Paul “Buddy” Rhoades has spent more than three decades in the military, twenty of those years in the Army National Guard and more time in the Army Reserves. He spent time at the Pentagon in a logistics/supply role and did a one-year tour in Afghanistan, getting U.S. and NATO troops the equipment they needed. Yet when the Roanoke Valley native returned from the Middle East last year he couldn’t find a job in corporate America. So the former Verizon call center team leader took matters into his own hands.
Rhoades (53), who had always been sort of a handyman (owning a home with his wife Robin that dates back to the 1800’s will help) decided to purchase a ProTect Painters franchise and now offers interior and exterior painting to clients. A $2500 veterans discount from ProTect corporate to honor Rhoades’ military service didn’t hurt either.
Rhoades hires subcontractors to do the work; ProTect has supplied a well-regarded reputation that some may find reassuring when looking for a painting contractor.
“Actually the Pentagon was worse to work at than Afghanistan,” Rhoades said with a chuckle about his time at the hectic military nerve center in Northern Virginia. He thought that a top-secret security clearance would help him land a job after coming home from Afghanistan but the sluggish economy didn’t help.
It’s hard at times for veterans to come home and readapt to civilian life, according to Rhoades, who feels some employers may shy away for fear that ex-military personnel suffer consequences from exposure to combat. While in the Middle East he helped keep NATO units supplied with equipment that was often used in training Afghan soldiers.
“There’s not a whole lot out there around here,” said Rhoades, who won’t draw any Army retirement benefits until he’s around 60. He tracked equipment and shipments in the Army Reserves, “everything going in and out of country during the three wars [fought during his tenure].” Rhoades briefed generals on a daily basis on the status of supplies and equipment.
It didn’t lead to a job back home, but Rhoades (now a Major in the Reserves) considered it good training for managing his own business. Now he works to make sure his ProTect subcontractors finish their painting assignments on time, delivering quality work. Rhoades sunk some of his savings into opening his franchise with the approval of his wife. “I’ve always wanted to be in business.”
In fact, he has the first ProTect franchise in Virginia, after looking at a number of options. The company’s mission fit with the home restoration work he and his wife had done on their downtown Salem home in the past. “Curb appeal I feel is very important. You really like it when you look at your home from the road and say, you know, my house is pretty neat.” That curb appeal is crucial when it comes time to sell that home as well.
“I like to help other people understand that they may have a good thing,” explains Rhoades, “all you have to do is put a little makeup on it. That’s why I started it, I want to help everyone else.” He spent several days in Ann Arbor, Michigan at ProTect’s headquarters, getting a good feel for the company.
The same conglomerate that owns ProTect also counts Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman and 1-800-Dry Clean in its portfolio. ProTect supplied the computer system and marketing materials. All estimates are based on the amount of work needed and the square footage of the job. Rhoades quotes based off a software program he carries around on his tablet.
Rhoades can go anywhere in Virginia but focuses his work in the Roanoke and New River Valleys and around Smith Mountain Lake. Being told he’s the “most professional,” painter clients have encountered has been gratifying.
“It’s just the way I run the business – kind of a tight ship,” noted Rhoades, “that’s the way you keep business and get [referrals]. It’s up to me now.”
Find Rhoades on Facebook; search for ProTect painters of the Roanoke Valley. Call 553-8215 or e-mail [email protected].