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5 Questions with Veteran Fred Wellman

Posted by Rob Riggins

Fred founded ScoutComms in 2010, a communications firm supporting veterans, military families and organizations committed to their well-being.

Fred has provided our weekly Defense Roundup for three years. That roundup is now expanding to include more veterans issues.

1.  What challenges did you face in your transition

Frankly, I took a very methodical approach to my transition to civilian life. I actually did it twice as I left active duty in 1999 in Atlanta but returned to the military on 9/11 as a Reservist. In both transitions I was extremely pro-active in figuring out what my best options were. Who I needed to network with to find a job, how much time it would take to get a new position, and what my family needs were. I was very fortunate to land jobs both times before I even took off the uniform. I went from cammo to suits in the same week both times.

Oddly, it was once I was in my civilian jobs that I faced the toughest transitions and finding my place in those organizations.

2.  Why are you an entrepreneur

After retiring from the Army I spent almost a year at a small communications firm before looking for another opportunity in November 2010. As I interviewed with PR firms all over DC I noticed I was often the only veteran I met. After a month of hearing how the economy at that time meant they couldn’t hire me but they “would kill for my defense experience”, I got the idea to create a firm that filled that gap in military experience at larger firms. So ScoutComms was born.

Without a doubt, being a veteran is why I’m an entrepreneur. I learned in the cockpit of scout helicopters in Iraq and in the mountains of Korea what is an acceptable and calculated risk versus an unacceptable one. That’s why veterans are primed to be successful in their start-ups.

3.  What was the most valuable lesson you learned while serving

Too often I see businesses and non-profits playing for the next big win or just enough to get launched on an effort. I learned as a staff officer that today’s fight is just today’s fight. You still have to worry about tomorrow, next week and beyond to win the war. Battle’s are won through being one step ahead of your enemy and business is no different. It does you no good to cross the border and blow through the enemies lines to run out of gas thirty miles later because you failed to plan that its 500 miles to the final objective.

Business is no different. Battles are really a series of small fights. You have to win a lot of the small fights to win the entire battle and you have to win most battles to win the war. You don’t do that by only seeing the one right in front of you.

4.  What were some important resources that helped guide ScoutComms’ early days

People are always surprised when I tell them my first stop wasn’t the Small Business Administration or a business coach when I decided to launch ScoutComms. My first stop was the public library in Stafford County, Virginia. I checked out half the business books they had on the shelves including my bible, “Starting a Business for Dummies” which proved really helpful.

Once I had the thing with its own heartbeat I reached out to mentors like Fred Thompson who has years in the business sector, and guys like Jim Knotts at Operation Homefront. They patiently coached me on whom I should talk to on veterans issues and not to say the many dumb things I often said at the time.

Each of these mentors helped me navigate how to build a business, how to find clients, how to understand my sector and how to actually do what PR people do. I’m not sure ScoutComms would still be here if I hadn’t had the advice of folks like these and many others.

5.  Why did you recently change ScoutComms to a registered B or benefit corporation

When I started researching social enterprises to find out how to define ScoutComms better, I stumbled on to the B-Corp movement and it totally made sense. A for-profit with a double bottom line. There are tons of social enterprises in the sector including two of my clients. But veterans haven’t been widely recognized as a mission focus in the movement. We are hoping to change that.

The fact is there are literally thousands of veteran and military non-profits and we don’t need any more. Social enterprise represents that missing middle between fiscally focused for-profit, non-profits and government agencies. We can do good things and make a living doing it. We can apply business practices to accomplish goals that produce results.

 

This entry was posted on Friday, February 21, 2014 3:10 pm

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