Veterans Day Thoughts

By Dan Frank
CEO,  Three Wire Systems, LLC

America spoke, Trump is our next president. Where does he go from here on one of his key campaign issues of veteran support? Let me guide the way.

A recent Small Business Administration (SBA) study found that military service exhibits one of the largest marginal effects on self-employment, and veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Historically, 50 percent of World War II vets went on to own or operate a business and that 40 percent of Korean War vets did the same thing creating millions of jobs for of their fellow citizens.

In stark contrast to these statistics, consider that since 9/11, only 162,000 veteran businesses have been creating 324,000 jobs. Hypothetically, using Korean War rate discussed above, our most recent veteran generation should have started 1.4 million companies employing in excess of 2.5 million jobs. Veteran entrepreneurship is on the decline. Why?

It’s complicated, but here is an anecdotal account: Last week I attended the Department of Veterans Affairs National Veterans Small Business Engagement conference in Minneapolis. As an old, bald guy, I noticed lots of other old people in attendance. Essentially zero millennials or Gen X in attendance.

Are the young vet guys/gals developing the next ride haling app and chasing venture dollars in Silicon Valley? Most certainly are not doing this. It simply appears that more vets now “get a job and settle” according to Joseph Kopser an Army veteran and co-founder the Ride-Scout app. He blames a lack of in-service mentorship opportunities for current military members. But is it DoD’s job to prepare transitioning service members for entrepreneurship?

So here is the Big Idea for a scalable veteran entrepreneurship program for President-elect Trump.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the Cadillac of all GI Bills and already encompasses rich benefits. Entrepreneurship training is covered, but only thru Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) run by the SBA.

First, let’s eliminate this rule and expand the options from government run facilities and programs. There are plenty of co-work spaces, non-profits, contractors and volunteers to create an eco-system of options for the budding vet entrepreneur. One option run by the government is ridiculous. Entrepreneurship is not a government core competency.

Secondly, for veterans not interested in a college education track, let them take the equivalent tuition and stipend funding they would have received for their college education and let them use it either fund their business or offset living expenses during their business start-up phase. This will require oversight to ensure that the vet is legitimately involved in their business, but program oversight is a government core competency.

Finally, let’s move upstream with entrepreneurship education within DoD as suggested by Army vet Kopser. There is a huge opportunity within the DoD/VA Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Every transitioning service member must attend TAP classes as they transition from the military to civilian life. For those soon to be vets interested in self-employment, a breakout class could be offered and designed to incorporate the details of my first two suggestions above.

With the right training and funding, I believe we can increase interest and change the downward trajectory of veteran owned businesses. President-elect Trump, Three Wire stands ready to serve.

Healthy for the Holidays

The holidays tend to be the most chaotic time of year for most families. Not only do we have to balance our normal daily grind, but we add holiday parties, shopping, decorating, family time and entertainment on top of it. The most common issue with the holiday season is time management. When we are limited on time, we tend to make poor food choices, skip workouts and even miss out on some much needed sleep.

This year, take a stand for your own sanity and implement the following “Healthy for the Holidays” tips:

1.      Stock up on healthy meals. In October, prepare a few crock pot meals and freeze. This will help you stay on track and skip the fast food. It’s also a good idea to have a few easy snacks on hand for the kids. Regular or dried fruit, nuts and granola bars are perfect snacks that can be easily packed.

2.      Make physical activity non-negotiable. It’s easy to skip a workout when you’re short on time. Schedule in physical activity no matter what to avoid the holiday weight gain. Go sled riding with the kids, walk around your building over lunch, hit the gym or do a home workout program that’s under 30 minutes. The more calories you burn, the less weight you will pack on, even with a few holiday treats.

3.      Indulge on specific days. The entire month of December has somehow turned into a four week binge on cookies, cakes, gravy and pie. Pick specific days to indulge so you don’t feel guilty and don’t fall into the “holiday slump”.  If Grandma’s home-made cookies are your favorite treat, wait for Christmas dinner to enjoy them and skip the store bought cookies at your work party.

4.      Take it easy on the alcohol.  Beer, wine & spirits are a staple for most holiday events. To avoid extra calories or a hangover, stick within the 1-3 drink range. Drink water between each beverage. Dry wine and lite beer have less sugar and tend to be less calories.

5.      Get Some Sleep. The holidays are stressful enough without the added factor of staying up past your bedtime. Shut down the electronics 1 hours before bed. Logging extra quality Zzzz’s will not only keep your mental health in check and help your immune system as well.

Debt Management

You’ve decided to get out from under the debt that you have spent years building up. Credit cards, personal loans, and school loans all seemed like good ideas at the time, but now they have mounted to the point that they are having an impact on your ability to live your life the way you want and to save for your future as you know you should. There is no magical formula to good debt management, no quick solution. You have to get your mind in the right place and decide that you are going to change your behavior when it comes to your money. Then make a plan and stick to it.

First, establish an Emergency Fund. Life happens. If the car were to break down tomorrow, most folks would put the repairs on a credit card and add more to their debt. You need to have a cushion to absorb the bumps that happen to everyone. Start small: get $1000 into the bank as quickly as you can and KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF IT! It’s for emergencies, not a new fishing rod or shoes. Later, after all your debt is gone, you should aim for 3-6 months’ worth of normal expenses in this account.

