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My business partner, Tim, and I launched The Military Veteran earlier this year.
We started ideating on a company that could help military veterans transition into their civilian careers in the spring.
Here’s a rough timeline of our company’s progression -
April: We started having regular meetings to ideate about the problem and potential solutions.
May: We decided to host an in-person event in NYC for transitioning veterans who were matriculating at MBA programs.
June: We worked through the logistics of an in-person event and drove event sponsorships.
July: We hosted our first event, which was a great success - it felt impactful and fun, but not necessarily lucrative. More on this below. We also threw a date on the calendar for our 2nd event in October.
August: We did sales outreach in every moment of the month to sell sponsorships for our conference. We also planned logistics for our September event.
September: We finalized logistics, started onboarding clients for recruiting work, and continued our sales efforts for enterprise customers to sponsor our event.
October: We hosted our 2nd in-person event. This event was dramatically larger than the first, hosting 300 transitioning veterans. We made our first placements as a recruiting agency.
November: We doubled down on time spent as a recruiting agency, onboarding a few new clients and helping existing clients hire better, faster, and easier.
Throughout the year, I have been laser-focused on generating revenue. A great business must do two things exceptionally well -
Create Value for customers
Capture Value as revenue
Plenty of good ideas create value, but fail to capture it. To build a healthy business that can scale its impact, we must also capture value.
This brings us to the question of how we create and capture value - let’s talk about hiring and the business models in this space.
Some Background on Hiring
Hiring is extremely difficult.
It’s costly - a business advertises open roles, sifts through hundreds (or thousands) of applications, interviews candidates, and ultimately hires a new employee.
The employee is not productive on day 1 - it takes months for a new employee to be onboarded. During that time, the company is paying a salary and benefits.
The difference between a world-class hire and an average hire is dramatic - studies have estimated that a great employee will provide up to 8x the productivity of a mediocre or even average employee.
Firing poor performers is expensive as well since companies must pay severance.
The cost of a new hire can range from the low thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars for senior roles.
In short, there is a massive market opportunity in helping companies hire well.
A business model is how you create and capture value. It identifies -
Who are your customers?
What are your products and services (how do you create value)?
To serve transitioning veterans, we identified two potential revenue streams -
We could sell sponsorships to employers for our in-person events. We also charge attendees for tickets to these events.
We could help companies hire military veterans for specific business roles.
We have tried both of these business models in 2022.
I believe our in-person events are objectively amazing.
They’re inspiring, educational, fun, and allow us to provide great value to hundreds of transitioning veterans.
Unfortunately, the clients who would sponsor a large hiring event are large employers - many of these customers have hiring freezes in place. Others set their budget for hiring events 12 or 24 months in advance.
Employers hire us to help them find great talent.
This work can be lucrative as we work on a percentage of the first year’s salary.
It’s time intensive as we must find and contact hundreds of candidates, reach out to them about the opportunity, screen them and interview them, then coach them to get them ready for their interviews.
This work is time-consuming but fun - I love spending my time helping individual candidates prepare for their interviews.
This final leg of the business does NOT produce revenue at the moment.
I believe we can grow into a content powerhouse, producing valuable content for hundreds of thousands of transitioning veterans.
Unfortunately, the process of growing this audience will take considerable time and effort for a long-term (and unclear) payoff.
There are a number of ways to monetize this in the future - membership fees, affiliate marketing, bulk purchasing discounts, courses, etc.
With limited resources, how do I allocate my time?
The obvious answer is to allocate more time to the endeavors that enable growth - the clearest revenue-generating activities.
Frankly, this would also be the easiest thing to do - cut off the extraneous distractions and double, then triple down on what’s working.
Unfortunately, that’s not how we affect large-scale change. It limits our reach and impact.
Just do more with less.
Duh - what else is there to do?
What would you suggest about the 3 business models above?
How do you weigh long-term gains vs clear, short-term victories?
Tell me about a time you’ve struggled with a similar business conundrum.
Well, as someone who has fought this battle for a decade now.
1. The business model is human capital intensive and prone to volatile cycles. E.g. gulf oil boom 2012/bust 2020
2. Technology/content is the only scalable delta creator in this space.
3. The military/veteran community is highly knit in your demo but that's a very tiny percentage versus the larger military/National Guard who scatter to the winds.
4. You're competing against the military talent institution. 1. TAPS can't be changed without Congressional approval and the companies who own those contracts do not subcontract out even though the programs are trash. 2. Bradley-Morris who is PE owned, Orion, Lucas Group who was acquired by Korn Ferry, and Alliance are instutionalized groups that have the big recruitment marketing, branding, and long term relationships. 3. There's a couple of different routes: A. Startup space and provide Skillbridge. B. Skilled labor and apprenticeship (I'm very bullish on this), and student veterans into grad school or into the workforce. Many campus recruiting programs do NOT include the student veterans, especially with internships (82% conversion rates), coops(90% conversion) being a very high success metric for companies, universities and students. The Post 9/11 GI Bill and VRE is a $20B dollar benefit that isn't fully capitalized from a marketing, recruitment, and data perspective. (Imagine being able to provide a 1% increase in graduation rates for veterans. Or 10% more women into stem, or transitioning service members navigated towards skilled based training programs) I am hiring for 120 electric line persons.
4. There are 48k veteran based non profits. The majority of them are nothing more than TAPS enhancement programs.
5. I am bullish on you and Tim. This space is a great place for you to build out a small business that can get acquired by larger orgs like Bradley Morris acquiring MBAVeterans. Outside of that, I have little confidence that the 7 to 10 apps/platforms in our space will be able to empower and consolidate the entirety of our community.
I firmly believe that there is a massive disconnect in the career technology space. Why are we still using job boards to navigate our career search?
My apologies for the thesis. 😀
Great background, Brendan. With regard to what should you allocate your time to, what are optimizing for? The cyclical nature of the recruiting/events business is tough and scaling seems to be a function of manpower.
I would allocate your time to the content production effort. It appears more scalable and offers more variety in revenue streams. Perhaps more importantly, content production can more easily serve those veterans who really need help transitioning to civilian careers the most (and who comprise a larger audience) - transitioning enlisted vets. The veterans pursuing MBAs that you currently serve already have significant resources at their disposal and a higher awareness of those resources. Perhaps content production will allow you to increase the reach of The Military Veteran to an adjacent but new audience.