I've typed these notes during my interview, so they may not completely represent a verbatim version of our conversation, and likely contain spelling and grammar errors. My intention is to provide veterans with a quick reference to see the gist of our conversation, along with timestamps to hear the interviewees actual advice in their own words within the interview.

  • 2:44 - Alex's background
  • 3:20 - How would you describe Athletes of Valor?
    • Comes from his experience of being a high school athlete, and no clear path to be a collegaite athelte when leaving the miltary
    • Allows active duty service members to create a profile of themselves as a potential student athlete. coaches come in, evaluate the veteran applicants
    • Most veterans have a great athletic ability and they just connect the dots
    • Answers questions for coaches - PTSD, eligibility etc
  • 5:27 - What does the process look like
    • 100% free
    • Sign-up on website
    • Basic questions - separation date, atheltic background, educational background, military background
    • can upload old highligh films or any videos
    • Everything is housed online in one place
  • 6:30 - What to do to prepare now if on active duty
    • Never too early to start researching programs
    • If you think you have 2 years before separation, the deadlines come up quickly. May need to take an SAT, ACT program
    • Start gathering that info, but you can house it all online with them
    • The sooner you're online the sooner you can be found - can be picked up 18-24 months
  • 7:50 - What have you found in working with veterans over the last year?
    • There's a lot to this - it's a full time job and takes a lot of work and effort
    • Most people think they'll just put their name in and be done with it - it's your life and education, the magic opportunity won't just fall into your lap
    • 9:15 - magic opportunity
  • 9:08 - Success stories
    • 16 football players playing this fall
    • Over 1k athletes on their platform
    • They want to use team sports as a structure for integration back into the college life
    • Gives people a purpose of working towards a common goal; they're going to earn education, play sports and be more employable after college
    • The more work you put in the more likely you are to find a good opportunity
  • 13:30 - What lead you to leave the Marine Corps?
    • Enlisted right out of high school, served 4 years active duty
    • After second deployment overseas knew that he wanted to do something different
    • After 2.5 years of active duty knew he wanted to move on
  • 14:26 - What was your first job search like and how did you end up at Wellpower Sports?
    • It was really tough
    • He had just got back 4 months prior to his separation
    • It was challenging to get call backs after just sending resumes and applying to specific jobs
    • Trying to translate experience and get in front of the right people
    • His old high school football coach, who he had reached out to, worked with Wellpower Sports (overseas manufacturer for sports equipment) and he offered to introduce him
    • He started taking local courses at community college and started working as a paid intern
  • 16:35 - How would you describe your work at Wellpower Sports?
    • He did product line management and had deep exposure to the inner workings of a company
    • Projects from developing new types of equipment to laying out a product line for a new sports medicine line to present to a customer. Figure out pricing, product management, manufacturing, do research on what's in the market, what are current athletes doing and wearing, what are trends?
    • You use all these products over the years and then get the chance to influence it
  • 18:58 - What lead you to Under Armour?
    • He used to go there for business opportunities, since Wellpower Sports worked with UA.
    • When you walk in you really feel the culture on the campus - very smart people, very forward thinking on innovation on how to make athletes better through creating incredible products
    • It was always a great learning experience to see a massive brand and massive company rather than his sales office experience
    • He realized he wanted to be in this industry long-term
  • 20:20 - How would you describe the work that you did at UA?
    • The person he was meeting with at UA ended up becoming his boss. They were growing their sporting line and team and asked if he'd be interested in this
    • So he moved to Baltimore, Maryland.
    • Started in product develppment, managing everyting from protective equipment to gloves and workign on advanced projects on the side (new potential protective pieces of equipment)
    • After two yaers moved over to the product line manager. This was less travel, and more on the business model and building product lines, working with the sales teams, understanding the trends, managaing more of the business and licensing
    • In any manufacturing business you need to understand how decisions are made; how long things take. Spending trip after trip in Asia, seeing how to create a product with a particular margin and ahve multiple price points and understand what consumers are looking for
  • 23:09 - What advice do you have for veterans seeking to work at UA?
    • They are very veteran friendly; he worked with a lot of great vets there
    • It's Network, Network, Network
    • You can apply online and they're responsive. But get involved somehow in someway with the sports industry - with UA, or one of their partners
    • Build a network, get to know people; most positions are filled from referrals
    • It's a small industry and once people get to know who you are it's
  • 24;25 - What was the genesis of Athletes of Valor?
    • Built off personal expeirence transitioning
    • at UA it was a dream career at a dream company
    • It was difficult to leave
    • Worked with a lot of high schools and top recruits across the coutnry
    • He used to joke - why don't we do this on a military base? They could go play college football, college baseball after their service. It piqued a lot of interest
    • Spent about a year at night trying to see who had been successful in doing this, and how impactful it was in their transition
    • This started to put the pieces together in bridigng the gaps and talking to people who went to college sports after active duty - what were the pain points
    • Coaches wanted to find more people liek thsi, but a lot of the athletes thought they had gotten lucky. He htought there has got to be a better way. There are lots of platforms for high schoolers
    • If I coudl do it again i would do it longer - work at UA an work on lunch breaks
  • 29:53 - At what point did you decide to leave UA?
    • The timing perspective it was difficult to do both Under Armour and Athletes of Valor
    • his desire and want was to continuously build Athletes of Valor, not just at night but all the time. He fell in love with the mission
    • Life timing as well - had just gotten married, no kids yet, and knew he would have additional responsibilities soon
    • Secured a few investors who invested so they could build the software
  • 31:50 - What does life look like right now?
    • He jokes that on holidays - this is his life ,this is all he does. This is what he wants to make his lifes work and what he enjoys doing
    • He's not going to be doing 120 hours a week but this is what he does - gets up in the morning, late at night talking to coaches, it doesn't seem like work but engulfs his life around it
    • From a small team dynamic - fundraiinsg, sales, product development - it's constant. If it's not somethign your'e passionate about it'll be hard
    • He spends most days running all over the place -talking to coaches, team members, atheltes
    • Best thing he does is he just keeps going - as much as I can fit in one day, a little further today than tomorrow,
  • 34:16 - How do you get paid?
    • Annual partnership fees with schools they partner with
    • Also have corporate sponsors for events to make sure they can cover the costs
    • Building a career platform that will be ready at the end of the year - corproate partners who want to highlight internships and job opportunities (job board & third party recruiting) to fill specific roles for those who have played college sports and are veterans
  • 35;36 - What advice do you have for other veterans seeking to start their own organization?
    • it's going to be a lot harder than you think and take longer than you think
    • Be prepared because there are a lot of ups and downs
    • Goign to have good days and bad days - biggest thing you can do is keep going
    • Miltiary teaches you this - embrace the siuck and stay the course
    • you'll have a million people tell you what won't work - you're the only one who can really keep it all together and know what it will take to get yuor startup to the next level
    • Be preapred for tht - going to be discouraging - stay the course, keep working towards the goal
  • 37:15 - What resources - books, conferences, programs - have you found helpful that you would recommend to other veterans?
    • Whatever your industry is, you need to immerse yourself into that industry. Make sure you have all the answer to all the quesitons you'll ever get. If you don't have that answer need to find it so you have a good answer next time
    • In the sporting goods industry he didn't know about materials or the brands out there
    • Immersed himself - YouTube videos, how to make certain products, different types of screen printing
    • Next time in the meeting was able to speak to it intelligently
    • When he started Atheltes of Valor it was a space he hadn't been in and creating a new market
    • Books, articles, speaking with people around the sapce - need to immerse self in all aspects of it. You need ot be the subject matter expert in a field
  • 40:22 - Final words of wisdom?
    • There's a lot of transitional programs out there; lots geared toward veterans. Do your research. Reach out to a lot of them, ask quesitons and make sure they'll give you the right level of support
    • People reach out for job search, career training, resumes support, etc. The reality is nothign is more valuable than networking and doing thigns yourself. It won't fall into your lap; your job won't magically come to you. Make sure these are resources available to transition veterans. It's a lot of work and up to you and put the time in, get out of comfort zone. Use a certain tool - to find people who could make an introduction s
Jul 5, 2017

