ServiceMaster’s Mary Kay Runyan discusses the skills and disciplines she developed in the United States Navy, and how she’s put them into practice in the business world
When transitioning from the military to business, there were two primary learnings – the language of business and how a business is managed financially.
I’ve since learned (after working in the corporate world for 17 years and for five different companies) that each company has its own language. Finding mentors during on boarding at a new company and reading about the industry helps “learn the language.” My first job out of the military was with a telecom company, so I promptly added telecom books to my reading list and bought Newton’s Telecom Dictionary.
Learning about how a company works financially is also important. I didn’t have much experience managing budgets while in the military, and even then, managing financials in the business world is more complicated in many ways. I learned from my peers and spent time learning from finance experts. I also took classes to learn about profit and loss statements, balance sheets and income statements. I’ve also benefitted from my experience in helping take two companies from private equity ownership to publically traded companies. And, I read the Wall Street Journal regularly.
Whether it’s the language of the business or understanding the financials, it’s essential to learn and use the words and financial concepts that are a part of the business culture. When in Rome…
Why Veterans Are Valuable Team Members
Veterans are experienced in working in team environments and accomplishing objectives (the mission). One military learning is the priority, or compass, in decision making – you learn to first consider what’s right “for the ship,” then for your “shipmates,” and then, and only then for “yourself.” Veterans’ mindsets are focused on the good of the enterprise.
Misconceptions of Veterans in the Workplace
I’ve learned that some people’s misperceptions around hiring veterans is thinking that serving in the military makes one rigid in thinking and that they’re only able to receive and give orders. But this is far from the truth. The military trains its members to be adaptive thinkers, and in the same way that business leadership has evolved to engage employees, the military has as well. The military culture is about inspirational leadership and empowering its members to understand strategic intent and operate successfully without giving orders every step of the way. The business world can benefit from having more employees making decisions based on what’s best for the enterprise and for fellow employees.
Applying Military Skill to Professional Career
As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, I use my leadership training every day in my professional career. I enjoy and thrive on working with people and with teams, which is how I accomplished goals during my 11 years in the military. One skill people I work with often recognize in me is how I build accountability into my commitments to the organization and into how my team delivers for the organization. Accountability is core to the culture of the military and is a key element in any performance-based culture in business.
Mary Kay Runyan is the Senior Vice President of Supply Management at ServiceMaster. She will be featured in the upcoming January/February 2015 issue of Forefront.
Latest posts by Mary Kay Runyan (see all)
- Reporting for Duty: The Ingenuity to Adapt and the Accountability to Achieve - November 14, 2014