From military to business owner

Transitioning  from the NZDF (military organisation) is not easy for most of us, (especially transitioning from Military to Business owner) the longer you have been in, the more dependent that you are on their support structure. However the struggles are not the focus point in this blog but the questions of a service person entering into their own business is.

There are hundreds of ex serving Soldiers, Airmen & Sailors who transition from Military to Business owner that have built their businesses from scratch. Some even brought other businesses with their superannuation pay-outs. Here is a few lessons and questions they answered as a collective and yes these people are anonymous as we are bound by the Privacy Act 1993 to safeguard any personal info.

Please note that these events have been dealt with promptly and with relentless proficiency.

Question #1 Do I have to ask my Commanders permission to own a business?

Answer: Nope.

I get asked this question all the time while working in my unit and I’ll throw a few points out there to clarify:

  1. You can run your business in any way or fashion provided that you:
    1. Don’t push your business or work on your business while you’re at your place of work.
    2. Do not run any promotions involving the Defence Force (unless permission is granted).
    3. Remain deployable.
    4. Adhere to their social media policies.
  1. Legally your Commanders can not stop you from starting up or developing your own business. For them to try and convince you otherwise is illegal and irresponsible. You’re encouraged to get out there and stand on your own 2 feet.

Question #2 When is a good time to start-up?


To be honest, while you’re still in the organisation.

You have a lot of flexibility to do so and you do have plenty of opportunity to get creative, get advice and bounce a lot of ideas off your comrades. Check Advice #2 for more detailed clarification

Question #3 Can I run my business workshops within my base?

Answer: Don’t bloody do it, these conference rooms are not for your business use. Do so with the fear of the military gods raining a lot of pain and misery upon you before your punishment starts.

Question #3 Can I run my business within my base?

Answer: No, unsanctioned commercial activity will result in disciplinary action and you will open yourself to serious repercussions.

Question #4  If I was to start building my start-up whilst working for the military, how long will this take to generate an income?


Taking Advice #2 into consideration, with a robust business and marketing plan, implementing strategies that will perform for your start-up this can take 1-2 years to generate and match the income you’re currently at.

However you need to be aware that external environments may cause you to slow down your business activities or simply put them to a standstill as you may be required to support a deployment or a civil emergency.

Just remember that you’re working full time and the nature of the job can be sporadic at best.

Question #5 

Are there  any other Business owners in the military?

Answer: Yep, the amount will even surprise you.

Question #6

I really want to stick with building my business as it is starting  to take off however my work is constantly busy and my new venture is starting to get busy also! I’m not getting to bed until 11pm each night, what do I do?

Answer:  Looks like you’re past the Start-up struggle phase of transitioning from Military to Business owner and there are other opportunities that are presenting themselves to you.

Option 1: Remain in Service – Employ staff.

You are going to need to employ staff to keep your business running and the right staff to ensure it keeps growing. The only Issue is the fact that you won’t be able to keep an eye on things while you’re focusing on the nations interests. Sure you can employ some family members but remember that family and business quite often does not mix.

Option 2: Resign from full service

Sometimes resigning can be the only option if you’re serious about bringing your venture to the next level. This is the cheapest way to keep your venture going but you must be aware of the struggle ahead (read Military transition to an Entrepreneur for more info) in regards to the support structure you will be leaving. Perhaps you still want to serve part-time? There are some support structures available if you take the part time path.

Option 3: Remain in Service – Employ Shareholders – Company Structures only.

Like the first option you will employ staff, however by making them a shareholder you effectively give them the option to take home a portion of the businesses annual profits which if done right, can be very substantial. Only do this for someone that actually has an interest and they will go all out to make more money and in turn make you money also. This will give them incentive to ensure your start-up thrives while you’re away.

NOTE: You must get advice before issuing out shares for your company

Military to Business owner Advice #1:

Don’t start a business because you have had a guts-full of your workplace, this is a huge mistake as I have had one experience when a superior was going through marriage problems and took it out on their subordinates. The workplace became unbearable to work in and the environment became toxic. Everyone literally started to have a go at each other and I got to the stage where I just didn’t want to be there anymore.

I put in my MD717 (resignation)  and started my own owner-driver business to escape from one toxic organisation hoping to earn the mega-bucks. 3 years later I came crawling back with my tail between my legs having lost 30k.

Military to Business owner Advice #2

Start small and pay heed to the questions above. Starting a business does not need to be expensive. In fact, the best way is to start from scratch rather than buying a business ( Read Start-up vs buying a business for more info). Remember the build will take a while so take your time and don’t rush.

Military to Business owner Advice #3

Before launching a Facebook Page, website or a physical store, test the viability of your offering first. This can prevent you from making really stupid and expensive  mistakes. Do your market research first!

Military to Business owner Advice #4

Consider networking with like-minded people, there are a lot of other untapped skills to learn from.

Advice #5

Don’t disclose your business venture to any random comrade, just to your closest friends and keep it private. Some superiors might take this the wrong way and treat you differently as you’re about to grow in another direction.

If you have any questions or advice then please email info@creativestartup.nz and we will put this up and provide the best answer for you. Your personal info will not be kept or displayed.



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