“If you don't have a narrow vision of what you want so that you can focus, if you're open to everything - which is the infamous line we get from most of the people we work with: 'I'll move anywhere and do anything' - they think that makes it easier to help them find a job, whereas it's actually the exact opposite. What we need is for you to narrow down and focus. Align with mentors, align with organizations like [Hire Heroes USA], and together we can overcome this structural divide between an all-volunteer force and society that less and less knows what the all-volunteer force goes through."
- Nathan Smith

Nathan Smith is the Chief Operating Officer at Hire Heroes USA - which provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members, veterans and military spouses each week, and over 16k veterans and spouses since 2007. He started out at the Virginia Military Institute, after which he served in the Marine Corps for seven years as an Infantry Officer. After his transition from the Marine Corps, he started at Hire Heroes USA as a Deputy Director, and was subsequently promoted to Executive Director and then most recently, Chief Operating Officer

The top 2 reasons to listen to this episode is:

  1. Great Resource for All Veterans: Hire Heroes USA is a free organization for veterans and their families. They pair you with a mentor and work with you until you find what you're looking for. He has great thoughts on using volunteering as a way to gain momentum and connection as you may your transition
  2. Operations & non-profits: both of these are great fields for veterans. Non-profits seem to provide the camaraderie, small community, and purpose-driven organization that appeals to veterans. Operation is also highly suited to most veterans. Nathan talks about his experience as Chief Operations Officer, as well as non-profits, and why veterans may love each of these.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

  • https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0817919341/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=transparentte-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0817919341&linkId=cff433522a1e724fcc9dcd7c91e4149c

Show Notes

Note: I've typed these notes during my interview, so they may not completely represent a verbatim version of our conversation, and likely contain spelling and grammar errors. My intention is to provide veterans with a quick reference to see the gist of our conversation, along with timestamps to hear the interviewees actual advice in their own words within the interview.

