Upgrade Available: Growing a Business With Technological Innovation

Article by Adam Evans:

Regardless of your business size, if you operate in the digital space and want to remain competitive, it’s important to keep an eye on the latest movements in digital innovation, integrating tech into the running of your business, optimizing your processes, leveraging data and more.

Digital Marketing

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of tech solutions within modern marketing practices. There are multitude of programs available affordably (or for free) that can help you to manage leads, draw insights, build customer profiles, or mastermind campaigns. The availability of this kind of software means that small or medium-sized companies can often compete with incumbent brands. If you’re looking to get an edge on the competition, look out for software that can help you to build assets for a low price – an online logo maker, for example, can allow you to design an appealing and creative logo on your own. Simply choose a style and icon, then add any text, fonts, and colors.

Business Process Management

If you want to facilitate digital transformation across your workflows, it’s worth implementing digital process automation, otherwise known as Business Process Management (BPM). This is a strategy that aims to streamline and improve laborious business operations by automating menial tasks. When creating a BPM framework, companies usually monitor their effectiveness, then repeatedly check-in/act on this information to improve process and output.

Time Management

Small- to medium-sized businesses are often stretched for time, and, if you want to meet targets and hit deadlines, it’s important to invest in software that can help. There are plenty of programs designed to help you manage tasks, track working hours, and automate meetings. Calendar apps, for example, help you to coordinate with employees and offer transparency to save you time on organization.

Machine Learning

According to a recent survey by IBM, 29% of small businesses have reported that they are employing artificial intelligence or machine learning to some degree in their operations. Machine learning, in plain English, refers specifically to a form of AI that can work autonomously, using historical data to predict outcomes or formulate decisions moving forward. This form of AI has limitless potential and has applications in recruitment, HR, customer service, marketing, predictive analytics, and more.

Cloud Storage

The more we transition towards digital processes, the more the advantages of cloud storage seem to multiply. This is a solution that allows companies to store files, spreadsheets, documents, and other materials online, with access via any console that has internet capabilities. If you haven’t already, switching your systems to advanced cloud storage could save you money, protect your assets more securely and remove the need for hard drives, external drives, and physical file systems.

Accountancy Software

Accountancy software removes the need for manual input or old-fashioned spreadsheets, allowing businesses to create/send invoices, track expenses, manage projects/clients, and view/share reports. The right program will boast cross-platform compatibility, allowing you to check or update your accounts on the move.

Whatever it is you’re selling, as a growing business in the modern era, it’s imperative that you welcome technology into your process. With the right tools at your disposal, there’s no limiting what you might achieve.

The DFW Veterans Chamber of Commerce enhances the professional lives of active duty, transitioning military, and Veterans through business, employment, and education. Learn more at: www.dfwveteranschamber.org

Tips and Resources to Help Veterans Thrive as Entrepreneurs

When it comes to entrepreneurship, veterans bring a lot to the table. Veterans are often skilled in strategic planning, organization, decision-making, and working around obstacles to reach their goals. The skills you developed while serving in the military put you in an excellent position to start your own business! Plus, veterans have access to all kinds of valuable resources to make business ownership a realistic and affordable venture regardless of experience or financial position. To help you get your business off the ground, check out the following tips and resources from The DFW Veterans Chamber of Commerce!

Consider Your Skills and Interests

If you already have a business idea in mind, great! But if not, take a look at your existing skills and experience to see if you can build a business idea based on your strengths. For example, Niche Pursuits suggests that veterans may enjoy teaching wilderness survival or disaster planning courses, running an automotive repair shop, opening a fitness center, or building a business to serve the needs of other veterans and military families. If you love being outside, look for business models that will enable you to work in the great outdoors, like offering adventure tours or hunting guide services.

If you want to run your business from home, look for remote freelancing opportunities. For example, you could work as a digital marketing director, bookkeeper, copywriter, social media manager, website designer, project manager, or cybersecurity expert. Once you have more work than you can handle, you can begin hiring help and building a full-fledged agency!

Use Digital Tools

Digital tools will make your life a lot easier as you build your new business. Even if you have zero entrepreneur experience, you can launch and run a business on your own with access to the right tools. Put together a custom software suite to meet the needs of your business. This might include accounting software, client management tools, project management software, and marketing apps, just to name a few.

Digital tools are particularly useful when it comes to client invoicing and financial management. For example, an invoice generator will allow you to choose a premade invoice template and customize it with your own text, photos, logo, and other important information. Look for a free invoice maker that offers different formatting options to ensure you can upload your invoice to your chosen accounting software.

Take Advantage of Veteran Entrepreneur Resources

As a veteran, you have access to several valuable resources that can offer education, training, mentoring, funding, hiring help, and other forms of assistance to get your business off the ground. Take advantage of these resources! Military-Transition.org lists several entrepreneur resources designed for veterans, including Bunker Labs, Patriot Boot Camp, Boots to Business, and VetToCeo.

Create a Startup Checklist

Starting a business can be overwhelming. There’s just so much to do! Create a startup checklist so you can keep your thoughts organized and avoid missing any important steps in the process. Here are some key tasks to include on your startup checklist:

  • Conduct market research.
  • Write a business plan.
  • Raise or borrow capital to fund your business.
  • Choose a formal business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.)
  • Pick a unique business name.
  • Register your business with your state.
  • Apply for the appropriate licenses and permits

There are countless online resources out there to walk you through each step in the startup process. Turn to Google whenever you’re feeling unsure of your next move. Of course, you can always hire professionals to help as well! Accounts, lawyers, business coaches, and marketing professionals can offer advice and tangible assistance as you prepare to launch your company.

Veterans make great entrepreneurs. If you’re looking for ways to make money after leaving the military, consider starting your own business! With the right resources and some good research skills, you’ll be up and running before you know it!

For more entrepreneur resources, join The DFW Veterans Chamber of Commerce! As a member, you’ll have access to networking opportunities, training programs, advertising opportunities, and more!

For more resources on hiring project managers click here.

5 Degrees Veterans Can Take for a Career Shift

Article written by Rosie Jenison

Despite the economic difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas’s economic landscape in 2021 continues to provide great opportunities for job seekers and entrepreneurs alike. Open roles in the booming construction, agriculture, and hospitality industries allow veterans to move back into the workforce without needing tertiary education.

However, for veterans that want to expand their career options, completing a college degree might be a smart move. The National Center for Education Statistics shows that the employment rate of college graduates is 86%. In comparison, the employment rate of high school graduates is only 69%. A college degree can open doors to better job opportunities. Through college, veterans can build specialized skills, cultivate professional networks, and increase their earning potential.

Below, we’ve listed a few degrees veterans can take to build new careers.

Business Administration

The values learned in military experiences — such as leadership, discipline, and stress resilience — make veterans well-equipped to succeed in business. Leadership skills help entrepreneurs guide and motivate employees, discipline keeps them focused on their goals, while a resilience to stress ensures that they perform well under pressure. Degrees in business administration can help veterans blend their military-instilled skills with business knowledge and strategies. Through these programs, students can explore deeper business subjects, such as management, finance, and law. From there, they can start their own businesses or use their entrepreneurial prowess in corporate settings.

Education

Teaching careers let veterans serve their communities in an entirely new way. Through teaching, veterans get to use their real-world experiences to pass down knowledge, provide guidance, and set examples to young students. Veterans that want to take degrees in education can even get support from the government. The Troops to Teachers program, founded in 1993, provides financial support and career placement assistance to veterans interested in teaching. Since the program’s inception, an estimated total of 23,000 veterans have built careers as educators.

