McChord SNCO applies military experience to small business

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
When Senior Master Sgt. Michelle Anderson came back from her deployment in 2011, the idea of her running a professional skills business wasn't even a distant thought. The 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Medical Readiness Flight superintendent barely had her Airman-Battle Uniform in the laundry before she found her calling.

But, with special thanks to her attendance at a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event, the 22-year Air Force veteran found herself in front of a prophet in the form of a Small Business Administration employee, who sparked an image into her mind. The vision contained a path, which would lead her to entrepreneurship in order to help others succeed.

After taking an entrepreneur class and constructing her business plan, Anderson created Star Services NW. It's an organization in Spokane, Wash., specializing in providing the soft skills to propel career progression and organizational growth. Its clientele ranges from organizations to academics and from medium to large companies, using its mission statement "Learn it Today, Use it Tomorrow" as its driving force.

"I discovered I had a niche in the market and ran with it," Anderson, a Spokane native, said. "The response has been very positive, and narrowing down my skill set has opened up new doors for me."

The combination of her corporate-management knowledge and her 22 years of military experience enabled Anderson to fine tune her company and concentrate on soft-skills coaching, including professional etiquette, resiliency training, personality profiling, team building, and problem solving.

Her Air Force background enables her to use analogies and anecdotes to get her clients to understand the importance of her service--both as a citizen and an Airman.

"I recently held a training class, and what resonated with the attendees was the resilience training," Anderson said. "This program teaches coping skills for emotions in the workplace. I believe this course has been effective because I share my war stories of transporting critically wounded (service members), and being able to control your emotions until the appropriate time translates into leadership skills and professionalism. Taking things personally, or having a break down and crying at work can be a career crusher."

Anderson considers her agency as a guide to improving professional relationships--similar to the way the Air Force requires its Airmen to participate in Human Relations and Sexual Response and Prevention Training.

"Our approach is to consider the image you project onto others--not to lecture attendees on right or wrong," she said. "Human resource departments love us, because we also train staff members on uncomfortable topics, such as sexual harassment and workplace etiquette."

Making an initial impact is an aspect of professionalism Anderson stresses.

"First Impressions are a great refresher on how to maximize your professional credibility," she said. "We are all creatures of habit, and it's easy to become too comfortable with ourselves."

Anderson, who's been with the 446th ASTS since 1996, is called upon by her unit companions to apply some of her agency's methods to occasional issues.

Michelle Anderson is a business consultant who improves unit efficiency and productivity, said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cutchin, 446th ASTS, chief of Health Services Management. She's carried some of that knowledge to the 446 ASTS, and squadron members have benefited greatly from it. In this era of doing more with less, there should be a career field for Airmen who can reduce spending and increase unit readiness. ASTS is lucky to profit from her skill set at little cost, he said.

Anderson explains her interest in collaborating with veterans' groups that helps prepare military members enter the civilian world.

"I would like to be involved with a veterans' program that provides professional enhancement skills for employed veterans," said the former active-duty ammunition technician. "I consider it advanced transition training. (Military) social skills are different, and we can have a difficult time blending in, which can damage our career growth."

As her ideas and company evolve, she displays no restraint in her role as a Citizen Airman and in her civilian enterprise.

"I love what I do, both in the (Air Force) Reserve and my career," Anderson said. "This passion shines through me, and has been an asset with networking and building my circle of supporters."

Her squadron commander witnesses her skill set, work ethic, and leadership capabilities in the unit.

"Senior Master Sgt. Anderson is a professional through and through," said Col. Sam Barringer, 446th ASTS commander. "She is always smiling and ready to take on the next challenge with an infectious, positive attitude--a true leader."