My father, Mark DeLuzio, talks about how he's giving back to veterans through his organization B.R.A.V.E. (Business Reviews and Advisors to Veteran Entrepreneurs). B.R.A.V.E. is an organization, which helps veteran entrepreneurs get their businesses started.
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Scott DeLuzio: 00:00 Hey everybody, this is the Drive On Podcast where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:13 Hey everyone, thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast. Today I have Mark DeLuzio who is not only my father, but also a Gold Star Father. We're going to talk about a service that he's providing to veterans who are aspiring entrepreneurs or looking for career advice. I briefly talk about this service in episode five, which if you haven't listened to it yet, you might want to go give that a listen too. So, Dad, before I go on too much about what you do, I'm going to let you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into this.
Mark DeLuzio: 00:47 Thanks. My background, I have a pretty extensive business background in corporate America. I made it up to very high levels in the corporation. I started out in finance went into operations, general management. I was also the architect of something that we call the Danaher Business System, which is one of the most sought-after Lean Manufacturing or Lean Management systems in the country and perhaps in the world. For the last 18 years, I've been in my own consulting business, actually consulting in that space and worked with all kinds of different companies, big companies, small companies, all kinds of different industries. So that's what I do. So, I have a lot of business experience. I know how to run a business and also a lot of entrepreneurial experience that I feel I can really offer to help others. So that's kind of my background. I have an MBA in Operations Management. I have an Accounting degree, a Bachelor's degree. I have a second Bachelor's degree in Marketing and I'm certified in a number of different areas. So, that's what I do. And that's a real quick snap shot of my background.
Scott DeLuzio: 02:02 So the service that we're talking about today is called B.R.A.V.E., which stands for Business Reviews and Advice for Veteran Entrepreneurs. It's basically a service that you provide to veterans who are looking to start up a business or looking for career advice. So, how did you get the idea to start B.R.A.V.E.?
Mark DeLuzio: 02:24 Just a slight correction; It's Business Reviews and Advisers to Veteran Entrepreneurs. Slight little change, but no big deal. How do I start? Well, you know, like most people I would say, and this is not a criticism, I think most Americans in general enjoy their life, enjoy the freedoms. Quite frankly, take their freedoms for granted. And I was one of those people, quite frankly until my two sons entered the military and then I get to see it firsthand. Well, maybe not firsthand, but I got to see a very close up picture of what you guys went through and other veterans as well as far as the sacrifice you make for the country. As probably a lot of people know, we lost Steven, your brother, my son, in Afghanistan; he was a war hero, like you were.
Mark DeLuzio: 03:14 You were lucky enough to come home. He didn't. I got to see and know a lot of his brothers in arms after they all got back from Afghanistan and I started seeing quite a bit of struggles that they went through because I really do believe, Scott that the military does a really good job at training you how to put the uniform on but I don't think they do a really good job at teaching you how to take it off and integrate back into society. You touched on that in some of your previous podcasts in terms of what that's like. I got a lot of experience with that in terms of just second hand experience talking to these guys and starting to learn what's going on now.
Mark DeLuzio: 03:58 I personally didn't serve; I never put the uniform on. I missed Vietnam by about a year and I felt guilty about it. A lot of people say, you already served; you’re a Gold Star Father. You have two boys over there at the same time in Afghanistan. I don't feel that way. So, I said, “what can I do with my background and expertise to help these guys as they come back?” And that's really what gave the rise of the thought of B.R.A.V.E. I'm not a PTSD counselor. I don't get into any of that. That's not my qualifications. I fundamentally believe to be a good PTSD counselor, you have to have been in the arena of combat. That's just my personal opinion. I don't do any business consulting in that space but I do have a lot of advice I could give to either entrepreneurs on how to construct a business, how to think about a business or even somebody who needs career advice as well.
Mark DeLuzio: 04:53 So, that's how I figured I could give back to these guys and gals. In fact, a lot of my B.R.A.V.E. clients are women. How I can give back to them and actually contribute and maybe make a few people's lives a little bit easier. I'll never get to repay them the way I should but this is my attempt to do that. I do have a full-time global consulting business that I run, so I'm doing this more or less on a part-time basis. But after I retire, whenever that is going to be, I am planning on doing this, making this my full-time endeavor. It's a free service, Scott. I don't look for any money. It's not even a 501C3, I don't want any money involved in this at all. Any expenses will be borne by me. If I have to get on a plane to meet a veteran, I will do it at my cost. There's no charges or anything like that. That's basically the essence of how we started this; how I started it with mom, as well. We envisioned how we could perhaps help our heroes who are coming back and trying to integrate back into society.
