Triangle Business Journal: Entrepreneurial veterans in the Triangle talk transition from military to business


Riley Contracting Group was featured in the Triangle Business Journal. To read the full article, click here.

Entrepreneurial veterans in the Triangle talk transition from military to business
By Jason deBruyn, Staff Writer Triangle Business Journal

Starting a business with any background is difficult. Just ask any of the thousands of entrepreneurs in the Triangle. In many cases, military veterans face an even tougher time.

“The hardest part of getting into business was the transition from military to civilian protocol,” says Jeff Mims of Mims Distributing. “I had people tell me, ‘You are too militant,’ and ‘Do you think we are a bunch of Marines?’ It took me a while to adapt to the civilian way of conduct.”

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Calin Riley, right, while in Afghanistan

Calin Riley of Riley Contracting knows the feeling. “In the military, you’re constantly training for deployment or just getting back from deployment. You’re focused on micro-objectives that build to a strategic objective, like in business,” he says. “With business, you’re focused on getting a new client, breaking into new markets and you have to set sub-objectives for how you plan to accomplish this.”

Although there are challenges, the Triangle ranks favorably for entrepreneurial veterans.

According to an annual Small Business Friendliness Survey published by Thumbtack, Raleigh earned high marks from veterans for its friendliness to small business, and according to a WalletHub survey, Raleigh ranks as the third most livable city for former military service members.

Of course, there are similarities between the military and running a business as well. “In the military, you’re focused on accomplishing the mission and bringing everyone home, which has its own sub-objectives,” says Riley. “Success in both the military and business is based on the focus of putting your people first while accomplishing objectives.”

Both Mims and Riley advise other veterans to use their military background to their advantage. “My advice to other vets looking to get into business would be to maintain that military bearing,” says Mims. “When a veteran, and especially a Marine, applies for a position within our company, I look at them differently. We speak the same language; we’re hard chargers. Know your audience and how to address them, and most of all – be proud!”

Riley says it’s crucial for a veteran to understand that the vital skills learned in the military can and should be transitioned to the business world. “I’ve heard that ‘good organizations do routine tasks well and routinely,’ meaning they’re great at taking care of everyday business matters on a regular basis,” he says. “You do that in the military and you certainly need to do that in business.”


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This post was written by Ashley Warren