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Conquering Your Crucible: Insights from a U.S. Marine Veteran on Grit, Adaptability & Teamwork

Episode #1049: Severin Sorensen interviews Zachary Green, a former U.S. Marine, highly successful entrepreneur, and author of The Warrior Entrepreneur. Severin and Zachary discuss the development of Zachary’s business, MN8 LumAware, and how his previous experience as a U.S. Marine and firefighter have impacted his entrepreneurial career today. Zachary shares the intangible skills of grit, teamwork, and purpose that his time in the Marines taught him. He also speaks to Skill Bridge, a program that business leaders can use to hire new veteran employees. Join this powerful discussion for insight on the importance of overcoming challenges, adaptability, and purpose, as well as a behind-the-scenes review of Zachary’s book, The Warrior Entrepreneur.

About Zachary Green

Zachary Green is a former U.S. Marine, highly successful entrepreneur, and the author of The Warrior Entrepreneur. Along with being a Marine Corps veteran, Zachary is a Bowling Green State University graduate and former lieutenant at his local fire department. Zachary is the Founder and former CEO of MN8, LumAware/Foxfire—a company he began from the trunk of his car and grew to reach $30 million in organic sales and $5 million in venture funding. His product lines are now distributed by Home Depot and other distributors. Some of his customers include the U.S. Government, Walmart, Kroger, GE Electric, and Procter & Gamble.

Zachary has testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Governor John Kasich. He was also selected by the Obama Administration of the White House as 1 of the 10 entrepreneurs to represent the United States at the Global Entrepreneur Summit.

Zachary’s new book, The Warrior Entrepreneur, was released in September 2021. His book became an Amazon bestseller in several categories and counties within its first 3 weeks of publication. He encourages business leaders to combine the innovative spirit of entrepreneurship with the structure and accountability found in the military. Zachary’s grit and determination for overcoming obstacles are a signature of his highly successful entrepreneurial journey

Key highlights

Entrepreneurship in youth

Timestamp 02:53

Severin asks Zachary when it was that he first knew he was an entrepreneur. In response, Zachary shares some of his earliest memories including selling tickets for school fundraisers and door-to-door selling his grandmother’s lotion and soap. He also mowed lawns, had a paper route, and started a business with his friend around the age of 13 years old.

Severin shares that in his executive selection practice, he will ask executives what they did in their youth to earn money. When asking this question, Severin has found that “some of the most interesting people have been earning, growing, learning capability, learning organization… and organizing other people” since their youth. These key moments of entrepreneurship in youth are a great indicator of Zachary’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“The intangibles”

Timestamp 07:15

Zachary Green joined the Marine Corps when he turned 18. There, he learned many lessons that still impact him today. Today, the skills that serve him in his entrepreneurial career are “the soft skills” and “intangible” skills such as “integrity, teamwork, dedication, morals” and a commitment to “mission accomplishment.” Being in the Marines taught Zachary the importance of having a “warrior spirit” to overcome life’s “crucible.” Zachary states that “the Marine Corps taught me…that I could literally accomplish anything that’s put in front of me…”

Mission accomplished

Timestamp 10:08

Two years after Zachary left the Marine Corps, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened. Zachary states that he felt “overwhelmed” knowing that his “brother and sister Marines were out there in the fight to the enemy…” while he was at home. Because of this, he joined his local volunteer fire department “as a way to give back to the community.”

During his time firefighting, the Marine Corps value of “mission accomplishment” was strengthened in Zachary’s value system. By focusing on “mission accomplishment,” Zachary gained insight to the innovation and improvisation necessary for entrepreneurship. From this learning, his company LumAware was created.

Zachary shares a story of how he got lost in a fire early in his career. However, by following his training, he was able to escape safely. When telling his captain about his experience, his captain said that every time a firefighter enters a fire they are going to “lose accountability” of their team and their tools. Instead of accepting defeat, Zachary got to work and created a failsafe “high output glow-in-the-dark material to put into helmet bands and onto tools.” After making the product for himself, he started selling the product out of his garage and car. Soon his business became a $30 million dollar company with retailers, such as Home Depot, selling his product.

Overcoming challenges

Timestamp 17:05

In Zachary’s entrepreneurial journey, he learned the importance of overcoming difficulties and obstacles. He shares a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche that emphasizes the importance of recognizing difficulties but not letting them overcome yourself. In running his company LumAware, Zachary realized when experiencing much difficulty, that he should step down from his role as CEO. This experience closely relates to Zachary’s reason for writing The Warrior Entrepreneur. After facing challenges through entrepreneurship and his near death experience with COVID-19, Zachary decided he needed to document overcoming his “ultimate crucible.” He wrote his book The Warrior Entrepreneur for entrepreneurs, however he states that it’s “for anybody that wants to get over their crucible in their life.” In this book he discusses themes such as “teamwork, purpose, adaptability, grit, sacrifice, morals, purpose” and many other things.

Grit and adaptability

Timestamp 29:24

Severin asks Zachary how he measures grit. In response, Zachary shares what he calls “the ultimate story of grit.” He shares the story of the first-ever female infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps. She was born in a Siberian Russian prison and ended up being adopted in the United States. Her determination and resilience in the face of “the harassment from her fellow male marines and breaking down those stereotypes was nothing short of incredible.” Zachary explains that this is a powerful example of grit which is also necessary for entrepreneurs to have.

Zachary believes that adaptability is also vital for entrepreneurship. When the COVID-19 pandemic affected LumAware, Zachary adapted his business to the needs of his vendors during COVID-19. In this adaptation, he transitioned his company towards making plexiglass dividers. Because of their adaptability, they became Home Depot’s number one supplier of COVID-19 barriers.

Advice for employers seeking to hire veterans & veterans seeking employment

Timestamp 36:30

When asked what advice he has for business owners looking to hire veteran employees, Zachary advises employers to join the Skill Bridge program. This program helps veterans transition from the military to the workplace and costs nothing to participating employers. For veterans, Zachary recommends focusing on the “soft” and “intangible” skills gained in their military service. He also recommends staying in shape, having a sense of purpose, and reaching out to other veterans.

Interviewing and delegating

Timestamp 41:29

Throughout Zachary’s career, he has continued to learn from challenges and failures that came his way. One of the failures he has learned from was the difficulty he experienced when interviewing and hiring employees. As an extrovert, he would share his “why” and his “vision” for his company without interviewing the job applicant. In this, he learned the importance of hiring a third-party to conduct interviews and hiring processes.

Zachary also states that he has learned the importance of delegating tasks. He states that “most people aren’t as good as the founder of a company…” and as a result he wanted to control everything at LumAware. However, Zachary explains that if you hire employees that are 60% as good as the founder, when you hire 2 of them you increase your productivity by 20%. He says that business leaders should “recognize that no one’s going to take care of your baby the way that you are, but that’s okay… the hallmark of a true leader… is developing other leaders.”

Semper Fi

Timestamp 45:31

Zachary explains that Semper Fi is the “hallmark of the Marine Corps” meaning “always faithful.” This means that the Marines are not only faithful to their mission but also to each other. Zachary applies this to his business practice as he is faithful to his own “why” and to organizations as they produce outcomes bigger than themselves.

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