Training, the Number One thing Businesses Should Learn from the Military

Enduring Freedom/Operation Marjah/Operation Moshtarak


 

I’ve worked in the tech startup scene, retail sales, and real estate, mostly in operational roles, either as an owner or in a manager’s role. I was also a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps with two tours in Iraq. I feel qualified to answer the question of what could businesses learn most from the military. More specifically, what shortfalls are prevalent in the business world, have a solution which the military has overcome?

To me, the answer to that question comes down to training. What I have noticed most outside of the Marines was that the rest of the world doesn’t actually put any investment into training. Sure, they might get convinced to allow their associates to go to a conference a few times a year, mostly to get drunk on the company dime and three days away from their tool of a boss, but they have no clue what the real value of training is. I’m not even sure if most businesses would know how.

Consider this, a new employee is going to be hired. You know that every report you read talks about the importance of the search for new talent, because it is so impossibly expensive. Add to this is that the search could take four or five months to find a right fit for some jobs. That’s opportunity costs of an employee not being productive. I’ve seen companies spend tens of thousands in this process.

Now, a new employee is hired. Woohoo! A lot of companies welcome you aboard for a two week honeymoon phase, then you better knock down walls in the next month or you just aren’t good enough. You failed, better cut our losses. They will then spend the next six months giving impossible tasks to build a case for the failure’s dismissal and then out the door you go with a modest severance package so that you won’t blab company secrets or bad mouth it to the outside. In the civilian world, most people, at least most people I’ve dealt with, think they did a good job by giving you a chance and then sink or swim. This sounds brilliant and hardcore, so it has to be good strategy. Keep only the strong and we will be strong. Kill the weak! Rawr! Yeah, tell that to the Marines. That isn’t how they work so you should stop that nonsense, too.

So you think your startup that created a social network for dog lovers is really hardcore because you just fired your sixth receptionist in 12 months. Well bravo, you just blew maybe two hundred thousand on a series of failed investments, for a position only paying, maybe, $35,000 annually, have lost a year of productivity and are nowhere closer to the finish than you were when you started. Don’t forget that you have also lost countless hours yourself, replacing said employees and “training” them. How in the world is a receptionist worth what amounts to hundreds of thousands in straight loss and absolutely no progress over the course of a single year? All of a sudden, sink or swim is starting to look pretty stupid, huh?

Would you like a better solution? Now consider this, the United States military has to work, obviously, one of the most difficult jobs in the world. They have world wide responsibility over trillions of dollars worth of equipment and oversee what amounts to one of the world’s largest logistical support networks. The average age of the Marine Corps is 20 and you know what? Every one of them is a master in their specified field by year two and are responsible for some of the most advanced technological systems on the planet. And management? By the time many are twenty three years of age they have already been promoted to a leadership role, responsible for a team of trade veterans. I haven’t even mentioned anyone shooting at you. What’s most surprising? Almost none of them are degreed. Virtually all the labor force is made of only fresh high school grads and not even the best and brightest of them. They possess almost no formal educations in their fields that most people work for years just to get on their resume before even starting their job. Still, they are somehow made ready to do the missions that are world scale and never lose. Wars may be lost, but that is mainly due to political decisions, yet you have never heard in the last 30 years, “The Marines were pushed out of X.” How do you explain that?

Training. Look, in the military, people aren’t expendable. It’s a contradiction of the stereotype we get from movies and such, but a front line troop is a valued and irreplaceable asset. They are viewed, quite literally, as an investment to the United States military. It’s odd to think that the military places a higher value on a low performing high school graduate than you would treat an Ivy League Summa Cum Laude in Computer Science, but business views everyone as temporary, and only worth a certain economic value. The military doesn’t. In the military, you have this person and that is all you get. You can’t hire another. You can’t replace them with someone else. You can’t fire him. You’re stuck, and so is he. If he is lost, for any reason, the job of the rest of the unit suddenly because exponentially harder. He has to make the grade. The training, the discipline, the yelling and the constant rehearsals are all part of making sure that that Marine or soldier succeeds in his mission and returns home. More so than that, it is a known truth that his success will also be bringing back others as well.

In business, the attitudes are much “nicer”. Everyone is polite. No one can be offended or HR has to be involved. It certainly feels like everyone is getting the respect they feel they are entitled to, but motivations are much more selfish. An employee is only as valuable to you as the money he can make for you.

