7 Steps to Grow Your Business Using Military Intelligence
In the military, failure is not an option. The same sentiment should be applied to your business
How did I break 7 figures my first year in business? I implemented strategies from a 300 year old business that’s still standing strong today: The United States Military. I served in the United States Army from 2007-2011, during which I completed a twelve month deployment to Iraq. Now, I run a successful publicity company gaining immense media around entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Many people don’t realize that veterans can actually learn a lot about business from their time in service. It’s all about perspective and thinking outside the box. A deeper look into the way the military operates demonstrates how following those same steps can create massive success in your business.
Step 1: RECON
Military: A strategy used by the military to learn more about a country before invasion, including understanding who are the locals, who are the enemies, who are the friendlies and who are the leaders.
Business: Learn about your competition. Answering the following questions ensures you are able to take the most strategic approach: “What are they doing?”, ”How are they doing it?”, and “What are they charging?”. Talk to the “locals” [consumers to get their feedback on what went well, what could have gone better and what they didn’t understand. Having this comprehensive understanding of your market allows you to offer exactly what your target audience needs.
Example: A competitive analysis is a crucial part to any PR, marketing or business plan. Identifying your competitors and evaluating their strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to those of your own product or service is the first step in starting a business.
Step 2: Invade a country
Military: A military offensive in which large parts of combatants of one geopolitical entity aggressively enter territory controlled by another such entity, generally with the objective of conquering, liberating or reestablishing control or authority over a territory.
Business: Invade a niche by creating enough noise to be noticed, but not enough as to create panic or anger. Let the locals, enemies, friendlies and leaders know that you’re there and mean business. You plan to better their world, not attack or destroy it. [Elaborate more here]
- Your friendlies are those in the same country (industry) with the same mission but different tools. For instance, while I’m in the publicity industry, I’m not in the “branding” industry. I know my strengths and weaknesses, so I can team up with someone in branding who shares my mission, but is equipped with different tools and the right knowledge. These experts would be my “friendlies”.
- Your enemies are those in business who do not like to swim in the same pool. These people are typically set in their ways and afraid of someone coming in and shaking things up too much. While there are over 7 Billion people in this world, there are some people in business who just don’t like sharing, similar to the way certain people in the country you invade in the Military might not appreciate you being there.
- Your locals are the ones who, in the current state, are neutral. They aren’t fully aware of your presence, and it doesn’t really matter to them regardless. Just like in the Military, your goal in business should be to take those neutral parties and turn them into supporters. It’s imperative to show them how you can better their life, which is consistent with the goal of the Military when going into a new country.
Example: I invaded the publicity industry by changing the way publicity is used. I connected with my competitors who were leaders to try and turn them into ally’s… and then I found ways to work together instead of against each other by offering to help them find opportunities for their clients and them helping me find opportunities for ours (these would be the “leaders” of the country you’re invading that are better to work with, not against)
Step 3: Find an ally, make it a win-win
Military: A relationship among people, groups or states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose.
Business: In this case, your ally would be an influencer – someone with a large audience that, once won over, would be more than happy to tell their “country” (followers) about you. This turns into support for you on your mission. Their followers become your followers, affording you more troops than you had before, an influx of continuous sales and the ability to build your influence much quicker in this new “country” (industry).
Example: I signed some of the biggest influencers as pro bono clients to build my name and support network. By attaching my name to these large scale influencers with loyal audiences, these “allies” helped make my invasion of the publicity industry even easier because their “country” (followers) began to trust me and support my mission. Thus, I was able to grow my business to 7 figures of revenue in the first year without spending even a dime on marketing.
Step 4: Train the troops
Military: Prior to sending troops to new combat areas or countries, the Military first sends them to different types of training grounds focusing on battle, culture and communication. These trainings are completed at places such as NTC (National Training Center) in California. They role play different, possible real-world situations and conduct battle tests to safeguard soldiers for what they may face in combat. They also learn how to attack as a team and move as one unit, not as single soldiers.
Business: Often people try to break into a new industry and build a business as a solopreneur, but this is a huge mistake. Instead, hire a well-vetted team, train them and then allow them to do what they specialize in, keeping them in their MOS (occupational specialty). This in turn allows you the freedom to keep building your empire without having being consumed by “grunt” work.
Example: In the military, you would never send the President to invade a country by himself. You have an entire Armed Forces, all of which have the same mission, but their own specific trainings in order to reach the end goal. The same goes for business. Breaking down barriers one at a time as a single entity in an entire “country” (industry) will rarely, if ever, lead to a successful and mutually-beneficial invasion. After all, the ultimate goal is to become the expert thought leader in your niche that others will seek out for advice.