Scott DeLuzio: 06:08 And that's great that it's a free service that you're offering to these veterans because a lot of times coming out of the military, you're not exactly rolling in the dough. You're not making a ton of money in the military. You come out and now you have this great idea for a business, possibly. You may not know where to get started. And so, having somebody there who's been through the startup phase of a business, even just knowing the things that some businesses might take for granted, such as filing the paperwork to get the business started and everything like that. Some people may just not have any idea of what needs to be done with regards to that. And not to say that that's what you're doing necessarily but you're providing that type of advice or service to help guide them to be successful in whatever the business is that they're doing. So, what are some of the common problems that you see veterans facing when they're looking to start a business or jump into a new career after getting out of the military?
Mark DeLuzio: 07:21 Well, those are two maybe separate questions. When you talk about a career or you're talking about running a business, everybody wants to aspire to be on their own, maybe not everybody. I would say a lot of people want to be an entrepreneur and run their own thing. You know, one of the things I found, Scott, was that a lot of people that came back, tried to integrate back into corporate America, for example. A couple of my clients in the B.R.A.V.E. are in that space right now. And it's interesting because what I've learned about the military from afar is that the military is a lot more structured, a lot more black and white, a lot more accountable. It is very clear what your duties are and all that. And then you come into corporate America and I deal at the CEO level, of multi-billion dollar companies all the time.
Mark DeLuzio: 08:07 And they really think they've got a real tight-knit ship. And they really think that their lines of communication and responsibilities and accountability are so tight and buttoned up. In reality, it's not like that in most companies. And so, somebody from the military coming out of a combat zone in particular goes into that environment and there's a lot of gray areas. There's a lot of gray areas and it's not as crystal clear to them as it was perceived by the people that are running the company. So, that's a big problem that I see with military people coming out and moving into, let's say, corporate America, for example. So, that's one problem that I see. So, what happens with a lot of my clients, and I'm working with about 15 or 20 right now.
Mark DeLuzio: 08:54 They say, “you know, I want to start my own business. Right?” But where I help them…I do all the paper. I can help them with filing tax ID numbers and getting a 501c3 set up and setting up an LLC or whatever form of corporation you want. But that's not really where I add the value. Anybody could do that. Where I add the value is more on the strategic side. I ask really tough strategic questions to a budding entrepreneur. The first thing I ask them is, why do you want to do this? Okay. And I listen to that. I had one guy telling me that I want to be able to spend more time with my family.
Mark DeLuzio: 09:34 And I pushed back and I said, “wrong answer.” Because if you're an entrepreneur and you know that well, Scott, you're one yourself. It's not a part-time job. You do have some flexibility with your schedule but it's a 24/7 endeavor when you have your own business. I hate to say it but people look at me weird when I go on vacations; I take my computer with me. Well, you know, my clients don't stop living because I'm on a cruise for two weeks. So, it's a 24/7 endeavor that you've got to keep in touch and all that. So, that was the wrong answer. So, I provide that kind of counseling to them. I talk about other things. I ask them, “do you want to create wealth or do you want to make a living?”
Mark DeLuzio: 10:14 So let's just take somebody who's an electrician. They're an electrician, maybe in the service. Do you want to come in and just be a really good electrician and go out and do all kinds of electrical work? What I call grinding. Or do you want to build a business of electricians and run a business? Because the more you do that and build this business, the less electrical work, which is maybe your passion, you're going to get into more management of people. And that's a totally different skillset than being an electrician. I kind of equate it this way as I explain it and I say, “you're a really good chef and you know how to make a really good meal and all kinds of different dishes, your top-notch chef. And now you say, “well I want to go open a restaurant.”
Mark DeLuzio: 11:00 Well, what do you, as a chef, know about running a restaurant? Okay, it's a totally different endeavor. So, it's great that you've got the skillset to be able to make meals or you are a really good electrician but what do you know about running an electrical business or even about running a restaurant. So, I get into that kind of thing with them and I don't try to dissuade them from doing it. I want them to understand that it's a different game when you say you want to run a business and get into your own show. Then there's a whole set of other strategic questions that I ask. What is your competitive advantage? Why as an electrician, would I want to come to you? How do you differentiate yourself? Who's your market? How are you going to start off? Where are you going to get your first customers?
Mark DeLuzio: 11:39 I help them with that. What's your social media presence is going to be, your website and all those different marketing and competitive analysis questions that you have to ask yourself. So those are kind of things I'll ask them. One of the big ones, quite frankly, is when they come back and say, oh, I want to partner with somebody and I walk them through the merits of having a partner or the disadvantages of having a partner. Most partnerships don't make sense. I won't go through that here today but most partnerships are done for the wrong reasons. You know, for example they say to me that, “I have a guy, my really good friend [and I want to partner with him]. I said to him, “well, that's good. In a year he won't be your friend anymore if he is your partner.” You really have to have a situation where one plus one equals three or greater when you have a partner.
