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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Digital Mentor

by Rod Rodriguez

 

Almost every expert, best selling writer, or lecturer on the subject of entrepreneurship will agree that one of the most important and valuable things you can do for yourself and your growing business is seek a mentor. Mentorship can be a crucial part of your development as an entrepreneur as it provides you a person who has the experience to guide you, advise you, and motivate you to keep going on those when giving up seems so much easier than slogging through another day.

The problem with mentors is finding them. All too often for entrepreneurs who are outside of an academic institution, finding someone who will take time to talk with you is a real challenge. Not being able to find a mentor can make you feel discouraged and contribute to your justification for giving up on your idea. There are online websites and programs that can help you find a mentor but even then you might be keeping yourself from pursuing those options because your embarrassed or just so unsure of the whole thing that looking for that person makes you uncomfortable.

One option is, YouTube. One of the ways I’ve used YouTube in the past was to educate myself on different aspects of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Although I was going to an academy and I had a black belt instructor, on YouTube I had dozens of high level world class instructors teaching me different exotic movements, sharing their thoughts and philosophies on Jiu Jitsu, and also providing me with their lessons learned and advice for training. There are YouTube Jiu Jitsu instructors I honestly feel like I know even though we’ve never met because I’ve consumed hundreds of hours of their material!

As an entrepreneur, I can tell you right away that there are dozens of high level entrepreneurs on YouTube with hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of lectures, tutorials, rants, and classes that will speak to you directly. Seek a YouTube mentor who is immersed in your market and consume everything they’ve put out. One of the guys I follow is Gary Vaynerchuk. If you’re not familiar with who he is then do yourself a HUGE favor and YouTube Gary Vaynerchuk and click on any of his many videos. In a nutshell,  he’s a self made media mogul who started with an online wine business that’s expanded into a media company that he hopes will eventually lead to him buying the NY Jets football team. For months now I’ve been consuming his videos which are chalk full of inspiration, great social media advice, and some uncomfortable truths about my mindset and how I need to change the way I think in order to be the entrepreneur I want to be. His message is accessible to me day and night, I have a variety of topics I can cover through his videos that answer the questions I have at the time. Of course, the video version of Gary Vaynerchuk isn’t a replacement for the real person whose direct mentorship is valued at more money than I’ve made this year but compared to free videos on YouTube, I think I’m getting the bargain here.

There are lots of other personalities on YouTube you can explore such as Grant Cardone whose selling technique, energy, and over the top personality will super charge your desire to sell (WHO’S GOT MY MONEY???) or if you’re looking at developing your leadership skills by upping your emotional intelligence then Tony Robbins’ videos will inspire you to learn more about yourself and to ask some really hard questions. There are also interviews with business leaders such as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and many others who share their lessons learned and give practical advice for anyone willing to listen. Tai Lopez, you might remember him as the YouTube “you know whats better than this Lamborghini…knoooowledge” guy, makes a great point about the autobiography of Sam Walton. He wrote his story, the story of how he became a billionaire and most people haven’t read it. Think about that, he left the blue print for how he made his fortune and most people haven’t read it! YouTube is kind of like that. The successful business people are sharing their stories, challenges, and lessons with you and its FREE! You just have to watch!

YouTube has a wealth of knowledge for you to dip into and sure some of these guys can get a bit cheezy or gimmicky. Here’s the thing though, use their knowledge and experience to boost your confidence and interest in entrepreneurship. Then use that to explore the option of finding someone in the market you want to break into for mentorship. You might even find that you both share the same interest in YouTube mentor! I promise you this, the ROI for your time on YouTube will be tremendous but only if you’re pursuing the right information.

So get on YouTube, find Gary Vaynerchuk and take him for a spin. Not your flavor, try Grant Cardone, or Tai Lopez, or all of them. Devote an hour in the morning to hear their message, get fired up, and let them guide you through the steps you need to take to get your business off the ground!

“Ideas are shit! Execution is the game!” – Gary Vaynerchuk

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 www.dictionary.com 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!