With the recent July 4th holiday, we're taking a step back on MSPradio to pay tribute to our nation's veterans. It's not always easy for veterans to return home from service, yet they have many skills to offer their employers that universities alone simply can't teach.
On this week's episode of MSPradio, we speak with Brian Stann, CEO of Hire Heroes USA, an organization devoted to helping veterans find work and return back to a normal civilian life after serving. Brian, a veteran himself, tells us about some of the skills he learned while serving, and outlines some of the struggles veterans face when looking for civilian work.
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Nate: All right welcome back everyone to another episode of MSP radio, I am your host Nate Teplow. Before we get into the episode today, got to remind you to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. If you search for MSP radio you can subscribe there. We are also available on the Stitcher app for android users. Also follow us if you use the handle @follow Continuum and use the #MSP radio you can let us know what you think of the show.
So we’ve got a very special episode for you here today. The 4th of July is coming up and we’re going to focus this show on veterans.
A lot of our MSP partners are veterans, a lot of MSP’s in general our veterans and there are a number of our employees here at Continuum who are also veterans. So it’s a very important focus for us as a company, our leadership is very focused on helping the veterans. So one of the organizations that we support as a company is Hire Heroes USA and we actually have their CEO Brian Stann on the line with us today.
So Brian, welcomed MSP radio!
Brian: Hey, I appreciate it, thanks for having me.
Nate: Yeah, of course is great having on the show. I think this is a very important topic and it’s something we should definitely focus on and pay tribute so I am glad you could join us.
Brian: My pleasure, the timing worked out perfectly.
Nate: Yeah, that’s great. So Brian can you give us a little intro to Hire Heroes, what you guys do and what your mission is as an organization?
Brian: Sure. Our mission is pretty simple; we help veterans find jobs when they get out of military and we do it for personalized approach in how we train them to communicate their skill sets in search for jobs and find employment. And at the same time while engaging companies in teaching them about the skills of veterans, while also doing some matching with our corporate partners to be able to [01:50 inaudible] veterans they are working with.
We’ve got six locations nationwide with our headquarters being in [01:56 inaudible] Georgia, just north of Atlanta and an office in [02:00 inaudible], our office in Texas, Colorado Springs, Seattle and San Diego. We are helping now over 100 veterans a week and we are averaging about 24 a week that get jobs with us.
Nate: Wow, that’s great, that’s some awesome numbers. How did you get involved with Hire Heroes?
Brian: Well back in 2008 I met a man named John. Barnes. And John Barnes was the founder, he is the current chairman of the board for Hire Heroes USA and he had asked me to be the spokesperson for Hire Heroes USA through my professional fighting career and of course I agree. I was in active duty at the time in the Marine Corps and when I got off active duty, he had recruited me to work in his company [02:42 Mad Assets] in [02:42 inaudible] Georgia and at the time Hire Heroes was a really small operation down the hall and several months later one of the members of the board asked me if I would take over as executive director and I accepted. So on January 1, 2009, I took over the leadership of the organization and really the rest is history.
Step one was really refining our process and putting together a program that legitimately works to help veterans gain employment and the next step is really building the team. We only had three employees then, now we have 42 and so slowly but surely we have been able to build the team now that is extremely hard-working, so dedicated to this mission because over 75% of my people serve. So their mission to us is very personal. The fact that veterans are still struggling with employment in our eyes is by far the biggest issue facing veterans today.
Nate: Yeah that’s great, it sounds like you’ve done some great things over there and it’s so cool to see the organization grow, you said from 3 to 42 people. What do you think has been your biggest struggle trying to get the company where it is now, the organization to where it is now?
Brian: The biggest struggle is always capital. When you are a nonprofit, there is 46,000 organizations in this country that say they help veterans. They haven’t given us over five years at 46,000, I would say maybe only five or six of them are actually any good to be clear.
