CEO Fran Armstrong On What She Learned From The Army
Q&A With Fran
Tell me about your career history and particularly your work with the army.
After high school, and not being able to find a job (having only prepared myself in my education with a typing and record keeping course and finally an accounting course in High School, of which I was award as best accountant at end of year), I decided that perhaps I could join the air force, like my father did. I went to the Airforce recruitment office and they told me they were not accepting women, so I went to the next door down, and joined the Army instead. I knew they were going to be tougher, but my husband believed in me and told me I could do it. Basic training was the hardest thing to endure for 13 weeks, next to child birth. The hardest part for me was leaving my daughter, Lariena, behind at only 18 months old, and also the physical training, which I hated..
When I was told that only 40 percent of new recruits would make it through basic training, I was very proud of being in that group, and graduating top female soldier. What I learned in basic training is that if you want something bad enough, you only need to be motivated and have a "can do" attitude. I learned this through the tough training from my leadership (My basic training captain) who told me he would recycle me back to week one of basic training if I did not graduate as their top female soldier. I over achieved and excelled at all Military training and the only thing I was lacking to be a top female soldier was the physical component. I hated that training, refused to do that training, and found myself in the Captain's office daily to get reprimanded. Once he produced the documents that I was being shipped out of my platoon to another week 1 platoon, I had a complete attitude change and of course, the forced motivation I needed (after many tears and pleading with the Captain to let me quit and go home).
I began to train hard (the muscle pain from male pushups and running 4 miles a day brought me to nightly tears) to pass my physical training testing to be allowed to graduate and get out of the hell I felt I was living in for those 3 weeks as the Captain followed me to every training site, firing range, marching range, physical training range... everywhere I turned, he was there eagle eyeing me and making sure that I followed through with my promise to him to not recycle me. Now that I think back at that, having people in your life who take an interest, care for you, and can see your greatness, even when you cannot... Wow! I did not think that really existed, but now that I look back, I see that my Captain was there pushing for me, had faith in me, and cared about seeing me succeed, even though he knew nothing about me.
What were important skills to have/also skills you gained working for the Army that others in different businesses may not have? How do the things you learned working for the Army now help you in your day to day business and life?
One of the biggest skills I learned in my advance training in the Army is how the Army can funnel thousands of documents and process thousands of people in the shortest amount of time. I was taught forms, and chain of command of workflow processes, etc. The things that makes it possible for the Army to provide meals in under 2 hours to a battalion of 850 people in the Dining halls, and produce documents to ship out an entire battalion in under a day, and how organizational techniques are instrumental in those endeavors. These skills I learned I now deploy in my own company in how I design our internal process to be able to handle the workflow process of multiple clients. This makes us different from other firms, because we are able to work a client's files, even when one man is down, because we cross train the entire staff to work client files. We don't assign one bookkeeper to a client like most other firms do, which limits the possibilities of handling more clients. Also, when one person is assigned, the clients tend to leave the firm with that bookkeeper, because of the trust they build with that one person, but with a team concept, we have stronger relationships and our clients don't tend to leave us, because they have a team of trusted people and not just one contact.
My military training is my biggest advantage in my opinion, in growing our company and with our internal workflow processes. We can handle more clients than most other firms in less time and we have a tighter running machine, with less waste and more efficiency than most. This translates to lower fees for our clients and better quality of service and performance. Now that we are integrating Artificial Intelligence, we are excited to be merging the concept of governmental protocols into workflow processes with these new technologies. This is how we take a leading edge over our competition and create ourselves as a firm of the future.
My military training is also instrumental in my self-discipline, and how I treat others. It taught me that everyone has value, and should be treated with respect in the value that they can bring to the table. It is just a matter of finding what motivates them to greatness. For some, it takes tough repercussions (my case, as I am so stubborn), for others it takes a structured syllabus. Military training brings self-discipline into play in teaching you that you only need yourself, your can-do attitude and proper motivation to achieve what you believe you cannot.
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