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Personal Perspective: How I Learned to Be My Own Boss

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The following opinion piece was originally published in the Fort Meade Soundoff! by Lt. Col. Felicia Langel, director, strategic planning office, Medical Research and Materiel Command, at Fort Detrick, Frederick, Md.

“I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. But is owning a small business right for me?”

If this thought has crossed your mind, I encourage you to take the Boots 2 Business (B2B) online course. This opportunity came my way through workshops offered by the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP). I plan to retire next summer, so I signed up for SFL-TAP to learn about my options for the future.

Through an SFL-TAP information session, we learned about the eight-week, online B2B course provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The free course is available to all veterans and military service members, and can be taken once you complete the two-day, in-person overview class.

When I attended the overview class, I mostly wanted to hear about other people’s business ideas and maybe develop my own. Everyone was really enthusiastic about my idea, a vegetarian fast-food restaurant, and I decided to get smart about how to actually start my business.

A week before the class began, I received an email from the B2B team welcoming me and providing guidance on how to access the course online. I also received the syllabus and a head’s up on what to expect next.

Bottom line: If you want to get the most out of this class, you have to put in the work.

Between reading the text that is mailed to you, viewing the online lectures, posting to the discussion board and completing assignments, you’re looking at about 10 hours of work per week. The good news is that the class is pretty laid back, and since you are developing your own business idea, it is kinda fun. Note that only the instructor sees the details of your business idea. What you choose to share with the rest of the class is up to you.

The key outcome of the B2B online course is turning your business idea into action. You will learn the process for starting a small business that includes designing the all-important business plan. It guides you step-by-step as you develop your marketing and operations plan, and you receive expert feedback from the instructor along the way.

The instructor will challenge you to really think about your business in the context of its profitability, customer base, resourcing, risk management and other considerations. You will come away from B2B with a solid action plan for starting your business.

When I retire from the Army, I will use my G.I. Bill and go back to school. After that, I will start a small business. You owe it to yourself to get as much information up front as you can. Owning a small business is a tremendous financial investment, and you really don’t want or need any surprises.

Take B2B. It is a good place to start. Besides, you have everything to gain by taking the road to becoming your own boss as a small-business owner.

For more information on SFL-TAP, call 301-677-7871 or visit www.sfl-tap.army.mil.