By Paul Peng
The importance of aligning values is a big reason why most of us choose to buy one company vs. another, especially pertaining to leisure expenses. When it comes to the veteran community, a few examples include (but are certainly not limited to) Chevrolet, Black Rifle Coffee and Grunt Style. A big reason why these companies (both veteran and non-veteran owned) are successful is that they represent and speak to the very people that they served with. Moreover, these companies regularly donate a considerable portion of their earnings to nonprofits and similar causes that help veterans and their families.
I had the chance to sit down with Bill Kleftis, CEO of Otis Technology. Otis Technology (Otis) is the premier manufacturer of weapon maintenance systems for the U.S. military. Their mission is to rethink and redefine gun care, giving our country’s defenders better and smarter ways to keep their weapons in the best condition possible. We discussed Kleftis’ role and how he is leading Otis by providing quality products while giving back to the veteran community.
Being that you are a veteran-focused company, what are some initiatives Otis has undertaken in the last five years to assist the veteran community?
Otis has been a strong supporter for well over three decades. The biggest one in the last five years is our partnership with Clear Path for Veterans in Chittenango, New York. We sponsored their canine program specifically and funded a service dog’s training from puppy to placement with a veteran. Additionally, we continue to donate to them yearly. Some other contributions include Beyond the Battle (they take veterans hunting), Aiming for Zero (suicide prevention), Vet Fishing (they take veterans fishing), Veterans Help Foundation of Wyoming, Duskin 3 Gun Memorial Match, Freedom Hunters, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (New York chapter) and much more. It is ingrained in our core and our culture to support those who have fought for our freedoms, and we rarely turn down veteran donation requests.
Tell me about a hardship Otis encountered while you were CEO. How do you and Otis persevere?
The pandemic proved to be a challenge for Otis and most other businesses. Otis was forced to quickly pivot from what we know best to producing PPE for the COVID pandemic. The pandemic also created a reset for how business is conducted. Initially, it was difficult to determine who should be working onsite versus remotely. Those that had to be onsite felt that they were exposed to a greater risk of becoming ill. Those working at home with school-age children had to tackle homeschooling and still be productive remote employees. However, today the pendulum has swung back to a place where hybrid or remote employment are considered an option for employers to attract a larger pool of qualified candidates.
What advice would you give to veterans seeking to start their own business?
One needs to make sure that they approach the journey as a business and not a hobby. All too often, people dabble in something they are passionate about by starting it as a hobby. Living the hobby paradigm, the expectation is a pleasant departure from everyday issues and enjoying the time consumed. Unfortunately, to make progress towards a growth goal, unpleasant tasks and activities need to be pursued and completed, hence the need to treat the journey as a business.