Return on Investment

Didn’t realize how shallow the business world really is, did you? So here is my advice. Over the next few weeks, I am going to break down how the military utilizes focuses on the art of training to progress the arts of warfare and passing that knowledge on to future generations. I will also provide some advice on steps your company can take to be a more evolutionary company by utilizing them. Everything that follows will are parts of the training culture that are all taken very seriously in the military. When you are in your quiet time as a leader, you need to think about how to implement them in your company or area of responsibility if you wish to focus not only on growing, but on growing your people.  Make to sure to follow this blog for updates for more.

Blues


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What to Learn from Facebook’s Acquisition of Instagram

Facebook and Istagram

Reblogged from Bamcis Business Development:

So the key question is “Why would Facebook pay so much for Instagram?” What is the motive? What is the payoff? What will happen next?”A lot of people are saying many things about this purchase. The theory I hear floating around for the past couple of days is that Facebook got scared and decided to take out a major competitor with a cool billion. Wish I had such options. Others believe it is for the data. Still a few are tweeting that Facebook wants the photos for dastardly deeds of dubiousness.

“Delete ur instagram!! The Feds own it now!!” “I had a higher opinion of you Instagram.” “Soon as I delete my Facebook they decide to buy instagram #FML.” (actual tweets)

Some of these are theories are sensible, others ridiculous. There is one thing, however, that people who think in terms of pure competition, or downright paranoia, usually forget.

Facebook is about the code.

Let’s clarify. Yes, by making this acquisition Facebook did secure a hugely popular social media app. Yes, they did “defeat” someone who was playing the same game of sharing photos online. I admit and agree with that. I just don’t think that the reason for it was because Facebook was scared of anything.

Beluga Icon
Beluga’s old Icon.

Let’s look back at another recent acquisition by Facebook to see if we can see what their motives may be. My first witness … Beluga. Beluga was an app that was used as a social messaging application that allowed a person/group the ability to create a group out of their contacts and start a text-based conversation with the entire group. This application was absolutely fantastic for small work groups (called Pods), especially ones that didn’t mind bothering each other all day. I remember using it with my team and it was like it solved all my problems. When something important happened a simple text was sent and the whole team was aware of the change/question/update/major catastrophe. Instantly, no matter where we were or what we were doing, the team had the communication we needed. Until one day when the team got a text: “Facebook has recently bought out Beluga, and our service will be shutting down.” ( A single tear could probably be seen rolling down my cheek at that time.)

Facebook Messenger's Icon
The new Facebook Messenger, powered and augmented much by the acquired capabilities of Beluga.

But what was interesting was watching what happened next at Facebook. Over the next few weeks you started to see Beluga like actions occurring all over Facebook. Facebook Messenger was launched. This allowed you to hold a messenger conversation on your computer, and also for the conversation to be sent to your phone via text. Ever notice now that if you comment on anyone else’s post or picture that you are now also updated every time someone else comments on it as well? These features and several others are the direct result of Facebook’s acquisition of Beluga, and not just Beluga’s talent, but their technology as well. Beluga marked the first acquisition of a start-up by the web giant where they didn’t just buy the talent, but also the tech that makes it work and it seems that this is what they plan also to do with Instagram.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in 2011.

I truly believe that Zuckerberg has something in mind for the little app with a big pricetag. We know that soon you will start seeing web savants start filtering every photo in their albums, but what else is going to happen? I’d like to remind you that all Beluga was intended to do by the original creator was to create a social based texting app. In the hands of Facebook it became much, much more, technologically speaking. It’s capabilities were augmented and filtered and refined and applied to numerous things that Facebook was already doing. That is what I think the Instagram purchase will produce in the next few months. As for Instagram users, well, bad news. While Facebook has recently said that it intends to keep the application alive for the time being, they also said this when they first acquired Beluga as well. In time they implemented the technolgy where they wanted it and shut down the simple service. Now people who loved Beluga are torn. They either had to migrated to Facebook and accepted some of the drawbacks and some of the new benefits, or they had to seek out other apps. In many ways the Facebook Messenger is too much and not enough. They took the old capabilities and broke them up and spread them out throughout the entirety of Facebook, but made it more difficult to do the one thing that Beluga specialized in, having a conversation with small groups without all the rest of Facebook. ( If you are looking for an app that does this I suggest Groupme, in a lot of ways it is even better than Beluga used to be.) Facebook has said that it will continue to operate the app independently. Don’t expect that to last long. Perhaps the fact that now more than 40 million people are on Instagram and that they are making such a potent disagreement with being forced into the Facebook super community will prolong its independent lifespan. Good luck to those users though.

