“When I heard about this particular program, there was only one answer. It was a definite,” said Mike Dutter, RVP of Enterprise Sales for U.S. Central/West at Oracle, about a new mentorship program for veterans. Dutter serves as a mentor in the program, established through a partnership between Military Veteran Partners and B2B sales training company Empire Selling. The program matches experienced business leaders with military veterans and entrepreneurs committed to veteran hiring.
The jobless rate for all veterans dropped to 3.9 percent in 2019, the lowest it has been since 2001, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics Report. But a report conducted by Phillip Carter and Cathy Barrera shows that veterans tend to leave their first jobs out of the service faster than non-veterans, indicating that they take the first job available rather than the “best fit” role. Military Veteran Partners aims to help by supporting veteran businesses and employment opportunities.
“We formed MVP with two objectives,” said Steve Cloetingh, MVP’s CEO. “First, to promote veteran entrepreneurship, but also to address the veteran unemployment and underemployment situation.”
While veterans may have developed strong leadership skills during their time in the military service, many of the soft skills they have acquired do not transfer easily into the civilian workforce, Cloetingh said.
“There’s a gap that we see from veterans coming out of the service and into civilian life,” Cloetingh said. “They are all heroes, and they are leaders. They can work in constrained environments with constrained resources and have terrific camaraderie, but there still is a gap in the skill set between military and civilian, and one of the things we do is help to fill that gap.”
MVP helps combat these challenges in four primary ways: First, by lending capital and investing in entrepreneurs looking to start or grow businesses committed to veteran values or hires. Second, by providing all kinds of training needed to enter the workforce. Third, by providing mentors and working alongside veteran entrepreneurs to help the growth of their careers and companies. Last, they establish relationships with large companies to drive revenue into their veteran partners’ territories, Cloetingh said.
Empire Selling CEO Dan Swift knew there was an opportunity to leverage his network of business leaders and professionals to pair with veterans and their family members to help them succeed in their businesses.
“(We) help them do a couple of things,” Swift said. “One, we provide them with some of those raw skills and coaching opportunities from a sales and marketing perspective. But also, to be paired with a professional, who has experienced the ups and downs of a sales career, they have someone who gets it and is there for them.”
The program is a simple mentorship program where a business professional or leader meets with their veteran mentee, and they walk through any challenges or questions the mentees may have. Because the mentors will have the situational knowledge of sales, they can provide coaching, advice or just lend an ear on a monthly basis.
There is also a rewarding aspect of the program for many business leaders who want to give back to those who have served and fought for this country.
“You’re talking about the military family that voluntarily said, you know what, you guys stay home and go to a kid’s soccer game and all that; we’re going to put ourselves in harm’s way to make sure you’re all ok,” Dutter said. “We don’t get many chances to really thank these veterans or to contribute to their lives when they come back from the service and engage in the next play. This is an opportunity to do that, even in a small way. It was something I had to be a part of.”
Dutter’s mentee, Tim Colomer, is president at JDog United, a junk removal and hauling company, and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was in the service for 14 years. His first job in corporate America was at Halliburton Energy Services as the director of explosives, but the company had a downturn in the energy services and energy markets. Colomer then saw an opportunity to invest in a franchise and found JDog, which is owned exclusively by veterans and military family members.
“I’ve never had an opportunity to grow or build a company before this, and I knew it was going to be new to me,” Colomer said. “I’ve never sold anything in my entire life, and this was a mentorship that put me in the world of sales and some business strategy, so it was a no-brainer. I know what I don’t know, or I can at least identify it. Getting to work with somebody like Mike to identify my weaknesses in areas that require some business sophistication and have layers of complexity has really helped me spring forward.”
As of now, Swift and Cloetingh have more mentor volunteers than mentees, an indication of how many people want to be a part of the program. Business leaders and professionals focused on entrepreneurship and sales who want to participate in the program can sign up for a mentorship position through Empire Selling’s Volunteer Program.
“I do think it’s very fulfilling,” Cloetingh said. “If you think about MVP and our mission, we do it for a lot of different reasons — for those that Dan indicated but also personal reasons. I do it because my father was in World War II, and I do this to honor him.”