Mark DeLuzio: 12:30 Typically partnerships are one plus one equals 0.5, because all you do is, you're hiring another set of hands to do some of the work that you could probably hire outside on a contract basis or an employee W2 basis. And now you've got a partner that you get to share the profits with. And so one plus one in this case equals 0.5. So, there's all kinds of dynamics that you have to think about when you go through a partnership. So, that's the kind of advice I give to these guys and gals. I will go through and I will write strategic plans with them and really understand their business and get them on the right track, get them focused. I will do financial plans. I will even go to a bank to try to get a loan for these guys if I have to. So, we'll present our business plan to the bank and do that. That's the kind of stuff. But the big struggle, going back to your original question, the big struggle I see is that not everybody really understands what going into a business means and I clarify that and really brings a reality to them.
Scott DeLuzio: 13:29 I definitely have seen that my myself with the difference between the military and the corporate world or at any business really. The difference in the structure of the military versus the lack of structure in the corporate world or the business world as a veteran might see it. Because in the military there's always someone there saying, okay, this is the job. This is what you need to do. Here are your orders. Go do this. If you have something that needs to be done, some paperwork or whatever, there's a form for it. The military has thousands and thousands of different forms for everything. And so, if there's something that you need to fill out for paperwork, it's there and you know exactly what form you need to fill out. Whereas in the corporate world, I found it to be a little bit less structured or maybe not less structured but maybe structured in a different way where people expect that you just know what you're supposed to be doing as opposed to waiting for someone to give you orders.
Scott DeLuzio: 14:40 Now I know in the military a lot of people have the initiative and they go out and they see a problem they go in and try to do that themselves. A lot of times people will sit on it and not necessarily jumped into action on certain things until they get the orders to go ahead and do something. So, it is interesting to see that that's a common problem that you're seeing amongst other veterans when they're looking to start a business or being corporate America. How there is some sort of
Scott DeLuzio: 15:15 a disconnect between civilian and military.
Mark DeLuzio: 15:19 I also see, quite frankly, the quality of leadership, I think, in my opinion, there's a stark difference between the leadership you see in the military and leadership you've seen in corporate America. So, a lot of the people in corporate America who have the big titles automatically assume they know how to lead people. That's so far from the truth. It's amazing. I've seen so many poor leaders in corporate America today and I think the root cause of all of this lack of structure and all that because I agree with you. When Steven died and our crisis assistance officer, Joe Burke basically said every time I asked him for something, he said, “there's a form”, very standardized. I think that corporate America can learn from the military. I'm not saying that the military doesn’t have a lot of waste in it but they can learn from the military in terms of how they structure and standardize. We have a saying in what I do in my, my field. The more standardized you are, the more flexible you are. And that's kind of counterintuitive, but it really is true. And so, we've learned that from the Japanese where I studied.
Scott DeLuzio: 16:29 This next question is another two-part question. The first part is, “what advice would you give to someone who may still have a few months left in their service, who is nearing the end of their career in the military and they're starting to think about what those next steps are going to be for them when they get out of the military. They're looking to start a business after they get out. What would your advice be to someone who's in that position in terms of how to hit the ground running when they get out of the military? What types of things should they be looking to do before they even get out?
Mark DeLuzio: 17:13 Well, I think the first question you have to ask yourself is really evaluate whether or not going into a business is the right thing to do. Because for some people it's not; it's not in their DNA. Some people need a security blanket. They need a constant paycheck and a steady stream of income coming in. And so you really have to evaluate yourself first in terms of whether or not you've got the DNA to weather the storms. You know, as you know, Scott is an entrepreneur. There are ups and downs, especially in revenue, right? I mean there's seasonal things, there's all kinds of different types of competition. There are all kinds of things. There's the economy. So, it’s not easy to be an entrepreneur that is number one. So, you really have to evaluate yourself as well as you can.
Mark DeLuzio: 17:55 Well, I would say to a veteran that's got let's say five, six months left and knows that he or she's going to retire that they don't wait. They start now getting advice. If you don't know how to go about this, start reaching out. There are a lot of organizations out there. But you know, that's why I'm doing this. And we suggest you talk to somebody like me at the B.R.A.V.E. to start the ball rolling instead of conversations. I think the earlier you start and prepare yourself with planning, it is everything, it really is. And so, as soon as you can get the ball rolling and start thinking about what this is going to look like. If you go to my website, I have a survey on there that they have to fill out.
