By Russ Banham | Chief Executive

The medium-sized business winning team from Academy Securities.

The medium-sized business winning team from Academy Securities.

Earlier this year, Chief Executive, in partnership with the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at West Point, launched our inaugural Patriots in Business Awards to honor the Best Companies with Veteran & Military Initiatives. The award recognizes outstanding businesses that lead our nation in supporting active duty military members, veterans and their families and exemplify the values of Duty, Honor and Country through their business practices and throughout their community and industry.

“Chief Executive and TLDG created this award to recognize the innovative and dedicated initiatives of companies big and small to support America’s veteran and military families,” says Marshall Cooper, CEO of Chief Executive Group. “In doing so, we hope to inspire more CEOs to improve or begin their own efforts.”

“The winners distinguished themselves by consistently improving their military support each year, and going beyond just focusing on hiring efforts,” notes Dan Rice, cofounder and president of TLDG. “Once a veteran or military spouse is hired, their support continued through mentoring, training, volunteerism, outreach, networking and more.”

Both organizations extend their thanks to the judges in this first Patriots in Business Awards: Nicholas Pinchuk, chairman and CEO of Snap-on Incorporated; Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle (ret.), president and CEO of National Defense Industrial Association; Michael Linnington, CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project; David Kim, founder and president of the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation.

Large Enterprise: Comcast NBCUniversal

Led by retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Carol Eggert, Comcast NBCUniversal’s Military and Veteran Affairs team is a fully-staffed organization focused on recruiting, hiring and cultivating veteran and military spouse talent. The team pursues this mission via a holistic, end-to-end approach that ensures that its branding, community impact and partnership efforts on behalf of the military community are aligned across the business.

Key features of the company’s wide-ranging veteran programs include 15 days paid time off each year for active duty employees on deployment for military training, in addition to regular paid time off. The employees’ benefits continue without change, safeguarding their families’ financial protection.

Comcast supports a relocation assistance program for military spouses, guaranteeing them a job interview when transferring to a location within the company’s geographic footprint. Outside these areas, spouses are referred to recruiters from partner companies. A generous transition package also is provided. Comcast also supports the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Hiring Our Heroes” corporate fellowship program, which provides service members the opportunity to gain corporate experiences before transitioning into the civilian sector. In 2015, the company committed to hiring 10,000 veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses through the end of 2017. To get the word out about this ambitious hiring agenda, the company hosted an Employee Military Awareness Week each year, supported by a national communications effort. The hiring goal was met and exceeded. Since 2010, more than 15,000 members of the military community have joined its workforce. “We continue to hire and support this incredible community, as well as develop new partnerships to help us do so,” said Eggert.

Medium-Sized Business: Academy Securities

Founded by former U.S. Naval Officer and Naval Academy graduate Chance Mims, Academy Securities is the nation’s first and only post-9/11 disabled veteran-owned broker-dealer. More than half the ownership (58 percent) of Academy Services consists of military, combat and/or disabled veterans. Eighty percent of management ranks and 41 percent of employees also are veterans. All are encouraged to engage other veterans to apply for employment. The firm’s 2018 target for veterans as a percentage of total hires is 50 percent.

Academy Securities’ management team reviews all veteran employment applications. Many candidates are given training to take the FINRA Series 7 examination to become general securities representatives. After completing the program, they are eligible to become full-time hires. If job positions are unavailable, the firm assists applicants with interview preparation skills, internships and/or industry mentoring. It also encourages applicants to apply for jobs through its partner networks like the New York City Veterans Advisory Board, Veteran’s on Wall Street and the Veteran Mentor Network.

“We understand that the financial industry is first and foremost a service industry, but we also recognize the strength of military values and culture and continue to maintain them in our firm’s core values of teamwork, loyalty, and integrity,” says Mims, Academy Services’ CEO. “We want to be consistently recognized for our unwavering adherence to our core values and fellow veterans, as well as exceptional client service.”

Small Business: VetCor LLC

VetCor’s goal to become the country’s premier private employer of veterans is clear in its hiring data—23 of the small company’s team of 25 building restoration specialists are former military. Since its launch in 2013, the veterinary hospital chain company has provided employment to more than 100 veterans, easing their transition by recreating the cultures, norms and values of their military experiences.

“The vast majority of our hires just needed an opportunity, and have since moved on to bigger and better things in their lives,” says Paul Huszar, VetCor’s CEO and majority owner, whose last assignment on active duty was as the director of training and leader development for the U.S. Army’s School of Engineering at Fort Leonard Wood. “Most just needed that first chance to succeed in a familiar environment and on a team that operates similarly to the military.”

VetCor’s “standing policy,” Huszar says, is to help veterans and military spouses find employment opportunities and help with their transitions. New hires are provided a 90-day on-the-job training program to restore commercial and residential buildings that are damaged by water and mold. After this training, they receive additional training from the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

VetCor’s sponsorship and support activities comprise the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council’s efforts on behalf of veterans and their families; Veterans Florida’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Program; VettoCEO’s online training; and the Office of Student Veteran Success at the University of South Florida, ranked by Military Times magazine as the top university for veterans in the U.S.

Military Service Business (Companies Whose Mission is to Serve the Military Community): USAA

USAA serves millions of military members and their families with competitive rates on insurance, banking and investment services. Of the company’s 33,000 employees, more than 4,900 are veterans and over 850 actively serve the National Guard and Reserve. Altogether, USAA has hired more than 13,000 veterans and military spouses since 2005.

Not surprisingly, fully 90 percent of the time spent by USAA’s recruiters is on hiring veterans and military spouses. “Veterans bring tremendous technical ability, learning agility, problem solving skills, leadership and loyalty to the workforce,” said John DiPiero, director of USAA Military Advocacy and Affairs.

Key initiatives include USAA’s 12-month Veteran Transition Leadership Development program, designed to rapidly close the business acumen gap that many veterans have coming into their first corporate job. The program also facilitates the transfer of military leadership experience to effective corporate leadership skills.

Other innovative initiatives include USAA’s Veteran Sponsorship Program, which encourages veteran employees to volunteer to sponsor new veteran hires, helping them adapt to the changes in communications styles, organizational structure, and other aspects of a corporate organization. Another is TEAMFIT, a 23-week program is designed to transition veterans into IT software developers, given the short supply of such talent.

USAA is the founding member of the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business and also sponsors the Institute of Veterans and Military Families, U.S. Business Leadership Network and The Rosie Network in support of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs.

Like many other companies that submitted applications, the company pays active duty military members on deployment the full differential between their civilian and military pay, while continuing medical/life insurance coverage, retirement fund make-up, sick days and vacation day accrual. Said DiPiero, “We ensure the deployed member’s family is kept abreast of issues affecting their loved ones. And ‘welcome homes’ for returning members are always the norm here.”