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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Meeting Veteran & Employer Challenges During Transition from Military to Civilian Work


Image Eastern Illinois University

Expectations and Reality are Far Apart on Both Sides of the Employment Spectrum
By Ken Larson 

Aside from the legal and moral obligations to employ returning veterans, there is a third, vital challenge in the employment transition equation: understanding the vast difference between the military and civilian work environments.  The expectations of both parties must be carefully assessed and communicated with realistic processes for effective transition from military to civilian employment by the veteran.


Civilian Knowledge of the Military Environment Has Diminished

As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.


War was much closer to home when the draft existed and military participation ran higher during WW II and the Vietnam Conflict.



The Nature of Today's Wars and a Cynicism with Regard to Their Outcome Impacts the Veteran and the Civilian Outlook



Ultimately, the military’s discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results.


The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

Despite a six-year, $287 million effort to make troops more optimistic and resilient, an Army survey found that 52 percent of soldiers scored badly on questions that measured optimism, while 48 percent reported having little satisfaction or commitment to their job.

Understanding the Military's Morale Crisis

Veterans bring these issues home and find a civilian employment environment that does not have a focus on combat life and death, but rather an emphasis on long term thinking, collaboration, viewing actions with respect to the impact on internal and external customers and politically correct human resource considerations.



The assumption on the part of the employer is that the strength and training of the individual coming out of the military environment permits a reasonable transition. It does not.



We Must Educate and Develop Programs to Bridge the Gap from Both Ends.


A transition partnership between the veteran and the company is necessary. Expectations must be adjusted to reflect the differences in both venues.

Military core values such as – oaths, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a culture of direct command, and a narrow focus on the task at hand are no longer available when the veteran leaves the military. 

In the civilian environment political correctness, strategic group awareness, tact, organization factors, and a broad view of mission and achievement are required.

A veteran is therefore is not so much entitled to a job as he or she is entitled to be understood, and to be allowed to understand the civilian job environment, growing into it.

Professional Roles are Vital

There are two important types of professional roles to consider when hiring and managing military veterans in the business venue.

As a veteran who made the transition to civilian professional work and ultimately owned a small enterprise, and as a counselor who supports veterans in becoming business owners, my experience over several decades indicates military men and women do well in Role 1 below. They have the most challenges with Role 2.

Role 1 Technical - Scientific, engineering, logistics, electronics, design and similar skill sets where direct supervision, team building, corporate policy compliance and human resource planning and utilization are not major factors.

VS

Role 2- ManagementFunctional process capacities responsible for hiring, evaluation, supervision, compliance with civilian law and department activities involving group dynamics, customer relations and sensitive human factors.

Image: The Military Wallet










I came out of the military having had a leadership role in engineering, base development planning and combat support. I served in war zones in Southeast Asia and on highly classified missions. I was not a manager. I was a military leader in specialized skill sets under Role 1 above.

I knew how to direct people who followed orders without question because the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which we swore an oath said they must do so.

I felt uncomfortable in jobs involving Role 2 above because they were foreign to me. I later adjusted, learned the venue and became skilled as a manager in the corporate world. I preferred staff assignments, however for most of my career.

The corporate venue seemed enormously political and bureaucratic to a former war fighter like me. I was not that tactful. I cut to the chase often and did not always take everyone with me when I made a decision.

Once I grew into a Role 2 performer, I found in interviewing, hiring, evaluating and managing young veterans, even seasoned ones, who had retired and joined the civilian work force, that almost all were better suited for Role 1. It took years and effort on my part to fit them into Role 2 and some never made it.

Management Analysis  and Moving Forward

The principal reason for the logic conveyed above is that the military environment may seem to be structured in a way that fits Role 2, but the military does not turn out individuals who are suited in the knowledge and experience necessary in the civilian environment and they are not very good at it without extensive training and adaptation.

Enterprises have multiple-faceted challenges and they require multiple- faceted people. Even though individuals may hold a specific position job title, success in the civilian work force demands avenues where the human resource can contribute in multiple ways.

If a contributor has experience and training in several areas the business can utilize, that makes him or her a valuable resource and it is likely they will be professionally fulfilled and rewarded from doing so. Military personnel have specialty training and focus; few have a wide view of what is in front of them, particularly with respect to military vs. civilian professional settings.

It all comes down to the workers having an element of control in the future success for both themselves and the company and having the opportunity to realize their potential in that regard.

If the professional is in a narrow, technical discipline and his or her expectations are to have others support them in that role or if they are more comfortable in a "Stove-piped" professional setting and not attuned to group dynamics and the often politically correct nature of the civilian organization, they perhaps belong in technical roles and they do not belong in management roles at the onset of their employ.

Summary

In fairness to veterans and to our hopes for them in the future, we must understand these above distinctions, build on Role 1, understand the risk in Role 2 and assist wherever possible.Above all,  a respectful partnership and realistic expectations must evolve between the veteran and the company for success in transitioning  former military personnel into the civilian work force. This must be achieved through education, training, communication and assessment of both the veteran and the company personnel. 


