In honor of Veterans Day, Entrepreneur is highlighting the work of former military entrepreneurs who are building their own businesses, chasing their dreams, and kicking a whole lot of ass in the process. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Soraya Goddard, and I’m still serving in the military. On the side, I own a health and wellness business. After 10 years of stressful deployments and intense work hours, I was physically and emotionally burned out. After a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out how to balance the demands of work with a healthy lifestyle and now I have the privilege of sharing what I learned. I show people how to manage their own stress levels and stay healthy while working full-time careers. Today, more than ever, with skyrocketing health care costs and chronic stress on the rise, it’s so important to have affordable, safe and easy ways to give your body the support that it really needs so we can manage everything we have on our often too-full plates.
How many people do you employ?
It’s just me! As a solopreneur, I have learned that in order to focus my efforts on income-producing activities, if there’s anything I need to be done that I’m not an expert in, I hire it out. With so many talented people online, it’s so easy to do.
What branch do you serve and what is your rank?
I’m a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) in the Army and actually still serving on active duty! I’ve served for almost 18 years and have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and more. It’s been an incredible adventure. I’m so grateful for all my experiences. There really is no other organization I can think of that grows leaders like the military, and that leadership experience has translated very well into the business world.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
To me, an entrepreneur is someone who has a goal of impacting other people by helping them solve a problem, and through that help, aims to grow and scale to help even more people. It’s a bit of an idealistic view, but it’s my favorite part: the more people you help, the more you get to where you want to go.
Tell us about your proudest moment while serving.
Without a doubt, commanding a company in Iraq during the height of the surge in 2007—2008 was the most special time in uniform for me. To be trusted with the livelihood of a company of soldiers before going to war was an incredible responsibility, and leading them during that time was the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
What did being in the military teach you about risk?
What I love about the way military discusses risk is that we know there will always be risk. Your job is not to avoid risk; it’s to make an informed decision with as much data as you have at the moment. The catch is that you may not have all the critical pieces of information that you want, but if you wait for those pieces, you’ll miss the opportunity. I think the lesson translates perfectly to business -- most times you need to just take action with what you know and not be paralyzed about being perfect. One of my favorite sayings is, “Don’t ever let perfect be the enemy of good.”
Was there a problem that almost tanked your business? How did you overcome it?
Anytime my business growth has slowed down, it’s been during a time where I lost focus and got distracted by a new shiny tool. Things like funnel building, social media and marketing are fun, really exciting, and important for your business. However, they are just tools, and it’s easy to mistake the delivery tools for the actual message. While you are learning new things, you can’t stop whatever methods of communication you have now that bring in clients and result in sales. What I’ve found helps me avoid distraction is to sit down early each morning and outline the two important things I need to do that day to grow my business. Until I do those two things, I can’t move on to other skill development or marketing activities. It keeps me on track and focused so I can prioritize my very limited time.
What should people understand about what they’ll get when they hire a vet or go into business with a veteran entrepreneur?
Veterans, just like any other Americans, have incredibly different backgrounds, different experiences, and different motivations, so it’s important to not pre-judge or assume that we all think or act alike. Take me for example -- I’m not what most people think of when you picture a veteran. That being said, we have all been trained that mission completion is the utmost goal, so veterans tend to be very driven people and adept at problem-solving. Along the way, at every rank, most of us also develop amazing leadership skills simply because we’ve been empowered at very young ages with incredible responsibility. Any prospective employer should take advantage of that and put a vet in a leadership position and give them the ability to solve problems -- it should pay off.
Describe your leadership style.
My natural leadership style is to be a teacher and educator. I want people to understand the strategic “why” and I love inspiring the team that way. However, after 18 years, I can pretty much adopt any style I need to get things done. I think to be successful in the military (and in business), you need the emotional intelligence to read a situation and dig into your bag of leadership skills and apply whatever will be the most effective.
Is there a quote or saying that inspires you?
“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.” -- Dhirubhai Ambani. I love being in the military and am grateful for it, but what fires me up is that whenever I choose to retire, I’ll retire to my own business and a life that I have built and that I love fiercely. I really wish more people in the military would understand that they can start side businesses do the same thing. I’m working hard to spread that message!