So the ocean that these veterans have been navigating in these organizations is so murky and so dark and unclear, and at the same time the competition is fierce for capital in organizations that have a great marketing plans and very poor service delivery, can sometimes get a little skeptical and stay in existence far longer than they should. So I think that’s really been the most difficult part. But I have told you this organization at the beginning, you do the right things, you’d be great at what you say you are supposed to be great at, you continue doing that and the good things will come. And it’s happened. Because when people grant us money, there is always some kind of metrics type in because that is how we exist at Hire Heroes. We get metrics every week, every month for every team all the way down to every individual boy and that is super important to have. And I think that’s the reason why we have been able to compete so well for funding because the funders out there that really care, not just about output but actual outcomes, they want to be a part of this, they want to help fund organizations like Hire Heroes USA.
Nate: That sounds great. I think when you write a check for something I’ve if you want to know where it’s going and you want to see it being used. It is one thing just to write the check and it’s another thing to see how this actually being used and actually making a difference, that’s an important component that not all organizations deliver to you.
Brian: Yeah, and a case in point is with Continuum. They have set a goal for us to confirm 50 hires in a year and we are only 50% through the grand period and we have already hit 81 hires.
Nate: Wow, that’s great!
Brian: We are going to more than double the goal of what Continuum had committed to and what we said we would be able to do with the funds. And the reason there is because each year we have increased our funds. But at the same time, what we have been able to do is while we grow, it’s been a major focus of this team, is to grow and grow responsibly and get more efficient as we get bigger. And we’ve been able to do that.
Years ago the cost for hire was about $4000. We would take how many hires we have and then divide it by the total amount of money we spend, what’s our total annual budget for the number of hires, the cost per hire. And that is not just most organizations would divide just the number, the cost of programs or services but we throw everything. Overhead, anything that’s not part of the services and what we have seen is cost per hire from 4000, went down to 3000, to 2700. Now it is below $2500 per hire and there is just no organization in the country that can compete with that.
And there is no real sauce to what we are doing, it’s just that this team, my employees, they care more than everybody else, they are willing to stay for hours next to one individual veteran and construct and build a resume from scratch; pulling all the intangible and tangible skills that person has and making them as marketable as possible while also developing a realistic job search plan so that they can find employment.
Nate: Yeah, that’s fantastic. So what are some things that companies can do beyond just giving capital to you? Are there other things that you contribute besides solely capital?
Brian: Absolutely, no I mean that they can… They can partner with us and advertise their jobs on a job board and we vet them and make sure these are jobs that the veterans we work with can fill. Every company wants to go find a veteran who’s got a four year degree and five years’ experience in the exact field they have but who are we kidding here? We work primarily with the most difficult demographic in terms of employment and we work with all veterans but primarily the veterans who come to us for help or 18 to 28 years old, they have done several tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, they have done one or two four-year terms enlisted and they don’t have a college degree. What they have is a wealth of experience, tons of certifications and training in all kinds of unique fields far more leadership experience than any college graduate can have. So companies who are interested in hiring people with great attitudes and maybe training them for the specific skills are going to find a talent rich environment in military veterans and they can find them obviously from our organization.
The other way too is just the communications. We don’t spend a lot of money on marketing like other organizations do. So we’ve got great partners like the WWE that has created commercials for us that are played during their national shows on worldwide networks and the digital networks all the time. And they have gotten us so much positive attention through their huge platform where 16 million people watch every show they put out and that’s a huge benefit to us. So the veterans know where they can go for the best help they can find and then of the companies now where they can go to find veterans that people will want to support an organization that really works, that’s really having natural outcomes, they know where to support.
Nate: Yeah, that’s great. That’s great to feel supported in the things you do and obvious is a very just cause to support. What are some of the common areas that you see veterans going into in terms of like an industry or certain career paths once they come back from their service?
Brian: It’s hard to lump them into anyone industry. Obviously a lot of veterans find work in different government jobs; logistics, maintenance and supplies fields in which they do very well because the common denominator for any military veteran is they have experience in accountability of hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment and the maintenance of it as well. Any area where they pay you, they love the intangible assets that the veterans bring to the table coupled which legitimate combat proven leadership.
