Business Lessons for Soldiers and Startups
- by Wharton Magazine
Wharton alum Jim Lincoln wrote to us after one Wharton Effect story, about business lessons for soldiers and startups, resonated with him. Let him explain why.
I read with interest the article about Wes Gray W02 on his FinTech startup and how he and another former Marine, Patrick Cleary W03, incorporated a Wharton education and military lessons learned in forming the company Alpha Architect (“Thriving in the Wharton Effect,” Spring 2015). I can speak to this also—from another era and another war—Vietnam.
I reported for duty, literally, to Wharton in August 1967. I was a major in the U.S. Army and had recently returned from 20 months in Vietnam. The Army decided to send me to Wharton for an MBA. I had not been in a serious academic environment since my graduation from West Point in 1960.
It was a dramatic transition for me. Many will recall that the country was going through a difficult period of protest and violence about the Vietnam War, and during the next two years, the country experienced the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Like my other military classmates, we tried to put these external influences aside and just study!
I was impressed with the quality of the professors and the classes they taught. Most of the business subjects were new to me, but it turned out they were very relevant to my future assignments.
To Gray and Cleary’s excellent description of how their military service and Wharton translated to excellence in the business world, I would add several areas:
- organizing complex projects by breaking them down into manageable segments with someone in charge
- delegating responsibility for key areas, including providing necessary resources and people
- insisting on accountability for actions and decisions, and explaining rewards and consequences
As I continued in my Army career, I was in charge of several multimillion-dollar programs involving important weapons programs and defense contractors, whose management practiced the principles taught at Wharton every day. A major reason for my success in these positions was what I learned at Wharton, for which I (and the Army!) will be forever grateful.
—Jim Lincoln WG69, U.S. Army Colonel (Retired)
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