After returning from deployment in Afghanistan, Peter Liston began thinking about transitioning out of the ADF. Serving as an Army Logistics Officer since 2006, Peter had felt an “entrepreneurial itch” for a long time, but it was the skills and experience gained during service that gave him the confidence to step out on his own.
Well supported by his colleagues, Peter utilised flexible workplace arrangements and part-time leave without pay to start testing business ideas, many, which he admits, were “spectacular failures.”
When it became apparent his career would end through medical discharge, Peter took his remaining leave and long service at half-pay, in order to stretch out his transition. It was during this time he established his first business venture, Secure Windows, in partnership with his Duntroon classmate, Matthew Moseley.
“The support I received from the ADF was critical in enabling me to set up the business,” explains Peter. “It ensured when separation occurred in 2017, I stepped straight into my new career. Within 12 months of transition Secure Windows employed 30 people, including a high percentage of veterans, and for this won an Award at the inaugural Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards.”
Since then, Peter and Matthew have established two more organisations, Trust the Process, which assists businesses in systemisation, delegation and automation; and the Veteran Community Business Chamber (VCBC), dedicated to supporting the entrepreneurial aspirations of veterans, serving members and their partners.
“Those with military service possess a unique skillset and character which prepares them well for self-employment,” says Peter. “Through the VCBC we want to support, encourage and nurture entrepreneurship in the veteran community.”
For those interested in self-employment, Peter’s advice is to plan early, potentially from the moment you join the Defence Force.
“The majority of us will not spend our full career in Defence and there's an abundance of opportunity to share your skills and experiences on the outside. Don't self-isolate. Yes, there is a big change coming, but there is still a community who has walked in your shoes and is ready to support your next chapter.”
While meaningful employment is an important component to happiness post-service, Peter says it’s also vital to have a solid support network.
“The worst thing you can do is feel you are alone. One of my greatest assets from the Army has been my friendship and business partnership with Matthew. He is a pivotal factor in my successful transition and I owe him a lot. The fact we can work together to build ideas into enterprises, on a relationship built on absolute trust and transparency is very powerful.”