Matt Wood is Bridging the Gap in Corporate America to Get Veterans the Roles They Were Trained For
CLERMONT, Fla. - You often read about companies doing their part to actively hire military veterans. And while the intent is usually genuine, according to US Army veteran Matt Wood, it is not always purposeful. Matt finds that often, veterans who start new careers after retiring from the military find themselves in positions that underutilized their skill set. This can be from a multitude of reasons such as, the employers find difficulty in translating the veterans experience or even have concerns about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
For Matt, he believes the way to overcome this hurdle is to educate employers on translating military roles into civilian careers. After a 21-year career with the Army, he’s transitioned into his own boss and is on a mission to educate employers on how to hire with a purpose.
We interviewed Matt to discuss his consulting business, Suiting Green, and what it means to find meaningful employment for veterans. Here’s what he said.
H&F: You started a new business last year after experiencing a lay-off due to the pandemic. Tell us how you have redefined yourself.
Matt: After being laid off from my role at Disney last year, I started looking at where I felt companies had gaps in their hiring processes, particularly when it came to the hiring of military veterans. There are a lot of companies who boldly claim that they are “Veteran Friendly” and will hire veterans all day long, however, most of the veterans they hire just end up in jobs that don’t match up with their skill sets or experiences leaving them feeling underemployed, disengaged, and without the sense of purpose they had while in the military. I wanted to help bridge that gap and help employers more effectively translate military experience into something that will result in beneficial employment for their veteran hires, and a greater return on the company’s investment of hiring experienced leaders. I also realized that I was going to be happier working for myself than I would be working for someone else where I didn’t feel like I was being a benefit to the company that hired me.
H&F: What is the meaning or inspiration behind your business name?
Matt: The name Suiting Green came from the idea of veterans, a majority of whom have worn a variant of green camouflage throughout their military careers, transitioning to the “uniform” of corporate America, the suit, or variation of it. It’s a way to honor their military service while showing that they can be enormously productive members of the civilian community.
H&F: Thank you for your service! What was it like serving in the military?
Matt: Serving in the military, in my case, the US Army for 21 years, was an amazing opportunity! It provided me with skills, experiences, and opportunities I would not have had in any other place. I’ve served on three continents, and have been to 17 different countries. I also get the benefit of being able to say I’ve taken off in more airplanes than I’ve landed in. While some of the places I went to, and the assignments I had, weren’t tropical vacation spots, I can look back on my military career and say it was an incredibly meaningful experience to be a part of something much bigger than myself.
"...the thing about even broken crayons is that they can still color." - Matt
H&F: Why do you think it is difficult for businesses to find meaningful employment for veterans?
Matt: I think that the reason a lot of businesses find it tough to employ military veterans is because they have concerns about PTSD, whether or not the veterans will be a good fit for their company culture, or even translating what the veteran’s experiences were and how they fit with positions in their companies. For companies without a veteran presence, or even without a significant and involved, veteran presence, there can also be the misunderstanding that once veterans leave the military we are, in some way, broken. This cannot be further from the truth actually, and, the thing about even broken crayons is that they can still color.
H&F: Can you expand on what types of businesses benefit most from your consulting services?
Matt: The businesses that would benefit the most from working with me are those companies who are wanting to hire veterans, military spouses, or both, but aren’t quite sure how they can benefit from doing so, or have questions about how to translate military experiences into something beneficial for their company. The other types of business are those who currently have veterans on their rolls but don’t know how to keep these employees engaged and retained, or may not have a robust veteran employee resource group.
H&F: What has been your favorite highlight so far?
Matt: My favorite highlight so far has been the ability to open the eyes of businesses to the benefits of having military veterans working for them in positions that make use of those veterans’ talents and experiences.
H&F: Starting a business is not easy. What hurdles have you had to overcome that you did not anticipate in the beginning?
Matt: There were so many things that I didn’t know before starting my own business. I knew it would be more than just having an idea to get it going, but I wasn’t entirely sure what else I would need to know. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been a part of the Veterans Florida Veteran Entrepreneur Initiative, which helped me really build more of the foundation for my business, and then having some really great mentors along the way. Identifying all of the intricacies of business ownership has been challenging, but facing challenges is where I like to thrive. On top of that, it’s a huge learning experience that I get to share with other potential entrepreneurs.
"...with over 230,000 veterans leaving the military each year... Don’t be afraid to ask them about their service, that will mean so much more to them than just thanking them for their service." - Matt Wood
H&F: Just for fun, do you have a favorite military themed movie?
Matt: I don’t necessarily have a favorite military-themed movie, per se, but the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” is something I can watch over and over again. It hits home for me because the unit featured, the 506th Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division, is one I had the honor of serving in, and I had the good fortune of being able to go up and down Mount Toccoa in Georgia where they trained shortly before going off to Europe to fight in World War II.
H&F: What is one piece of advice you can share with someone struggling to find their career path after leaving the military?
Matt: The one thing I tell everyone I talk to that is getting ready to leave the military is that they are not alone. So many of us have come before them and are here to help them through the transition process. I will always make time to talk with my brothers and sisters in arms, whether they are getting ready to leave the military, or have already left and are just not sure where they fit after leaving the “big green machine.” While I may not have all of the answers, I will certainly listen, and help wherever possible. Take advantage of veteran service organizations, reach out to other veterans, and continue to build your support network.
H&F: Please tell us about any future plans you have for the business.
Matt: My future plans involve expanding Suiting Green to be able to bring on more consultants and, in turn, be able to help more companies and veterans find those mutually beneficial relationships. I am also working on a “Veteran Ready” certification program for those businesses I work with to highlight that they are not only ready to hire veterans, but they know how to gainfully employ them once they do hire them.
H&F: Anything else you want to share?
Matt: I’d like to reiterate to all veterans, anyone currently serving, and anyone who may just be struggling to figure out what their next step is to reach out to someone, myself included. You are not alone in whatever it is you are going through, good or bad. Also, with over 230,000 veterans leaving the military each year, there’s a good chance that someone you know may have served in the military. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their service, that will mean so much more to them than just thanking them for their service.
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