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Columbia veteran looks to career in business after deployments overseas

COLUMBIA, SC — After his third deployment overseas managing thousands of communications soldiers in war zones, Columbia’s Ron Adams retired from the Army looking for a career that would allow him to be his own boss and offer him the structure the military once provided.

He is not alone. More than a decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, most of the 2.5 million troops sent overseas are back home and finding new ways to adjust to life after the military.

And while companies – ranging from AT&T to Xerox – have committed to hiring veterans, a push also is being made to introduce veterans to franchising. Operation Enduring Opportunity is a campaign launched by The International Franchise Association and the business community to hire and recruit as franchise owners 80,000 veterans and their spouses through the end of this year.

One in seven franchises – more than 66,000 – in the U.S. is owned by a veteran, according to VetFran, a program founded by the association that trains and mentors veterans for small business ownership or franchising. Veterans make good franchise owners, the program says on its website, because they are good leaders who thrive on standardized systems inherent to running franchise operations.

Adams, a 44-year-old Northeast Richland resident, retired from the Army in September 2012 and began seeking help to find a new career.

“I was not sure what I was looking for so I took some assessment tests from a life coach, and he helped me figure out what a good fit for me was,” Adams said.

Adams met life coach Matt Thorton at a job fair on Fort Jackson where Thorton helped Adams discover the possibility of owning his own business and determine who to contact to create his business.

“Matt got me in contact with the Small Business Development Center downtown. They are a godsend to veterans who want to start their own business,” Adams said.

In collaboration with Pete Oliver, the center’s Columbia-area manager, Adams created a business plan for his NHance franchise, a Home Depot service that offers cabinet and floor renewal services.

“We help veterans because they are well-qualified, well-educated, natural leaders who know how to build and maintain a team,” Oliver said.

After his decision to start an NHance franchise, Adams underwent a 10-day training course to better understand what the company has to offer.

The franchise appealed to him, he said, because the refinishing process is quick and environmentally friendly and the hassle homeowners face in minimal. Also, Adams said that the cost of refurbishing cabinets and flooring comes at a fraction of the cost of replacements.

Adams has enlisted the help of his family to get the business started and hopes to build it into a family business that his children can one day run. His father-in-law helps with the refurbishing process, and his wife, Marvinia Adams, who is currently still in Afghanistan as a contracting officer with the Department of Defense, helps on the administrative side. She comes home every three months not only to see the family, but to check up on business and educate herself on new products.

And his children -- Dawane Taylor, 24, who works in construction, Shanea Adams, a 22-year-old University of South Carolina student, and Tevin Adams, 18 and a senior at Ridgeview High School -- also are learning the business.

“This is something that can create a legacy for the family,” Adams said. “I am training my two sons in the hands-on process and my daughter on the administrative side.”

Adams chose to open NHance in Columbia not only because it is a good fit for him and his family, but because it can help him reach his goal of giving back to other veterans. His current goal is to own two more territories in Columbia and to hire as many veterans as possible.

“I want to give back to veterans. I’ve had some of the same symptoms for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) so I can relate to them,” Adams said. “I really wanted to find a business where I could give back to them.”

By the numbers

1 in 7 - Franchises in the U.S. owned by a veteran

80,000 - Number of veterans and their spouses targeted by Operation Enduring Opportunity for jobs or as franchise owners by the end of the year

600 - Number of S.C. National Guardsmen expected to return this year. Last year, 1,000 soldiers and airmen returned from deployment. In all, the S.C. National Guard has deployed more than 18,000 since Sept. 11, 2001.

SOURCES: VetFran and S.C. National Guard

Do you need help?

Veterans looking to franchise can get more information on opportunities at vetfran.com.

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