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.

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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.


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!