Starting a Business After Age 50
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Remaining True to His Country and Values
Raymond Jardine Jr.
Photo: Lee Ann Bowman
Raymond Jardine Jr. retired from the Army National Guard in 2004 as a colonel, but he didn’t stay retired for long. While he was still contemplating “What’s Next?” an old friend suggested he start his own business.
Today, Jardine is chairman and CEO of Native Hawaiian Veterans LLC, an award-winning business that grew from four employees and revenue of $64,000 in 2005 to 158 employees and $10.2 million in revenue in 2012. NHV offers products and services to the military and for homeland security.
If it sounds like he’s got a magic touch, he’d likely be the first to say it wasn’t always so. After graduating from Kalani High School, Jardine realized that he didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do. So, on Sept. 17, 1971, he enlisted in the Army. After a year, with the American involvement in Vietnam winding down, he volunteered to return to Hawaii to join the National Guard and its officers training program.
Eventually, he earned a master’s in strategic studies, an MBA and a doctorate in business. He joined the Honolulu Fire Department in 1975, worked there a decade, and then went back on active duty with the Guard.
Growing up in Kuliouou, his multigenerational ohana (Portuguese, Hawaiian, Cherokee, German and French) demonstrated that hard work and core values were the most important tools he could bring to any job.
By 2004, when that old friend, Mike Irish, president of Halm’s Enterprises (kim chee and other foods), “put the bug in my ear about starting my own business,” Jardine was ready. He called a friend, Puni Akana, and a friend of Puni’s, Mike Jones, and they met for lunch. All had had military careers and President George W. Bush had recently issued executive order 13360, which gave opportunities in the federal marketplace to disabled veterans and their businesses. “We decided, ‘OK, let’s give this a shot.’ ”
In addition to their military experience, all three had worked with fire departments and had emergency-management experience. They hired a professional to help facilitate their business plan and were on their way. Jardine was the disabled veteran in the group, which put him in the lead for the top post.
They knew they wanted their company to represent the values they’d learned in the military – leadership, organizational skills and teamwork – and the Hawaiian values they’d grown up with. Their acronym became ALOHK:
- “alakai,” leading with initiative and by setting a good example;
- “lokahi,” collaboration and cooperation;
- “ohana,” the circle of those who are family and those chosen as family;
- “hookipa,” generosity, sharing with ohana and community; and
- “kinaole,” doing the right thing, the right way, the first time, and working together to achieve more.
Jardine, a father and grandfather himself, visits his employees in 10 states and two countries to check up on morale and performance. He also meets with government officials, including Hawaii’s Congressional delegation, “to make sure we communicate about disabled veterans and native peoples and small business in general” and to nurture relationships with clients and customers.
His father used to say, “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.” He’s doing it, Dad.
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