Life After Service: What the military taught me about business ownership

By: Jack Huffman

The statistics are alarming – 8,000 veterans take their lives each year. That’s 22 veterans a day. For many, they feel they no longer have anything to live for. I was once of a similar mindset.

I am a combat veteran from the war before the war, as I like to say. I joined the Army in 1993, a year after I graduated high school. I was 19 years old and deployed twice over my four years of active duty as an E4 Specialist Promotable. My deployment took me to Saudi Arabia in 1996-1997, where my unit relieved the German unit after the Khobar Towers Bombing and was one of the first units to experience the modern terrorism that we know today.

The military lessons of perseverance and grit served me well in my transition to civilian life. Four years after retiring from the military, I took my back out and was out of work for 9 months. Then I broke my neck two years later and was out of work for over four years before going back to college to get a degree in Small Business Management

In 2011, I was working in construction before I was laid off during the recession. I went into a completely different industry within HVAC before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) a few weeks later. I was also diagnosed with PTSD from the war.

After many setbacks, it would’ve been easy to become a statistic, however, I knew my story was not over. I sought help, went to therapy and began sharing my story. The next step of recovery was finding my next career move – entrepreneurship.

Business ownership seemed like a great avenue to help others and myself, despite the challenges. Now, I own and operate a franchise territory for Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning. I knew I wanted to become a franchisee because owning a franchise location gives veterans the freedom and leadership development they crave while being provided an easier transition out of the military. In the military, there is a leader who you fall into march with. The same goes for franchising – there is a leader who tells you when and how to march to be successful, and you march. That is why franchising is a perfect fit for veterans. Out of all the franchise systems, I chose Oxi Fresh because the business model is smooth and easily fits into my lifestyle. I was the first person to ever purchase a franchise without visiting the corporate office prior to signing. I believed in the concept that much. In addition to Oxi Fresh, my wife and I are planning to open a retreat next year to assist veterans suffering from PTSD.

With all my new ventures, my military background allows me to take risks and be proactive. Additionally, from all of my experiences, I have the innate ability to empathize and anticipate people’s needs ahead of time. I also have the training to cope in adverse situations, which is common in entrepreneurship – nothing ever goes how you expect it to. I wake up every day in pain, but with a smile on my face because I am excited to have the opportunity to improve other people’s lives through living a better one myself. The military taught me that you have to learn to deal with the cards you are given – you cannot reshuffle. That’s exactly what I’m doing now.