The Texas A&M University campus was quiet in late July, with most students off until the Fall semester begins. However, in one corner of campus, a small group of unique students participated in “bootcamp”. For the last seven years, Texas A&M has sponsored the “Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veteran’s with Disabilities”, a program for disabled American veterans. The program consists of online work culminating in nine days on campus, in which they spend time crafting, refining, and testing their business plans. I had the opportunity to serve as a mentor, helping these unique entrepreneurs build their business plans.
At SEI, we often talk about, and live fully, that which separates us from other consulting firms: culture and the EPIC model. The very tenets the SEI culture is built upon was clearly visible in the entrepreneurs I had the pleasure of working with. Our EPIC model leads with Excellence and Participation (and is rounded out with Integrity and Collaboration). I had the chance to see Excellence in action with this group of 25 men and women entrepreneurs. Each individual was required to present their business plans to panels: think Shark Tank. I was impressed by their willingness to challenge the panels to identify gaps and areas of improvement for their businesses. Excellence is often the product of having the courage to ask for the “hard” feedback. I was equally impressed by the Excellence of the concepts developed which ranged from a mobile spa service catering to office workers in the Houston medical district to a patented total body fitness machine.
I was inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment these men and women had for the businesses they envisioned building. One veteran shared that he had developed and prototyped the design for his product between multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Another shared that she had invested her life savings into equipment for an embroidery company. As consultants at SEI, we Participate in the direction and building of our company. The passion these entrepreneurs have for their businesses raised the bar for what I expect of myself as a business owner with SEI.
Perseverance (Silent P)
After nine days, the corner of Texas A&M University is quiet again as these future leaders in business headed back to their homes to continue their dream and build their vision. It was then that I was reminded by these entrepreneurs about the value of Excellence and Participation. Perhaps most importantly, these Bootcamp graduates taught me another lesson while sitting in a room listening to this group of veterans as they told their stories about the long path to physical and emotional recovery touched my heart. They shared, in the most humble way, about untold numbers of surgeries and learning to adjust to life having lost limbs and other abilities I often take for granted. Their example and spirit taught me about the meaning of perseverance.