Veterans to CEO’s – How One “Family of Companies” is Getting it Right

Photo from APi National Service Group

Photo from APi National Service Group

When I was transitioning out of the Army in late 2013, I was lucky enough to be offered a role in the APi Group’s Leadership Development Program (LDP); this program kick-started my career into the private sector. APi Group is a construction holding company that focuses in the energy, life safety, infrastructure, and specialty construction sectors all over the country. The company is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN and has a unique mantra and strategy for success – it focuses on Building Great Leaders™. As primarily a growth through acquisition company, the year-long LDP is APi Group’s solution to feed its acquired companies with proven leaders, many with backgrounds from the US military. 

Last year, APi Group hired approximately 500 veterans and was designated as a top Military Friendly company, as it exceeded standards in all six categories determined by– from ‘recruiting & sourcing’ to ‘opportunity & advancement.’ In addition to the Leadership Develop Program, APi Group also initiated the Veterans Recruiting Program (VRP) that focuses on internship opportunities for Veterans solely in the Twin Cities region in Minnesota. The owner of the company, Lee Anderson, made it a personal mission to formalize Veteran hiring practices across its entire family of companies and began the Veteran hiring initiative in the mid-2000’s by hand writing letters to each company asking them to consider hiring Veterans.  

What does APi Group like about Veterans? They proudly state on their website that a Veteran is someone who, “At one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘the United States of America’ for an amount ‘up to and including their life.’ That is honor.” This organization understands the immense value of Veterans both in and out of uniform. They appreciate that their developed skills and experiences can be transferred to the private sector. They realize that from service, Veterans have gained the “hard-to-teach” stuff of leadership and now can be trained to learn the rest of business. To APi Group, hiring Veterans are an investment!

And these efforts have produced bullish returns. From the LDP and the VRP, APi Group has seen the progression of numerous Veterans take leadership roles in their 40+ companies, to include the CEO positions. Not to mention the steady and spectacular growth in revenue and profits. Most of these LDP candidates started out as transitioning Junior Military Officers with 5-10 years of Active Duty service, have entered the private sector as an entry-level or middle manager, then have quickly progressed upwards in their careers – now they have 12x military Veteran company presidents, who started their civilian careers as mere graduates of these programs!

The best part is that these graduates of APi Group’s Veterans programs still continue to give back. Many sit on Veteran non-profit boards and mentor other active-duty Service Members in transition. They personally help other Veterans find their right fit in the private sector and also educate other companies on the value of Veteran hires. Of course not all LDP or VRP candidates stay with APi Group over the years, due to changing priorities and focuses, but they all stay dedicated to the cause of Building Great Leaders™ in organizations they now serve in. These leaders continue to teach other companies to “get it” – that Veterans are tremendous human capital assets to any organization.

 And I’ve had the honor of working with and getting to know each of them during my time there.