5 Ways that Veteran Leadership Shapes Our Company

veteran dog tags flag

Veteran’s Day. In America it’s the one day a year when we honor those willing to serve the nation in the highest order—the defense of our freedom.

Two-thirds of Ether consists of military veterans. I was in the US Air Force active duty, and then later in the National Guard, and Nicole was an officer in the US Navy. We were each honorably discharged and have been apart from the military for some time, but the lessons we learned while serving continue to serve us in our civilian lives. Particularly in business.

Here are a few of the many lessons we gleaned from service in the greatest military on earth. Lessons that we consistently apply to how we conduct business, and live our lives:

Discipline: This is at the top of the list for a reason. As a writer it would be easy to default to the cliche of an aloof creative—but not only does this approach not work for me, it’s a terrible way to do business. The discipline it takes to do things consistently well is critical to efficiency. We talk a lot about process here at Ether because over the years we’ve learned what it takes to solve complex creative problems. Sure we think creatively, we just don’t waste time. That takes discipline. Discipline begets efficiency.

Accountability: Before I went into basic training, a friend’s brother told me, “Don’t make any excuses. For anything.” Understanding that the training instructors responsible for weeding out recruits were looking for people who made excuses made my life much easier during those mentally grueling six weeks at Lackland AFB. This lesson continues to bear fruit in my life today and our personal accountability to each other, as well as our collective accountability to our clients, is how Ether moves forward.

Teamwork: This is an easy one. If there’s one anyone learns by serving in any branch of the US military it’s that you’re a link in a chain. The stronger your link, the stronger the chain. And together you can do anything. Being a writer means a lot of alone time. It’s just the nature of the job. Thanks to discipline, accountability, and good time management, I’m able to churn out the kind of thinking that helps our team solve problems. But without the team, I’m nothing. Understanding your role in context to a bigger picture is something that might take some folks years to learn. In the military, it’s the core principle.

Time Management: Because so much of what we do relies on a creative approach to problem solving, I’m going to go back to the cliche bout aloof creatives. Over the years I’ve worked with some of the most talented creative people on the planet. On the whole, most were aware of time but weren’t slaves to it. Until a deadline approached. Then all they could think about was time. Thanks to our commitment to process and efficiency, at Ether we don’t overpromise on timelines. And we know how to move things through the pipeline to ensure we’re always one step ahead of the clock.

Resourcefulness: For three years in active duty I was assigned to an A-10 Rapid Deployment Force. In order to be ready to deploy at any moment, we had to practice. A lot. Practicing meant understanding your resources and maximizing them for high efficiency and low failure. In our line of work today it means continually learning how to do things better. To know what trends matter. To understand the changing tools of our trade. To embrace the idea that nothing is static. To be open-minded in our approach to every problem and prepared to maximize the resources available to us to reach goals.

Nicole and I are proud to have served our great nation. But we owe much of our current successes to the lessons we learned while doing so. Lessons that will stay with us forever.

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we’d like to challenge you to make difference in the life of a military veteran. Sure, it’s always nice to hear, “Thank you for your service.” But if you would like to do something more for people who volunteered to protect the freedom you enjoy today, please seek out organizations in your local community that help empower veterans. If you’re in Charlotte, please visit and get involved with Charlotte Bridge Home and Patriots Path. And if you really want to step up your gratitude game to change the life of a veteran, hire one. The qualities described above are universal to anyone who served.

Let’s work together
Air Force Veteran

Jim as an airman in the U.S. Air Force

Navy Veteran Officer

Nicole on the flight line at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan in 2002.

About the Author

Jim Mitchem

Jim has been in advertising and marketing for a long time. An award-winning copywriter in his early days, he now focuses on things that matter as a founding partner of Out of the Ether. Jim, a US Air Force Veteran and author, is married with two daughters, and somehow manages a pack of wild dogs.

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