  • 3:20 - Nathan's bio
  • Hire Heroes
    • 4:26 - What would you want listeners to know about Hire Heroes USA?
      • This is a best in class organization in the country, working with transition veterans and families. There are bigger organizations but none better. They individually assign people who come to them to a transition specialist; they are with them until they have a great outcome - education, fulltime job, etc.
    • 5:28 - If someone listening is on active duty, how would they get involved with Hire Heroes?
      • 90% of what they do is virtual - it's the most cost efficient and effective way to help people. So they can help people in ANY geographic location. As a result, the main way that people come to the program is through their website. If you click on the Services tab and sign up online, you'll start in the queue to get involved with a transition process. There are also workshops throughout the US (50-60 per year) on or near military bases.
    • 6:54 - If someone listening is a few years out of active duty, how could they get involved?
      • Whether it's pre-separation or post-separation; looking to help other veterans or get advice, there's a LOT of resources - interview skills, resume help. They have over 600 volunteers as well who are mentors for their clients, so there is a way to get involved here.
    • 8:20 - What are some common challenges you see veterans face in their transition?
      • The #1 challenge across all services is a lack of knowledge. No active duty member has made the transition before so there's a lot of fear and anxiety about this. The military does a great job of teaching people to operate in a dangerous environment and trains them in a step-by-step way with accountability, professional development, and knowledgable workers alongside them. But this isn't the case in the civilian sector. So many veterans don't understand what is out there and how to tell their story on the outside.
    • 10:25 - What are some common misconceptions you see veterans have when they approach their transition?
      • Veterans are more heavily represented in the government than any demographic in the United States. Disable veterans are even more represented than other veterans in the government. Often this is because these organizations recruit from the military and it is a familiar path for veterans. But this might not be the best fit for each veteran.
      • A lot of veterans also go into contract jobs, and there's a lot of recruitment around this. There are great opportunities here. however, if you're going to be offered $100k+ to do security in Afghanistan, you need to consider why the pay is 3X higher than when you were in the military, often due to increased risk. Large $ doesn't always translate into great job opportunities.
      • Do you need to take a step down for income and responsibility when you leave? It depends. It's situationally dependent. There are many people who transition out and are far better off than when in the military. There are also an equal number who had to take a significant step back when they transitioned out. It depends on what your personal financial situation is- you may not be able to take that step back or step down. Or you may not have an earning opportunity that meets your financial requirements - you'll need to live lean and make the most of things in the meantime.
      • Unlike the military, that has antiquated personnel stations and promotions systems, most civillian environments are not this way. Positions open up and you'll likely find more flexibility.
      • Formal education with a degree at the end of it tends to be a great option for most people. He encourages people not to use the GI bill to delay a career decision - it helps you figure out things, but most people benefit from making a decision soon. Many career paths do require a degree. To be competitive you'll need this so it's good to plan - talk to people on the outside, talk to Hire Heroes people and they can help with these sorts
      • Hire Heroes demographics resembles the US Militaries - they are over represented in the federal government. Healthcare and IT are always in the top 5 for people they work with; security is also up there, but they also find that veterans go into client facing or customer service facing roles in any type of job (not just service industries) since they get along with a lot of people.
      • Another area to consider is teaching and non-profits. It's an alternative to working in government that is mission driven and a way of given back and very value driven. There are often veterans who are coaches, teachers, and non-profit executives. It can be very rewarding and very flexible, but you also get exposure into other sections of the US that you might not get in Oil&Gas for instance.
    • 21:37 - This is from a friend of mine, but if there is a veteran in our life who is facing challenges in their career (let’s say over a year of unemployment), what are ways that their friends can be most helpful?
      • It's a big challenge - this is his full-time job is to help other veterans. What people don't need is a lot of "do this" and "don't do this" they need faith, coaching and someone on their side. But they're also advocates of tough love. They love to hire veterans because they understand the situation of other veterans. There's a big role to coaching, and an understanding that there are things going on beyond just the professional situation. There are almost certainly other factors if someone is long-term unemployed. To get some early wins you could suggest volunteer opprotutnies - rather than the pressure of finding the right job, think of what the person enjoys and try to find that in a volunteer capacity. coaching and helping at high schools; volunteer in way that gets them engaged, builds their confidence and gets them past the momentary lapse.
