From Air Force to Business: The Successful Journey of Veteran Entrepreneur Chris Banning
Chris is one of a growing number of veterans whose evolution as a civilian leads them to entrepreneurship. In fact, SBA data indicates 10% of small businesses today are veteran-owned and in fiscal year 2015, small business loans to veterans rose 101% in total dollar amount and 45% in the number of loans from the previous year.
Both professionally and personally, it’s no surprise that Chris’ story is deeply rooted in honor and integrity. His journey began when he entered the United States Air Force as an Airman Basic in 1993. Chris’ accomplished military career included the Humanitarian Service Medal for assisting with recovery following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a National Defense Service Medal, an Airforce Outstanding Unit Award, and a Southwest Asia Service Medal. Lauded for providing world-class maintenance efforts, Chris deployed to the Middle East as a part of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
Recognized for outstanding leadership and exemplary execution throughout his career, Chris was accepted to the United States Presidential Honor Guard – one of just two accepted applicants out of 1,000 hopefuls. As high of an honor as this was for Chris, he opted to turn it down in favor of attending the United States Air Force Academy Prep School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Unfortunately, shortly after that acceptance, Chris became disabled and learned he could no longer become a USAF pilot. At this point, Chris turned his attention to what life in the civilian world might hold.
“I wouldn’t say I always wanted my own business,” Chris says. “Until the end of my service, I was primarily focused on my military career. However, I enjoyed my time in the military so much that I decided to open a government contracting company.”
Chris opened Banning Contracting Services, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned (SDVOSB) and HUBZone Small Business located in Bixby, Oklahoma, in March 2013. With extensive experience in the design, implementation, and operations of telecommunications services and structured cabling systems, BanningCS is committed to providing the highest quality and best value information technology (IT) and telecommunications solutions to the Federal Government.
As such, BanningCS has performed work for Seal Team Six, Andrews Air Force Base (the home of Air Force One), Lackland Air Force Base (U.S. Air Force basic training location), Holloman Air Force Base, and many other Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs locations.
In addition to its profitable work for the government, BanningCS has donated to and works frequently with non-profit organizations like the Folds of Honor Foundation and Wounded Warriors in Action, both devoted to helping wounded or deceased soldiers and their families.
“I truly believe in supporting our veterans in any way I can, and I am always looking for opportunities to participate in the veteran community,” says Chris. “As you can see, there are countless ways to help, and these two specific organizations mean a lot to me. I believe that anything helps, and I encourage everyone to support our veterans in any way they can.”
To the casual observer, the transferable skills from the military to business may not be easily recognizable. But in fact, they’re vast, palpable, and should be more obvious.
“My military experience has absolutely proven to be helpful in owning my own business,” Chris says. “To be consistently successful in business requires several characteristics, including dependability, integrity, decision-making, initiative, and professionalism. These are all attributes that are drilled into each service member during their service, and they are traits we take with us into the civilian world.”
Chris also says that the nature of his business requires persistence and adaptability to be successful.
“No matter how well planned out a day may be, I have to remain flexible when other things come up at the last minute, and I have to maintain my resolve to see that all tasks are completed,” he adds. “These are skills that I honed while serving in the Air Force that I further develop every day.”
With the holiday shopping season around the corner and small businesses capturing the spotlight with campaigns such as Veterans Small Business Week and Small Business Saturday upon us, Chris says it’s important for his fellow civilians to support veteran-owned businesses. For him, it comes down to the unrivaled commitment and integrity provided by such businesses.
“We will provide the best possible service, keep our word regarding our products and services, and follow through on any commitments that we make,” he shares. “Additionally, by supporting a veteran-owned business, you are likely supporting a small business and, in turn, supporting the backbone of the American economy.”
Of course, in the spirit of giving back, Chris can’t help but share his knowledge and experience with other veterans who might be thinking about starting down the road of business ownership.
“If I were to give advice to an aspiring entrepreneur who happens to also be a veteran, I would tell him or her to always provide the best products or services you can,” he says. “Hone those skills that made you successful while you were in the service and pour them into your business. Know that there will be obstacles, but be tenacious and overcome them. Always look for new opportunities and never give up. With the right resolve and dedication to quality service, you will be successful.”
Sound advice for ambitious veterans whose unmatched skills and characteristics set them up for the utmost success no matter where their path may take them.