The military can teach you more than just strategy and chain of command. It can also teach you to be rough and tough with your money, and offer the discipline required to succeed in the business world.
While many military veterans struggle financially when they leave the service, many have succeeded in taking what they’ve learned during their time in uniform and applying it to the private sector.
These days, veterans are founding companies in all sorts of industries, including telecommunications, retail, finance, coffee companies, construction firms, and manufacturing, to name a few.
“Every day I use the lessons and discipline I learned in the Marine Corps. – Bob Parsons, GoDaddy founder
Here are some of the biggest, most successful companies founded by American veterans.
The country’s biggest private company–and its largest private employer–was founded by Sam Walton. Walton served as a captain in the Army during World War II, from 1942 until 1945, as did his brother and co-founder, Bud, who was a Navy pilot in the Pacific theater.
Walmart (WMT) was started with $5,000 saved from the Walton’s military days, with the original store opening up in Bentonville, Arkansas in 1951.
“Just Do It” could very well be the motto for any military branch, as well as Nike’s slogan. It makes sense then that Nike (NKE), the Oregon-based athletic company, was co-founded by an Army veteran, Phil Knight.
Knight enlisted in the army after graduating from the University of Oregon in 1959, serving one year, and ultimately serving in the reserves for seven years.
Before getting into the shipping business, FedEx (FDX) founder Fred Smith led an adventurous life. After attending Yale (where he came up with the initial idea for FedEx), Smith joined the Marines and served two tours in Vietnam, and was almost killed during an enemy ambush.
After returning home, Smith raised more than $90 million in venture capital, and FedEx started shipping in 1973.
4. Kinder Morgan
Kinder Morgan (KMI), one of the biggest energy companies in the U.S., was founded by Richard Kinder, a veteran of the Vietnam War. Prior to starting the company with his co-founder William Morgan in 1997, Kinder served in the Army as a Captain.
Before joining the Army, however, Kinder went to law school at the University of Missouri, which allowed him to serve as a Judge Advocate General officer, or a military lawyer.
Web registration company GoDaddy (GDDY) was founded in 1997 by Bob Parsons. Parsons, too, was a veteran of the Vietnam War, having enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968. While in Vietnam, Parsons became a decorated soldier, earning a Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
“Every day I use the lessons and discipline I learned in the Marine Corps,” Parsons says on his website. “I absolutely would not be where I am today without the experiences I had in the Marine Corps.”
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