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Expert: How veteran employees can positively impact Houston startups, small businesses

In today’s dynamic business landscape, veterans bring the skills and expertise to the table that translate to any industry. Photo via Getty Images

Last week, the country celebrated Veterans Day — a time to honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This day was also a time to consider, as business owners and entrepreneurs, how we support these veterans as they enter civilian life.

With only 18.5 million veterans, which accounts for seven percent of the population over 18 years old, it is an elite group. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics latest data, veterans have a nearly one percent lower unemployment rate than their nonveteran counterparts, which points to their unique skill sets, internal grit and dogged determination.

Entrepreneurs face interesting business challenges today with a tight labor market coupled with talks of a potential recession. Hiring today doesn’t have to be a daunting task when the right people are in the trenches with you. Veterans transitioning into civilian life are an often-overlooked talent pool who bring an abundance of skills, albeit sometimes non-traditional, to the workplace. They make great employees for startups due to:

Resilience

Every new business goes through a season of trial and error. Additionally, the ever-changing business environment and legislation force many businesses to quickly adapt. Veterans have learned to thrive under pressure, keep the end-goal in mind and focus under the most difficult situations. An employee who brings a sense of calm focus to an organization in growth mode, which can be chaotic, is reassuring to the business owner and they serve as a good example to fellow employees.

Intrapersonal skills

The military helps every recruit fine tune their intrapersonal skills, especially discipline, persistence and innovation. These same skills are valuable in the workplace and paramount to the success of today’s startup.

These engrained intrapersonal skills make veterans the employees entrepreneurs will rely upon. Commitments are kept and deadlines are met, hard stop. When an entrepreneur’s attention is divided, it is a relief for them to know the work will get done. Additionally, these are employees who will naturally step up as leaders, if given the opportunity to advance, and take pride in helping foster the success of the business.

Teamwork

In its simplest form, the military is a workplace made of many smaller work groups or units. Veterans know teamwork is an essential skill to master, often aided by clear and concise communication. In a military setting, however, if a team member doesn’t follow through, the consequences can be dire. While the stakes may be different, teamwork is invaluable to meeting an organization’s goals and objectives.

Versatility

The military also prepares veterans for civilian life and business today by teaching creative problem solving. These men and women quickly surmount complex circumstances and often with limited resources. The bootstrap nature of a startup environment and a tight labor market can benefit significantly from a veteran’s ability to improvise and adapt.

The multitude of skills veterans possess and have learned through their military careers allows them to quickly adopt and master new concepts. This is an extremely valuable to any small business facing limited resources and manpower. A new hire who can troubleshoot IT systems, move boxes and supplies, and manage people or clients is the best “multi-tool” for a startup.

In today’s dynamic business landscape, veterans bring the skills and expertise to the table that translate to any industry.

Veterans are a valuable resource and, once leveraged, can help employers improve the trajectory of their business.

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Roger Nicholson is a Marine veteran and senior vice president of service operations with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources offering the most comprehensive suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.

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Building Houston

 
 

Former Shell Chief Scientist Joseph Powell has joined UH to lead its new Energy Transition Institute. Photo via uh.edu

The University of Houston has announced the first leader of its Shell-backed Energy Transition Institute.

Joseph Powell has been named the founding director of the institute, which was founded following a $10 million donation from Shell in spring of last year. Powell is the former chief scientist for Shell and member of the National Academy of Engineering, according to a news release from UH.

“What excites me about my new role is the opportunity to work with students, faculty and industry to make a difference on problems that truly matter," Powell says in the release. "Who could pass that up? Imagine the difficulties that arise when you don’t have access to energy.

“At this point in time, the global transformation to energy abundance is not complete, so we must grow the energy system while reducing its impact on climate and the environment, and also develop circular systems to recycle materials and reduce waste," he continues. "That’s a tall order, but a necessity to bring clean energy and sustainable chemicals into play globally and develop solutions that improve the quality of life for all.”

The appointment was funded by a matching grant from the Governor’s University Research Initiative, a program that was created in 2015 to help Texas's public universities recruit the top researchers. In addition to his role at the institute, Powell will also serve as a faculty member in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering.

“Dr. Powell brings extensive experience, insight and passion to the position. I anticipate the institute growing under his leadership to further strengthen UH’s position as the Energy University," says Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, in the release. "We are grateful Governor Abbott prioritizes funding to bring recognized researchers to Texas through GURI and believe Dr. Powell will play a pivotal role in finding solutions to critical local and global challenges around the energy transition."

Powell's name is associated with over 125 patent applications, with more than 60 granted. He has 36 years of chemical engineering experience and has led research and development programs in new chemical processes, biofuels and enhanced oil recovery.

The new institute — through its faculty and industry partnerships — is geared at education and research into the future of affordable and cleaner energy, including hydrogen, carbon management and circular plastics.

“We must be the trusted voice for stakeholders and the community that is objective and knowledgeable, where industry comes to present ideas and challenges, where faculty come with their research interests and expertise to partner and achieve more together, and where students are transformed into the energy workforce and leaders of tomorrow," he says in the release.

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