Harvard Business School (HBS) has been one of the best investments I’ve made for my personal development.
I finished the two-year (3 for me, thank you Pandemic!) Owner President Program (OPM) in November of 2021.
What is OPM really?
It’s essentially a gentlemen’s MBA for business owners.
What an incredible experience.
The friends and network I’ve gained through the program, well, you just can’t put a price on it; it’s the true definition of priceless.
Harvard taught me to be a better leader, person, father, friend, and entrepreneur.
There’s a TON of great things I learned when I was a Navy SEAL that translate well to business, and you’d be shocked to know there’s quite a bit that translates like a turd in a Sunday church punch bowl. Yes, some things I learned in the SEAL Teams work in combat but are terrible when applied to business.
It would take me a few years to sort this out and recalibrate my friend or foe detector as an entrepreneur.
Here are my top three lessons learned in the navy.
Ethics that Do Not Work Outside of the Military
- Win at all costs. Not a great strategy for building long-term relationships. It can destroy them with this mentality.
- If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. This works in warfare but not in business. Business is about trust and try and cheat someone in business and watch watch happens to your revenue and reputation.
- You can trust everyone on your team. True in the SEAL Teams. The environment forces, even demands trust, but on the outside, the same does not exist. On the outside, you have to trust but verify. I can remember getting burned a few times before this sank in. Sometimes I have to learn the hard way, just ask my father who threw me out at 16 years old!
Navy SEAL Habits that Translate Well In Business
- Strategic thinking. The Navy SEAL Teams are brilliant when it comes to strategy.
- Execution. I’m a dreamer and a thinker. My personality profile will tell you this and that us dreamers aren’t very good at execution. A great gift of the military and the SEALs was that it made me a great executor. My friends often remark that my superpower is getting $hit done. I’m extremely grateful for this.
- Always challenge conventional thinking. This has made me a great skeptic when I hear phrases like. “Impossible!”, “That will never work!”, “Artificial Intelligence will never replace my job as a designer, it has no soul.” The SEALs also made me appreciate being an early adopter and how using the latest tools can give you a competitive advantage on and off the battlefield.
- Meritocracy regardless of race, background, or pronoun. Ok, I’m cheating and adding a fourth to the list because it’s important to me, especially given the current state of affairs in a divided America. You place a transgender communications wizard in a SEAL Team and there would be a fight over who got this person in their platoon. Why? Because we want an advantage at all costs. It’s about pure talent and nothing else and I love this about the military and the SEAL Teams. Most civilians have no idea that the US military environment is one of the best meritocracies around. Anyone who’s served will tell you this. Talent always rises to the top eventually regardless of a few rotten avocados (every organization has them).
I still laugh at this reporter who interviewed me a few years back when my e-commerce business was growing at 200% a year (It was coming off the rails, and I didn’t know how to deal with the growth!) and he proclaimed, “Your business seems to be quite contentious.”
My response was something like, “No shit Sherlock. Business itself is contentious.
It’s like expecting the ocean to remain calm at all times. Calm comes, but most of the time, the sea state is up, the wind is pushing blue water over the bow, and waves are crashing over the stern.
Then there is the people.
Any entrepreneur who’s been around a while will tell you they’ve seen the best and worst in people as a business owner. Suicide, lying, cheating, stealing, and more.
There’s also moments when you see displays of kindness, assertiveness, and creativity from your employees that restore your faith in humanity.
So why do it? I can only answer for myself.
Because it’s fucking worth it.
Being a CEO and entrepreneur is like being the captain of a ship at sea, and I like being captain.
Storms will constantly rise up, and with it comes dangerous terrain to navigate.
Our jobs as captains are to keep the crew calm, the ship running, and always pointed toward our destination, even if we get blown off course for a while.
A good captain without a good crew is worthless, and a great crew with a shitty captain is equally as worthless.
Let that sink in!
After going through my own version of the entrepreneur version of Navy SEAL “Hell Week” (Yes, they keep us up for five days with no sleep!); Harvard Business School helped me become a better leader and a better human being.
I’m forever grateful to the program for this and the OPM network of life-long friends made.
The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.
This post originally appeared on Brandon Webb’s personal author blog. To sign up for regular blog post updates and Brandon’s mailing list, visit www.brandontylerwebb.com