By Eric Dehm
When Tim Jensen got out of the Marine Corps, he was, as many of us transitioning veterans are, lost. Particularly the second time.
You see, he had left active duty in May of 2001, only to find himself reenlisting in the reserves after 9/11. He served for four more years, including deployments to Iraq and came back in 2005 feeling “survivors guilt” for those who wouldn’t return.
“It was a very difficult time for me, to the point where I lost my family and lost my children,” Jensen told ConnectingVets.com. “It was really difficult, but there was a moment when I made that change, where I psychologically said ‘this is not gonna happen, I gotta stop this behavior, everything that’s occurring.’ That’s when I found Grunt Style.”
Jensen is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the military-themed clothing behemoth Grunt Style, founded by fellow vet Dan Alarik. That company is the most successful veteran-owned business to launch in recent years, and continues to grow. In fact, Jensen just announced a new distribution center that will lead them to quadruple their staff in the next year, and a significant portion of those new hires will be vets.
“From a company standpoint, our mission is to hire veterans at a rate of more than 50% of our total staffing,” Jensen said. “Right now, we are at about 52 percent, and we continue to grow that number as we bring more veterans into the workplace. As this distribution center opens, we are looking to add between 100 and 150 new staff members. As we add those staff members we would like to see that same percentage come into the fold and create a better opportunity for the veteran community.”
Why the big push to hire veterans? Jensen says it’s not about the optics, it’s about the drive to perform and succeed that seems to be ingrained in many vets. A kind of drive that allows them to overcome obstacles like not having the formal education that some might see as essential for business success. Jensen knows all too well how a veteran’s drive can push them to great heights as it’s how he got to the boardroom.
“I started out with the company folding shirts…now I’m the Chief Operating Officer,” Jensen said. “I have ‘no business’ running a company. I don’t have the background or the education from these big ivory schools and business colleges. I don’t have any of that. What I have is eight years of military experience. The Marine Corps is the definition of ‘lean’ and I’ve taken everything I’ve learned from there and applied it in the private industry.”
Some employers might look at Jensen as an outlier, a special case of a vet without the typical background achieving significant business success. He says they should do so at their own risk, because there’s nothing particularly “special” about him. He was just given an opportunity to prove himself by a company that’s made it part of their mission to give veterans the chance to prove themselves.
He’s told several businesses that have approached him about advice when hiring vets that the recipe for success with vets is fairly simple: realize that what a vet lacks in formal education, they often make up for with an ability to learn on the fly while also adapting to challenges in order to overcome them.
“Harness their capabilities, harness their ability to organize, harness their ability to provide task and purpose in assaulting missions that are laid out in front of them.”