In September, Stars and Stripes interviewed Army veteran, entrepreneur and private equity investor Joseph Meyer. When the conversation turned to how military members and veterans could find mentors as they transitioned to the civilian world, Meyer suggested we include his email in the article. So we did. Here’s his description of what happened as a result:
I received approximately 500 emails from the article Bill Murphy Jr. wrote about my experiences as an entrepreneur, and my willingness to assist veterans in their quest for civilian success. The main recurring themes were:
1. How do I get my business idea started?
2. Will my idea work?
3. How do I get people excited about my idea and find the money to get started?
4. Will you mentor me?
Items 1, 2, and 3 all revolve around the initial phase of starting a new venture. I consistently found myself having to explain some of the basics of business. In many instances I advised these men and women who had an idea to go and work for someone in that specific industry. This lets them learn if they really like the field, and also gives them industry specific experience that might allow investors to feel comfortable investing in them.
Thinking through how to develop good products is tricky. Many of the people who emailed me had not thought through all the costs and the overhead required. This is a learning process but it’s something that can be taught.
We need to find a way to offer a class on entrepreneurship and make it available to our men and women in uniform. One example of this is the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV program). I spoke with Michael Zacchea, who is the director of EBV at the University of Connecticut. If we can teach troops the basics, we’ll help them to avoid a lot of common mistakes. An online class would be ideal, for example.
Regarding the fourth recurring item -- Mentorship. The key benefit to having a mentor is having someone you can talk to about an issue. Many people will give of their time. But they want specific questions. Simply asking them how to be successful is too broad, and it suggests you haven't thought about your objective.
If you don’t know where else to begin, I can recommend two books: Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, and Dale Carnage's How to Win Friends and Influence People. These are two great classics for the entrepreneur to internalize.