With these men and women at the very early age in their second year of their first enlistment in military, you could be a team leader in charge of 30 people. In your third year you could be a squad leader in charge of 8 to 12, that’s totally different than the civilian world. In the civilian world, if you have three direct reports, you are a leader, that’s big time. In the military, you are just getting warmed up.
So we see veterans going into various industries and having a lot of success and it’s not always huge companies that they go into and find that success. There’s a lot of small businesses, 20 to 40 people that veterans go into and they make tremendous impact because these are men and women who come from an organization in the military that is filled with standard operating procedures that are constantly refined and made more efficient. And they operate in a decentralized environment where every leadership level you are making independent decisions, so they can work into a company, they can look at all the processes you have in place and observe and then start to find inefficiencies that they can make things more efficient and in turn save you money which makes them an invaluable asset while also being capable of effectively managing employees because in the military, veterans are very accustomed to having those difficult conversations where you are saying, “Well we need to evaluate your performance. I love what you’re doing over here but I need more from this area. In this area you are doing XY and Z and that is not working right now. I need you to try A B and C, you need to get better here.”
And what I have noticed from my experience in the civilian world is that people aren’t comfortable having those discussions. A lot of the evaluations I have seen in other companies are really, they are inflated, people blow a fuse because they are uncomfortable to tell someone where they need to get better and people just don’t do it. For military veterans, we are really comfortable, not just giving feedback but accepting it and moving forward and taking that constructive criticism and getting better.
Nate: Yeah, I would imagine so. We’ve got to take a commercial break in a minute here but I wanted to ask you one last question. Do you find that companies are hesitant to hire veterans at all and why if so or why so or why not?
Brian: I find that they are hesitant, normally not at the top, they all want to. What happens at the bottom, the people that actually do the hiring is that they are not familiar with veterans and they naturally are going to give looks to people who come from their background, that’s just human nature. And most jobs are filled through networking. So we’ve experienced with a lot of companies where when you really dig through and [13:09 inaudible] wants to participate, when you dig through, you look down the hiring managers and a lot of cases, they are hiring people from their own network that are sent to them from their network that need a job that people are comfortable with and that is how that job gets field rather than giving this veteran with this huge skill set a chance to enter.
Nate: Yeah, it’s unfortunate but sometimes it is how the world works and it’s good that we are trying to get the word out there that I think veterans do have a lot to offer. I have worked with plenty here at Continuum and you can tell they have a certain leadership instilled in them that not all employees have. So we do have to take a quick commercial break here, we are going to be back in a minute, still talking with Brian about veterans, hiring them and the difference they can make in the workplace. So we will see you all in a few minutes.
Nate: Alright, welcome back everyone to MSP radio I am your host Nate Teplow. We’re talking here with Bryan Stann who is the CEO of Hire Heroes USA. They are a nonprofit organization really aimed at helping veterans return home to find work and job opportunities that allow them to live a normal life after coming back from service.
So Brian, we just spoke about your organization what Hire Heroes does, what some of the struggles are for veterans in the workplace. I wanted to shift more to kind of talking about veterans in general and you yourself are veteran. I know you touched on it but can you tell us where you served and for how long in the military?
Brian: Sure. I went to the Naval Academy from 1999 to 2003. I graduated and was commissioned the second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. I became an infantry officer and I was then assigned to serve Italian second Marines at the camp of North Carolina and I did two tours in Iraq with them; one as a [00:58 Cat Platoon commander], the second one as an executive officer for a rifle company. And then I commanded headquarters in service company for [01:08 inaudible] Regiment. And I off that duty in 2008 before I took over Higher Heroes USA.
Nate: That’s amazing. And what were some of the lessons you learned from the military, I know we have talked about leadership overall but you personally, what are some of the things that you learn that you have been able to apply to your professional career?
