Small business owners have a unique set of challenges. Smaller budget, smaller staff – bigger competition.
But can you imagine the challenges a small business faces with operations on a global level?
Alexandria, Virginia-based client, Planate Management Group, may qualify as a small business, but their footprint is anything but tiny.
Planate has been providing installation management and consulting services worldwide since 2007. As a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), it’s only fitting that they primarily support a variety of Department of Defense and federal clients.
As Jonathan Larson, VP of Business Operations, explains it: “We mainly support the Department of Defense in doing engineering work, so it's largely facility-type things. We design buildings, we help with construction of buildings, and we also help oversee construction for the federal government. We're kind of the government's rep in places they don't necessarily want to send a bunch of civilian staff or military staff.”
Wearing multiple hats as a small business owner is pretty much an unwritten detail of your job description. Larson is no different. An entrepreneur at heart, Larson grew up mowing lawns and performing other home improvement odd jobs to make some money. Now, as co-owner of Planate and founder of nonprofit Navy Safe Harbor Foundation, he does pretty much anything and everything you can imagine.
Working so closely with a staff full of veterans is also an inspiration for Larson.
“They come to us already experienced, qualified and motivated to do the job and do it beyond the expectations that we set forth, so that's one of the great values of any veteran that we hire. That's why we seek them out and we can't hire enough veterans for our projects,” he said.
Larson shares some great leadership insight that every business owner can benefit from.
You’ve got a hundred emails begging to be read, meeting requests trying to squeeze their way into your schedule, and voicemails you still haven’t returned – weeks later. How on earth are you supposed to prioritize everything to keep your small business operating smoothly?
Try a different approach to prioritizing.
Think about it this way: If your staff suddenly disappeared, would your company still exist?
“[Our employees] are really our future and legacy all in one. That’s why we put them as our top priority. We always want to make sure our people are happy and that their needs are being met because if they’re happy, they’ll make our clients happy,” Larson revealed.
Planate’s veteran staff appreciates the immediacy that their needs are tended to and the value the company places in them. Because veterans are a part of a close-knit family, they’re accustomed to viewing themselves in relation to their team.
“I may be working on a proposal, but if my staff member in Afghanistan has a health care insurance issue, I drop everything because he’s my number one priority,” Larson further explained.
Audit your priorities. If your employees aren’t at the top, it could be time to re-rank your list.
Amplify response time.
Veterans know that timing is absolutely mission critical in every scenario.
In business, timeliness should never be underestimated. A prompt response may be your ticket to beating out larger competitors.
Working with clients across multiple time zones can be tricky, but Planate uses it to their advantage.
“Our clients appreciate it because we tend to be very responsive compared to other competitors. We impress them when they, say, give us something at 12:00 and then the next morning they’ve got a finished product in their inbox,” said Larson.
As veterans know, every second counts. Even if you don’t know the answer to a question, sometimes simply acknowledging the inquiry is enough to put your (potential) customers at ease.
Serving our country is the ultimate sacrifice. Veterans live and breathe the idea of ‘giving back.’ Here’s why giving back can actually make you a great leader.
As Entrepreneur explains, when you adhere to a ‘servant mentality,’ you genuinely become more likeable. Ask questions such as: “What can I help you with?” or, “What can I do?” to ensure that you’re always serving your people and helping them get ahead.
Beyond just internally giving back, giving to your local community helps boost employee morale. Employees feel good while doing good. Part of your job as a leader is to guide your employees through their success journey. And they’ll be more inclined to perform their best when they feel valued.
As mentioned earlier, Larson co-founded the nonprofit organization, Navy Safe Harbor Foundation, which is “focused on providing support to the Navy's and Coast Guard's seriously wounded, ill, and injured population.”
Despite the demanding duties of being a VP of Business Operations, Larson still makes time to align his values with his day job.
Veterans possess incredibly unique leadership skills that can be applied to any business scenario. In getting to work so closely with them, Larson has been inspired by his veteran employees and models his firm’s operations around their traits to ensure Planate runs a successful operation.
To learn more about Planate Management Group, click here.