What I Learned About Business from Army Snipers

Last week, my custom-made 7MM rifle arrived. Which naturally meant I needed to go shoot something. Not even going to try to be humble about this: it’s B A D A S S. So badass, that the other guys at the range thought I was Delta Force. Just saying. So anyway, I called up one of my fellow Realtors, Shawn Cheney, who happens to be a member of the Smalls Arms Readiness Training Section (SARTS) and we headed to Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vermont.

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Shawn Cheney

Just a quick note about Shawn: SFC Shawn Cheney has four years in the United States Marine Corp and 19 years in the Army, for a total of 23 years of service. He was also a Mountain Warfare Instructor, an Infantry Instructor, and the Founder of the Army’s only Mountain Sniper Course that is based in Jericho. Oh, and he recently won the Winston P. Wilson All Guard Sniper Championship which is an Army and Air Guard National Match (held annually in Little Rock, Arkansas). Thank you for your service, Shawn, and for being a badass in general!

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Here are a few of the lessons I learned at the range:

  1. Precision and Clarity Dictate Success  The routines of the snipers are religious. Every time they got behind their rifles, they would check the parallax, check the eye relief to ensure crisp crosshairs, check the windage, check distance – near and far – and memorize the landscape and objects in case they had to move quickly to find cover. When they lay down, they don’t lay down and prop themselves up on their elbows. They completely sink into the ground, their feet out flat, without any pressure on their shooting hand, and become one with the earth.

    Aside from these rituals, the triggers and optics are the most important part of the sniper’s process, just as they are in my world of business.You must know when to pull the trigger and make a decision, often quickly. And you’ve got to not only make the decision, but follow through and execute. You must also know your optics and know exactly what you are aiming at. Make sure the entire team knows what the target is. Once you are 100% clear on the goal, it will show up. Snipers must execute precision when shooting. Business owners must provide precision when casting the vision and leading their team.

  2. Breathe, Then Move  When snipers are shooting, everything comes down to their breath. It must stay even and fluid, with no deep inhales or deep exhales. They must train themselves to breathe normally and naturally no matter what is going on around them. They work on finding the space between their breaths, so when it’s time to shoot, they inhale, hold their breath, squeeze the trigger, then exhale. In business, when shit hits the fan, you too, must remember to breathe! Remember, the snipers breathe and take action. When the challenges of business are coming at you from every direction, breathe and take action, breathe and take action. Again and again. Make a decision and then move forward, closing the gap on your target.
  3. Aim Big and Inch Forward After I had practiced on my rifle for a while and started to learn some of the ways of the sniper we toured the range and then started shooting at 300 yards (that’s 3 football fields!). When snipers are training at 800 or 1000 yards, going back to those 100 or 300 yard shots seem easy. Which is why it is important to create big goals! Once you start setting massive goals, it changes the way you think and you start asking bigger and better questions. When you change your mindset and start thinking bigger, the every day trivialities of life become easier. You must constantly stretch yourself to grow. But it will not happen all at once. When military personnel move towards a target, they do so slowly and strategically, gaining ground inch by inch, feet by feet. Changing one aspect of your life by just 1% each day will have a huge impact over time. Not only will you see results, but you will have creating a habit of stepping up your life by 1% every day. Think about the long-term impact of that! One particular event will not impact your life one way or the other. It’s the small changes over time that create growth.
  4. It’s All About the Numbers Another thing I learned is that once I had dialed in my rifle at 100 yards (at 2″ high), there are 200 yards where my shot was dead on. From there, you can get a ballistics trajectory of the bullet and understand exactly where your rifle needs to be to make a 1000 yard shot. 1000 yards is over 8 football fields, but once you determine where you are at 100 yards (2″ high) you can determind where you need to be at 1000 yards (6’4″ high). It’s just a numbers game folks. Just like in business, you have got to use numbers to guide your decisions, not your gut and not emotional conversations. Being purposeful in your life is all about numbers. No matter what industry you’re in, from the military, to NASCAR, to fashion, to teaching, to business, it’s all about the numbers.

sniper-2I have the utmost respect for anyone who has served or is currently serving in the military and it was awesome to spend some time shooting with some of the best. The way they operate has so many parallels to business and it was interesting to be in the field and then be able to reflect on it later and solidify these lessons into the way I lead my companies: precision and clarity are paramount to success, breathe and take action, set huge goals then strategically start chipping away at them, and remember that it’s all about the numbers.
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