Veteran-owned businesses: Jeremy Holder, TacMed Australia
Jeremy Holder, looking at a promotion to Sergeant and likely move ‘off the tools’, transitioned out of the Army, became a paramedic and started a side business. Now it’s his main gig – and the main gig of several fellow veterans. Here. Jeremy shares how his military experience helps him in his business.
At a glance:
- Jeremy Holder served as an Army medic for seven years, including four years with Special Operations Command and deployment to Afghanistan, then transitioned out of Defence and joined the ambulance service.
- He started a ‘hobby business’ while working as a paramedic – TacMed Australia, which trains first responders for high-risk work settings.
- TacMed landed a government contract in 2015, and has grown considerably since.
- More than 60 per cent of employees are veterans.
After WWI, veterans Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness were given an assignment: survey an air race across northern Australia. As they drove more than 2,000km setting up supply dumps for the competitors, they developed the idea that would become Qantas.
Peter Liston, co-founder of the Veteran Community Business Chamber, wants the organisation to help inspire that entrepreneurial mindset in veterans today.
“We’ll know we’ve succeeded in that goal when we have developed an entrepreneur ecosystem that not only nurtures and inspires the seed of entrepreneurship from within the military community, but also helps develop solid business acumen and creates funding models so businesses can access the capital and support they need to grow,” Liston says.
In Australia, there are numerous examples of excellent veteran-founded businesses and, over the summer, we’re sharing their stories – what inspired the founders, how they started their own businesses, how they’ve built them and, of course, why their experience as veterans makes these founders a force to be reckoned with.
Our third instalment in the series: Jeremy Holder, founder of TacMed Australia.
TacMed Australia, a first aid company that uses deep experience and knowledge of battlefield medicine to train first responders, now employs 20 people full-time and 100 casuals – and more than 60 per cent of employees are veterans.
Its success came as a small surprise to founder and now Managing Director Jeremy Holder, who ran it as a side hustle for several years before it outgrew that definition.
Jeremy had served in the Army from 2001 to 2008, and in the Reserves for four years after that. When he transitioned out, he moved straight into the ambulance service so he could keep doing what he loved – providing that high-pressure lifesaving medical assistance he’d become familiar with.
“It was just a move from one uniform to another,” he says. “I’d deployed to Afghanistan with Special Operations. I’d done counterterrorism. I loved the medical skills but was due for promotion to Sergeant. That meant I probably would have been off the tools, but I enjoyed it too much.”
Growing his business – with a look back to the ADF
Jeremy spent a decade as a paramedic – for the second half of that decade he ran TacMed as a ‘hobby business’ on the side.
Every year, he says, the business grew a little. Rather than taking money out of the business, he bought more products, invested more in marketing and built better websites.
Then, in 2015, he was awarded a government contract – it was a turning point.
“That’s when our real trajectory as a business began,” he says. “Our biggest client now is the Australian Defence Force. So what I used to do in the green uniform as a medic, we now provide paramedic contractors to do.”
Defence experience to civvie business savvy
How did Jeremy’s military experience assist TacMed Australia’s development, apart from the obvious medical training and experience? Defence embeds self-discipline and initiative, Jeremy says.
“There’s a culture of teamwork and, for those of us who have transitioned from Defence, a connection, a shared culture, and an appetite for risk. In the Army there’s a saying: improvise, adapt and overcome. Entrepreneurship is very similar,” he says.
That connection and culture goes a good way to explaining why the majority of TacMed’s staff are veterans – including Business Development Manager Ben Davoren, who was recently recognised as Veteran Employee of the Year in the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards.
A former combat medic with 10 years’ defence experience and deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor And Solomon Islands, Ben was one of TacMed’s first employees and is the resident expert in high-threat medical capability development.
Challenges and lessons
Still, there were challenges.
“I knew nothing about customer service or finance. So I read books and learned a lot on YouTube. I listened to business podcasts and sought external business coaching and mentoring,” Jeremy says.
“I really looked up to people like Glenn Keys and read case studies and articles about him, and people like him.”
Glenn Keys told us last month that his ADF experience taught him to pull together good people to deliver on a good plan, and to let them do it – a level of trust and autonomy essential with teams working in settings both remote and high-risk.
Improvise, adapt and overcome
By all measures, TacMed Australia has been a great success. But the pandemic has proven an almighty challenge.
“Our business relies on us working nationally, so when our trainers and paramedics couldn’t cross borders, it was really difficult,” Jeremy explains. He and the team leaned on their military experience for the solutions to those pandemic-related challenges.
“One solution was to use caches, as we did in the Army. We’d leave ambulances and equipment in strategic locations that would allow us to do our work while minimising travel. The Army makes you very good at solving problems.”
Join us on 10 March to see a panel of veteran entrepreneurs discuss how they started their own businesses, how they’re continuing to grow those businesses, and their tips for success. Register now for ‘How to build skills for business and employment’ using the form below.