Information Technology

As the country becomes more dependent on technology, the demand for skilled IT professionals increases. Through information technology programs, students get to deepen their knowledge of the complex tech systems humans use in their daily lives, learning subjects like electronics, programming, web design, and much more. Veterans with good logical reasoning skills are well-suited to pursue IT degrees, especially since military training prepares them to learn new skills efficiently. And because IT skills are extremely in-demand, veterans who complete IT courses can have a competitive edge in today’s job market.

Nursing

Healthcare settings need disciplined, collaborative workers who can remain calm in the face of adversity. Fittingly, military culture primes veterans to value teamwork, discipline, and fortitude. By taking degrees in nursing, veterans can combine their military training with lessons in anatomy, physiology, psychology, and healthcare and train themselves to serve their American brothers and sisters in a new way. Nurses are especially needed now, as labor shortages limit the country’s access to quality care. Researchers predict that the need for qualified nurses will exceed 3.6 million by the next decade.

When it comes to career-building, veterans have many options. The skills they learned from military service can make them efficient learners and employees. Those that want to take their potential even further can develop their skills through college degrees, such as business administration, education, IT, and nursing.

 

7 VA Loan Tips for Veterans

Homebuying Process: Getting Approved for VA Loan

One standout benefit of serving in the military, National Guard, or Reserves is your qualification to apply for a VA mortgage. Administered through a broad range of lending institutions, VA loans are guaranteed by the federal government. That’s why they usually feature lower interest rates and more flexible qualification standards. Many service members buy their homes through the VA with no money down. Overall, lenders consider VA loans less risky than conventional private mortgages.

To be eligible for a VA loan, you need to be an active or former member of the military. In general, you must have been honorably discharged, although there are rare exceptions to that rule. Additionally, surviving spouses of veterans can also apply for a VA loan unless they have been remarried. Depending on when you served and why you were discharged, there are service benchmarks you must meet in terms of time served. But to be clear just because you qualify to apply for a VA mortgage, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to secure one. Here are several tips for increasing your chances of being approved to take advantage of this useful benefit.

Don’t Let the Paperwork Get to You

Applying for any mortgage can be confusing and time-consuming. But VA loans come with an additional layer of complexity. Anything involving the government comes with red tape, right? First, you’ll need to secure a Certificate of Eligibility to be approved for a VA loan, which involves gathering a little more documentation than you would need to apply for a conventional loan. But you don’t need to have a certificate to begin the VA loan application process. In fact, most lenders will be glad to assist you in getting one. Remember that lenders want your business. And a good one will bend over backwards to get it.

Your New Home Must Be Eligible, Too

Here’s why working with a VA loan-savvy realtor can be a tremendous boon. The last thing you want to do is spend lots of time trying to purchase a property that won’t qualify for a mortgage in the end. The government doesn’t want to invest in properties that have major defects and neither do you. They’ve established a set of Minimum Property Requirements for homes purchased under the VA loan program. Your realtor or lender can explain these to you and help you steer clear of properties that don’t stack up to VA standards.

Get Familiar with Acceptable Use and Occupancy Guidelines

VA loans aren’t made for every type of property. Loans are only written for primary residences. Your new home can be a Colonial, a condo, a manufactured home, or anywhere in between but you have to live there. You can even take out a loan to build a home from scratch. But vacation homes and investment properties aren’t eligible for VA financing. In addition, the VA sets time limits around occupancy. Generally, you must move into your home within 60 days of closing. If you’re currently deployed, that rule can be challenging. A spouse can substitute for a deployed service member to meet the occupancy date, but single people may have a harder time fulfilling the requirement. It can be done, though.

Your Credit Does Counts

One important advantage VA loans have over traditional mortgages is that VA borrowers are subject to more lenient financial qualifications. Officially, there is no credit score bar you have to clear before you can be approved for a VA mortgage. But having good-to-excellent credit can help you secure a larger loan and/or a better interest rate.

