Marty Strong discusses how his Navy SEAL experience prepared him for business life, and how CEOs can handle market uncertainty and new economic conditions.
When asked why he joined the military, Marty Strong says, “I wanted to get out of Nebraska.”
Too small to become a Cornhusker football player, Marty left the state where he was born and raised to join the Navy at age 17. He spent 10 years as an enlisted Navy SEAL, completed an undergraduate degree in business, went to Officer Candidate School, and was a SEAL officer for 10 years.
After 20 years, Marty retired from SEAL life and joined the United Bank of Switzerland. He spent more than seven years managing financial investments before transitioning to developing, building, scaling, and analyzing companies for people to buy. Today, he does the same as the CEO of several businesses.
Marty is also a successful writer with nine published books. In addition to seven fiction novels, he’s written two business books: Be Nimble: How the Creative Navy SEAL Mindset Wins on the Battlefield and in Business and Be Visionary: Strategic Leadership in the Age of Optimization, set for release in December 2022.
Marty joined Carl Lewis, host of The Connected Enterprise podcast, to chat about why he transitioned to business, how his Navy SEAL experience prepared him for business life, and how CEOs can handle market uncertainty and new economic conditions.
Investing in a New Opportunity
After retiring, Marty planned to become a lawyer, so he took the LSAT and was ready to apply to law schools—until he was talked out of it by a fellow SEAL who had retired and joined a Baltimore investment firm specializing in initial public offerings (IPOs) and overseas startups.
The firm’s founder was a SEAL fan and was hiring them sight unseen. “Coincidentally, I put his son through SEAL training when I was instructor,” Marty says.
Marty had small children, and the opportunity seemed more appealing than three years of law school.
“I ended up at the investment firm because it seemed like the path of least resistance,” Marty explains. “And I liked the idea of investing. I watched the markets and had a small portfolio of my own.”
Transitioning to business life wasn’t easy. He didn’t know how to sell anything to anyone, but he had to find his own clients. And he didn’t know anyone in Maryland, much less anyone with money to invest. Marty second-guessed his decision.
However, the SEAL ethos of “never give up” kicked in. “You blast through, climb over, or dig under obstacles,” he explains. “You blow the whole thing up with some demolition.”
Marty contacted acquaintances in sales, learned new methods, and discovered he had a knack for conceptual selling. The techniques he learned as a SEAL about mission planning and strategic thinking came in handy for helping clients plan for their futures.
At one point, Marty had 1,600 clients depending on him to watch over their nest eggs. “I’m calm under fire,” he notes. “If the market was volatile, I called my clients and talked them off the ledge.”
Pushing Through Uncertainty
The economy has been affected by a pandemic, political issues, and a chaotic supply chain. But Marty believes good can come from uncertainty.
“If everything’s broken, anything goes,” he says. “You can take advantage of every opportunity. You can reinvent your company. You can reimagine yourself as an individual.”
Marty advises business leaders to gather their teams for a strategy session with a whiteboard. Review current processes and discuss why they won’t work anymore. Marty thinks the way to persevere is to take advantage of the current situation, redesign products or services, and pursue new markets.
“It’s not huddling down, shrinking, cutting costs, and curling up into a ball, hoping everything goes back to the way it was,” he says. “It’s not going back to the way it was. And that’s exciting!”
Listen to the Podcast
For more insights from Marty Strong and to learn about his novels and business books, listen to Vision33’s The Connected Enterprise podcast. In each episode, host Carl Lewis interviews bright minds and industry thought leaders about enterprise technology and what’s coming next.