The After Action Review

Every Veteran business owner has a unique story to tell about their journey through entrepreneurship. Those stories can help inspire, educate, and motivate other Veterans who are either in the middle of their own journey or considering starting one. The After Action Review Podcast (The AAR Podcast) serves as a vehicle to create, promote, and support a network of Veteran entrepreneurs by capturing and sharing their stories with the Veteran community.

The AAR Podcast, is an audio and video podcast for Military and Veteran entrepreneurs, business owners, artists, and non profit organizations. We promote entrepreneurship and Veteran products, business, and service.

Filtering by Tag: Entrepeneur

Army Values Inc.

by Rod Rodriguez

Every Soldier in the US Army is introduced to the Army Values early on in Basic training. From there they will see posters, stenciled stairs, wall paintings, and every other possible public display of the Values. Soldiers memorize the Army Values word for word to pass the multitude of boards the Army provides to prove that they understand what it is the Army stands for. Unfortunately, I can tell you often those words are uttered with as much conviction and purpose as someone reciting the answers to a paper test, it’s merely a check the block action that most almost always immediately data dump after its needed.

It’s only recently that my journey into entrepreneurship has lead me to exploring the value system of a business. What really matters about starting up, the value of content and products, where the soul of a business really lies. If there’s one overwhelming theme that almost every business expert and guru come back to is service. Service to your community, to your customers, providing something of value will the best of intentions and pure commitment to service will almost always yield a business profit over the long run.

Why do you want to start a business? Is it to make money? Is it to buy your dream car? Is it to get famous? What drives your will to become an entrepreneur?

I’m going to get old school here for a moment and dust off the Army Values because I think there’s something to learn and apply from them towards entrepreneurship. I can already hear eyeballs rolling back because you’ve seen these values a thousand times but I want to present them in a new light, the light of business. I think in this light you can figure out what your intentions really are, if your heart is in the right place, because if it’s not you’re almost certainly headed down a road of failure or worse yet fraudulent success.

Loyalty — Customer loyalty is a must for any business. We often think about customer loyalty in the sense of the customer being loyal to a brand or company. Instead I want you to consider your loyalty to your customer. Is your product or content staying true to what you promised them? Is your customer receiving the very best from you? When you commit ourselves to being loyal to our customer, listeners, viewers, or whomever is consuming our content, we in turn ask for their loyalty back. A loyal customer will be there when the chips are down and you can bet that at some point the chips will be down.

Duty — Businesses take time, lots of it! There are no short cuts to quality, but plenty to mediocrity. Entrepreneurs have a duty to their business and to their customers. That duty is the time, work, and dedication to providing what was promised. Sometimes circumstances may occur that interfere with deadlines, products, or content but that should always be addressed open and honestly. It is simply the duty of a business owner to care for the business like they would themselves because in many ways a business is an extension of what you represent and value.

Respect — Respect your customers, your employees, and yourself. Treat those that work for you with dignity and respect and you will earn their hard work. Treat you customers with respect and you will earn their business. Treat yourself with respect and patience and you will earn respect from those around you. Be boss the boss you wish you’d had, emotionally intelligent, approachable, patient and understanding. Respect is a commodity hard earned and easily lost.

Selfless Service — Be more than about profits. It doesn’t matter what your selling, find the meaning in what you’re doing. If your selling fidget spinners consider all the kids benefiting from your product and now able to concentrate on their homework. How many kids will graduate to the next grade because you put a quality product in their hands. Maybe you have a cause like Veteran employment or PTSD that your business is going to offer something to address that issue. Make your business bigger about passion for others and profit will find you.

Honor — Dedicate yourself to a standard of business that you will not deviate from. Be consistent in how you manage yourself, your employees, and your customer interactions. In a world of social media, it’s easy to spread the word when a company’s performance wavers, when they fail to follow through without explanation, or when they completely drop the ball and point fingers at everything but themselves. Honorable conduct means adherence to the values you set forth for your business, even if that means admitting your wrong and it costs you money.

Integrity — It should go without saying but honesty in business is crucial to success. Cutting corners, lying, and cheating is not only morally reprehensible but it can also lead you to financial ruin and legal issues. Being upfront and honest with all parties involved in your business means less stress for you and less potential for disaster. A sure-fire way to lose customers and employees is to lie to them, omit the truth, or try to fool them. Demonstrating integrity on the other hand gains their trust and loyalty. A customer would rather deal with an imperfect but honest business than a glossy huckster.

Personal Courage — Have the courage to start! Have the courage to take the first step into making your business a reality. None of this will matter if you don’t try! And once you do have the courage to confront the challenges that will arise. There will be a multitude of issues that will arise that will slow you down, derail you, but never let it stop you. Today’s most successful companies were founded on layer upon layer of challenges and failures. Accept that this journey is not easy from the start but have the courage to at least try!

The Army Values represents a system for living but it can also be a system for operating your business. Adopt a Value system early on. Know what your about as an entrepreneur and what your business stands for. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor Integrity, and Personal Courage is a good start. Let this system of LDRSHIP guide you and I promise you can’t go wrong.


