Moving a Business in the Military: The Waiting Game

It’s a moment that every military spouse knows well – that moment when your service member tells you that it’s time to move.

Again.

Whether this is your first change of duty station or your tenth, uprooting your life is never easy. If you own a business, it can be devastating if you’re not prepared.

As a business owner, when you get the news that you must make a military move – you likely have a jumble of thoughts stampeding through your head.

“Will I lose my clients?”

“How will I find new clients?”

“How am I supposed to find a new referral network? I don’t know anyone!”

“How much will it cost to run my business in the new state?”

“How do I figure out business licensing and tax requirements in my new area?”

“What if my target demographic doesn’t live in my new area?”

“I have local employees, they can’t move with me!”

“What if…”

“What if…”

“What if…”

STOP. 

BREATHE.

While most experts will tell you to take six months to a year to plan a business move to a new state the “right way”, the military lifestyle just doesn’t work that way. You will likely only have 30-90 days to get things in order and make the transition.

And – let’s face it – the military is not known for timeliness when it comes to personnel planning and notifications. So, the best gift you can give to yourself is to be proactive about the transition.

If you’re waiting for orders, or confirmation on orders, here are five things you can do to set yourself up for success. These are applicable whether you’re a solopreneur or have 50 employees on staff.

#1: Check Your Cash Flow

It’s no secret that the most common cause of small business failure is cash flow issues. The same is true for a military family-owned business. In fact, you have to be even more diligent than a civilian-owned company.

The average military family moves every two to three years over a 20-year military career. As a result, you are more likely to incur a substantial unexpected loss of revenue and spikes in unforeseen costs due to frequent moves.

The absolute best thing that you can do to prepare your business for an upcoming move is to stay on top of your budget and your cash flow management. If you use an accountant, don’t merely rely on their reports – make sure you are communicating your unique needs and are clear on your current cash flow strategy.

You personally need to know where each dollar is coming and going to make quick, informed decisions.

Because – trust me – you won’t always have a lot of time to make the choices that matter in your business when it comes to a military move. Assume the worst is going to happen, and provide your own “insurance policy” through your cash flow management.

New to cash flow management? Here’s a great primer!

#2: Engage Your Team

The definition of a “team” can vary by your stage of business. Either way, you’re going to want to tap into yours for a successful military move.

If you’re a solopreneur, your team may consist of contractors (like a Virtual Assistant), or referral partners. If you have a larger business, your team may include a combination of employees, contractors, and referral partners.

Whatever your team looks like, now is the time to ask for help.

As the owner of a business, you are a leader. It is easy to assume that asking for assistance or outside ideas makes you look like a weak leader – but the opposite is true. You can use this obstacle to identify new strengths within your team and to help them grow.

And that – my friends – is the mark of a truly great leader. 

While working through a military move with a business is challenging, this also provides a unique opportunity to empower your team. Let them know what’s going on, and give the space to brainstorm freely. Unique problems require creative solutions, so keep an open mind through this process.

After review and analysis, utilize the team to implement the ideas that will draw the best return for your business.

#3: Research Your New Area

Performing market research is a necessary skill for any small business owner. As a military spouse, you’ll likely have plenty of opportunities to hone this ability through multiple changes in duty stations.

If you’re a national company or a local company, you can start with digital market research. If you’re going to be more localized, you’ll want to spend some time reviewing resources in your new area. This is another opportunity to engage your team and enlist their help in performing market research.

A few places to start your local market research:

City websites

State websites

Local Chambers of Commerce

Local Small Business Development Centers

Local SCORE office

Local Small Business Administration

Local Facebook Groups

Census.gov

#4: Don’t Wait to Start Networking

When you’re waiting for orders, it can be easy to feel helpless about retaining or finding new clients. If you’ve never been to the area before, you’ll be starting from scratch. The good news is, the digital economy has created an environment that is very “military move” friendly.

Don’t wait until you have your documented orders; if you have verbal orders and you know where you’re going – start networking virtually.

One of my team members at The Small Business Marketing Studio had a great idea to attend virtual “speed networking” with the local chambers of commerce in our new area to make new connections before starting our move. You can also try virtual business expos, local Facebook groups that relate to your target demographic, and more!

Here are a few ideas to get you started on virtual networking.

#5: Check Your Cash Flow (Yes, Again)

No, you’re not seeing things – cash flow is on this list twice because it is simply that important.

Once you’ve established where you are in your cash flow health, performed your market research, and brainstormed transition ideas, you’ll want to revisit your cash flow budget and plan to stay out of debt through the move.

I recommend reading Profit First by Mike Michalowicz and implementing his Profit First strategy to help you keep your business healthy and growing. This book is excellent for military family-owned businesses because it teaches you how to keep yourself solvent without an accounting degree. It’s reasonable, easy to implement, and will change the way you look at making the best decisions for your business.

Moving with the Military: A Series

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more information on working through the process of moving a business as a military spouse.

As my team goes through a military move, we’ll be sharing insights, successes, lessons learned, and personal anecdotes – because we all need to laugh at the insanity of this life every now and then.

If you have questions about how to set your business up for success before a military change of duty station, leave a comment below! We may feature your question in a future blog or video!

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