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Recently I spent some time relaxing in Carlsbad, which is a small resort town located on the southern California coast near San Diego. Just north of Carlsbad is the town of Oceanside, which, until recently, was a rundown, backwater, bedroom community inhabited primarily by wives and families of soldiers, sailors, and aviators serving in various nearby military bases.

Today, Oceanside is undergoing a period of gentrification with the construction of lovely high-rise condominiums, a renovated downtown retail area, weekly street fairs that occupy several city blocks and are attended by thousands of visitors and residents. My wife and I attended the weekly street fair and then decided to go to a pub overlooking the street scene to enjoy an adult beverage.

Something peculiar caught my eye while looking down upon the crowds of people milling around the different food booths and vendor stalls. On the sidewalk, outside of a dry cleaning business was a line of young men and women waiting patiently to get inside. Some were carrying military uniforms ready to be dropped off for cleaning, while others were empty handed, and based on their military postures, were presumably there to pick up their uniforms. A large contingent of those in line were obviously there to get assigned their first set of uniforms.

Veterans Day is right around the corner and I couldn’t help but think about those young people who will someday bear the title of veteran. Now is a good time to think about all the good reasons to consider hiring veterans into the collision repair business, so I reached out to a veteran that I’ve known for over 30 years to ask him for his thoughts on why we should consider hiring a veteran. Here are some of his own personal thoughts and those he researched from the thoughts of other veterans:

First and foremost, I believe that any field, whether it be the auto body industry or even a top-tier law firm, would benefit greatly from the many unique skills that a veteran can bring to the table. With that said, and before jumping into all the reasons hiring a veteran is great, I think it is important to acknowledge that vets come in all different shapes and sizes with an infinite range of experiences while enlisted. Nevertheless, we all share the same drive to complete missions in the most efficient manner because we all love that feeling of satisfaction after a job/mission well done. Furthermore, I can guarantee that the majority of veterans understand what it means to put in a hard day's work. 

Here is a list of the most important strengths, to me, that a vet can bring to the workplace:

  • Teamwork is considered an essential part of daily life and is the foundation on which safe military operations are built.
  • Responsibility for job performance and accountability for completing missions are something to take pride in.
  • Holding a realistic estimation of self and ability based on experiences is expected of each service member.
  • Being organized and disciplined.
  • Possessing a strong work ethic.
  • Having the ability to follow through on assignments, even under difficult or stressful circumstances.
  • Possessing a variety of cross-functional skills.
  • Being able to problem solve quickly and creatively.
  • Being able to adapt to changing situations.
  • Being able to follow rules and schedules.

It was interesting to me that the veteran I consulted was so keenly aware of the attributes and virtues that business owners today seek in employees and team members. It reinforced the notion that there is a large and viable pool of potential candidates for our industry and we need to take a closer look at these folks that already have some really good pre-qualifications. I think you would agree that in today’s environment, we are better off hiring people with great work ethic and can-do attitudes, and then training them in the skills required.

Meanwhile, back in Oceanside later that evening, I walked by the line of service members at the dry cleaners and got a closeup look at our current and future veterans. I was tempted to say “thank you for your service” to some of them, but held my tongue. I’ve learned from my veteran consultant that this expression is gratifying overall, but is slowly descending into the realm of an automatic response much like the way we say “God Bless You” when someone sneezes. I have come to learn that it is better to say, “Thank you for your service. What did you do while you were serving?” It’s a great idea to draw out a more comprehensive response and have a meaningful conversation with these generally self-deprecating people. I’m happy to thank them the same way I thank my current employees for their hard work and dedication, but if we want to start a dialogue that could open the door to potential employment, dig deeper and be real.

Do more than just thank and occasionally think of our veterans. Seek them out and give them a meaningful shot at coming to work in a great industry full of wonderful people. Oh, and by the way, my Veteran consultant is my son, Kevin, who served for nine years. Semper Paratus.

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