The Greatest Risk Is Taking No Action, Says This Military Vet Entrepreneur
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Entrepreneur is highlighting the work of military veteran entrepreneurs who are building their own businesses, chasing their dreams, and kicking a whole lot of ass in the process. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
I'm Jason Hardebeck and I'm the founder and CEO of The Foundery, an industrial-grade maker space located in Baltimore, Maryland. The Foundery provides training, access to equipment, and support for a wide range of people, from entrepreneurs with an idea for a new product to someone who wants to upskill for a new career.
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When did you serve?
I was commissioned in the United States Navy in 1987 and served as a Surface Warfare Officer - Nuclear Option. After completing the Nuclear Power School and Prototype training pipeline, I served aboard the USS Elliot (DD 967) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). I left active duty in 1992 as an O-3.
What was your proudest moment while serving?
One that sticks out above just about every other moment came during a 6-month deployment in the western Pacific in 1990. I was the 1st Lieutenant on a destroyer, with responsibility for 50 sailors in First Division. I always emphasized professional knowledge and pushed my senior enlisted to cross-train our junior sailors whenever possible. It paid off during one underway replenishment evolution when our ship was tasked with refueling from 2 separate stations while simultaneously receiving supplies from a helicopter. No other ship in the battle group was able to accomplish this, but our guys stepped up to the challenge and kicked ass, and as we broke away from the oiler an hour earlier than any other ship, you could see the pride and satisfaction of a job well-done in every beaming face. That moment sticks with me nearly 30 years later.
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And what's been your proudest moment in business?
There's not really a single moment that stands out, but rather many smaller moments that can be immensely satisfying. It's a pretty cool feeling when customers validate your ideas by spending money, but it's even more awesome to create opportunities that enable your team to grow professionally. I'm most proud when I'm traveling for a few days and nothing skips a beat. A strong team equals a competitive advantage.
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What did being in the military teach you about risk in business?
Two things: 1. The greatest risk is taking no action. My first commanding officer used to say "Always do something. Never do nothing." Having a bias for action encourages you to take small risks early, which can keep things from escalating into situations of greater risk that are harder to deal with later. And 2. Risk is relative. To the outside observer, some of the evolutions that we did in the Navy seemed dangerous and foolhardy; and they would be without the training and experience that helps reduce the potential for a negative result. It's the same in business; you can increase your tolerance for risk by exercise through thoughtful application and repeated exposure. Courage isn't about adrenaline and rolling the dice; it's about understanding the relationship between rewards and consequences, weighing the implications, and making a decision.
Is there a quote or saying that inspires you?
"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want". A successful entrepreneur needs to be something of a revisionist historian, where less-than-desirable outcomes become purposeful lessons when viewed in the rearview mirror. Sometimes it helps to have a selective memory, but it's better to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn so you can make a better mistake the next time!