The Story of Episode 1 or How I Learned to Endure Failure and Love My Podcast

Episode 1 was a pain in the ass, to put it mildly. It was an effort that was supposed to be kind of fun with a friend who I knew had a great story to tell about his experience as a Veteran business owner. It was supposed to be something like a trial run, an interview with the training wheels firmly in place. Where I went wrong was in making the mistake of thinking, “ what can go wrong?”

I did the research into buying the right microphone for a beginner podcast. Before jumping into purchases I read tons of articles, reviews, and specs then decided that the Blue Yeti was the microphone for me. So I bought two of them through Craigslist on account that I was doing this all on a tight budget.  So then I have mics, a laptop that’s old enough to qualify for Social Security, and of course I had the idea for interviews. It was time to get to work, or so I thought. I discovered that my mics had a buzzing sound which meant that they required external power. Then I discovered that I can’t connect two USB mics to the recording software. AND Then I discover that unlike my previous experience in counseling, a podcast interview is totally different and requires practice in and of itself. So I trouble shoot some problems, get some fixes, and I’m ready to talk to Mike and record Episode 1.

The first time it took me an hour to set everything up which surprised me cause I didn’t realize how much there was to set up;  the laptop would make noise if too close to the mics, how we would sit, the echo of the room, and a five year old outside the door being barely distracted by a TV. We start recording and I immediately felt unprepared. My plan for the conversation suddenly felt weird as we start to veer off course. Mike is expertly juggling paying attention to his little girl’s requests for attention and still answering my suddenly inane sounding questions all the while being a great sport against my long pauses, my “ummms”, and “sooo…”, all of which you most likely heard in Episode 1 but trust me it was WAY worse.

After recording over an hour, I play it back over my headphones  and I hear robot voice. I don’t know what it is but it’s as if Mikes talking over himself  for the whole hour plus. We’re bummed out but Mike’s cool about it.

“No worries bro, we’ll get it in take two”, Mike reassured me.

I still feel dumb and slightly embarrassed to have not only wasted my friends time but to look like such an amateur…which I am, but you never want to seem that way. Turns out I had experienced latency due to the two USB’s issue which I thought I had solved but in fact had not. So I start experimenting with different software and find a virtual mixer that solves the latency issue.

“Awesome”,  I think.  “All I’ve got to do now is do some trial runs in the kitchen and I’m golden!”

So that’s what I do with the help of my kids. We play podcast in the kitchen for a few days until I think I got it then I arrange another meeting with Mike. This time he has the gym clear, we have a solid two hours, and the office is set up. I do my own set up relatively fast this tiem , do a sound check , a test recording and its great. So we record a really good session that we’re both happy about. I do a quick check of the last ten minutes of the session…I hear echo. His mic has an echo that is so distracting and so bad that I can’t do anything with it. I try editing it for hours afterwards trying to salvage it but to no avail. Now, I’m really fucking pissed at myself. I start to question how the hell everyone else does this?! I’ve spent all this money and time on something that I apparently am not good at, so what AM I doing? For a moment,  I consider abandoning the whole project all too aware of the irony in that I bought the equipment from people who’d given up on their own recording ideas. The kid I bought the first microphone from when asked why he was selling it told me, “Turns out I rap like garbage”.

I don’t give up. Instead, I start to break down the recording from the ground up. I record in different places, volumes, distances from the microphone. Turns out that since my tests were done in the kitchen which had echo I had assumed the echo was just from the kitchen and not a microphone volume sensitivity issue not to mention the speakers on the laptop had stayed on. Okay, now that I had the solutions I tested it all out again. This time I tried every variation, combination, and scenario of going wrong from loud noise in the back ground, to music, people talking, dogs barking, recording in my garage which is hotter than hell with less ventilation, and recording in my bedroom which it turns out picks up every sound from the street outside. After hours upon hours of trial and error I have it. I call Mike…again.

The office is set up. We turn off the fan. We turn off the A/C. We shut the door to the tiny office also without ventilation. It doesn’t take long for the temperature to start rising but we go forward. We record for an hour. The conversation turns out to be better than the last. We talk openly, candidly, we had fun. As the session winds down I start to feel nervous. The whole time I’d seen our voice pattern move in the software. We at least were recording, but were we recording garbage? Did I fix the problems? Would Mike do a FOURTH session? The interview ends and now it’s the moment of truth. I move the selection arrow to the mid-point of the hour. I put the headphones on and press play. Mike stares at me with a semi-icy look, the stare of a man that is questioning his restraint to throw something heavy at his friend if the recording is screwed up. I stare back wide eyed as I hear…a good recording. NOT GREAT, but good. I give him a thumbs up, he smiles back, and all is well. My confidence is restored.