Step 5: Create a Five paragraph operation order
Military: This op-order that outlines in great detail every aspect of the mission is used in the Army before “leaving the wire”, or going on a mission outside of the base in a combat area, every time. These include Situation, Mission, Execution, Sustainment and Command and Signal
Business: It is imperative to have fully planned out action steps with expected potential issues, exit strategies and route changes. Every business should have a five paragraph operation order that irons out every specific aspect of your business, mission, how to accomplish it, open line of communication and safe exit. – reference link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operations_order [this link says there are several issues with it. For credibility sake, do we really want to link to it?]
Situation: I defined who my target audience was, how to leverage my new “allies” (influencers), who my competitors were and possible pushbacks that new prospects would have and how to address them.
Mission: My mission was to sign more clients, create social proof and case studies on behalf of my business, build my revenue and follow through on my promises and guarantees to clients.
Execution: I knew it was vital to have a plan to ensure I followed through with my promises for new clients, prepare what I would say to people who had pushback on using my services and how I would react to any foreseen issues that my new clients could have. I also knew proper communication was the key to making sure that my prospects fully understood what they were buying and that I would be able to provide them with tangible results.
Sustainment: I had a clear understanding of the logistics of how my team would provide these results, who would accomplish which tasks in what order, how to properly track work and provide my new clients with proof of work completed. I developed a way to provide proof of tangible results and ensure my team was operating in the proper way to provide for all of it.
Command and Control: I put into place a very clear chain of command within my company to guarantee everything ran smoothly. Instead of being the only go-to contact, clients were also given account managers to represent them and be available for support 24/7. If the account managers needed additional support, they had my executive assistant to turn to first to resolve the problem. If it couldn’t be resolved, it would then be brought to my attention. This system allowed me to focus on continuing to grow my business.
Step 6: Attack Intelligently
Military: The U.S. Military never goes running in guns blazing. They always search for the weak spots and attack those. The key here is strategic, perceptive planning based off intel and research.
Business: You’ll frequently find that entrepreneurs tend to jump into overcrowded industries, offering the same services that so many others are already offering. In doing so, they’re attacking the enemy at its strongest points. Instead, find what’s missing in your industry, or the “weak” spots. Ask yourself, “What is a service that’s not currently provided?” or “How could I provide a certain service differently?” Look at the business from all angles, find the weak points or gaps and attack. That’s the way to win this battle.
Example: During my recon of the publicity industry, I was able to find the weak points and biggest frustrations in my industry. I realized there were no guarantees of results which left many feeling as though they wasted their money. So I found a way to stand out in the noise, instead of blending in with my competitors. When I attacked the publicity industry, I did so by providing a service and guarantee that no one else was providing. I found the kink in the armor and supplied a solution for it, which led to great success at a quick rate for my business.
Step 7: After Action Report
Military: An “AAR” is a form of debriefing after a mission or task completed in the military. Units come together, the command along with lower-enlisted soldiers, to discuss what went right and what went wrong during the mission, considering possible ways to complete the next mission even more efficiently than the last.
Business: You won’t win every battle, and often times in business this will hurt. . Whether it’s an unhappy client, failed business strategy or backlash from your competition, the most important thing is doing an AAR of your mission, finding your own weak points and strengthening them, and then going back out to try again. You do this over and over again until you win.
Example: During the first few months of my business, I would sign any client that would pay me money, in hopes of scaling at a fast rate. Not being picky on who I accepted led to many issues with clients in which I needed to give refunds to unhappy clients. After the first two unhappy clients, I sat down with my team to do an AAR. During this AAR, we discussed what we had done wrong to cause the issues, ways to fix these issues moving forward so as not to repeat them with future clients and gain a clear understanding as to why particular clients didn’t work out. This gave us a clearer look into the industries we excelled in versus the ones we were not so great at. We then learned to focus on our strengths, instead of our weakness. It wasn’t until we sat down together as a team to discuss the issues that we were able to work as a cohesive team and business.
Andrew O’Brien, founder and CEO of Vetpreneur and The Publicity Guy is also a veteran, having served a tour to Iraq as an 88M truck driver. Driven by the belief that there is unimaginable untapped potential in the veteran owned business sector, his mission is to empower and support other veterans to achieve their business goals using the discipline and resiliency instilled in him from the military. Business is his new battlefield.