Today we have a guest for you and he’ll be talking about hiring military veterans.
Welcome everybody to Service Drive Revolution, I’m Chris Collins and I have Christian Lafferty with me today.
Our fascination with it was how to figure out how to hire and recruit Technicians from the military and it’s something that we’ve struggled with. His business is based on training military veterans that’s on sales, which almost is harder in a sense, but the knowledge he shares with us is incredible!
Let’s welcome Raleigh Wilkins to our show, he’ll be talking about how you can recruit from the military. We cannot wait to dig into his expertise and get coached by him!
Before we get started we asked Raleigh to tell our audience a bit about what he does and how he got involved in it. Raleigh goes into detail about his experiences and said,
“Essentially what Sales Platoon is a 12 week to six month apprenticeship for active duty military so that they can learn how to make the transition off active duty and get into a career in sales. It is based loosely on the events in my own life. I came off active duty a long time ago and had no idea that I was going to go into a career in sales. I had sold Kirby vacuums door to door before that when I was on active duty and that’s what I thought a career in sales was.
There were 280,000 active duty military personnel coming off every year and the majority of them ended up underemployed or not employed when they’d come off active duty. As one of the Service Advisors said to me, not long ago, ‘thank you for your service’ rings hollow when you’re standing in the unemployment line.”
If we could just look at it from the soldier’s point of view, I asked Raleigh what percentage of soldiers coming out have the desire and skillset to be good salespeople? He responded by telling me to think about what the opportunity is for them and where they’re coming from.
He goes into detail and says that when they come off of active duty, a lot of the times what happens is essentially they have a roadmap for life that is spent 4, 8, 12, 20, 30 years developing in the military, but they’re trying to navigate the streets of Paris with a map of Chicago… Meaning that the military does not prepare you for life outside of duty.
Raleigh goes into further detail with the lack of preparation hiring military veterans go through, telling us,
“The uniforms are great, they teach attention to detail and drive resiliency. They learn respect, which is oftentimes not taught in our culture today, but veterans know where they exist, just by looking at somebody’s rank to understand where they sit in a world-class organizational system. But when you take that rank off, they don’t know who they are and then the final thing is that they went through a bootcamp, you learn a mission first and they’re going into a world, that’s the exact opposite of that.
It’s not like you’re just getting the skill set. I don’t care if they’re an auto mechanic and they’d been doing it for 20 years because it’s going to be hard for them to assimilate to the culture when they come out in the challenging real world. Nobody in the military has been taught to sell in a way that they think of it as sales, they’ve all been taught one standard way of thinking. They don’t know it yet, but there is no job code in the military for raising money.”
Raleigh further tells us that essentially what these veterans ended up doing is spending money that they don’t already make.
On the other side companies, auto dealerships, and all of the people in the world would love to hire them, but the tricky part is that we don’t know where to find them and properly train them for success.
My next question to Raleigh is figuring out how he approaches the soldiers coming out? What is his conversation and what is the picture he’s painting for them?
Raleigh outlines exactly what he does to assist upcoming military veterans, he tells us,
“The first picture that I paint for them is as somebody who’s made the transition myself before they had all these entitlements, meaning they have this thing called DOD skill bridge now, which is the last six months of their active duty they can apply for and go to a company and learn a trade or craft and the military would pay their salary. I would try to teach them that whatever they think they had and how cool they were at their last school, that that’s going to change.
They’re coming from being a white collar corporate guy to going into a prison. You better learn the rules real quick or you’re going to falter. In the real world there are different rules, different standards, and different everything. You don’t have a Rosetta stone to teach you and so you need somebody that’s walking both paths. It makes no more sense for a civilian to try to train somebody in the military when they first come out.”
Anyway, Raleigh passionately expresses that veterans don’t know what they don’t know and so a big piece of it is just teaching these veterans that there is a lot to be done. Sales is one of the world’s last meritocracies and that sales are blind when it comes to most things.
He explains that if veterans can produce revenue for a company, you’re going to get promoted and you’re going to make money. In a company other than the CEO, the second most highly paid person is generally their top seller.
How I view this is, I would take the discipline and consistency because I can train over the emotional inconsistent and hot shot cowboy any day of the week. What’s really fascinating about what Raleigh is doing is for somebody running a business that requires good salespeople. His conversion of somebody from the military is a match made in heaven. It was like hiring military veterans was the best decision he made. But nobody thinks that it wouldn’t be the natural perception from either side from the soldier or from the employer.
