In honor of Veterans Day, NFIB presents a series of profiles featuring veterans who run successful small businesses. NFIB member Dennie Whitaker learned a lot about work stamina spending 12 to 16 hours at a time in a plane over Vietnam.
Dennie Whittaker went the franchise route for a few years before launching Whittaker’s Accounting and Tax Services in Marshfield, Missouri. Maybe it was his time in the Air Force (January ’61 to January ’82) that drove him to go solo.
“The military teaches you the responsibility, the drive. After 20 years, you are in charge,” he says. As a business owner, “you’ve got to want to get out there and do it, and the military gives you that drive. Whatever it is, the military attitude is: Get it done. There are people waiting on you, there are operations that can’t continue without you getting that job done.”
During the Vietnam conflict, Whittaker learned a lot of stamina and self-reliance. “We went to the Philippines to fly in Vietnam as a flight crew. We flew every 12 hours and stayed in the air for 12 to 16 hours. Then we would land, and 12 hours later we were back in the air again. So everything had to be ready to go, because you knew that in 12 hours, you were going to go again.”
From the perspective of a business owner: “It teaches you that you can’t just sit on something, waiting for it to get done.”
Leaving the franchise realm to take the reins in his owns hands was no small trick. “It takes a lot of work. We did a lot of advertising, I spoke to a lot of people. I got into a lot of civic organizations,” he says. And that was just the start. “If they let you in the door, you’ve still got to get in there and talk. You’ve got to get your name out there, and they also have to see a face. The radio alone doesn’t do you justice.”
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