Military veterans who are considering creating a business already have a head start, if they keep in mind what they learned in the service, one Army vet said Tuesday at the first-ever Utah Veterans Business Conference.

Jack Climer, president of Veterans Trading Co., based in Park City, said the military's "guiding principles" can help veterans in their entrepreneurial ventures.

"Remember the mission," he told a crowd of about 100 people at the conference. "Tend to the mission. Stay focused. Stay dedicated. Think outside the box, and never, ever leave your brother or sister behind when you can help them achieve, too. If you learn it, teach it. If you know it, share it. Things don't change because we're not running around in funny suits any more."

The service-disabled combat veteran, who was in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, co-founded Veterans Trading in 2005. With 2008 projected sales of nearly $9 million, the company distributes electronic components and related products and provides outsourcing services, targeting government prime contractors.

Terry Schow, executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs, stressed that personal relationships are vital for veterans' business efforts. He said strong ties helped veterans secure legislative funding for a veterans nursing home in Ogden.

Ex-military personnel who get angry and personally confront elected officials present a challenge to people wanting to help veterans, he said. On the plus side, "the public loves the military," he said.

"The public loves their veterans, and so we're on the side of the angels, if you will," Schow said. "But I think the challenge for many folks is to not come at this with a sense of entitlement. To me, nothing is more off-putting than for somebody to go off and say, 'I'm a veteran' or 'I'm a disabled veteran and therefore you owe me this."'

Instead, Schow suggested, veterans need to "sell the product" first. "Convince them of your ability to do what needs to be done. And down the road, the fact that you're a disabled veteran or a veteran will end up becoming a plus to your proposition, rather than making people feel that you're entitled to it."

The first-ever conference was presented by the Governor's Office of Economic Development's Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to keynote speakers, it also featured breakout sessions about several topics, including business strategies, contracting, financing, small-business programs, the technical-assistance center's resources and joint ventures.

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