      • As a reminder, Hire Heroes is completely free, no charge whatsoever. They're not in receipt of government funding - they are funded through donations and foundations who believe in the value of what they are doing.
  • Nathan
    • 27:02 - How would you describe what you do as COO to someone on active duty?
      • He allocates scarce resources to accomplish goals
      • A lot of what he does is bread and butter leadership - he enjoys it and learned it in the Marine Corps. He has other managers reporting to him, and half of a given day is working with a manager to solve personnel issues, discuss ideas for a new program, figuring out adjustments to make and problems to solve. IT's being done in conjunction with other highly capable individuals. It's a neat environment of collaboratively environment. Always focused on the clients.
      • Other parts are related to developing products, reviewing marketing material, reviewing the budget, formalizing job descriptions. One thing nice about working about a company with less than 100 people is that the COO is involved in everything.
    • 31:09 - How did you make the decision to leave the Marine Corps?
      • There were a number of factors. he did his initial four years, and was coming off a difficult deployment in Iraq in the summer of 2006-2007; there was one casualty per week on average. Fortunately things changed on the cusp of the surge, but it was a very difficult experience. At the time, he felt like he was not going to do a full career. But he also knew he didn't have anything setup to do next. So he signed up to do three more years doing security in the Seattle area. It was great to continue service and also have time - he didn't find a wife or a career, but he DID stay in contact with the president of Hire Heroes. Nathan asked him - what should I look to do, and that's when he found out about Hire Heroes and the opportunity there.
    • 33:30 - What was your first job search like, and how did you end up at Hire Heroes USA?
      • It was a very stressful year - even though I intended to get out at the end of 3 years and had a set date, I didn't plan well and focused on my current role. Some was fear based, and some was not knowing what to do. He waited for something to come up and it was an ineffective way to move towards a transition. He lost about 10 lbs in his last year in the Marine Corps and realized it was all due to stress.
      • So he started reaching out to friends and fellow Marines, shared his resume and got direct (though harsh) feedback. And this is how he found his current role. He had another offer of working on base, and he went with the one he knew and trusted and was inspired by the mission.
    • 36:30 - What are some signs that a veteran may like working at a non-profit, and that they may like a COO role?
      • He was fortunate to do both. There are plenty of operational roles outside of non-profits, and operational roles outside of COO. If you're going to a large company, they won't hire a COO straight out of the military. you need to know your skills and where it fits in. For him it was a perfect fit - joining a 7 person non-profit, and grow it to over 90 full time employees over 7 years. He was able to grow alongside the organization.
      • That said, most NCOs and officers will have the leadership experience - you just have to marry it with some skill sets. Budgeting, quickbooks, salesforce CRM or something like that... these are good and important technical skills.
      • It was appealing to me to be able ot be nimble like a startup and constantly improve but also be on the non-profit side. We work with scarce resources and solve tough problems for people,.
    • 39:45 - What resources - books, programs, conferences, etc - have you found helpful in your civilian career that you would recommend to veteran listeners?
      • he was fortunate leaving the Marine Corps that the University Of Georgia had a great program of a Master's of Public Adminitration as a 3 year program (instead of 2) while working full time. It was mutaully beneficial between employement and educaiton. What he learned on the job he shared with classmates; what he learned in school he used to help the non profit. This helped a lot with non-prfit budgeting and grant writing. You can read books on this but he was more comforable being taught it.
      • The second was learning from people who are doing. He put his head down for Quickbooks and bugeting and having people beteter than him around him. He realized none of it is complex - there are things that are very complex, but most non-profits you need to be able to learn and the himilty to know you don't know everything.
    • 43:17 - Final words of wisdom?
      • He would recommend a book that is co-authored by General Mattis - Warriors and Citizens. Is there a gap between the miltiary and teh civiilan sector. There are structural challenges related to transition -it's not jsut that companies don't appreciate the military. There are a lot more structural elements taht won't be solved by governement transition programs or even non-profits. There are plenty of resources out ther eand people on your side, but ifyou don't have a narrow vision of what you want so you can focus - if you're open to everything - you need to be focused to find what you want.
Jun 28, 2017

“I think the biggest thing is finding something you're passionate about and really going all-in on it. There's no lack of different ways to become an astronaut. If you look at the resumes of people that were just selected, Navy SEALS, Pilots, MIT Professors, engineers at SpaceX, people who specialize in Marine Biology, Doctors - so there's no lack of options on how to get there. I think the biggest thing is just finding what you're really passionate about and going all-in on it."
- Dr. Scott Washburn

