J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation at Syracuse University and executive director of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that veterans retiring from military service have a urgent need for multiple and solid routes to post-service jobs and careers.
Haynie testified June 8 before the House Committee on Small Business during a hearing titled “Military to Main Street: Serving Veteran Entrepreneurship.” The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the role of experienced entrepreneurs in business and how the US Small Business Administration (SBA) supports their transition into civilian life.
Haynie was among a number of speakers strongly committed to supporting veteran entrepreneurs, including Brenton Peacock, director of the Florida Veterans Business Outreach Center at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida; Laurie Sayles, President and Chief Executive Officer of Civility Management Solutions in Greenbelt, Maryland and Joe Shamess, Founder and General Partner of Flintlock Capital in Great Falls, Virginia. After their statements were completed, they answered questions from committee members.
Haynie’s testimony drew on his many years of experience in the savvy business community to help committee members understand the unique needs of this demographic. “For many, the transition from military to civilian life is a major challenge,” he said.
Haynie’s experience leading IVMF over the past decade – and particularly the Institute’s work in applying an academic and data-driven lens to understand the opportunities and challenges associated with the transition from military to civilian life – gives him a unique perspective provided.
Some veterans pursue higher education and others pursue education that prepares them for meaningful trade and careers, Haynie said. “At the same time, a great many veterans throughout history have shown a strong desire to create their own jobs — through corporate ownership — after stepping out of uniform.”
Data from the US Small Business Administration suggests that in fiscal year 2021, more than 20,000 military personnel received small business ownership training to prepare for their transition to civilian life.
“Where the rubber meets the road, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are as enterprising as they come — a fact that contradicts the perception that the military in general is rigid and bureaucratic,” Haynie said. “In fact, our service people are trained to implement things, often in the face of dynamic and resource-constrained environments.”
By its very nature, starting and growing a new business is the highest form of social and economic service, Haynie said. More than 60 percent of the new jobs created each year come from small businesses, including the new jobs that now employ the many millions of post-9/11 veterans who have transitioned to civilian life over the past 20 years.
“For these reasons and many more, the public and private sectors should continue to work together on behalf of the men and women who have answered the nation’s call to military service to expand the opportunity for veterans to serve the nation once more than America’s next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders,” said Haynie.
Haynie highlighted three findings from the just-released 2022 National Survey of Military-Affiliated Entrepreneurs (NSMAE), a study conducted annually by the IVMF. Findings included that access to capital is one of the top challenges for experienced entrepreneurs; navigating local resources is difficult; and the diversity of the community equals different barriers and challenges.
Haynie also spoke extensively about women veterans and spouses in the military. Women currently make up 17 percent of the US military, and their service often equips them with job skills that are in high demand in the civilian job market. Female Veterans have proven leadership skills, are resilient, and demonstrate calmness and confidence in high-pressure environments. “Despite these compelling strengths, however, many female veterans cite persistent barriers to the educational and network resources needed to combine military-learned skills and experience with corporate leadership,” Haynie said.
“Owning a small business allows military-related women to pursue careers in the face of unique caring responsibilities and frequent relocations that are often typical of a military-related lifestyle,” Haynie said. “Consequently, collective action to create inclusive leadership avenues for women with military ties should be a national priority.”
Haynie said public and private funding should be made available for this purpose and should not only aim to expand existing business ownership programs and pipelines for women with military connections, but also be used to create new and innovative avenues of business ownership for women with military connections and to scale women.
A first step is to create a broader awareness of the supportive resources already in place. One example is the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) initiative currently offered by the IVMF. This program, a partnership between Syracuse University and the US Small Business Administration, provides online classes, a three-day in-person training experience, and ongoing mentorship for female veterans and military spouses interested in business ownership. Similarly, through a program called Onward to Opportunity, the IVMF provides a no-cost opportunity for women with military ties to earn professional certificates and qualifications that are in high demand throughout the job market and aligned with running a business.
Many of the social, health, and economic challenges that veterans face later in life stem from the veteran’s willingness to successfully make the transition from military to civilian life, Haynie concluded.
“Therefore, as we emerge from the COVID public health emergency, the first and best use of our resources should be to ensure that those making the transition from military to civilian life are prepared, supported and proactively connected to the communities to be in where they will live and work and raise their families. Based on research and real-world experience, I have suggested here that expanded support for military-related corporate property resources and training programs is positioned to advance this goal,” he said.