Next, document every cent that you have coming in (income) and going out (expenses). Get yourself on a strict budget and determine how much you have available to work down the debt. When you put these numbers on paper it’s much easier to see where it all goes and places you can cut back…do you NEED that cup of coffee from the high priced coffee shop every morning?  You can brew your own for much less. Can you pack a lunch instead of going out each day? Have you talked to you cellphone carrier or auto insurance agent recently?  Maybe there are lower priced packages that can save money. At this point you should be able to determine how much money should be left over at the end of the month (Income$ – Expenses$ = Leftover$). For this discussion, let’s say you have $175 left over.

After you set your budget, take another piece of paper and list all your unsecured debt (credit cards, personal loans, medical bills, student loans, etc.) from the smallest balance to the largest. For each balance list the minimum payment from your most recent statement. Disregard interest rates, we’re only concerned with the balances. Now, let’s say the smallest debt on your list is ABC Bank Credit Card with a $200 balance and a $25/month minimum payment. You should be able to pay off this card in 1 month…your $175 left plus the $25 minimum payment = $200 and the first balance is gone! The next smallest balance is a doctor bill of $500 with $50/month minimum payment. Next month you are going to pay $250 ($175 + $25 + $50).  Notice we’ve included our monthly leftover and the minimum payment on the ABC Bank card that is now paid off and the minimum payment for the doctor bill.  That means we should have this debt paid off in 2 months. This process is known as the “Debt Snowball”.  Notice how your payment gets larger each time you pay off a debt. By the time you get to that $30,000 school loan, your monthly payment might be in the thousands.

Depending on how much debt you have, this process can take significant time, but remember it probably took years to build that debt mountain. And just think of the flexibility you will have when you are out from under that mountain and those thousands that you were paying to creditors can now go towards your emergency fund, your retirement, vacation or your kids’ education.

The Behavioral Interview

Behavioral (also referred to as Competency based) interviews have recently grown in popularity and many organizations now use them. Unlike traditional interviews, which are based on open questions that the candidate can speculate about what they think they might do in the future, behavioral interviews focus on past performance and behaviors.

The behavioral interview will give you the chance to showcase your competencies such as knowledge, skills and abilities using specific examples from your past experience. The prospective employer doesn’t want to hear what you think you can do in the future; they want to know what you have done in the past and how you did it. The thinking is that your past performance is the best indicator of future performance.

In a traditional interview, it’s easy for the candidate to let their imagination run wild and say exactly what the interviewer wants to hear: “Work late nights and some weekends? No problem. Increase my travel to 100%? Sure thing.”

In the behavioral interview, you will have to back your gung-ho work ethic with real-life examples, detailing how you handled specific situations. You will most likely be asked the specifics and to quantify your answer as much as possible, allowing the interviewer to check your facts with references, should it get to that stage.

The bottom line is that the behavioral interview is not about potential scenarios. It’s about what you have done and how you did it, making it very tough to just give answers the interviewee thinks the interviewer wants to hear.

Click HERE for sample behavioral interview questions and tips for answering them.

Let’s Get Positive with a New Outlook

Have you ever heard the saying, “Think positively and good things will come?” Does it make you roll your eyes and grumble or do you really take that advice to heart?

Regardless of what you think when you hear someone talk about positive thoughts leading to positive outcomes, there are some correlations between the way we think and the way we live. Positive thinking is more than just a fluffy, feel good, emotionally charged term. Positive thinking does NOT mean that you skip around all day wearing a huge smile denying that negative and difficult situations arise. Feeling and thinking have two separate definitions. Happiness is an emotion, a feeling. Optimism is a belief that good things will happen in the future.

Positive thinking has both psychological and physical benefits. People that are able to maintain a positive thought process are better able to cope with stressful and difficult situations. They are less likely to have cardiovascular disease, they have a greater resistance to the common cold, and they have lower cholesterol levels. Positive thinkers not only have an increased life span and better interpersonal relationships, but they also show slower signs of aging compared to those who have a pessimistic belief about the future.

What you THINK leads to how you FEEL which leads to how you BEHAVE. If you think positively, you will feel more positive and your actions will be positive.

So, how can you increase your daily positive thoughts?

Meditation is great way to increase optimism. It builds long term skills such as increased mindfulness that lead to a positive outlook on the purpose of life, to increased social support, and to decreased illness. Meditation can be done in groups or individual exercises. Some exercises are designed for a quick 5 minute rejuvenation and some are designed for a 30-60 minute relax and revive, chose what best fits your schedule and give a try.

Write positive things down. Write down one thing that you are thankful for or one thing that you are looking forward to in the morning. Starting your day off like this could lead to a day full of positivity. People that write positive things down are able to focus more on the positive, experience an increase in mood, and have fewer visits to the doctor.

Schedule time to play. We schedule meetings, appointments, business lunches, etc. on a daily basis, so why not schedule in some time to do something enjoyable. It may be an exploration, trying a new hobby, playing with children, or attending a fun event. Whatever it is, scheduling in some fun increases contentment, increases joy, gives you something to look forward to, and provides opportunities to learn and build new skills.