Mark DeLuzio: 18:41 It's a list of 15 or 18 questions. And that gives me the basic understanding of what the business is all about and I can then start the conversation with them to be able to start the tough questions. I ask a lot of tough questions and they're not easy to answer but it makes people really think. The worst thing I could say is if you don't have the DNA to be in business but you want to be in business, you're probably going to fail. There's a lot of failure rates in business. So, I want to make sure it's structured the right way. If it really is more of a career type of thing, then I have some very good advisors, you being one of them but I have very good advisors on my website for the B.R.A.V.E.
Mark DeLuzio: 19:24 One of them is a very established human resources executive named Bob Piazza who I worked with as senior HR (Human Resource) position at the company I came from called Danaher. He has a 10-step process. So, somebody comes to him for career advice. The fifth step in that process is to write the resume. There's a lot of preamble to understanding what it is you want to do and what your DNA is and all that kind of stuff. So, it's a 10-step process that we put our veterans through who are looking for career advice and directions as to where they should focus. So, I don't know if I answered the question or not, but I would say just don't sit back and just wait ‘til the day you get out to start thinking about this. And the sooner you can make some decisions about what the right direction to go in, then the better off you're going to be.
Scott DeLuzio: 20:11 So, the second part of this question is similar to the first part but what about somebody who's already been out for a period of time, they've already been out for maybe a couple of years and they've been bouncing back and forth between different jobs for a while and now they're starting to think, well, maybe being an employee is not for me. Maybe I need to branch off on my own and start a business. So, what would your advice be to someone like that?
Mark DeLuzio: 20:44 Well, what you just described is a reality. I only started this about a year ago but some of my B.R.A.V.E. clients are exactly in that position right now. The first thing I would say is, “don't quit your job too early.” A lot of people get frustrated and they say, “Oh, I'm leaving.” I'm going to start a business with really no platform to work from. So, don't let that current income stream stop while you're thinking about it because there's a lot of things you could do now while you're still employed to get ready for this. I will help you with that. My organization will help you with that. So, first thing I would say, the first piece of advice is “don't quit.”
Mark DeLuzio: 21:27 Just hang in there. Keep that paycheck coming in. What you don't want to do is get so distracted that you don't have the time or resources to focus on actually starting a business because now you look into pay the bills and stuff like that. So, there's a lot we could do while you're working to prepare for this. It may take six months; it may take a year but there's a lot we could do concurrently while you're still employed to be able to get you set up for success. So that would be my main thing to think about here. Don’t panic.
Scott DeLuzio: 22:00 That's great advice to have because I can definitely see how someone gets frustrated with their job or maybe this is their second or third job after getting out of the military and they're fed up with it because they don't fit in or they don't feel like they are really belonging in that job environment and they decide, “I'm just going to quit now and I'll get started on this on Monday and I'll have a business up and running by the end of the week.” And that's not reality. That's not how that's going to work. There's a lot of legwork that needs to be done before you start a business to get the wheels in motion and everything. You mentioned that they don't have a platform or the audience to even advertise their business to necessarily.
Scott DeLuzio: 22:53 And so building those connections and networking and things like that is probably part of it that they can do beforehand, Nights, weekends, things like that while they're still working at their job and starting a business is hard for anybody to start. But it's even harder when you're worried about how to keep the lights on and put food on the table because now you have no money coming in. So, definitely I think that's some great advice to give the people who are considering it, who are working at a job. And this is not unique to veterans who are looking into this. This is for anybody who is looking to start a business. Keep your day job while you're working on that until you start making a little bit of income on that side business that you test it out and see if it is even something that's viable? Right? Because it may not be. Like you said, “there's a bunch of businesses that do fail over the first couple of years. If you're doing this and you're struggling to make any kind of income, at least you still have that job and you're not shooting yourself in the foot by doing that.
Mark DeLuzio: 24:10 Well, the other thing too, Scott, just want to bring up, because you hit on that in one of your earlier podcasts is that a lot of people that come out of the military that I've been exposed to have the notion that they don't really have any skills to be able to work in civilian life. It is so far from the truth and it's really how do you think about what you've done in the military and how you repackage what you've done. One of the things I do is help veterans rewrite their original resume because there's a lot of what I call TLAs, three letter acronyms, that the only the military understands. I help them sensitized their resume to the civilian life.
