For This Veteran, Florida Was the Ideal Place to Build a Business
The CEO of DreamWare Inc. has found that South Florida and veterans are a boom to his tech enterprise
Bryan Harmon, a former marine, stands in front of a whiteboard in the soaring space in Bonita Springs, Florida that is home to DreamWare, the software technology company he co-founded and leads as CEO. The company’s resident pet, a large dog with German Shepherd features, wanders among the firm’s employees as their fingers fly across their laptops. Bryan is chatting about the growing success of their first major social marketplace product, Car Lister, and the FL VETS Business Training Grant his firm recently received from Veterans Florida, which will enable him to hire and train a number of vets.
Given the casual, loft-like nature of the surroundings (small tables and lounge chairs serve as “desks” and a ping-pong table occupies an adjacent space) and the relaxed attitude of the staffers, it would be easy for an observer to think that they’re on a break—but you’d be mistaken. They’re hard at work. For Bryan, the laid-back, fun atmosphere that prevails is evidence of the fact that locating his business to Florida was a wise choice. “We wanted to attract young energy—individuals coming out of college and the military,” he says. “And young people interested in tech look for an environment that doesn’t feel like work. If it feels like work, they’re going to go to the next company.”
Establishing a perfect work environment was easy in Florida
Bryan found just what he was looking for in Bonita Springs near Naples. “We were a Michigan-based software startup and most people expected us to locate in one of the country’s established tech hubs—like Austin, Denver or Silicon Valley,” he says. “But we chose South Florida because of its great weather and constant sunshine, the affordability of its housing, its flexible lease terms for offices and its calmness. The lack of hubbub and hoopla really allowed us to focus, develop and build our core. And there were also numerous unexpected benefits—like the many like-minded people we found and additional tech world support that allowed us to branch out and grow.”
FL Vets Business Training Grant opens the door to new hires
The FL Vets Business Training Grant funding that was recently awarded to DreamWare will enable the company to fill their job openings with veterans who may or may not have an applicable college degree.
“The grant gives a young business with limited capital the ability to train a new hire properly so he or she becomes a helpful employee right out of the gate.”–Bryan Harmon, CEO, DreamWare, Inc.
“As a veteran myself, I know that programs like this are very important. It’s a very competitive work force. Veterans are going up against people who graduated college and while they may not have had that college experience, they had real work experience. The grant opens up fields and opportunities that they may not have otherwise had access to and this puts the transitioning veteran on an even playing field with people who have the degree.
I get the breathing room to ask if the person is qualified based on their tangible experience vs. their classroom studies. The grant incentivizes a business to not pass over the experience that the veteran gained in the service and to provide training that can bridge any knowledge gaps.”
The practical support that Veterans Florida provided made all the difference to Bryan who learned about the grant from a contact at a local college, Florida SouthWestern State College. “It’s a win for the veteran and the company,” he says. “They take it upon themselves to make sure it gets done. They’ve been unbelievable! They came and reviewed all the application materials and made sure it was submitted properly. They also make sure that at the end of every month all the proper documentation is turned in. They really have an amazing system in place to ensure that you’re utilizing the program the way it was meant to be utilized.”
What veteran hires bring to the table
Bryan’s excited to bring more veterans into the company. “We’ve been growing at a pretty fast rate. Veterans are going to help because veterans have discipline that very few employees will have. When you’re in the military you spend a lot of time with a lot of responsibility working alone. So, as a business owner, you can assign veterans a task and know that they’re going to take care of it. You don’t have to look over their shoulder; you don’t have to micromanage. They’ve been in big situations with big responsibilities so they know how to handle things and take them to the finish line. They’ve been trained to participate in something larger than themselves, so it’s really great to have them on the team.”
The benefits appear to cut two ways. It turns out DreamWare and the local Florida community have helped veterans in ways that extend far beyond a paycheck and skill enhancement. Bryan relays a story that for him is one of the most positive aspects of his career-building journey: “One of our employees got out of the Army where he was a sniper and had a very hard time transitioning back into the civilian world. You cannot prepare yourself to go from a war to here overnight, but we provided a different world for him here in Florida. Being a programmer in this calm setting gave him a chance to just let go and stay focused on one thing for a period of time.
“Three weeks ago I got a video from him. He was going down a Slip ‘n Slide with his son who said to him: “Dad I’m so glad to have you here.” He said this would not have happened if it hadn’t been for the company because it gave him the time he needed and the ability to breathe, to connect back to the civilian world and his family, and make the necessary personal adjustments. It’s really cool when you can help someone grow like that.”
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