Brian: Man there is so many, it would be hard to list but you know really the big keys… You learn how to multitask and how to not make a huge deal out of every problem that comes up because ultimately as a leader, you have to always with yourself at the point of friction.
So if there is a problem, that’s when you need to be. You need to make a decision, make things better, move on to the next one. And part of that is knowing that there is not always the right decision, there is not always a perfect decision where everything can turn out perfectly and you as a leader have to realize that and sometimes things may not turn out the way you planned but you’ve got to have a short term memory and you’ve got to continue to move on and while you are doing that, you’ve always got to communicate to your employees the “why” behind things. If you make a decision, you have to also tell them why. And if you always remember to incorporate their feedback, their ideas, then it is not your policy as a leader, it is not you telling them dictating “this is what we’re going to do”, it’s “We” because they had a say in it so now they have buy in, it’s also their idea.
As a team, you came up with that, it’s your job as a leader not to come up with all the best ideas all the time. That’s for insecure leaders that are immature and young in their position field. Your job is to decide which ideas are the best and which ones to put your resources behind and follow through on and all the while making sure that you stay engaged with your employees and develop them. Don’t be afraid to teach them the things you know so that one, they feel like they are in an environment where they are getting better, they are getting knowledge because for talent management and retaining top talent, they have to be at a place like that.
And then secondly, because that’s just going to make your organization better when you all think alike and you are adding and you’re giving your experience to your employees, you are making everyone wiser, everyone better and that’s a really important part of being a leader.
Nate: Yeah, it’s actually something that we’ve talked about here on our marketing team. We did a case study on the name of the… I believe he was the admiral of a ship but he noticed that the people that he is commanding, that’s him as a leader, he was the furthest person away from the direct information. And then he empowers his employees and his subordinates that they were more efficient as a team because they were closest people to the information they can make decisions based on the information and he was the one who had to provide the vision and kind of just the overall direction of where they were going as a team.
Brian: That’s exactly right. Most people have had time. Unfortunately and in an environment of micromanaging and when you micromanage or when one person, maybe they are not micromanaging but they are so much more talented than everybody else that everything has to go through them; one focal point, that one person, you can never have tempo, you can never get momentum, everything is slow, that business or that organization is not going to grow, it is not going to be efficient because again, everything has to go through that one person. And no subordinate, no employee has ever enjoyed feeling like they are in that environment because if they do make any mistakes, and they are always crushed because the micromanager is going to be so upset it wasn’t done their way.
All the best organizations and best units have a decentralized execution where a leader will give a directive and how that directive is accomplished is up to those subordinate leaderships ultimately knowing that this is a mission we’ve got to accomplish. How I accomplish it is up to me. I’ve got the intent from my leader, it’s up to me and I am trusted in my position to go execute.
And when you truly know your subordinate leaders and you’ve develop to them like I talked about earlier, you can anticipate how they are going to get things done. You can mentor them so that you understand and they understand you and how they want things done, but you’ve got to be a clear communicator but that’s the environment people like to be in because they are free to do things and be creative and use of their skill set and you can operate with tempo. You can become an organization of 10 people but you can have service delivery or you can produce or you can do whatever it is you’re doing at the much greater capacity because you are moving faster because you don’t have to stop every two seconds, turn back and ask this micromanager, “Hey, do you want me to go left or do you want me to go right?”
Nate: Yeah. It’s a natural bottleneck just having everything run through one person. Another question for you, I know you speak a lot of companies and you work with these veterans after placing them and help them get acclimated to their new job situations. Do you find that a lot of organizations do have these micromanagers and kind of have that same issue of too much of a top-down leadership style?
Brian: I don’t think so. Not in more mature organizations I have not found that. Sometimes you will find that your smaller businesses, because they are young. You may have a maintenance company or a landscaping company or whatever it is and it’s only four or five years old and it’s one person who is really on the line and they put all their own personal capital behind to start it and so they feel obligated like they have to. [06:57 inaudible] but hiring a veteran can lead you to take some of the pressure of them because here is someone they can trust to make decisions and make them well.