Even a quarter-point difference in the interest rate you’re offered can amount to thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage. That’s why getting your credit in the best possible shape before you apply for a loan is essential. Download a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus to see where you stand. Then do whatever credit repair that needs to be done. Make sure all of your credit accounts are current—and stay that way—while you’re applying for a mortgage. Close any accounts that you’re no longer using. If you find any negative remarks on your report that aren’t legitimate, dispute them. Fixing mistakes on your credit report can take some time. So be sure you attend to your credit well in advance of submitting a loan application.

Remember to Get Pre-Qualified Before You Start House Hunting

Today’s real estate market is very competitive. Nowadays, home sellers are inundated with offers and 43% accept one within a week of listing their homes. Sellers aren’t interested in wasting time and want to talk to serious buyers only. Prequalifying for a loan through one or more lenders—that is, securing a letter that states how much money a lender would be likely to loan you and at what interest rate—is one way to show home sellers that it’s worth their time to work with you. Many home sellers won’t even entertain offers from buyers who aren’t prequalified.

Getting prequalified also can help you set home price parameters for yourself and hone in on properties you can reasonably afford. It’s easy to do. And it won’t affect your credit score, even if you prequalify with more than one lender. As someone who has served our country, you’re entitled to the rewards a VA mortgage can provide. And you’re entitled to great service from the professionals you work with during the home buying process.

Article by: Genesis Walker / Money.com

After the Military: What Comes Next?

At the Dallas Ft Worth Veterans Chamber of Commerce, we know just how daunting the transition to civilian life can be. You’ve dedicated years to serving your country, but the experience and skills you’ve acquired aren’t always appreciated by the civilian world. How can you translate your military experience into civilian success? Here are a few ways that newly-separated veterans can find a path forward after military service.

Education

Going back to school is a great way to find direction and build skills for the civilian world. Veterans can take advantage of GI Bill programs which, as Military.com notes, provide up to 36 months of education benefits. Like other nontraditional students, most military veterans choose career-oriented degrees like business management, information technology, engineering, and nursing.

Worried about spending four years out of the workforce while earning your degree? If the idea of starting from scratch doesn’t appeal to you, consider an online college. Online schools emphasize competency-based learning over seat-time. This lets students with prior experience earn credentials faster, saving both time and money.

Employment

A career offers a sense of purpose and accomplishment after separating from the military, but where do your skills fit in the civilian world? Goodwill points out that veterans have more to offer the civilian workforce than you might realize. Employers value military veterans for their soft skills like leadership, problem-solving, and teamwork. Some MOS skills directly translate to a civilian career as well.

Healthcare, information technology, public administration, and defense contracting are among the most popular career paths for military veterans. These professions let veterans channel skills acquired in the military into a new, rewarding career. Starting your own business is yet another option, one that allows you to put your skillset to work as an entrepreneur. One of the first steps is deciding how to structure your operation. Many small business owners choose to form as a limited liability company (LLC) because of the protection of personal assets.

Still not sure where to take your career after military service? Visit CareerOneStop for self-assessments, career guides, and other helpful resources for your job search.

Retirement

While some servicemembers transition after a few years, others spend their entire careers in the military. Leaving the military after decades of service can be a culture shock. What will you do with all of your time?

The first thing to do is evaluate your military retirement benefits including retirement pay, healthcare benefits, and the Survivor Benefit Plan. Will your retirement pay match your income needs or will you need to work after retiring?

There are plenty of part-time jobs that don’t require starting a second career. Several military-friendly companies like Home Depot, Verizon and UPS have great reputations for pay and work environment.

Resources for Your Military Transition

There’s a lot to think about as you prepare for your military transition. Luckily, there’s also a lot of support available.

The Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, is a mandatory Department of Defense program for transitioning service members. TAP offers guidance on veterans benefits and helps service members choose a career track after service. Service members can supplement TAP with a Transitioning Veterans consultation from Military OneSource.

When it comes to buying a home, several financing options are available for veterans. For one, VA loans for mortgages are available at low interest rates and require no down payment. Like an FHA loan, a VA loan is government backed, which also guarantees no private mortgage insurance is necessary, meaning your overall borrowing amount will be lower.

