This week, the Alexandria Veterans Business Enterprise Center hosted its fourth speaker series event. This event invites a successful veteran in business to share his or her experiences in business and tips on success after the military.
This month’s event featured Laura Law-Millet, co-founder of the GI Film Festival. After a 14-year career as an Army intelligence officer, Law-Millet went to work in the corporate world, but she felt that something was missing in her life. After a discussion with her husband on the way that military personnel are portrayed in the entertainment industry, the couple decided to start the GI Film Festival, which is dedicated to sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war.
Since its inaugural year, the festival has grown from a three-day event to a week-long festival that includes events on the west coast and a show on the Pentagon Channel. They focus on films that are entertaining, engaging and present films “from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American Armed Forces and the worldwide struggle for freedom and liberty.”
In her time as an entrepreneur, Law-Millet says she has learned many lessons, but her advice focused on the five lessons she believes are most important for a successful business and for a happy business owner. She says that she learned these lessons while observing her daughter and believes that entrepreneurs can learn a lot by looking through the lens of a child.
1. Ask for what you want
Children are not afraid to ask for things, and many times, they will not take “no” for an answer. Often, business owners are afraid to ask for things, either because they don’t think they can get them or because they are afraid they will be told “no.” Law-Millet recommends that business owners act as if they don’t realize that “no” is even a possible answer. When the GI Film Festival was first starting, they asked several celebrities if they would attend the event. It never dawned on Law-Millet that they would refuse, so she kept asking. Many celebrities came to the event, and they never would have attended if Law-Millet had not asked for what she wanted.
2. Expect success, but don’t be afraid to fail
Oftentimes, kids get excited about everyday things and anticipate that everything will go well. Entrepreneurs can embrace this lesson by keeping an optimistic attitude about their potential for success. Everyone has failed at one point or another, but it’s what you learn from that failure that determines if you will succeed. Law-Millet explains that WestPoint sets up its freshmen to fail by giving them an impossible workload so that students experience failure and learn to prioritize. Law-Millet suggests that business owners find a mentor or other people in their industry to guide them along the way. The knowledge gained from these relationships will help entrepreneurs mitigate the failures that they have along the way and allow them to bounce back more quickly.
3. Network with everyone
We’ve all seen kids that make friends immediately with everyone playing on the playground or that are always willing to share that special treat in their lunch with a friend. Similarly, entrepreneurs never know who might be able to help them. A seemingly insignificant meeting could help you get that new client or that key investor that enables your business to grow. Similarly, entrepreneurs never know when helping someone else might come back to reap rewards. This is especially true when you are part of a smaller business network, like the veteran business community. Law-Millet jokes that we have all heard of the “six degrees from Kevin Bacon” game, but in reality, businesses are often six degrees from success. Networking can make all the difference.
4. Enjoy the moment
If you have ever taken a walk with a child, you know how frustrating it can be when he or she wants to stop to look at every rock, stick, or flower. However, business owners are often so concerned with looking at the long term that they forget to enjoy the journey and take time to be grateful for their success to date. In business, the journey is often as important as the destination, because the decisions you make along the way help to shape the future of your company. Law-Millet emphasizes that it is important to mark and celebrate the milestones along the way, because these little victories add up and, before you know it, your company has taken flight. This attitude of gratitude will help you achieve happiness along with success.
5. Dream big
How many of us, when we were young, wanted to astronauts or singers or president? Kids know how to dream big, and it’s not until adults limit their perception of what is possible that they begin to question what they are capable of achieving. Your business’ future is what you make of it, and anything is possible. When entrepreneurs think of ideas as impossible, they are closing themselves off to potential avenues for success. Law-Millet says that she is so grateful that the GI Film Festival was never told that their idea was not realistic, because they may have listened and not achieved the success that they have today.
To learn more about the GI Film Festival, please visit http://gifilmfestival.com.