- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Painting a Successful Post Military Career

by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article sponsored by URS

Your military-to-civilian career transition might be something you have dreamed about for a long time. Even so, it can be a stressful and challenging move to make in the best of times. In our recent economic environment, it can be downright scary.

Relevant words of encouragement are in order. “Transitioning out of the military is a turbulent time in a service member’s life. It certainly was one in mine,” said Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Byron Barron, Airborne Ranger and owner of CertaPro Painters, a residential and commercial painting franchise in Northeast Georgia.

post military careerAfter almost 27 years of service, Barron retired from the military in 2007. Like others in the same situation, he wasn’t exactly sure what to do next.

“To help me figure out what I wanted to do as a civilian, I used the decision making process that the Army taught me,” said Barron adding that he made his decision by turning it into a simple mathematical equation.

“I literally wrote down the things I wanted out of my next job and the things I didn’t want. For example, I knew I didn’t want to work weekends and I knew I did want to have more control over my schedule,” said Barron.

“By the time I identified all those wants, along with the pros and cons, everything pointed to a job in the service industry for me,” said Barron.

According to the now successful business owner, he then researched various options.

“I knew I had to get a mentor and then either start a business or buy a franchise,” said Barron. “After weighing my options and talking to other business owners, I decided to buy a franchise.

The painting business has proven to be a good choice for Barron who employs 25. “Usually I have four crews of painters working for me throughout the year. In the summer, when things are very busy, we may have five or six crews on jobs,” said Barron adding that business is beginning to slow down a bit with the arrival of the holiday season.

His post-military career has also turned into a family affair of sorts. “My daughter, Valery, works as an officer of the company and does a little bit of everything. As soon as my wife gets tired of working for someone else, I’m going to hire her too,” said Barron.

Key Factors to Franchise Success

If you are thinking about getting out and purchasing a franchise, Barron suggests you aggressively buy down your personal debt, get a solid education and capitalize on the leadership skills and technical abilities you learned in the military.

“Leave the military owing as little as possible. When I retired, the only debt that I carried was a mortgage. That enabled me to effectively leverage my assets and overcome my cash flow management issues,” he said.

Barron believes that it is also helpful to have a strong educational background and a practical understanding of cash flow management in order to be successful as a franchise owner.

“It helped that I earned my Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree while still in uniform,” said Barron who encourages service members in and out of uniform to take full advantage of their education benefits.

“While I knew and understood the words of the business world, I didn’t necessarily understand the practical application of them. To fill that gap, I networked with others, friends and associates who did understand it and who were willing to share that knowledge with me,” said Barron.

“As a business owner, you have to understand how all things work, because those you employ and their families are counting on it,” he said.

Barron also feels that the leadership skills and technical abilities that you learn in uniform go a long way to helping you in the civilian world.

“It’s all about leadership. The skills I learned and used as an Airborne Ranger are directly applicable to my civilian job. It’s about being in the right place at the right time and saying ‘what’s going on here?’

“For example, when I was in the Army, I was in charge of small units or self-directed teams who worked in vast terrains and were trained to do specific tasks. As a leader of those teams, I had to supervise others. Occasionally that involved reminding someone to tie his or her boots or to secure their chinstrap,” said Barron.

“As a leader of painting crews, I occasionally have to remind someone to put the tarps down before they paint or to put out our [advertising] sign in the front yard,” said Barron.

“People know what they have to do, but they don’t always do it. It’s the leader’s job, in uniform or out of it, to lead,” said Barron.

According to Barron, military-learned technical skills are also highly marketable.

“The [military] taught me to be a learning and adaptable individual,” said Barron.

“When I was first issued a computer in the Army, I didn’t really know what to do with it. I learned how to use it, though,” said Barron.

“I’ve found out since I became a civilian myself, that the technical skills we learned in the military are usually greater than those of our civilian counterparts,” said Barron.

Solid Transition Advice for Everyone

Whether you consider franchise ownership an option or not, Barron has several solid suggestions to help you make your career transition a smooth one.

“In the process of getting out, you need to do your due diligence. Ask the questions. Read the reports. If you don’t understand what you’re reading, ask someone to help you figure it out,” said Barron.

You may be worried about finding a new job and accompanying paycheck, but Barron suggests you avoid panicking.

“Take it easy. If you are retiring and you plan properly, you can actually live off your retirement. There’s no need to panic,” said Barron.

Barron also suggests you take advantage of the available transition-related resources.

“Use the transition assistance program [Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) for Army] and the Veteran’s Administration (VA). They can help you find the answers and make the good decisions,” said Barron.

“Enjoy your transition. It’s an amazing process. Go where your heart leads you. Listen to that passion and let it lead you. You will be just fine,” said Barron.

Janet Farley is the author of the forthcoming book, “Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job,” (JIST Publishing). For timely transition tips, follow Farley @Mil2CivGuide on Twitter.

Return to January/February 2012 Issue