Veteran Business Owners Benefit from a Marketing Makeover
Military members have access to an array of benefits and opportunities earned by their service. Credibility and marketability in the business world just happens to be an added bonus.
There are more than 25 million veterans nationwide. Those who become entrepreneurs and small business owners can use their military service as a springboard to new customers and repeat clients. About 7 in 10 Americans would rather patronize a veteran-owned business than one owned by a civilian, according to the National Veteran-Owned Business Association, or NaVOBA.
But scores of veterans fail to capitalize on the power of their stories and service. Part of it may be an unwillingness or uncertainty about touting that record. In other cases, it's simply an awareness issue. The reality is that veteran-owned business owners who take steps to tout their backgrounds can reap significant rewards, from government contracts to increased industry recognition.
For some, it's a matter of seeking certification and official declarations. But for thousands of others, the key is a basic shift in the way they present their business to the world.
Veterans who own small contracting firms should strongly consider registering with the Department of Veterans Affairs. As with having a minority- or woman-owned business, a veteran-owned business has access to a dedicated pool of federal contracts.
The VA coordinates an official registration process that includes verification of a veteran's military service. The base requirements are that a veteran must own at least 51 percent of the company or its stock and directly control the daily operations. Along with that comes a long, hard look at the business's finances, management structure, inventory, tax documents and other key data.
Now, not every small contractor is in a position to compete for large government contracts. But those that are can boost their chances by obtaining formal certification as a veteran-owned business. There's also a special certification class for veterans with service-connected disabilities. Veterans with a documented disability rating have access to their own pool of contracts, which the government is required to set aside.
Small contractors must also register with the government's main contracting clearinghouse, the Central Contractor Registration.
Veteran-Only Business Loans
Veterans who qualify have perhaps the most potent home loan program on the market: the VA Loan Guaranty program. But you can't use a VA home loan to purchase a commercial building or inject capital into a business.
To help cover the gap, the U.S. Small Business Administration created a pilot program that provides funding for veterans seeking to start or expand small businesses. The Patriot Express loan program offers low-interest loans for up to $500,000, which can be used for a host of purposes, including equipment purchases, working capital and real-estate buys.
Small Steps, Major Impact
Veterans outside the construction sector might still want to take the time to register with the VA. Consider it the first step in a marketing makeover designed to broadcast your service record and credibility.
But there's certainly no requirement if you're more of a mom-and-pop operation. What's essential, though, is making sure prospective and existing consumers clearly understand they're dealing with a veteran-owned operation. That might include revamping your suite of marketing materials and signage — both brick-and-mortar and online — to incorporate that "veteran-owned business" tagline. Embrace it in emails, mailers and promotions. Heck, don't be afraid to mention it when you answer the phone.
This isn't about "cashing in" on a veteran's proud service. This is about recognizing and celebrating it.
American consumers are clamoring for the chance to support veterans and their families. Why not make it easier for them to do so?