Dr. Scott Washburn is a Radiation Effects Engineering Manager at SEAKR Engineering. He started out at the University of Colorado, Boulder, after which he served in the Navy as a Submarine Officer for five years. When he first left the Navy he worked as a Thermal and Project Engineer at SSL (Space Systems Loral), after which he returned to the University of Colorado Boulder for his Masters, and then his PhD in Aerospace Engineering. Since then he has worked as Chief Engineer at Geryon Space Technologies, as well as a research engineer at NASA. Scott was also one of the 50 finalists of the astronaut selection program.

The top 2 reasons to listen to this episode is:

  1. Shooting for the stars: Scott always wanted to be an astronaut and he pursued this career with all he had.  He was one of 50 finalists... from 18k applicants (0.27% of all applicants). He's a case study in setting crazy goals and fighting with everything you've got to pursue them.
  2. Passion: Scott talks about pursing one's passion with vigor, and it's inspiring no matter what your desired career path.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

Show Notes

Note: I've typed these notes during my interview with Josh, so they may not completely represent his words, and may contain spelling and grammar errors. My intention is to provide veterans with a quick reference to see the gist of our conversation, along with timestamps to hear Josh's actual advice in his own words within the interview.

  • 3:43 - Scott's bio
  • 4:40 - There’s a story about you and your wife Amanda, summiting Mt. Bierstadt, a German Shepherd, and the Ellen Degeneres - could you share a bit about what happened?
    • A 14er is a mountain that is over 14k feet tall; it's big in Colorado. Back in 2012, his wife and he went to climb Mt. Bierstadt. They were planning on doing two peaks in the same day (Mt. Evans). They got off course in the traverse and his wife spotted a dog. She had found a big, German Shepherd tucked under the rocks. As they got close, they realized she was injured. They tried to carry her, but the terrain was rough and they weren't able to make it work. They found a park ranger further down the mountain, but he wasn't able to help. So they drove back to Denver, calling rescue groups along the way, but weren't able to get any help. So when they got home, they posted about the dog on 14ers.com, and posted the location and started to organize a rescue group. They received a hug outpouring of support, and went back up with a group of 8. They found the dog, loaded her into a backpack and took turns hiking her out. They took her to a vet (who they had met on 14ers.com) and helped her recover.
    • They figured that was the end of the story. However, it reached it's way to the local news that evening. From that point it exploded, which they hadn't anticipated. Part of the reason it exploded was because they were contacted by the dog owner, who wanted the dog back. They wanted to know what had happened first, and it seemed like the owner had been stuck in a storm and decided to leave the dog behind. However, since the owner hadn't tried to get the dog back or rescue the dog, they were uncomfortable returning the dog. They went on Good Morning America and then the Ellen Degeneres show.
  • 12:28 - For an active duty audience, how would you explain what you do for a living?
    • The short version is that his team tests and analyzes how electronics work in a space radiation environment. There's a HUGE radiation environment in space - more than xrays at a doctor of a nuclear power plant. The space environment is constantly bombarded by these atomic nuclei. They're so energetic they'll go straight through a person or piece of electronics and drive a huge amount of damage. So his group looks at this damage, and analyzes the electronics at his company and see how they respond and fare
  • 14:28 - How did you decide to leave the Navy?
    • It was a really tough decision. He had initially signed up only intending to do five years. However, he LOVED his time in the Navy and the submarine force. He loved the job, missino, and people. So appraoching the end of his term, he struggled with whether to stay in or get out. The reason to get out was because he always wanted to be an astronaut. And he knew he could get there as a submarine officer - back in 2000 Captain Steven Bowen was selected, and one more recently. However, he wasn't sure how to standout amongst other submarine officer. So to improve his odds, he decided to get out go into the industry.
  • 16:20 - When you decided to leave the submarine force, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do?
    • His first job at SSL was fortuitous. There was another former submariner who worked there and was familiar with what veterans were capable of. He worked with a recruiting agency that had worked with him previously and they made the connection. He didn't have a clear picture of when he left how he would go about doing this. So he was employed for a while after leaving the service because he hadn't planned properly. He didn't realize what opportunities were out there, and didn't start this process until he got out.
    • There wasn't a clear-cut path to be an astronaut, so had to really experiment
  • 19:14 - Role at SSL
    • It was very different than my role in the submarine force, where I was mostly operatinally focused. At SSL it was heavy engineering - math, computer models of satellites & thermal systems and how they worked together, and what temperature they'd operate at in orbit. It was a massive transition.
    • One thing that motivated him to go back ot grad school was being in a hard engineering environment, and my skills from undergrad were pretty soft. After over a year I decided to go back to grad school (starting two years after he started working). he had started trying to work nights & weekends. So decided to switch to full time
  • 20:57 - Straight to education vs. industry experience
    • 50/50 on this - it was very beneficial to get experience in industry first
