Translating Military Experience to the Business World

Guest Blogger: Amie Reynold, Lt. Colonel US Army Reserves

Business Owner and Mom


Image of a hand holding a clock

I have been a commissioned Officer in the United States Army since 2004.  My adventures in life brought me to San Antonio, TX in 2008.  Then in 2011, I transitioned to the Reserves and purchased my franchise, CertaPro Painters of NE San Antonio.  I continue to serve in the US Army Reserve and manage my CertaPro franchise as we enter our tenth full year in business.  As a Reservist, I must weave my military career through my daily professional life as an entrepreneur and business owner.  My experience in the military has prepared me for this life of excitement, opportunities, as well as the ups and downs. 

Here are three aspects of the military that easily translate to the business world.  

1. Applying Leadership

Leadership is motivating others to achieve a common goal.  It is the backbone of the military and of the business world.  Toxic leaders can break an organization.  The indecisiveness of a passive leader can often result in catastrophic military losses.  On the flip side, an aggressive leader often alienates and leaves people behind.  Leadership applies to everyone in an organization, it is not just reserved for those at the top.  First line leaders in the military make decisions every day that impact the overall mission. 

Customer service representatives are first line leaders of retail organizations and can often form the opinion of a brand for many consumers.  The image of a strong charismatic individual is a very dated idea of a leader. 

Often, leaders today are found from all walks of life.  It is their ability to influence others that makes them a great leader. 

Here are a few key aspects of leadership that apply to business and the military.  

    • Build Resilient Teams.  Teams that can weather the storm together are far more successful than those that do not have the tools to do so.  
    • Develop your team both personally and professional.  Organizations that help their teams set and achieve clear goals will have far more success at retaining talent.
    • Have discipline.  Leaders need to show their organizations what it means to have the discipline to do the right thing all the time, even when no one is looking.   


2. Implementing Systems

Successful businesses develop and follow systems.  In fact, franchising is purchasing a complete system that is intended to be replicated for optimal success.  Former service members are often heavily recruited by the franchise industry because of their experience with systems and standard operating procedures.  It is the consistency of a system that creates the appeal in business and minimizes risk in the military.  Whether it is the recipe for a Chick-Fil-A sandwich or the steps to load a Howitzer, the system is same around the globe. 

When the system works, the consumer falls in love with the brand.  On the military side, when the system works the unit completes the mission and meets the commander’s intent.  Here are a few examples of systems that businesses and the military must define.

    • How you communicate.  Examine how you will communicate both internally and externally with your teams, customers, and stakeholders.  
    • How you make decisions.  Know who is responsible for making the decision and how to access that person.  
    • How you define success.  Set SMART goals that are clearly defined and shared with the entire team. 

3. Understanding Risk

Risk is part of the entrepreneurship process.  All successful businesses are born out of risk.  In the same regard, military operations always have some inherent risk.  It is the job of the staff officer to present courses of action to the commander that have undergone a thorough risk assessment.  Whether it is launching a new product line or deploying troops into harm’s way, the process of evaluating courses of action applies.  As businesses grow and expand their risk increases.  The more consumers they touch, the more technology they use, the more employees they have, all lead to a high level of risk. 

As leaders within the military grow and promote, they take over larger organizations with more intricacies and risk involved.   When I purchased my CertaPro Painters franchise I had to take a Caliper assessment to evaluate my comfort level with risk.  It is a balancing act.  You do not want to stand flat-footed but you also do not want to jump off the cliff.  The military helped me grow a healthy relationship with risk.  Here are some tools that can be utilized in both the military and business as it pertains to risk. 

    • Mitigate.  Set controls to lower risk levels.  For the business world that may be insurance, in the military it may mean additional training or protective equipment.  
    • Have a contingency plan.  Plan for the worst-case scenario and know the trigger point to enact your plan.  
    • Know your enemy (competition).  Stay on top of the data and continually update as the facts change so that leaders can make informed decisions that minimize risk. 

Living the life of a Citizen Soldier is an immensely rewarding experience.  Wearing two hats daily as both “Amie” and “LTC Reynolds” has the potential to be overwhelming at times.  However, the skills I have been taught in both worlds are translatable to the other.  I look forward to continuing my journey.