Special thanks to Frank Van Buren from episode #39 for making the introduction to Robert. Robert is the Founder of Banneret, which has discovered a unique method to help veterans transition, that is attractive to companies that want to do the right thing, but are cash strapped. In this interview we talk about this approach, which may be appealing to many listeners. We also talk about entrepreneurship.
Robert E. Woods III is the Founder of Banneret, an organization that is helping companies take advantage of incentives of hiring skilled military veterans. As a result of our work, businesses can save tens of thousands of dollars for every veteran hired. Veterans have an opportunity to add up to $45k to their first year's income without using company funds.
He started out in the Air Force, where he served for 5 years as a Dental Technician with a focus on oral surgery. He holds a BBA from Howard University, a Master’s Degree in Investor Relations from Fordham University, and a M.S. in Real Estate Development from Columbia University.
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Bannaret - Robert’s organization that helps train veterans for civilian positions
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me today from New York is Robert Woods III. Robert E. Woods III is the Founder of Banneret, an organization that is helping companies take advantage of incentives of hiring skilled military veterans. As a result of our work, businesses can save tens of thousands of dollars for every veteran hired. Veterans have an opportunity to add up to $45k to their first year's income without using company funds.
He started out in the Air Force, where he served for 5 years as a Dental Technician in the Air Force, with a focus on oral surgery. He holds a BBA from Howard University, a Master’s Degree in Investor Relations from Fordham University, and a M.S. in Real Estate Development from Columbia University.
What was your transition out of the Air Force like?
The transition was relatively smooth. I was coming from Mississippi to New York. About six months before my transition, I started reaching out to contacts in New York. Two weeks before my separation, I got an interview with a company in New York. So I left the military and landed in New York on a Sunday, had the interview on Monday, and then was hired for the job.
It was an in between kind of job, though. It wasn’t a dream job but it paid the bills. About a year later, I left for a role working in Diversity and Inclusion for Guggenheim Partners. That’s where I cut my teeth in the human resources world.
I also had a real estate bug and that’s what caused me to enter the Master’s of Real Estate Development program at Columbia.
How did you go about starting Banneret?
I’ve always wanted to have a positive impact on the communities I was a part of. When I transitioned, I noticed that there were a lot of VA sponsored programs to help veterans gain employment. I kept wondering why corporate businesses weren’t using these programs and hiring more veterans.
That’s how I started Banneret. It’s really to bridge the gap between talented veterans and corporate America. There were so many companies out there that really didn’t know how to use veterans in their organization.
Can you tell us more about how organizations can use programming from the VA to help hire veterans?
It works kind of like an insurance policy. A company will pay to make sure their employee has a particular benefit. This benefit is attached to a veteran’s GI Bill.
Traditionally veterans will use the GI Bill to go back to school. But what most employers don’t know is that they can hire a veteran into a job training program or apprenticeship that is paid for by the veteran’s GI Bill. The GI Bill will pay the veteran directly to take that training. During the training, the veteran will be getting a salary from the company as well as financial assistance via the GI Bill.
A lot of officers go to graduate school after they get out. But even after going to graduate school for one or two years, that still leaves you with time left on your GI Bill.
How can veterans learn more about this?
The employer initiates contact with me and I will explain the process to them. It’s a 30-60 day process to get a company certified with the VA. At that point the company is ready to accept veterans.
When do veterans normally initiative contact with you?
The veteran would ask their employer if they would like to use this benefit. If the employer is willing, that’s when they reach out to me to initiate the process of becoming certified with the VA.
Can you give us an example of this?
One company I’m working with now is a tech company focused on software solutions. One thing they need is real estate appraisers. So they have a training program in place and my goal is to make this training program VA compliant. We worked together to create an on the job training program that veterans could apply to and us the GI Bill to cover costs.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Typically I wake up between 5:30-6:30. I go to the gym and then will start my day around 7. I take classes in the morning. The exact hours vary. But in between those classes, I go to meetings to pitch the work that Banneret does.
Do you have any advice about effective time management?
Making a schedule and using time blocks really works for me. Make sure you leave time for working out or whatever you need to do to feel your best.
Do you find yourself spending most of your time talking to veterans or to companies?
Once a role opens up, it’s easy to get veterans to apply. At that point, I vet the veterans to see who would be good fit for a particular role or training program.
Do you have any advice about how to find a career after the military that you will find fulfilling?
Self-discovery is important. If there’s anyone you know that has a job that seems appealing, reach out to them. Try to have those conversations before you get out.
It’s kind of morbid but I live my life with my obituary in mind. At the end of my life, I don’t want to leave anything on the table and be at the end of my life and have to wonder ‘what if’.
Right now Banneret is focused on New York. Do you have plans to expand beyond that?
Definitely. I’m looking to expand to other metropolitan areas like DC, San Francisco, and Atlanta.
What industries do you think veterans are well suited for?
I think veterans are great fits for the tech and hospitality industries. There are many skills that are very directly relatable.
As far as functional roles, operations and sales are two areas that veterans can really excel in. Computer programming is another.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?