    • But if you have a really good idea of what you want to do or the field, going back right away is a good way to go
  • 22:18 - How did you decide to pursue a PhD in Aerospace Engineering?
    • It was an idea of getting a PhD but not the primary plan. He originally intended to go back to industry with his masters
    • After his first year he was given a National Defense Fellowship; the nice thing was that it gve him the opportunity to study any topic that he wanted to. He had gone to grad school wanting to merge nuclear background with aerospace - space radiation, space nuclear reactors, etc. There wasn't a graduate program for this, but the fellowship gave him the opportunity to forge his own path.
    • his dissertation; Magentic fields to sheild humans from space
  • 24:30 - What advice do you have for veterans wanting to pursue a PhD?
    • One nice thing about being a veteran in a program like this is that you can get down to business and knock it out. I did mine in two years, which is a pretty short time frame. Most service members I met were the same. It's different if yuo're more focused and willing to get the job down
    • My advice is to not get it just to get it; make sure you're really interested in it, because as soon as you leave with your PhD, that sets what you will do; it is difficult to branch out from there
  • 25:56 - What led you to astronaut training?
    • It's not really a training program. He submitted his application early in 2016 for the group that was selected this year. It was 18k people who put in for the application down to 120 semi-finalists who come in for a 3-day interview, and 50 people for a weeklong interview to select 12 people this year. They'll go on a  two year training cycle: wilderness survival, underwater vehicle egress, Russian language and international space station
    • It was a lifelong dream, so he plotted along the way his interests and what things he could add on to help him get there. Working in the space industry was 1. Being a submarine officer was another one (and this had led him to submarines in the first place, in addition to serving his country). he tried to find little things along the way - private pilots license, scuba certification. They were things I wanted to do anyways, but found them exciting and worked
    • It started as a standard job application - follow-up questions, medical requirements, if yo8're a pilot or not. They had over 50 HR specialists to go through all the resumes
    • The 3-day interview process was one of the coolest processes of his life. It's covered by NDAs so he can't talk in detail but they evaluate screening you as a person, medically (medical requirements are VERY strict) for example kidney stones, you're disqualified if you've ever had them.
  • 31:06 - What advice do you have for veterans wanting to go this route?
    • The biggest thing is finding something that you're passionate about and going all-in on it. You've got Navy SEALs, pilots, MIT professors, SpaceX engineers, Doctors, Marine Biologists - there's no lack of options on how to get tehre. it's about finding out what you're passionate about and going all-in on it. Finding people who can push themselves constantly - constantly work to improve yourself and make yourself better. Find things challengin that push your skills and boundaries.
  • 33:27- What was it like not getting in the final stage
    • It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. When I got the news it was in one way a crushing blow - I spent so many years in pursuit of this goal. At the same time it was ok. When you make it to the final 50 every person there is absolutely incredible. It's something they've been pursuing their entire life as well.
    • When he wasn't selected it was hard to be too upset when he saw the people who were selected; so it was hard to be too upset about it. And now he has a few friends who are astronauts as well, which is very cool
    • At some point when you're swinging for the fences and the odds of getting selected are so low you have to temper your expectations so if it doesn't work out you're still ok with everything.
  • 37:15 - What resources - books, websites, programs - have been helpful to you in your civilian career that you would recommend to listeners?
    • Didn't have a ton of resources that I relied on
    • One thing I've gone back to a lot lately is Chris Hatfields - an astronauts guide to life on earth
    • His path to becoming an astronaut - there are so many snippets of wisdom that apply to every day life
    • how to go after things in a way that helps you in your pursuit. Really good life l
  • 38:27 - Work at NASA
    • A co-investigator, while researching at the University of Colorado. Very cool being able to work with the NASA research centers. IF you are really interested in pursuing this path, tehre are a lot of great opportunities to get involved. If you're undergrad or grad school, you can do co-ops that are a great way to get your foot in the door. Or if you reach out and tap into the NASA network. Everyone there is so excited and passionate about what they do, they are more than willing to share their experience with people
    • Find the person at NASA doing it and reach out; you'll be surprised that they'll reach back out
  • 40:04 - Final words of wisdom for active duty & veteran listens?
    • The biggest thing is to find your passion
    • It's wortwhile, espeically in times of transition if you're on active duty looking to get out and at different points - take stock of your world and make sure you're striving for those things. I was taking a look at what I liiked about th emilitary when I got out and looked to try to fit them in my life when I got out. That was one of the big struggles - many things I loved in the service Ic ouldn't find at my job. Realized I needed to find these in outside of owrk activities. Espeically a sense of service. This is my biggest peice of advice - see what you like and find how to get more of
Jun 21, 2017