Okay, so here’s the thing about that whole mess. It wasn’t just about try, try again, the little engine that could, hang in there kitty poster bullshit. I’ve failed a lot in different things. The Army challenged me in different ways and I like to think that I met those challenges with everything I had but I wasn’t always successful. I’ve matured in many ways from a somewhat hot headed individual with limited patience to an older father of three boys with whom my volatility is measured accompanied by a deeper patience. Failure is going to happen and when it does it’s good to have other failures to fall back on to put things in perspective. Early and repetitive success can be devastating when failure strikes. Failing early though preps you slowly for bigger setbacks that would be crushing otherwise but requires you to keep your head in the game. Perseverance isn’t easy, it’s a learned skill.

 I’m still learning this whole podcast thing but my early frustrations and doubt have made me more confident that this endeavor is going to be successful. I know I can push through, solve the problems, and have fun getting better at this interviewing thing. When this stops being fun, then I’ll hang it up but not because I can’t fix a problem.

So about Episode 2, it sounds not-so-great. I recorded it right before Episode 1 and used that experience to fix issues before Mikes third session. My guest Luvina Sabree sounds TERRIFIC, it’s my voice that sounds a bit distant. You can hear me okay but you can hear her perfectly. I’m glad it’s my mic that wasn’t turned up correctly because it’s really about her story and it’s a really good story. Don’t miss Episode 2 coming next Friday.

Coming to Terms

I am not a business guy. My whole life I’ve worked for someone else both in the Army and in the civilian world, I’ve found myself content making an established organization better… at least trying to. I’m pretty sure everyone at some point has had an idea for a business, an invention, some type of creative expression that they consider ground breaking and solely theirs. Then like most other fanciful ideas it passes and we’re off to the next fleeting thought. This podcast is honestly the first time I have ever put rubber to the road in terms of making an idea become something. It’s exciting to pull the trigger on purchases toward an idea that you had. Seeing something go from in your head to on your screen is a rush and that’s great but throughout this journey which is far from complete there’s been a nagging question in the back of my mind.

Am I an entrepreneur?

Stepping outside of myself for a moment and looking at what I’ve made of this idea so far, my inclination is to say, “No, you’re not an entrepreneur. You don’t have a business; you have a podcast (barely).” Not a penny is being made; in fact several pennies by the thousand have been spent on this with no foreseeable revenue to be made in the future. I put this podcast together purely out of my own interest in creating a community for Veteran business owners that was different from the button down shirts and blazers that seem to symbolize “business attire”. There was never a plan to make money; the plan was to make a show.  A business that doesn’t make money isn’t much of a business as one nay sayer put it to me.

On the other hand I’ll go the route travelled by those who enjoy trying to prove a point, even to themselves by invoking the power of and defining the word entrepreneur.

“1. a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

2. an employer of productive labor; contractor.”

This definition provides something much broader than I was using to define what an entrepreneur was. If we wanted to get all JAG with this it could be said that I am in fact a person who is organizing and managing an enterprise (the podcast and website) with considerable initiative and risk. Well, that last bit about risk may be greatly exaggerated since my experience with the term risk has historically been tied to far more serious consequences than losing a few hundred dollars and time. Either way, it would seem that I may in fact be an entrepreneur!

If we continue to use this definition it seems that we could label several different types of work and skills as examples of entrepreneurship. Looking back on my service in the Army there were several enterprises I was in charge of taking from concept to application on a battlefield that relied on my initiative and certainly carried a tremendous amount of risk. Although I was serving the Army and it’s mission, I was trying to make something happen out of nothing. It wasn’t just me either, from the lowest ranking enlisted guy all the way up the chain there was always someone taking the initiative to try something, to make something happen that would help them accomplish their mission. Some guys got super creative (I’m looking at you mechanics), others could see where to make in place systems more efficient, and in some instances there were individuals who changed the game completely by introducing something no one had thought of yet. Those examples aren’t exclusive either, they can be mixed together in different ways producing some startling results.

So am I entrepreneur? Yeah, I think I might be. You might be too! Take a look at what you do for living or your hobbies? The entrepreneurial seed could already be planted. The hard work your putting into it is helping it grow slowly. Maybe you’re not making money from it, or your skills are being used to make someone else’s business better, or you’ve got somethinggoing on that you just haven’t shared with the world yet. There’s something about thinking of myself as an entrepreneur that is both inspiring and frightening to me. Accepting the idea that I’m an entrepreneur means that I owe it to myself to keep moving forward with my enterprise, whether it’s a million dollar idea or a podcast. It means that the fleeting thought is no longer fleeting, it’s got a home now and it’s my responsibility to feed it and care for it.

Okay, I’m an entrepreneur, great…now what? So far as of the writing of this blog I’ve created a not-so-bad-for-my-first-time-website, bought a mic, and look at that...I wrote my first blog. Not bad for a few weeks of work. Next on my list of things to do before the big launch is record an introduction to the podcast, record the first two interviews, and take some pictures to populate my gallery with. Also, Facebook but that’s its own line of effort. There you have it, I’ve conquered the fear of labeling myself and managed to create a little content on the way. Now what to do about my insecurity of hearing my own voice...ugh!