HBO topper’s career guided by military service

Bill Nelson reflects on how military training breeds leaders, team players

Bill Nelson, chairman and CEO of HBO, is a Vietnam combat veteran who served with the 2/502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division.

Serving in uniform is a life-changing experience.

Training for it, preparing for it and experiencing it changes your perspective on many things. The paramount issue, I believe, is that it seals a bond with those around you. It seals in the notion of togetherness, teamwork and selflessness. It’s a somewhat dramatic transition from “me” to “we,” and the military is the best educational institution to teach that. It is a permanent and positive enhancement to one’s character.

I believe that an enterprise can only reach its greatest potential with a team mentality. So at HBO, I’ve spent my 27 years trying to contribute to that concept, and the whole executive team and staff, right through to the entry level, has embraced that culture. It is a culture of collective spirit, collective wisdom, collective instinct and strategy. I believe that the insight, ability and determination to execute on that, for me, are reflections of my time in the military.

I would like to note that the unemployment rate for our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan is running at around 30%, or about triple the national average. I believe that every company should focus on hiring veterans because it’s the right thing to do, and because it is a good business decision. When you hire a veteran, you are employing someone who is trained, motivated, loyal, has leadership skills, understands organizational structure, works well under pressure and fits well into a team environment.

Veterans are team players. They have been trained to be. Veterans naturally bring a positive, team-oriented influence to any operating group of talented people. So, hiring veterans is not only a moral and patriotic obligation, it is a smart business decision as well.

Related links:
A journey from ensign to agent | HBO topper’s career guided by military service | Mark Burnett’s boot camp