“There are people who have - in their head - ideas that they think are ridiculous; dreams that they're afraid to pursue because of failure; because we're all afraid to fail. But while you have that safety net, go ahead an investigate it - dig into it deep, and then make a plan. Work backwards: this is the goal, assess what you have, and what do you need. And sometimes with plans you have to go back and course correct. Be OK with that. It's not a bad thing sometimes. We often beat ourselves up because we made a plan and it didn't go the way we thought it would - but that's OK. Always look back, reflect and see how you can grow from this."
- Dr. Felicia Haecker

Dr. Felicia Haecker is the President of Haecker Associates Consulting, CEO of Dog Tag Divas, and Adjunct Professor at Brandman University, where she also received her Doctor of Education and Organizational Leadership. She started out in the Air Force, where she served for 12 years along with her husband, who served in the Air Force for 15 years. She faced many challenges after her separation from the military, and ultimately chose to pursue her Ed.D on female veterans transitions into post secondary education. Using this understanding of transitions, she now seeks to help other veterans diagnose where they are and construct a plan to reach their goals.

She has made herself available to the Beyond the Uniform community by email at shaecker@yahoo [dot] com

The top 2 reasons to listen to this episode is:

  1. A road of discovery - Felicia articulates so well what I - and so many of my guests - have experienced about a meandering road from the military to finding our career. She talks about taking leaps of faith, making mistakes along the way, but learning and being ok with those mistakes. Felicia and her husband left the Air Force after 12 & 15 years of service, respectively. They purchased an RV, and with their newborn daughter spent a year traveling the United States. This was the starting point of a journey that would lead Felicia to pursue her doctorate.
  2. Advice on transitions - Felicia did her doctorate work on the female veteran transition into post secondary education. She has also advised and mentored many veterans about this process, and has fantastic advice about how to avoid common mistakes in this transition.

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Selected Resources

Show Notes

Note: I've typed these notes during my interview with Josh, so they may not completely represent his words, and may contain spelling and grammar errors. My intention is to provide veterans with a quick reference to see the gist of our conversation, along with timestamps to hear Josh's actual advice in his own words within the interview.

