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Episode 5

Episode 5: Hurry Up and Wait: Get There. Get Prepared. And be Patient for the Opportunity.


Most plans do not survive first contact with the enemy. But good leaders put plans into action long before they face a critical situation. In this episode of Veteran Led, John Berry explores the military’s hurry up and wait mentality, where urgency meets focus and discipline. Through stories from military missions to experiences in his corporate career, John explains how urgency, patience, and preparation come together when we learn to apply the hurry up and wait mentality to the civilian business world. Execute at a time when others inevitably scramble.


Welcome fellow veterans. From the tip of the spear to in the rear with the gear, I went from active-duty Infantry to reserve-component logistician. I’m your host, CEO, entrepreneur, trial lawyer, and Lieutenant Colonel Retired, John Berry. The military lessons that I learned helped me grow an eight-figure business that has maintained consistent annual double-digit growth, landing on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America every year for the past seven years, and has allowed me to continue to serve America’s heroes.

Welcome to episode 5: Hurry Up and Wait: Get there. Get prepared. And be patient for the opportunity.

Hurry up and wait, where urgency meets focus and discipline. You’ve probably heard that quote by Seneca, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” But the senior leaders I met taught me that results are what happen when execution meets opportunity. Now, unfortunately for most of us, our first hurry up and wait experiences were awful. Think back to CIF, the Central Issue Facility. You showed up at the crack of dawn to wait in line for about an hour before it even opened, to wait in line to get gear that you were never going to use. And then you would hurry up and run to the chow hall where you would wait in line for 10, 20, 30 minutes. You would hurry to get to the firing range before the break of dawn to wait to fire your weapon. And then you would wait all day until everyone was done firing to quickly pick up brass and cigarette butts so that you could clear the range. And, of course, the line of departure, all the vehicles lined up, ready to go on to a mission two hours before we were ever going to LD. Hurry up and wait.

And so, it received a bad, I think a bad rap, but the truth is that a lot of our leaders really understood that hurry up to wait to be ready was something that was key to success in the military, and key to success in life. When opportunity shows up, you’d better be ready and that’s where hurry up and wait comes in. And I can remember my first first sergeant, as a young lieutenant, showing up in the company area, and as you know, you’re the officer and the first sergeant still salutes you, but the reality is everybody knows that that first sergeant works for the company commander and that he’s running the show.

And I can remember hearing the first sergeant barking commands throughout the company area through puffs of cigarette. He would, so sweaty, just beads of sweat and urgency just dripping off of his face as he moved quickly through the area, and he moved so fast that if he was coming up from behind you, you’d have boot marks on your back, unless, of course, you were the company commander. This first sergeant understood what it meant to hurry up and wait, and it didn’t matter whether we were going to a briefing, going to a range, he made sure that we were there early and we were there prepared so that when it was time to train, we were ready to train. And it was all about being ready and not missing that opportunity. Now, in today’s episode, I’m going to talk about hurry up and wait in hiring, hurry up and wait in marketing campaigns, and hurry up and wait in skills development.

But first I want to tell you another story about that first sergeant. On my first deployment to Bosnia, we were the Infantry Company in an Armored Task Force, and about five hours after getting back from a patrol, I got called into the TOC, the Tactical Operations Center. And the task force commander was there, and he said, “Berry, how fast can you get to {}?” {} was the town that I was in charge of, that my platoon was in charge of. I said, “Well, sir,” and at this point I’m a little bit concerned because the task force commander is grilling me, and we’d already been chastised for speeding in our Humvees on patrols. I said, “Well, sir, uh, at 50 kilometers an hour, it would take about 37 minutes.” He said, “Berry, that’s not what I asked. How quickly can you get there?” And what he was asking was, am I ready? And I’m thinking, we just got back in the gate, but that’s not what he wanted to hear. And so, I lied like any good lieutenant, “Sir, we’re ready to go now.”

Fortunately, the first sergeant was in that meeting, and he slipped out the back. I then received a briefing that some information had come down from Tuzla main that there was a war criminal in {}, and there was a plan to extract that war criminal this afternoon, and they needed outer ring security. And so, since we were the infantry platoon right there, they wanted us to go. As soon as I walked out of the TOC, my platoon sergeant was right there. He grabbed me, pulled me over to the Humvees, every vehicle was lined up, running, I gave a quick brief, we did radio checks, and we were out the gate. And as soon as we arrived and set up, we could hear the helicopters overhead, the unmarked vehicles came in through our entry point, and the extraction happened. And the point is, hurry up and wait is what got us through that mission, that as soon as the first sergeant knew that something was coming, he was getting the team ready to go. And of course, they had to wait for me to receive the brief, but we were ready to go.

Now, as far as how that’s applied in my civilian life, there’s so many opportunities that I’ve had that I was not prepared for. I didn’t understand the hurry up and wait. As a civilian, with no sweaty first sergeant barking orders at me, I totally lost sight of the hurry up and wait concept, and that came back to bite me. I can remember about seven years ago, we were preparing to hire our first CTO, Chief Technology Officer. We had great plans for how we were going to streamline our business and build efficiencies through technology. We just didn’t have the person. And so, we decided that the next quarter we were going to hire this person.