I have to imagine you have to educate the businesses as much as you’re educating the soldiers because you’re selling both sides. Hiring Military Veterans gives you the opportunity to find that untapped skill labor within people of a different background.
Raleigh Wilkins opens up about his reasonings for wanting to do this and tells us,
“You have all these companies that claim they can’t find good people. On the other side, you’ve got 80,000 people a year coming off active duty, 53% are under the age of 25, and 93% of them don’t have a four-year degree. If they find a job they will have three to five jobs in their first three years out and they’re going to be underemployed at $10 to $12 an hour jobs.
This is where that line, “Thank you for your service”, rings a little hollow when I’m sitting in the unemployment line because no one will give me a shot. It was a huge risk for me to leave my job as an SVP of Sales and go start a company and say, “Hey, I want to train people, but I’m not going to charge you veteran.”
I wanted to teach them 12 weeks to six months in apprenticeship and get them a LinkedIn so they can understand the LinkedIn sales navigator and sell HubSpot.”
Raleigh explains this further and tells me that it’s going to take some training when you’re bringing somebody in from the military. He’s not calling veterans wild dogs, Raleigh is saying that they have been acclimated to different norms and cultures in the civilian world and there’s a period of adjustment that both sides vastly underestimate. Raleigh says that his program is an apprenticeship where they have veterans doing full time, eight hours a day, every day of the week, under the guidance of somebody that’s actually done it before.
My next question is focused on the success of his business mission. I wanted to think about the numbers of veterans finding their way to success with his program. I asked Raleigh,
Raleigh talks about his preliminary process of figuring out who will best benefit from his program and told us,
“We have a system, different indexes, and programs so that we can do our best to find the talents and skill sets of these veterans. We focus on someone who’s analytical, deductive, a reasoner, driven by a high degree of self autonomy. Also a conformist and wants to follow what we’re looking for. Usually, they say they want to do it and when we go through all the behavioral interviews. I still lose 10-20% of each cohort. We have to be highly selective about who we let in because they’re going to represent us.
It hasn’t happened because I’ve already done the first 90 days with them. I’ve had people join the cohort that I thought were going to be the best people we’ve ever had however they wash out in the first four weeks. For those that are 12 weeks in of doing the job, they know what it means to be in sales at a good company.”
Wilkins let me know the reason he got so passionate. Every time he talks about his veterans, he thinks about the determination, grit, resiliency, and ability to overcome problems is something that every person has already been vetted for. Additionally, he says that veterans have done their time and they have served their country. Furthermore, hiring military veterans will benefit you in a way where they have a unique mindset of accomplishing tasks.
Raleigh specifies what pisses him off about the perception of veterans trying to enter the workforce. When he tells us that there’s this company who fired 5 out of the 6 veterans they hired.
He tells us that the problem with this is that companies who’ve hired underperforming veterans will now. As a result, have an easier time saying no to veterans because they think that it won’t work out again. Raleigh understands that most recruiters are not trained in how to look at a military resume. They wouldn’t even know how to do it when they get those resumes in.
There’s a side of the Automotive Industry where we’re losing five Technicians for one. Five Technicians are leaving the industry, retiring, or getting promoted out of the shop. Even the younger kids coming into the dealership, the industry is doing such a bad job of retaining them.
There’s over a 50% attrition in the first two years of vocational school and learning how to be a Technician. We have hiring military veterans and the thing that happens is they’re in such high demand. And they want to be Technicians or they want to work with their hands. We lose them more towards other industries, especially aviation.
His response amazed us when he told us that,
“We have unconscious bias. Everybody has it. I have it. You have it. Everybody has it. We don’t talk about it a lot as it pertains to our US military. I’m going to give you a solution to the problem here. I know what it means for somebody to be in the military because they were in the military. However, people don’t know what it was like. These veterans still sacrifice for all the reasons that I just mentioned. They gave up their rights, they gave up their freedom.”
Raleigh builds upon this response and tells us that there’s a couple of ways we can go about hiring Veterans. He says there’s an organization called ‘Hiring Our Heroes’. There’s this program called Wounded Warrior Project.
Should you listen to the advice to hiring military veterans?
All the special forces, each one of them had those different programs that are the outer foundation of education. He informs us that,
Another piece of advice that Raleigh gives us is telling us to take initiative and teach Veterans. We have to educate and teach them the correct way to best fulfill the position. Always rendering them that this is what a career could look like for them.
We want to thank you Raleigh again for coming onto our show. Raleigh Wilkins is truly amazing! I learned a lot about hiring military veterans.
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