What is coming out of a Facebook with Instagram capabilities?

As for the rest of Facebook’s users, they will get that huge boon to their photo sharing capabilities. But besides the filters and super easy uploading process, I wonder what else the Zuckerman clan will discover (or have been waiting on for some time) in the code of Instagram. What are they going to do with all that lovely code?

Let’s think real business here. I don’t think that Zuckerburg did this just to take out a competitor. I don’t think that it is even just about the new tricks that we will get to do in Facebook. Goofy as he is at times the kid is good at business. I truly believe that if he bought if for $1Billion he believes there is at least $10 Billion more in potential capabilities coming to his Facebook, not a bad thing for massively valuated company gearing for it’s first IPO

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The Youth of the Church; The Future of the Nation

I am writing this article to address a few trends that seem to be affecting the church, specifically those in the youth about to be adults most like Tanner. Tanner, while achieving much for his age, is young and has a future ahead of him and now is entering the phase of life where he and those like him will be making the most important decisions of their lives. I feel the church, for the most part, has directed them toward a path where they can’t succeed in the modern world and can’t fully take part in shaping and guiding it anymore. This is part of why so many are steering away from the church and why the church is steering so far from the rest of American culture, bad and good. I wrote this article to try and focus on the direction being given to these young people and perhaps direct readers of Tanner’s and my blog in how they should encourage their youth in the future.

So have you ever said to yourself something to the effect of “Politicians can’t be trusted?” Have you ever said that “All businessmen are greedy and corrupt?” Have you ever wondered why? Because they aren’t Christian anymore. For the most part, Christians have stayed away from the business and political scene for the better part of three generations. But why? Let me put it this way…

Have you ever said any of these things… around your kids?

I know it is something most of us don’t think about often, but ask yourself, what careers am I pushing my kids toward? For many of Tanner’s younger readers, ask what careers where you pushed to? I think though, we should also consider, what are you pushing from?

Many are raised with the idea that ideal Christian careers involve hard work such as construction. Carpentry seems to be popular among Christians (wonder why?) Other career paths include careers that involve some sort of service like the medical field, doctors and nurses (but not gynecologists, that is for the sinners of medicine), and education to become teachers.  Another career path widely encouraged in church circles is the military. I was a Marine and I am still a little baffled at why so many in my church were so proud of me for doing a job that on a good day killed people… But they did. My wife says it has much to do with the service and sacrifice aspect of the job, which I understand. I  still think they just haven’t really thought about it much though.

But what about big business? What is the first thing you think about me when I say I would one day like to own the next Chase bank or be the next Bill Gates? What if I said I would like to one day be a successful venture capitalist? Would you think I was greedy? What if I said I wanted to be a successful politician? That I wanted to be a Senator and work on Capitol Hill? Would you think my goals are to be corrupt, filling my pockets with kickbacks before I become a lobbyist, making millions to influence others while manipulating the democratic system? You may not think that about me in general, but if you were to meet someone on the street with these goals, you wouldn’t think very well of career business people and career politicians.

Why is that? Over the course of history some of the most important people in American history filled these roles. Politicians were once also viewed as a noble profession, public servants, stewards of the community. Businessmen once were viewed as the fiercely independent founders of the American wealth and prosperity. John Pierpont Morgan was one of the most influential business leaders in America. He built massive companies in his day. He also engineered programs and deals that helped to prevent two massive American breakdowns in the American economic system.  He was also a lifelong member of his church and one of it’s most influential leaders. His grandfather was a preacher and influenced him greatly. He could be found alone often in silent prayer for hours at his local church.

The founding fathers were also religious men as well as politicians. Benjamin Franklin is quoted to saying

“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshiped…As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see.”

Seems pretty straight forward. What about Thomas Jefferson, the supposed atheist of the founders?

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?”

So it is possible to have moral leadership, both in business and politics. Then why is it that these two fields of achievement are so shrouded in the belief that they are corrupt, Godless and without morals?

Because good Christians aren’t supposed to want to do those things.

