Listen up, Team: I know what you’re thinking.  

“It won’t happen to me.” 

“I don’t see what the big deal is.” 

“I’m not ‘normal.  This tab doesn’t say “ordinary forces’”

I’ve chatted with enough new business owners to know what you are thinking about starting your own company…  I know it because I thought it. 

Sometimes I still think it…

The result is this post. It’s born from a desire to help you from falling prey to these thoughts.

But here’s the catch: this post assumes you have the capital needed to build your dream, the time and support necessary, and the skill or product that will solve a problem someone (somewhere) is experiencing…. I’m assuming you have something of value to offer.

Having said that, I’ll keep it as simple as possible. Here are three things I think are absolutely a necessity to understand before starting a business.  

1. Understand PACE Planning.  

In Special Forces, it’s drilled into you early and often to develop a PACE plan for anything and everything you do.  PACE creates Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency plans for routes, gear, personnel, actions upon contact, etc.  We know it, we live it, and we love it.  We apply it to everything we do.  

We know plans are great – we like to obsess over them just like anyone else.  But we also have backup after backup planned before we ever step foot out the door.  

Keep PACE in mind when you are developing your next plan.  From your Business Plan to planning daily activities – think of PACE and how you can incorporate it.

I hope the best, but plan for the worst.

2.  Course of Action (COA) Development:

Here’s the deal, as plain and simple as I can make it: you ARE going to fail.  Period.

Your good ideas are going to suck.  

You will have to take a good hard look at those finances you thought would cover you for the entire first year and make some hard changes.

People are going to lie to you.  They will tell you what a great idea you have and how easy life is going to be.  

You’re going to watch Shark Tank and think, “Mark Cuban doesn’t look/act so smart – I could do what he does….” And you know what?  You’re going to fail.  

No one is going to value the expertise you gained over 1 or 9 deployments to “the box,” and no one is going to care that you were the Soldier of the Year in 1998.  Or that you were the recruiter of the year and started a podcast highlighting all the cool things that others have done…

Failure happens.  Get over it and drive on. Learn to adjust fire and develop new courses of action as you develop the situations you find yourself in.  The key is survival, not pride.  Go through the “trouble” of making sure you apply the right energy to the right projects and operations you undertake.  Have a framework in place to get you through the darkness when you don’t know where to turn or what to do next.

3. After Action Reviews (AARs): 

If there is one thing I learned from my time in Special Forces, it would be the value of the After Action Review. 

EVERYTHING you do needs to be analyzed and assessed for areas of improvement.   I can repeat it three more times to make it more clear if you’d like…

After every meeting, phone call, vendor calls, sales event, keynote talk, anything… you must conduct an AAR which (at a minimum) discusses one thing to improve and one thing to sustain.  Capture the ideas and lessons learned and learn to apply them to future efforts.

Here’s the kicker – you also have to learn to ask others their thoughts.  Take advice, ask questions and learn from what you’ve done.  

Making a mistake once is a mistake.   Making it, again and again, is a habit.

So why do I pick these points in particular? 

I’ve fallen prey to each of the above.  Trust me when I tell you: you will have to adjust your plans.   You will have to “react to contact” and realize life/business isn’t going to be as easy as you thought.  

You will have to adjust fire many times along the way.   It’s only when you aren’t prepared to adjust that the unexpected crushes you.  

You’ll have to learn new things like social media, project management, and accounting.  You’ll have to ask for help in maintaining your website.  You’ll have to have a professional headshot on LinkedIn versus your old “cool guy pic.”

Yes, these things suck (well, not the learning PM part if you come through one of my courses), and yes, the struggle is real. It takes a very long time to grow out of it.

  Learn all you can when you can, and never be afraid to ask for help.  

Keep driving on. Never quit.  Never surrender.  Don’t forget to communicate with those you love and trust and always celebrate the small victories.   

The struggle is real, but it won’t kill you.  It just makes you stronger.