Mark DeLuzio: 24:55 A lot of people think about their experience as hard skills, like an artillery guy. So, there's no call for that in corporate America or in business. Well, let's still focus on the soft skills. Think about the leadership and the risk taking and the decisions and the problem solving and all of that stuff that you have to do. You're not going to go to a corporation with your artillery skills to put together weapons to fire off at your competitor. That is not going to happen but there are so many soft things that people just take for granted or don't even think about that we could package as the skillset of the individual. You know? So, that's a real big thing I tell people, “the military does everything.” You can't name one thing from the military that corporate America doesn’t do. The military does marketing, they do recruiting, they do accounting, they do engineering, they do product development. They do all that stuff, right? So, you can't name one thing, that happens in corporate America that doesn't happen to the military, plus the military does some other stuff too that maybe would not be legal for us.
Scott DeLuzio: 26:12 I think I gave this example in an earlier episode of the podcast. It might be the same episode you're talking about but something as simple and mundane as administering a urinalysis test, a drug test in the military. I've done it before. I've done that type of thing and it's uncomfortable, but we joke about it when we're in the military, because we're basically standing there watching a guy pee into a cup and it's kind of an uncomfortable thing to have to do. We make jokes about it and everything like that and we get through it and all that. But you can repackage something like that into more of an integrity type thing.
Scott DeLuzio: 27:07 If you have a soldier who you're basically watching pee into a cup, but he's pouring something else into the cup because he knows that his urine is going to be tainted. He's not going to pass a drug test and you let him slide on that. Well that's an integrity issue, right? And so you can kind of repackage that a little bit differently instead of just saying I watched a guy pee into a cup, you could say something like, I ensured that our unit was ready to meet its objectives and performance abilities by ensuring that the unit was drug free and things like that. So, it's just a matter of how you work the things and how you think about them.
Mark DeLuzio: 27:51 I would say, on my resume, I oversaw the testing of scientific and medical, chemical data analysis and collection or something like that. Right? I mean that might be a bit of a stretch, but I’m just making a joke,
Scott DeLuzio: 28:15 but it sounds a little bit better than I was staring at some guy peeing into a cup.
Mark DeLuzio: 28:24 Why do they entrust you to do that? The integrity that you showed, that they say, hey, Scott DeLuzio, I want you to go and check him pee in a cup. You could have easily been dishonest or have them not trusting you and all that. So that's what I'm talking about with the soft skills of that we don't bring out in terms of the military and entrusted me with this. That guy's going to fly an airplane down the line a $25 million jet and if he had drugs in the system now, they could have killed himself and a lot of other people.
Scott DeLuzio: 29:00 You're saying like a $25 million jet but there's even at the lower levels of the military, there's all sorts of equipment that you're entrusted with. There are all sorts of expensive equipment. There are all sorts of things that you end up having to be responsible for.
Mark DeLuzio: 29:20 And that could kill somebody.
Scott DeLuzio: 29:23 I mean, leave it in the, the wrong place and someone could pick it up and do bad things with it or it falls into the enemy hands or whatever. So, you're basically entrusted with all of this sensitive equipment that could make or break a situation. So, that's good. Really good advice. It looks like we're actually coming up on time on this particular episode. If you have any other thoughts that you wanted to say about B.R.A.V.E. or anything like that and tell us where people can find out more about B.R.A.V.E., how to get in touch with you.
Mark DeLuzio: 30:05 This is my whole effort to be able to give back. The guys like you, Steve, all the fellow patriots that have served and kept the bombs away from my door so I can go and get my latte at Starbucks. I don’t go to Starbucks and complain when I don't get the right ingredients. You guys fought for that and you kept all that stuff away from me and there's absolutely no way I can repay everybody who has done this. But this is just my way of giving back. I've made enough mistakes in my life in business that I actually call my clients in my consulting business and say “you should hire me because I made more mistakes than you have.” And so, my goal is to make sure our veterans don't make the same mistakes I made and things like partnerships and business in general. And if I can help them out and give them the right guidance, then I'm doing my job. So, B.R.A.V.E. has a website, that you created, Scott, it can be found at www.4thebrave.org.
Scott DeLuzio: 31:28 And I'll link to that in the show notes on the podcast as well
Mark DeLuzio: 31:32 You can find me there. There's a survey, you click on the survey, fill it out. If you want to get in touch with me, that will automatically send an email to me with your survey and that will get the ball rolling with a lot of basic information that I'm going to need to start to discussion as to how it can help you. So that's where we are.
Scott DeLuzio: 31:48 All right. Great. Well thank you for your time and talking to us about the B.R.A.V.E. and the things that you can do to help veterans start up their business or get some career advice.
Mark DeLuzio: Great. Thank you.
Scott DeLuzio: 32:03 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, DriveOnPodcast.com we're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at DriveOnPodcast.