True North Enterprises – Neosho, MO

  • Published: Monday, July 8, 2019

Jimmy Burgess, owner of True North Enterprises in Neosho, Missouri, wants to remove what he calls “death by PowerPoint” from leadership trainings. His mission is to create leaders by teaching civilians the skills that he and his team of veterans learned during their military service. 

“We’re trying to change the culture,” explains Burgess. “We’re trying to empower people and improve companies because if you improve the workforce, you improve the bottom line.”

Abilities like critical thinking and teamwork are emphasized during three different trainings that take place in an outdoor obstacle course. Individual groups and employees from local businesses participate in the exercises and different interactive classroom lectures to develop specific skills 

True North is growing and cultivating heavy presence in the local veteran community. But Burgess admits that the business idea came to him after years of considering entrepreneurship. 

Burgess served for twelve years in the Army and completed three combat tours in Iraq. He considered starting a landscaping business when he returned home. However, providing for his family was a priority. So, he began working at a local casino instead. But the idea of owning a business still appealed to him, even after he began working as an EMT and firefighter.  

Being a first responder for five years provided Burgess with an opportunity to help others and created a passion for serving his community. This desire coupled with the leadership skills he had learned throughout his military service inspired him to open True North. 

While Burgess had his idea, he concedes that he still needed some help getting started. In September of 2017, he was directed by a local veteran’s advocacy group to the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted at Missouri Southern State University. There, he met with Karen Bradshaw, an SBDC business consultant. 

Together, they discussed the feasibility of Burgess’s idea. Bradshaw also provided Burgess with resources to help him write a business plan, understand how to register his LLC with the state of Missouri, and create financial projections. 

“The SBDC was fantastic,” Burgess says. “Because of them, I had a clearer picture of what it was I needed to do to be successful. I always knew I had that phone number in my pocket, in case I had a question.” 

With Bradshaw’s help, True North went from an idea to an open business in just a few weeks. Burgess contributes part of this quick turnaround time to his work ethic. However, he says that his military service was what really prepared him to become a business owner.

“There’s no doubt that my time in the military gave me the skills I needed to become an entrepreneur,” says Burgess. “I was a special operations guy and I think all special ops work on a certain level of entrepreneurship because they have to be creative and have ingenuity.” 

Burgess’s military service also provided him with a desire to help his fellow veterans. True North offers veteran employment services as part of this goal. Burgess and his team assist companies in finding the right veteran for their team and help veterans sharpen their soft skills while encouraging them to apply their expertise from the military to their new careers. 

And True North’s dedication to helping veterans does not end there. They also support a nonprofit called The Brotherhood of Warriors. The organization assists veterans in making the difficult transition back to civilian life, helping with everything from housing to interview skills. 

As True North continues to grow and connect a community of veterans, Burgess says he never imagined the business becoming what it is today. 

“I think like everybody, there’s that fear of failure,” he explains. “It’s about navigating those seas of normal worry and being able to put your effort into success.” 

For Burgess, being open to learning new things and receiving help from others is the key to keeping his head above those waters. So, his advice to new business owners is simple: humility. 

“Be open to advice, don’t be afraid to ask questions,” he advises. “Everybody wants to be the expert in what they’re looking to do, but humbleness is something that you have to have as a new business owner.” 

As for veterans who are looking to become entrepreneurs, Burgess has a different suggestion. He emphasizes the value in the support that veterans can offer one another and the need for a community between veterans. Burgess also reminds former service members to not shy away from their veteran title and to use it to their advantage in all pursuits, entrepreneurial or not. 

“Be confident in utilizing the veteran tag,” recommends Burgess. “It’s something that you’ve earned.”