Other organizations serving transitioning veterans include:

  • AMVETS offers career placement assistance, educational scholarships, and volunteer and networking opportunities for veterans.
  • The American Legion organizes job fairs, hosts career events, and holds workshops for veterans entrepreneurs in addition to other programs.
  • VetJobs is an online job board serving military veterans. VetJobs also publishes tips and resources for veterans starting a new career.

Don’t wait to begin your military transition process. The sooner you prepare for life after military service, the more confident you’ll be stepping into civilian life.

The Dallas Ft Worth Veterans Chamber of Commerce enhances the professional lives of active duty, transitioning military, and Veterans through business, employment and education. Contact us today for more info, or to join! 972.853.1622

Article by: Adam Evans

Forgotten Marketing Methods That You Shouldn’t Overlook

Though we live in the digital age, don’t assume traditional marketing is dead. Granted, certain traditional methods are declining, but many others are thriving and helping small businesses build their brands.

The first step to any impactful marketing strategy is to zero in on your target audience, which you can do by conducting market research and asking consumers how they heard about your company. Know your audience, invest in good branding, and choose your marketing methods, and you will have the essentials for creating a stellar marketing campaign!

Below, The DFW Veterans Chamber of Commerce covers some of the forgotten marketing methods that can help your company flourish. Some of them can prove effective on their own, while others pair nicely with digital methods.                       

Direct Mail   

Not too long ago, more and more people were frowning upon direct mail and tossing it immediately in the trash. But the creativity, personalization, and targeting capabilities have caused direct mail to make a comeback.

For many consumers, direct mail is easier to understand than online materials, and it is an excellent way to elicit brand recall and faster consumer response while allowing you to target your key demographics.

Flyers and Brochures

If you are offering special discounts and offers to your customers, flyers and brochures are still the most effective methods to use. Similar to handing out business cards in person, giving out flyers and brochures to people is a more connective and interactive way of promoting your brand than directing people to your website or social media pages. If you run a brick-and-mortar establishment, using these materials can prove especially beneficial.

Signage and Billboards

Signage is thriving in the marketing world. These days, you can see impactful images on shop-fronts, malls, and buildings.

And the same goes with billboards. If you want to get your brand in front of commuters, investing in a highway billboard will do the trick. As with all the other methods in this list, you can even direct your consumers to your website to increase traffic when using signage and billboards.

Human Interaction

Nothing is more powerful than employing human interaction in your marketing strategy. At the end of the day, people are used to traditional marketing like face-to-face interaction.

Whether you are speaking with someone in person or they see your company’s signage, flyers, or billboard, the experience will evoke a sensation and a lasting memory. Think of ways you can meet new people and provide tangible connections to your brand.

Giveaways

Customers love freebies, and giveaways for everything from store swag to contests can make a dent in your marketing efforts. Stock up on stickers, notepads, pens, totes and tumblers, and hand them out when customers spend a certain amount.

Drawings are another great way to generate interest. Consider offering a pair of tickets to watch the Houston Astros play the beloved Texas Rangers. With sites like TickPick, you can get affordable seats. You can also offer tickets to a play, concert or dinner.

Networking   

One of the most practical ways to increase the number of human interactions is to attend networking events. Persuasive copy on printed materials can go a long way in growing your customer base, but if you really want to generate buzz around your business, look to event marketing. Along with adding clients to your resume, networking will present opportunities to attract top talent and meet potential business partners.

Marketing Tools

The market is full of affordable tools to help you create impactful, traditional marketing materials. Look to design tools for creating a unique logo and laying out your colors and typography. Invest in a quality printer for developing your own flyers and brochures.

Don’t assume that traditional marketing cannot move your company forward, or you could miss out on valuable opportunities. Consider the methods above as you make a plan for implementing traditional marketing for your brand. And always keep an eye out for other ways that small businesses are getting their message out to their target audiences!