Last week I had to make a choice: to extend my contract of service with the US National Guard, or to let my contract expire and leave the military for good. This was a big decision for me and my business, one that I didn’t take lightly. Although the National Guard is a part-time job in the military, it still requires a big time commitment and many sacrifices on my part.
I’ve been in the military in one form or another for almost ten years now. I joined the Army in 2000, traveled the world, learned a lot, and had a wonderful time. My contract ended in 2003 and I decided to stay in the military part time, serving in the National Guard. I’ve been serving in the National Guard ever since.
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the military. Although I don’t always agree with how our country uses it’s military, I believe it is an honorable organization full of amazing people. That’s why I’ve stuck with it up to now.
This time around, when I was asked to reenlist, it was a harder decision than it has ever been before. My computer business is one of the main catalysts in my struggle to make a decision this time around. As always, I had to factor in the positive and negative outcomes of my decision. I was left making some uncomfortable choices, but choices that I feel will be beneficial in the long run not only for me, but for my business.
Reasons to Stay in the National Guard
The People – The people in my unit are the number one reason why I have stayed in this long. Our unit is very much like a family, and we all support each other through hard times. This is a great resource to have when starting a business. If my business fails, I’ll have that support system there to help pick me up. If it succeeds, I have about 40 people who are either potential customers, or know someone who can be a potential customer!
The Experience – In the years I’ve been in the military I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many destinations on the government’s dime. I love traveling and I love learning from being in new places and around new cultures. I think this helps out my business by giving me a more tolerant and worldly view on things, which can translate into better service to my customers. I also receive training in important skills like first aid, which can also prove helpful in business and in life.
The Money – I’d be lying if I told you some of the incentive to stay in the National Guard isn’t monetary. It’s great to have an extra pay check every month. This will no doubt come in handy when I first start running my business full time and may not be able to make enough at first. Also, by reenlisting I’ll be eligible for a nice extension bonus, which I am very interested in putting toward my business to help it get off the ground that much quicker.
Reasons to Leave the National Guard
Time Commitment – This is the biggest reason why I’m thinking of ending my time in the National Guard. The time I have to commit to making drills, which sometimes fall on weekday evenings, has been taking time away from my business, time I could be spending both in business preparation and with customers. This is also going to be a big hindrance on my business when I have the two weeks of drill during the summer. This will be two weeks where I wont be able to work and service customers. Thankfully, the National Guard, and especially my unit, are very flexible with their soldier’s time. They understand we may have circumstances in life that will call us away from duty, and we have the flexibility to miss drills and make them up at a later date.
Possibility of being deployed – Although the unit I’m in is not likely to be deployed for an extended period of time, the possibility is still always there. So far we’ve been fortunate enough to avoid deployment and I feel comfortable that our situation will stay the same. Of course, if we ever are deployed for an extended period of time, the effects of an extended leave of absence from my business will be devastating.
After weighing the pros and cons of my choices, I decided to sign the dotted line and extend my service in the National Guard for 6 more years. The reasons are as follows: 1) The extra money earned from drills and via the bonus will help contribute greatly to my business and allow me to get it off the ground sooner, 2) the flexibility that the National Guard provides will ensure that I can continue to serve while still keeping my business as my number one priority, and 3) I simply love the people I serve with.
The point of this whole post is to emphasize the fact that I ‘ve realized, from now on, every major decision I make in life will have a possible impact on the success of my business. Failing to include the future of my business in these decisions may have negative impact on my business. I also count myself lucky to have the freedom to make these decisions freely, thanks to those who have served before me.
What hard decisions have you made that may have lasting effects on your business or career?