(This post is brought to you by military veteran, entrepreneur, and startup founder Nick Bradfield.
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I’ve always been drawn towards challenges. One day after high school I woke up and decided to look for the biggest challenge I could find. I quit my job and enlisted in the Marine Corps infantry. That night during our family dinner I broke the news like this… “Mom, I quit my job, joined the Marines, and leave in two weeks. Can you pass the salt?”
In hindsight I probably should have softened the blow a bit, but my parents came around after a brief nervous breakdown.
I entered USMC boot camp in the late ‘90s weighing 115 pounds. This resulted in more than my fair share of quarterdeck time. Fast forward six months (bootcamp + school of infantry) and what seemed like 10 million pushups later, I weighed 165 pounds. The Marine Corps pushed me harder, mentally and physically, during that first six months than I knew I could go. But I liked it. Sure there was a lot of BS but I understood the bigger picture. They were breaking me down to build me up stronger. They were forcing me to rely on others. They were forcing others to rely on me. They were teaching us to rely on each other to move towards common goals.
I served four years and got out as a Sgt of Marines, the best job in the entire Marine Corps. Throughout my time in the Corps I was taught many life lessons. I became comfortable with calculated risk. I was confident in my ability to move forward on an 80% solution knowing that I’d be able to adapt and overcome whatever was thrown at me. I learned about perseverance. I experienced huge highs and lows filled with excitement and terror, ultimately figuring out how to remain calm in situations of uncertainty. I was exposed to some of the finest leaders on the planet, who provided exceptional examples of how to lead from the front.
Most of all, I quickly realized that the Marine Corps (and life) is what you make of it.
As I transitioned out, I didn’t know what the next chapter looked like. I worked full time while attending college 1-2 classes at a time. Because of my military experience (and the recruiter being a Navy guy) I was able to get a sales manager gig at a Fortune 100 company. The work was OK but not very fulfilling. Like many vets, I wandered aimlessly for a bit, searching for that camaraderie I had with my old unit. There were pockets of it, but certainly not the same.
Shortly after I graduated from college the world began to fall apart financially. 2008. Being a Marine, I saw smoke and ran towards it. If there was ever a time people needed help with their money it was then. I got licensed and jumped into the financial services industry as a financial advisor. People were afraid. Paralyzed with fear. I felt as though I could be a voice of reason for them and help them. It was very rewarding.
Unfortunately the industry is set up largely to take care of people with lots of money. They have armies of advisors flocking to them constantly. The people who needed the most help though were the middle class, and they weren’t getting the same level of service as the rich people. During that time I became interested in low cost index funds, asset allocation, and something called Modern Portfolio Theory. It was my way to address the problem.
That is when the idea for Divvy Investments was born.
I wasn’t in a position to start a company at the time. I went to grad school, spent a few years in consulting, and ended up back in the corporate world again. In the corporate world I was frustrated a lot. At one point I was actually told to care less about customers. That was the moment I knew I needed to work for myself. I quit my job and started a business (after getting the blessing from my wife, of course).
I was excited. I was scared. I had an idea that I thought could be a viable business, but I didn’t have all the answers. It was a calculated risk. I was confident in my ability to adapt and overcome with an 80% solution from my training in the Marines. I knew I could remain calm while being faced with the uncertainties of running a business. I had learned years prior that life was what you make of it and I was passionate about helping people simplify investing.
I started Divvy Investments in April 2015 with the goal of helping DIY investors make better decisions with their retirement savings. Since then I’ve added a co-founder, gotten to pitch/speak at events around the country, and stumbled into another market, selling our robo advisor tool to other financial advisors. Helping people while doing what I love is very fulfilling. We have a long ways to go with our company to achieve our mission, but we are bringing in more money than we are spending which is a good start.
Being an entrepreneur is not easy. You never know what situation you’re going to encounter. There are highs and lows every day. Most businesses fail. It is tough. I think what gives us, as veterans, an edge is understanding the parallels between our time in service and entrepreneurship. We know the value of a clear mission. We know how to assemble/train teams with talented people. We understand how important it is to lead by example. We are driven by a sense of mission accomplishment. We’ve persevered, adapted, and overcome strenuous situations many times before.
I’ve always been drawn towards challenges. I’ve added a few more pounds since my days on active duty. Probably from the salt… That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.