Given Acton’s early hours, demanding workload, and ongoing tests of character, it’s no wonder that former members of all four branches of the US Armed Forces are well represented within our alumni ranks.
We find that students with a military background bring leadership and a decisive quality to the classroom. They’re not afraid to make tough decisions and execute their plans, and they’re typically skilled hands at improving operational flow. They also benefit from their classmates, gaining more experience in incentivizing others who may not feel like following orders, while also gaining greater perspective in the language, skills, and practices required to start, buy or run their own businesses.
We spoke with four of our alumni, each representing a different branch of the US Armed Forces, who shared some of their Acton experiences and offered some recommendations for other servicemen and women who may be considering enrolling in Acton, pursuing an MBA, or simply starting their own business.
Before he started Acton, Chris Shonk (’04) served as Staff Sergeant/E-6 in the US Army. Today he is Managing Director of Liahona Ventures, where he invests in new entrepreneurial efforts and operates as an active director and advisor to the financial positions he has taken.
Dan Hale (’09) served as Captain in the US Air Force before enrolling at Acton. Today he maintains his wings flying as a Pilot for American Airlines. Meanwhile, on the entrepreneurial side, Dan is the Managing Partner for two residential real estate holding companies, Cool River Homes LLC and D&C Homes LLC.
David Krahe (’09) served as Lieutenant in the US Navy before attending Acton. He is now Territory Manager for St. Jude Medical’s Neuromodulation Division in the Dallas and Fort Worth area, representing the company and its medical device products that are designed to aid and accelerate care for neurological patients.
Recent graduate Bryan Willows (’12) served as Captain in the US Marine Corps before he signed up to pursue his MBA at Acton. Bryan is currently researching different functions in the financial industry in order to find his next steppingstone job – a tried and true Acton strategy. As Bryan states, finding your calling is hard work, and takes additional effort for students who have been living in the military bubble.
On choosing Acton…
I’m an operator and wanted the fast track to time and capital affluence, afforded rapidly via successful entrepreneurship or inheritance. I also needed practical and tactical tutelage, along with strategic and classical business knowledge, from my MBA. Shy of an inheritance, Acton offered me everything that I was seeking.
I believe that Acton has the best entrepreneurial program around and knew it would equip me with the necessary tools to buy or start, then lead, my own business. I agree with Acton’s teaching philosophy that learning is best accomplished by doing and at the feet of those who are actively living what they teach. No purely online, part-time or executive program could ever impart this type of real life experience to me. I wanted to attend Acton because I believe they are the best at what they do and I wanted to learn from the best… The curriculum’s emphasis on discovering and following your life’s calling made the decision to attend Acton a ‘slam dunk’ for me. Anybody can teach you how to make money but Acton also encouraged me to make a difference.
The abbreviated program was important because it meant that my wife wouldn’t have to support us for an extended period. But the most important attribute Acton offered, above any other school, was that I would be taught by operators, not academics.
In short, it was better, faster and cheaper. In truth, when I first applied back in 2008 I was pretty hung up on the lack of Acton’s name brand recognition. A lot of that has changed with the national recognition the school has received recently. When I was accepted, Jeff Sandefer did an excellent job helping me prioritize what I wanted out of an MBA. Acton emerged as the best choice because of the accomplished faculty with real world entrepreneurial experience and the shorter program that allowed me to get out into the job market sooner.
How military experience impacted classroom performance…
Two deployments taught me how to manage 100-hour work weeks and stay sane. My leadership experience put me ahead of most of my classmates when it came to people issues.
In case discussion, one must take the relevant facts and make a definite decision. When solving a problem, my experience gave me the ability to make quick decisions about which direction to take.
My military experience helped bring a discipline to my studies and a confidence to the classroom. These skills where a definite advantage in the program but they were only part of a successful equation. Acton completed the picture helping me refine my collaborative leadership skills
It made the experience a “once-in-a-lifetime” academic situation. Candor, pattern recognition, and the ability to explore new positions and challenge the absurd created a very steep learning curve and a concentrated path towards gaining executive experience and business tools.
On Acton’s influence after graduation…
I pursued industries we had case studies on and founded multiple companies that I’ve taken to three different harvests and liquidity paths – a profitable and consistent cash flowing stream, an acquisition, and an IPO. I also have a very close friend and business partner thanks to Acton.
I have an increased affinity for sales and customer facing roles after my time at Acton. Whenever a problem is encountered my first approach is to analyze the problem from the perspective of the customer and apply that principle to help guide the solution.
Right out of Acton, I initially pursued buying an aviation-related business. Although the deal fell through after about eight months, Acton clearly gave me the credibility and confidence to find an investment partner and financing relationships, which I’m still utilizing in my businesses today.
Advice for servicemen and women considering Acton…
Military training is probably the best background for excelling at Acton. You will be tested in different ways than you were ever tested in the military, but your training and experience will allow you to handle Acton’s intensity better than most of your classmates. Think of Acton as a deployment and you and your significant other will have a pretty good idea of what your life will be like… As servicemen and women, you will likely have to do more work than your counterparts to find your calling since you have been living in the “military bubble” and are not as experienced in different civilian industries and functions.
If you value small group learning, the case study methodology, and have the ability to fully put other pursuits on hold while you attend, then this is the program for you.
Really reflect on what you want to do with your life. Acton is tough, intense and not for everyone. But if you want to really learn how to build a business, Acton will supply you with the tools that will serve you well in the years to come.
If you are looking for a fast-paced, competitive program that will prepare you for any industry you move into post graduation, then you have found your answer with Acton.
More Questions? Let Us Know!
Do you have any other questions about applying to Acton, starting a business, or getting an MBA after completing your military service? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below or feel free to contact us directly!
And learn what it’s like to go to Acton right out of undergrad, go to Acton as an older -than-average-student, attend Acton when you already own a business, go into the family business after you graduate from Acton, or travel to the US to attend Acton as an international student.
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