So I can’t say that that’s been a real common denominator in some of the companies we’ve engaged but I definitely know it exists, I have certainly seen it in my own experience and in the [07:20 inaudible]. And like I said, that’s just shows how experienced the organization the military is. I went to a school that was basically a leadership factory. Yes I took all you are really difficult college courses and they look at me but what we all really major in is leadership. We have had all these lessons, all these case studies and all of this practice leading each other drilled into our heads before we were ever commissioned as officers. And then you are going to go through that at a higher level even in the Marine Corps and the business world, they just can’t replicate that. You’re not going to go to a regular University and get that kind of leadership training. You’re certainly not going to get it in your first job because they don’t have the institutions built in place to do so. But the military, they have always been this great talent pool for companies to pull from and it’s why there are so many major CEOs out there that tend to have military service.
Nate: Yeah, absolutely. So switching it back to just veterans a little bit and you as a veteran, and you know we are doing this with the upcoming 4th of July holiday, what does the 4th of July mean to you as a veteran of the US military?
Brian: Is really one of those prideful days. It’s all about the start of this country and what we stand for and while no country is perfect and because we are the best country in the world, we are obviously held to a different standard. We still are the greatest nation on earth and people who have traveled and been to a lot of different countries as I have, they understand that. People who haven’t, they look if they can find ways to complain, “Well, you know the government has got this beef, he has broken” all these direct complaints. The bottom line is we live in a country where if you work really hard, you can have a good life. The formula is not that complicated. There are countries that I have been to all over the world where that is not the case; where the corruption and the cast system and the wealth gap is so grand that it makes it near impossible for a common person to find certain levels of success.
Nate: Yeah. I think we get caught up in our word here and there is a lot we can complain about but there is a lot we don’t see and it’s great to hear from someone like you has been around the word and seen a lot more difficult places to live than we see in our normal lives, to hear something like that because I think we do take for granted sometimes the freedoms and the liberties we have as a population.
Brian: Certainly. When you do a study of ownership, just buying your own home which is the foundation to any kind of personal wealth in America; when you do a study of that in a different country and what the process is to go through and buy a piece of land or own a piece of property, you would be astounded!
There is countries out there like Venezuela where there is 27 distinct different steps through six or seven different organizations you have to go through just to try and own something and it makes it near impossible for them by design. And you can’t something like that where you are putting money in, where it is not just going out the window like rent, it’s very difficult to ever better your family tree and get them into a different position. And there is some really great literature out there that I recommend people read because it will enlighten you and that’s not to say that obviously we can’t improve this country and things can’t get better; I think with the rise of social media and the digital era where people get information so fast, is going to cause people to be more accountable. I think we are en route to having more accountable leadership just through this country and holding people more accountable but all that being said, we are very fortunate to be able to live in the United States. There are thousands of people every day just trying to get inside our borders so that they can have a shot because they want to live here.
Nate: Yeah, absolutely.
Well, Brian thank you very much for joining me here today on MSP radio and more importantly, thank you for your service to our country and thank you for all that you are doing for our veterans returning home and helping them acclimate back to life here in the US.
Brian: No problem.
Nate: Yeah, thank you. And if our listeners want to learn more about your organization and how they can help, where can they go?
Brian: Yeah, they can go to our website at www.hireheroesUSA.org. They can follow us on Twitter @Hire Heros USA. They can follow me on Twitter at Brian Stann, S-T-A-N-N and I appreciate your support, I appreciate you having me on and everybody out there, have a great independence weekend.
Nate: Yes well thank you again Brian for joining me here on MSP radio and thank you everyone for tuning into this week’s episode. Hope you enjoyed the special edition, 4th of July version. I thought Brian had some great things to say and he’s got a fabulous organization, definitely check them out and look for ways you can help out with Hire Heroes USA.
So thank you again everyone for tuning in to MSP radio and we will see you all next week.
By Gretchen Hoffman
By Gretchen Hoffman