And bam, we find him, this Marine who had a ton of experience, was the perfect candidate, was working as a contractor at a local air force base. It all seemed to fall into place. He came over, he loved our culture, loved our ideas, and then three days later when we tried to hire him, he had already accepted another offer.

Well, what happened? Well, what happened was we didn’t hurry up and wait. When he showed up, we should have already had the job description done. We should have known how much we were going to offer him. We should have had the list of projects together, but we didn’t. We didn’t hurry up and wait. We just waited for the opportunity, and that is where we failed.

But after that, I learned an important lesson about hiring people. There was a woman that I desperately wanted to hire, and it took me four years to hire her. I had to hurry to establish a relationship, made sure that I stayed engaged with her about every quarter, just checked in, see how she was doing, and then she was set for a huge promotion, she didn’t get it, she was upset, and I came in and said, “Look, we’re ready to hire you right now.” And two days later, she accepted the job.

There was another individual that I had known for years, and I always assumed that he was, he worked at the company 10 times the size of ours, he would never be interested. He’s a high-level executive. He was mentoring me. And at one point, his company faced the challenge that a lot of companies face, the senior leadership challenges, a lot of turnover, and all of a sudden, this company doesn’t seem so great. They brought in a whole new team, and he didn’t like it. And he didn’t like the direction the company was going. And that’s when I realized it was time to strike. So, I had been waiting for years, but as soon as I saw that he was available, I hurried up and I hired him. And that’s the way you get the talent. You have to be ready because the talent isn’t just going to be out there. The talent is going to be from the relationships that you develop.

The experts will tell you, “Hire slow, fire fast,” but the truth is you’ve got to be ready to hire right away. The best talent is never looking for a job. They’re never on Indeed or Glassdoor. They are happy. They’re satisfied. And it’s the relationships you build with them that are going to create an opportunity later. But when that opportunity arrives, you had better have that job description, you’d better know how much you’re going to pay them and be prepared to make an offer on the spot. Because believe me, if you want to hire them, so does everybody else.

The next area where I totally failed to hurry up and wait was in a huge marketing campaign. Now, I spent a ton of money on this campaign, thought it was a brilliant idea, and when it launched, we weren’t getting new clients and I couldn’t figure it out. So, I immediately checked the phones, and I’m expecting all these calls, sales; none of it happened. And so, we started digging into the phone system and it turned out we were dropping 50 percent of the calls. That means 50 percent of the people who were calling our company, prospective new clients and old clients, weren’t getting through. So, this is a huge problem. So, I talked to, we had recently hired someone who had run a call center, and I asked her, and I said, “What’s going on here?” She’s like, “Well, we can’t answer all the calls. We need an IVR.” I’m like, “What’s an IVR?” It’s an interactive voice response. Okay, what that means is essentially someone’s going to call and get a recording, and I didn’t want that. I’m like, “No, I don’t want an IVR.” She’s like, “This is the only way we’re going to fix it.” Fine. We’ll put in the IVR. That’s what we did.

We put in the IVR, and we were able to separate prospective clients from current clients. Unfortunately, when I did the analysis at the end of the week, we were still dropping 50 percent. But the sad thing was, this was 50 percent of prospective new clients. That means we were dropping half of our sales calls. And later I found out there’s something called a data dip, where when someone calls in, the system can determine whether this is a new client or a current client, and then send it to the right person on the phone.

Now, we didn’t know any of that. And so, this whole marketing initiative absolutely failed. I failed to hurry up and wait. I was so excited to launch this new marketing campaign that I failed to have the operational patience to ensure our sales team was trained, to ensure that I understood the phone system, and to understand that the leaders understood the phone system well enough to identify problems. So, understand that the hurry up and wait mentality that you learned at CIF, that was taught to you by your first sergeant, the experience throughout your entire military career has set you up for success.

After Action Review: number one, show up early and show up prepared. That’s what builds trust. When you can show up at the right place, right time, in the right uniform. Number two, when you’re ready, time is on your side. Don’t rush it if you don’t have to. Number three, patience gives you an advantage and it gives you credibility.

Now the three down. Greatness requires consistent compounding of skill building. That means it doesn’t happen overnight. Number two, mastery takes time. Relationships take time. And problem solving happens at the right time. Finally, there’s never a perfect time to do anything, but there are times that are more advantageous than others. There is a good time to run a TV commercial. There is a good time to reach out to a prospect. There is a great time to return calls. Understand that. That if you can hurry up and wait, the opportunity is there, and results happen when preparation meets opportunity.

Thank you for joining us today on Veteran Led, where we pursue our mission of promoting veteran leadership in business, strengthening the veteran community, and getting veterans all of the benefits that they earned. If you know a leader who should be on the Veteran Led podcast, report to our online community by searching @veteranled on your favorite social channels and posting in the comments. We want to hear how your military challenges prepared you to lead your industry or community, and we will let the world know. And of course, hit subscribe and join me next time on Veteran Led.

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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