There are approximately 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States. Collectively, they employ close to 6 million employees and generate $1.4 trillion in sales each year. Veteran-owned businesses are making a positive impact in small towns and big cities nationwide; they are creating jobs and fueling our nation’s economy. If you are a veteran, reservist, or active-duty service member with dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, now is a great time to get started. There are a number of programs available to help you with business planning, marketing, networking, financing, and much more. This Balboa Capital blog post explains how to start a veteran-owned business.

Come up with a business idea.

If you want to own a business but don’t have any idea of where to start, don’t worry. Many veterans have been in the same situation prior to moving forward with their business ventures. So, write down a list of things that you are interested in, and that might translate into a good business idea. Once you have narrowed down your list and selected your favorites, decide what your primary motivation is. Do you want a part-time business or a full-time business? Do you want to start small and end up being a big cash-flow positive business? Do you have an exit strategy, such as selling or merging your business in 5-7 years? The last step of this process is to choose the best idea for your veteran-owned business so you can begin the planning phase.

Get legal assistance.

In the military, you were taught to follow orders on your very first day of basic training. This continued throughout your tenure and helped you finish tasks and projects in a timely manner, and without any surprises. When starting a veteran-owned small business, you should continue following orders, only this time from a business attorney. A lawyer can help trademark your company name, register your business with the local and state government, draft customer contracts and employment agreements, and help you choose the best corporate structure, to name just a few. In summary, a business attorney can provide you with good strategic advice to help you mitigate personal and financial risk.

Write a veteran-owned business plan.

The cornerstone of your veteran-owned small business is a complete plan that explains how you will launch and grow your company. It is recommended that your plan contain a mission statement, executive profile, business name, business description, competitive analysis, and marketing plan. Additionally, you should include a section that outlines your financial information, including budgets, cash flow projections, and monthly sales forecasts for up to three years.

Use your military skills.

As a veteran, you have learned a number of skills during your time in uniform, and they can transfer to your role as a small business owner. Things like leadership, respect, loyalty, commitment, teamwork, problem solving, communication, and resiliency can prepare you for entrepreneurial success, even if you do not have any prior business experience. These skills and traits will prove to be invaluable when you are negotiating contracts, working with consultants, hiring and training employees, and talking to customers and/or vendors.

Get financing.

In order to get your company off the ground, you need capital. Otherwise, you will not be able to stock up on inventory, purchase equipment, hire employees, or cover the costs of daily business expenses.  Well, do not worry. There are many financing options for you to choose from, such as Veteran’s Administration (VA) business loans, veteran small business grants, bank loans, SBA microloans, and small business loans for veterans from alternative lenders. The loan requirements will differ from lender to lender, so do your homework online to determine the best option based on your individual needs, budget, and timeframe. You will have a better chance at qualifying if you have a strong personal credit score and a minimal amount of debt. So, stay on top of your bills and avoid making late payments.