When I was a child I remember being told that the rich are nothing but greedy and that politicians are liars. I heard that a good Christian job was physical labor, medicine, teaching or the military and that these were the only honorable things available to me. Then I joined the Marines and during that time I realized that those who affect the most change, have the greatest impact on society are not on that list, not directly, not individually. Those with the most direct and individual influence on America are those people of business and leadership, which Christianity shuns.

The problem I see is that for three generations now, young Christians have been pushed by fellow Christians away from these fields and resulted in a growing movement where Christians do not welcome them and are not welcomed by them.  And as a result of this, Christians are growing farther and farther from the socioeconomic center of America. They are losing their place as leaders in its future and are alienating themselves from its people. So while I see many posts going up about the Decline of Christianity in America and the general idea that we are becoming a Godless nation, I say to you “What did you expect? You teach your young people to join you in seclusion from the society they are part of.”

But things don’t need to be this way. In the future we need to encourage our young people to be those leaders of tomorrow. We need to encourage them with stories of great Christian businessmen and politicians, so that they can lead Americans with a Christian perspective. They can recommunicate the values of Christianity in a way society is able to understand and perhaps fix some of the problems we are seeing in society today from hatred of Christians to .

That’s why I am glad to be invited to speak on Tanner’s blog. He is an example of the future of Christianity and the future of America. In the next few years, people his age are going to be making the decisions that will put them in positions where they can have a great resounding impact on us all. I hope that you will encourage them to do something great.

Be entrepreneurs. Solve humanity’s problems with new ideas, new innovations and give people jobs. Make yourselves very wealthy and remember who blessed you with your success. Then tithe.

Be politicians. Become leaders who set a great example to all Americans of what a great person is and should be. Become directly involved in the decision-making process and therefore have greater potential to influence the aspects of society you see that can be fixed.

Don’t live a mundane life complaining about the rich, the wealthy and the powerful. Become them and set a new precedent.

***This post has been duel posted on Opinionz Matter by Tanner Brumbarger . I have been invited to guest post to Tanner’s blog and hopefully this will help drive a bit more traffic to Jon’s Deep Thoughts.

The Nice List

I wanted to lighten up a little with this post and mention some organizations out there that I feel that we all need to keep close to our heart and in our thoughts this Christmas season. I am calling this “The Nice List”.

Toys for Tots, for those who don’t know, is the official charity backed by the United States Marine Corps. The organization was began by a major in the Marines in 1947. The organization collects toys for underprivileged children. You have seen the boxes around so you know how easy it is to drop off a new toy. Perhaps you’ve seen some of their commercials. “Are you Santa Claus?” If you don’t well up when the kid hands over his letter you’re a monster. Come on people, the Marines need your help. This is the only thing we really enjoy being good at that doesn’t involve womanizing or killing people, and it’s for the kids.

Lego – For the first part, Lego is better than _______(<<<Insert any awesome thing here) . Let’s face it, if you didn’t play with Legos as a kid then you missed out. I used to love playing for hours with my pile of Legos on the living room table. Legos are equivalent to a magical place where children can create a world populated by pirate rocketships, castles with race car refueling stations and dragons with laser beams on their heads. If I only had the chance I would take a few decades off my years and be that six year old all over again. Now I am just trying to get my nephew to develop an interest in the art (yeah, I said art.) He “engineered” his first Helicopter Car last time I visited. I never loved him more. This year it is even better. This year Lego is partnering with Toys for Tots. Follow this link and you can send an E-Card to your friends. For every card you send out Lego will donate 1 toy to Toys for Tots, up to 1 million toys. Right now they are at 345,897. Still have a long way to go with not a lot of time.

The last group I want to keep in your thoughts are the Marines themselves. I should say the whole military, they have all earned your consideration, but I have my biases. I served with the Marines and experienced Christmases in some far away desert. If you have a Marine, soldier, sailor or airmen in your life let them know you are thinking of them, especially the deployed ones.  When we are safe and warm by our trees and our presents, just keep in mind our troops and especially the Marines.

So I am asking all my Marine Corps friends and everyone else out there reading as well to also spread the news and support three great organizations with three very important missions this Christmas Season.

-Semper Fi and Merry Christmas

Jon

I think that the extra pink with fuzzy sides is perfect for you corporal.

(Edited Dec 21, 2011) I also wanted to add this link. It features soldiers debating on choosing Hello Kitty or My Little Poney. No but seriously they out collecting toys for toys-for-tots so they earn an Ooh-rah for that.