Ken Larson 





About the Author:

Ken Larson is a 2 Tour US Army Vietnam Veteran, retired after 36 Years in the Defense Industrial Complex, having worked on 25 major weapons systems, many of which are in use today in the Middle East. He concluded his career with his own consulting firm. As a MicroMentor Volunteer Counselor Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting. 









Wednesday, July 1, 2015

BUSINESS ETHICS FEED GOVERNMENT RECORDS OF PAST PERFORMANCE




INTRODUCTION

Previous discussions at this site have emphasized the importance of maintaining a solid past performance rating to meet award criteria used by every federal agency when granting small business contracts.

Your Past Performance Record

We have also highlighted the importance of maintaining solid ethical business practices in dealing with customers and industry partners.

Maintaining an Ethical Company Image

This article will discuss the practical aspects of achieving the above, the associated challenges and how not meeting them can jeopardize your industry reputation and business success.  

IGNORANCE ON POLICY AND REGULATORY MATTERS IS NOT AN EXCUSE

The small business faces a front-end-loaded and ongoing learning challenge in understanding the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), Cost Accounting Standards (CAS), Unallowable Costs, Organization Conflict of Interest (OCI) many other similar policies the federal government invokes. 

A continuous learning process must include evaluating the impact of these requirements, developing consistent processes and systems to meet and maintain them or risk poor ratings on proposals, audits and performance; even the denial of an invoice payment.

In short, the government has the right to audit, examine and approve your internal operations for conformance to the law before granting a contract or paying a bill.  These are not preferences by contracting officers.  They are federal contracting laws.

The astute small business learns the law and incorporates compliance in its business practices.

CONTRACTING PERSONNEL IN ACQUISITION ROLES HAVE VARYING LEVELS OF KNOWLEDGE & PROFESSIONALISM

The US Government and its prime contractor cadre form a massive professional base.  Although they conduct training in policy and regulation to their acquisition professionals, these professionals are rotated frequently and/or encounter contracting authority as only one role among many in their principal professional endeavors.

Government Contracting Roles

Small business systems are unique to a company.  Documenting them and conveying their compliance to regulations in a clear, lucid way to auditors, agency buyers/contracting officers and other government customers is a vital part of avoiding misunderstandings regarding compliance issues.  

An additional concern with prime contractors is protecting intellectual and proprietary data, such as rates and factors, while participating in the assist audit process used by the government to avoid risk of undesirable disclosure from one firm to another.

If, during the course of marketing, proposing and negotiating government contracts with government and prime contractor personnel, a small business encounters lack of professionalism, misunderstanding of the regulations or defiance of them, the occurrence must be escalated to higher authority with tact, judgment and the long term objective of not only obtaining new business, but staying in business. 

Managing Government Teaming Relationships

DISCLOSURES ARE MANDATORY

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)  52.203-13 in 2008 made mandatory that contractors must disclose past, present or pending violations of contract law to the government.   Not adhering to this requirement can be costly in terms of poor past performance records, legal expenses and financial judgments.

FAR 52.203-13 (3) - Mandatory Disclosure

The Truth in Negotiations Act

TRAINING IN GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS IS A GOOD INVESTMENT

As fast as things move these days if we don't train and communicate effectively we are running very high risks.  The modern era in which we live demands that training be sophisticated, interactive and responsive to changing times. It should evolve out of core company processes and contain feedback mechanisms.

Some training will be global, such as policy, corporate ethics and human relations. Other training will be specialized, such as changes in law, company policy or technology by functional areas.


Principal among the topics at the head of the list for generic training in the art of something would be "Communicating Effectively" to employees to customers, to regulators; both orally and in writing.

Small Business Company Trainng

SUMMARY

Small business must evaluate regulations then communicate and enunciate a company ethics policy and processes that insure compliance with laws and regulations, training personnel on them in the process.

In doing so, disclosures will then be positive and the business will not become an entry in the Project on Government Oversight's Contractor Misconduct Data Base or the subject of negative press releases by a government agency. (Examples below)

Federal Contractor Misconduct Data Base

Portrait of a Crooked Government Contractor

Star Power And The Military Industrial Complex



Monday, June 1, 2015

Are You Driving the Tools & Not the Car In Launching Your Small Business?



There is a new kind of monkey these days -  the technology monkey. That sucker will bury us if we don't learn to deal with him.
 
As a small business counselor I have noticed there seems to be a belief that automation, the Internet and social networking can make the business succeed when in fact the real design of the enterprise itself is lacking (niche, market base, business plan, competitive analysis and financial forecasting)

I hear from many clients who ask, "What Now?" having launched an enterprise that is going nowhere because they are driving the tools and not the car.

I take them back to the garage; design the auto to see if it can run and then apply the wrenches retroactively if that is possible. It is usually a traumatic experience and could have been avoided with strategic and business planning before launch.

Below is a simple test to develop your potential idea for a business.

1. Do you have a product or service niche in mind?

2. Do you believe you have a market for 1 above and the means to reach it?
3. Are you willing to develop a business plan using the tool kit linked below to validate 1 and 2 above before you launch?

If the answer to the above questions is "Yes",use the below planning aids to design your business vehicle and the road map you intend to follow on your journey: 
Free Sample Business Plans

When you have completed the above definition and planning process you will then be in a position to astutely select the tools you wish to use along the way and apply them successfully.

You will be able to network your vehicle, pick up riders as industry partners, and attract revenue fuel in the form of customers by marketing and social networking based on the thorough definition and content of your business plan.

In short, don’t let technology make a monkey out of you and your idea as well as raid your treasury before you launch.


 

Define your business vehicle and its journey first. Then pick the right technology tools to make a successful trip.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Why Social Network To Promote Your Small Business?

 Image:  Smallbiztrends.com
INTRODUCTION:

Personal, professional and business branding is occurring regularly, whether or not we are aware of it.

From our web site presence to our postings on the sites of others, from our credit ratings to our cell phone records and application navigation, we are tracking others and being tracked ourselves.
 

Deciding to become active in social networking is really a matter of managing personal, professional and business images/brands or having them manage us. 

THE INTEGRATED SOCIAL NETWORK

Networking is a vital tool in achieving an image/brand. Establish a network like a wheel. The hub is core content (web site, blog, books, articles, useful materials). The spokes leading from the hub are the tools to network content that is linked to the hub.
 

Contacts are the engines that power the wheel.

Content is the fuel that feeds the social networking contacts and powers the wheel. 

As the wheel turns, the quality of the networking improves with feedback and the wheel climbs the optimization hill of the major search engines (SEO).
 
Limiting factors are the quality of the core content and knowledge/persistence in networking.

SOCIAL NETWORKING WHEEL

CONTRIBUTE TO OTHERS

Blog, post and contribute to Q&A features on several sites:

1. It allows insight in solving the difficulties of others; always a satisfying achievement, dovetailing with professional endeavors and creating a positive image.

2. The manner in which a response is worded conveys values, expression, opinion, and insight to others who may wish to team, counter with a disagreement or pass on a reference to others; all healthy forms of communication.

3. Ratings features allow evaluation of responses by a large peer group.

4. With the growth of social networking international participation increasing dramatically, it provides insights into perspectives from other nations and cultures; a valuable input in the wired global economy these days.

5. The historical record of questions and answers, posting content and feedback is searched regularly by a large, world-wide community and draws others to profiles and web sites long after the initial dialogue has occurred.


MAKE PRUDENT JUDGEMENTS

Evaluate other net-workers for consistency. Value the participants who realize these are huge and open forums and who keep an open mind to input.
 

Do not value narrow minded use of these features for exclusively personal or business gain, control freak attitudes, and those who delete replies or answers because they disagree with the responses they are getting or are not getting what they perceive to be desirable results. 

THE END PRODUCT:

A brand, an image and valued content, carefully cultivated,  exchanged and viewed regularly with others and communicated for success. 

Please see the below link for an example of how the above principles are applied.

Integrated Utilities Linked as a Composite on "About Me"












Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Maximizing Free Social Media Utilities to Promote Your Small Business







Utilize social media to promote your small business. The process requires a front-end loaded investment in time, but it is well worth the effort when using free or very low cost utilities on the Internet. The return may surprise you.

Set up a Google or Word Press blog as an extension of your web site.  A blog is quite different from a web site. Provide good, solid information free of charge and use blog searches for synergistic businesses to team with. Teaming is an absolute necessity these days. 

SmallBusiness Teaming 

Be prepared to provide information, samples and valuable service gratis as a marketing tool. Introduce yourself and then immediately engage the client or potential teaming partner with your presentation tools available to bring your expertise to whatever topic they are interested in. 

Let them take you where they want to go with their concerns and their needs. Apply your presentation tools and expertise dynamically The idea is to refer clients to article links at your web site and your blog to avoid having to repeat yourself over and over in new business marketing, thereby keeping yourself available for specific inquiries and closing deals. 

Link everything together and begin answering questions as well as registering at many of the free applications for networking web sites on the Internet to see how that can benefit your product and services. Utilities like Twitter, Facebook, Empire Avenue, Pinterest and About Me will serve your site well. 

You may wish to consider Google Ad Sense for cash flow.  It is free and could supplement your income with ads in the margin of your blog. 

Integrating and networking platforms together is the best approach. Most of the free applications of the type discussed here have profile features to link back to your blog and many will automatically publish your content on their site, once linked. 

Content is king and the queen is a hub of strong useful information with spokes emanating from it like those of a wheel to many free social networking platforms where your brand, your consistency and your offerings drive the engine that is your enterprise.

Please see the below link for an example of how the above principles have achieved. 

Integrated Utilities Linked as a Composite on "About Me"