  • 3:10 - Felicia's bio
  • 4:03 - How would you explain what you do
    • Every veteran makes a transition
    • Her and her husband realized they transitioned out of a community that was safe and comfortable. After their transition, a lot of people didn't understand their background and they were definitely out of their comfort zone.
    • This applies to the families as well - they have to deal with their significant other
  • 6:15 - How she divides her time
    • HCC & Dog Tag Divas are both emerging. She was diagnosed with PTSD and ADHD, and is learning there are things she needs to do to stay on task. Must do / should do / could do "To do lists" dominate her schedule on bright orange post its.
    • She has two kids, and it's a matter of taking advantage of time when she has it - time in line at Starbucks, at piano practice. Sometimes she
  • 8:12 - How did you decide to leave the military?
    • It wasn't an easy decision; she was an Army brat, with both parents in the military. She followed her dad all over Europe as an Army kid.
    • She recognized on her own she wasn't ready for college, and didn't want to waste her parents money
    • Decided to join the military - originally the Marine Corps - but wasn't treated seriously during the process and saw the Air Force recruiter on her way out. The military was safe and something she understood.
    • She was a photographer, and wanted to try something else out - she loved the military but wanted to try something new
    • When she found out she was going to have a mother, she wanted to be the mother she didn't have. It would be tough to do both the military and a mom, so her and her husband decided she would transition. Her husband had a similar background, so they both decided - at 12 & 15 years - to get out of the military.
    • They made the goal of each of them finishing their master's degree prior to leaving the military, which lead for a rushed schedule leading up to departure
    • They purchased a 35' RV, and spent a year traveling the United States.
  • 11:46 - Advice for figuring out when to leave the military
    • Investigate the feeling - if you feel like you need to move on, give that room. See if you can switch jobs within the military, but if you can't find it start figuring out how to make it happen.
    • She recently worked with someone who decided to open a catering business. But you need to do EVERYTHING you can to investigate this right now - intern, or find a temporary job. This person learned it wasn't what they wanted to do it. So investigate every avenue you can. Call people who do that job (better yet a veteran who does it) and get a feel for what it is like.
    • Harness your power - my power right now is I have a paycheck and roof over my head. This is what I have - what is it I need. Capitalize on your opportunities for growth. I want to have this much money in the bank, this much education, talk to them and get buy-in with the family. Sometimes you need to go back and course correct
    • The Hack Process:
      • H - Harness your power. You have SOME power in the situation
      • A - Assess your resources. What do you have on hand that will propel you forward, and what do you need to gather to get to that goal
      • I - Identify them. The people and resources that will help you and you need to get in your corner to get there
      • C - Capitalize on the opportunity
    • You may be more comfortable right now than you realize - any stress you can take
    • Give yourself permission to recognize how difficult the transition is, but don't wallow in it.
  • 22:59 - How would you describe your path from the military to deciding to pursue a PhD?
    • They were stationed in Missouri. They got in their RV and didn't know what to do next. They decided to visit her parents in Oklahoma. They piecemeal the first part of the trip together, visiting diners and different sites.
    • They noticed in their journey there was a subculture of veterans everywhere they went.  She noticed many experienced difficulty, and many were on the verge of homelessness. She realized that she wasn't the only one who felt challenged in the transition - there were many other veterans like this.
    • Along the journey she became pregnant with their second child. As they were unpacking their house in Georgia, her husband received a job offer in Sacramento. So they packed up their house and moved cross country with their two kids
    • After five days as a stay-at-home mom, she realized she couldn't do it. It was more difficult than her three deployments. She saw a commercial for a doctoral degree, and wanted to give it a try. Her children were 9 months and 3 when she started - it was crazy but she did it. And her husband just received his degree from the same program. He saw the growth and self discovery journey she went through and that motivated him to do it as well
  • What was the PhD process like for you?
    • She views herself as very lucky. Her program was very creative, and she was able to chart what she was interested in - which was transition in veterans. She was able to research, write papers, and do whatever she wanted. It became addicting, because she kept finding more and more information, but didn't find the readily available resources she wanted for veterans. It felt like a well-kept secret and she didn't want it to be like that.
    • She kept getting assignments that kept her digging and before she knew it she stood back and realized what she wanted to go after
    • When she left, her resume was good, professionally she was ready to transition. No one spoke to her heart and mind transition, that you never receive when leaving the military.
  • 37:40 - In your work with veterans, what are common problems you see them facing in their civilian career?
    • She teaches a masters class on Leadership. One thing she has her students do (and she does as well) is Morning Pages. You put the pen on paper for 20 minutes and you just write non-stop. She didn't think it would work and the first two weeks were random song lyrics, shopping lists, and babble, but at the end of two weeks the cob webs went away and certain things came into focus.
    • She kept doing it and started to get clarity on different items - things she hadn't thought about in years. It's completely free and is an easy way to make progress in thinking through issues. Just write about whatever comes to mind - no matter how random. Keep with it and you'll find clarity. Supposed to do it first thing in the morning, as soon as she wakes up.
    • There's a book called Road Map. There was a PBS show called Road Trip Nation and they actually wrote a book "the get it together guide for what to do with your life" - it will inspire you but also give you a roadmap.
    • A mentor would be a GREAT addition for veterans. Help you navigate the new waters and identify what is important to you.
  • Common mistakes that veterans face
    • The adage that "the grass is greener" is definitely true. Without someone telling you what to do, there is also a challenge of autonomy and having to do everything on your own.
    • She encourages people to imagine that you were dropped into the center of England. Yes - they speak English, but there are different words, customs, and norms. You still need to learn a lot - and it's like this with a military transition
    • Some people may not understand your life and may ask you offensive questions like, "Have you ever killed someone." Try to remember it's out of ignorance and curiosity and not malice.
    • She has found in Mommy Groups that things that are earth shattering to other people are not so for her... she has to remember that "my journey is different." It may take time to find your time. Observe how they interact with other people.
    • Emotional Intelligence will be key too and this was something she had to learn
  • 44:50 - What can we do to help veterans who are struggling in their transition
    • Her local VA has a special office to help veterans who are homeless and she is looking at how to help with this
    • Sometimes they just need someone to listen to them
    • The TAPs programs send a LOT of information towards veterans, and going and talking and sharing there could help a lot
    • She was surprised that she was diagnosed with PTSD, even though she had taken many disturbing photos as a photographer on active duty.
  • 49:20 - Final words of wisdom?
    • If you've been listening to this and thinking of an idea and not sure if you should do it - give yourself permission to try. It's ok to be afraid to fail - that's ok. If you think about it - the times you succeed you probably didn't think about how you got there... you didn't think about how you got there. It's only when you fail that you do. But this is when we learn - from this failure. It may work, it may not, but it's ok. Have more than an A-D plan - there are 26 letters in teh alphabet. At the end of the day, try to do what makes you happy.
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