This Memorial Day, Exit Planning Institute honors all military veterans, both living and deceased, who have served the United States of America. We spoke with Ben VerWys, Founder and Senior Financial Advisor of Fiduciary Financial Advisors, about his path from the United States Navy to Financial Entrepreneur. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.2% of all Veteran Majority-Owned Businesses are in the Finance and Insurance industry.
Transition from Military to Business Owner
After the 9/11 Terrorist attacks, Ben VerWys decided to join the military. Before he enlisted, Ben was working as an intern at Northwestern Mutual. He knew then that finance was his passion, and he went to the military recruitment office to ask if they had any jobs in finance. “Of course, there were not any finance jobs in the military,” Ben said. He joined the Navy Military Police and served three years active duty and one year in the Reserves.
While his transition from the Military to becoming a Business Owner was “not a conscious transition”, Ben says that being a Veteran helped him a lot. “As I was finishing college and re-entering the finance world, my military experience helped open doors along the way”, Ben said. He worked at a large Midwest bank before landing with a wealth management team at Oppenheimer & Co. There, he immediately started working with business owner clients across a variety of financial needs.
In 2014, Ben left Oppenheimer to start his own RIA with no clients in his portfolio. “I infused my business with things I used in my military background”, he stated.
Military Training in Business
Systems Oriented: Ben said that his military training enabled him to learn how to quickly correct mistakes and learn from them to improve future outcomes. This way of thinking led him to create a business that is extremely systems oriented and has high structural capital.
“Clean Pass Down”: Another aspect of his military training that positively impacted his business was the process of a “Clean Pass Down”. This ensures that when coworkers share information on projects and clients, a full and detailed report is provided so everyone has the same information. This minimizes simple errors during the hand off process.
Military Grit and Determination: By far the most noticeable impact of Ben’s Military background on his business was his ability to work through the tough situations, especially early in the business creation process.
What Inspired You to Become a CEPA
In the seven years since launching Fiduciary Financial Advisors, Ben VerWys has transitioned to working almost exclusively with business owners and entrepreneurs. He spent time looking into his client base. Ben realized that the business owners CPAs and Attorneys sent his way were all facing similar problems. Ben noticed that these owners were struggling with their business and succession planning. Additionally, he noticed that owners felt more comfortable with advisors who shared in the owners’ experiences, such as being an entrepreneur themselves.
Becoming a Financial Quarterback
Ben stated that he wanted to be his clients’ “Financial Quarterback” during their exit planning process. “In working with mostly business owners and thinking about my personal development, I googled ‘Designations for Business Owner Advisors’ and found CEPA”, he said.
Ben said that deciding to get the CEPA credential was a “no-brainer” and would help him to develop a larger network of trusted advisors. He earned the CEPA credential in January 2021, in a unique setting. “My family had been traveling for four and a half months. I took my CEPA course and exam in the nursery of an Airbnb in Phoenix. I actually flipped a baby changing table upside down to turn it into a standing desk for my office!” Since joining the CEPA community, Ben has attended numerous virtual EPI Chapter events. He looks forward to connecting with advisors with complimentary skill sets and experiences.
Recommendations for Veteran Entrepreneurs
The U.S. Census Bureau found that in 2019, Veteran Majority-Owned businesses “generated revenue of $1.14 trillion, an annual payroll of $195 billion and they represent 9.15% of all U.S. businesses”. Veteran Owned businesses are an instrumental part of the United States economy. However, Ben VerWys says that when he was starting his business, “there felt like there was a void of resources for veteran owners”. Thankfully, resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs have increased since then.
Ben recommends meeting with other Veteran business owners on a regular basis. While meeting, discuss hurdles, successes, and provide feedback on growth strategies for each other. When he began his business, he met with four other Veteran owners for breakfast to talk about the various stages each person was at in their business. Ben wishes that more organizations worked to actively connect veteran entrepreneurs to one another. His hope is for businesses to foster a larger network to provide support for business ideas.
In addition to Ben’s CEPA credential, he is working towards earning the CAP, Certified Advisor in Philanthropy, credential. Philanthropy is a big part of Ben and his wife’s personal life. Six years ago, they helped spearhead the 100 New Philanthropists program in Michigan. This program helps people become philanthropists through volunteering, charitable giving, and estate planning. Ben and his wife have intentionally designed their own estate plan to give to philanthropies and organizations they value. They are also actively building the groundwork for the VerWys Family Foundation which their children will grow to be involved in.
Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs
The MVE-Lab is a free three-month entrepreneurship accelerator for veterans and/or military spouses. Ben VerWys serves as a mentor for this group and helps entrepreneurs with a shared military background learn more about creating a successful business. The three-month program concludes with a pitch showcase in which the winner receives upwards of $10,000 to utilize in their business.
Boots to Business (B2B) is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by SBA as part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP). B2B provides participants with an overview of business ownership and is open to transitioning service members (including National Guard and Reserve) and their spouses.
SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. They assist Veterans in translating military skills into business successes by navigating available services, funding opportunities, government contracts, and more.
Bunker Labs’ mission is to support and convene military-connected entrepreneurs and small business owners. They accomplish this mission by facilitating an action-oriented, member-led network of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Bunker Labs provides practical tools and resources, and highlights inspirational stories that showcase the possibilities and accomplishments of the community.
The VBOC program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. The U.S. Small Business Administration has 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC).
Thank you to all those who serve and have served in the United States Military!