After Deployment - Getting Back to Business¹
While getting back to business after deployment should be among the happiest days of an entrepreneur's life, transition issues can make the experience bittersweet. Unfortunately, too many veterans face financial losses, staff and market changes, reduced client bases and, quite simply, a general sense of displacement.
Devising preemptive measures before deployment, such as those listed in You Own a Business and Duty Calls, should avert serious business complications upon homecoming. But even the most comprehensive plans can't cover every contingency. To this end, experts from a range of disciplines suggest strategies to help make military-to- business transition a lot easier to manage:
- Take advantage of programs assisting self-employed veterans. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940 (SSCRA) guarantees special benefits for qualified business owners who leave their companies to serve in the armed forces. Among these are reduced interest rates on mortgage payments and on credit card debt; protection from eviction when rent falls under a certain limit; and delay in civil court actions that include bankruptcy, foreclosure or divorce proceedings.
Of particular value to reservists called to active duty is a provision regulating the interest rate on pre-service debts of activated military personnel, applicable to credit card debt, mortgages and car loans, to name a few. One caution, though, service members MUST request interest rate reductions. They do not happen automatically.
- Get a grip. Though unpleasant, the fact is that some homeward-bound entrepreneurs will discover that re-starting or continuing their companies is not feasible. In some cases, declaring bankruptcy is the wisest course of action; in others, restructuring or selling may be advantageous. Before making any decision, though, seek input from trusted financial and legal professionals. Those who do find themselves in fiscal difficulties may contact the Office of Veterans Business Development at 202-205-6773, or online at http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2985, for assistance.
- Look at the big picture. Too often, entrepreneurs come home to companies that seem to have lost direction even when they've managed to stay afloat. Evaluating, then updating, old business plans or writing brand new ones can go a long way to stabilizing the situation. Some experts suggest enlisting employees in the process, because they are in a position to identify potential growth areas, assess progress and pinpoint weakness that may have emerged during the owner's absence.
- At this point, a thorough inventory of assets also is in order, as is a discussion of personnel issues (conflicts, firings, promotions etc.) with management staff.
- Go over contracts, financial records and other legal documents. Most tasks in this category merely require restoration to pre-deployment conditions. Start with these tasks:
- Reverse powers of attorney.
- Examine and update all insurance policies.
- Change authorized signature cards.
- Review and, if necessary, restructure loan and interest arrangements. Check credit ratings to make sure they haven't changed.
- Inform lenders, vendors and creditors of your return.
- Notify the IRS, state and local tax entities regarding deactivation status.
- Meet with company financial personnel to review the books.
- Develop customer relations. A quick-start marketing plan can help recapture former clients and attract new ones. Luckily, the post-deployment process pretty much reflects pre-activation methods. Homecoming strategies include personal calls or letters to past and current customers; articles and photos in local newspapers or on television and radio; and special sales or other events to celebrate the homecoming.
- Assess the competition. Investigate what competitors have been doing in your absence. A good way to do this is to obtain their annual reports for a look at the overall picture.
- Volunteer to speak at civic and professional groups. Visiting organizations such as Rotary clubs and chambers of commerce serves the dual purpose of sharing the military experience and business marketing.
- Ask for help. Entrepreneurs who return from active duty have plenty of resources to help them reorient. Various veteran organizations, local chambers of commerce, small business groups, community colleges and even some financial institutions offer free counseling services.
- Other resource partners are: