When Mike Patenaude retired from the Army 20 years ago, he had little trouble translating his military experience to a lucrative second career in the corporate sector. The ex-ROTC director was adept at team building and operational oversight, skills that allowed him entry into the highest levels of a number of diverse companies. Now, Patenaude is leveraging his decades of leadership experience, both military and civilian, to run his own business, an Office Evolution franchise in Nashville, Tennessee.
Throughout Patenaude’s long and diverse career, owning his own business was always a goal. “It’s been on the bucket list,” he said. There’s little doubt that ownership suits Patenaude, who says he gravitates toward leadership roles.
“I enjoy working with people, helping them grow to see their full potential,” Patenaude said. In the ROTC, Patenaude would “meet with young people who wanted and needed a sense of belonging — a connection, a purpose. I simply helped steer them in the right direction.”
When Patenaude left the military and entered the corporate world in 1999, “the transition was simple. These companies have a goal — an objective — they just need someone disciplined to get them there. With my military experience, I knew I had an opportunity to help them succeed.”
Over the next 16 years, Patenaude took on a number of high-level positions with a variety of business both small and large, cultivating an expertise in building and implementing operational processes and protocols.
In 2015, Patenaude decided the time to own his own business had come. “It was now or never.” So he left his job in the corporate world and began evaluating his options.
It didn’t take long for him to land on franchising. Patenaude saw promising parallels between franchising and the military, both of which offer established operational playbooks and institutionalized support systems.
“Leading a unit in the military is similar to leading any other organization, but this is particularly true when it comes to franchises,” he said. “You have a mission and a process and are left in charge of making it successful.”
Set on owning a franchise, Patenaude reached out to a broker to help find a concept that would complement his goals, budget and skill set. Of the options his broker presented, Office Evolution immediately stood out.
Office Evolution provides workspaces for business owners and professionals of all company sizes and industries. Because workspaces are shared, the franchise encourages a collaborative work environment that still provides the privacy and discretion that any business requires.
The trend toward virtual office spaces and home-based businesses has been growing in recent years, and Office Evolution’s model has proven particularly attractive to entrepreneurs and startups looking to build relationships with other local business professionals while keeping their overhead low. Patenaude saw in Office Evolution an opportunity to capitalize on a fast-growing and significantly under-tapped market with a model that had already proven effective.
“I thought to myself, ‘this could be really good,’” Patenaude remembers. “This franchise gets it. While other shared office space companies were working to support professionals in the larger metro cities, Office Evolution was reaching a diverse group of business owners in the suburbs. It was exactly what I was looking for.”
Office Evolution’s simple, low-overhead model allowed Patenaude to get a business up and running quickly, without having to hire and train a staff, giving him the opportunity to focus on its backend success. Crucially, Patenaude also saw in Office Evolution a level of support — one of his primary reasons for turning to franchising in the first place — that far exceeded what he saw in other concepts.
“They are focused on franchisee success,” he said. “They give you the tools to run a strong business. It’s everything I wanted and expected from franchising.”
Mark Hemmeter, Office Evolution’s founder and CEO, says that level of support is baked into Office Evolution’s core philosophy.
“At the corporate office, and across our franchise system, we are a group of people working together for a common goal,” said Hemmeter. “I was born and raised in Honolulu, and the guiding principle of Ohana, or ‘family,’ perfectly describes the way we approach business. We honor and respect our members, franchisees and corporate employees, and that shows throughout the company. We’re all in this together.”
Patenaude signed to open his first Office Evolution in June of 2016, and he says the support he saw in discovery has not let up since.
“We chose a building in an old industrial neighborhood that is being revitalized as a residential area. The building wasn’t even open yet, but their corporate team worked with me throughout the entire process so that I was prepared to open successfully,” he said.
That location choice was no shot in the dark. Office Evolution boasts a sophisticated market-analysis model that reviews a deep well of data to find locations where the business is likely to thrive.
Hemmeter says the franchise typically looks for well-populated suburban neighborhoods where there are likely to be more home offices.
“We’re looking for markets with a high density of home-based businesses, and we tend to find those on the outskirts of metropolitan areas,” Hemmeter said. “We look very carefully at every market we consider to make sure every one of our owners is positioned for success.”
That strategy worked for Patenaude, who says his Office Evolution quickly found an eager client base.
“People are really excited for something like Office Evolution to open in their neighborhood,” he said. “We saw a lot of interest right off the bat, and that hasn’t slowed down.”
Now that Patenaude’s Office Evolution is up and running, he says he’s taking full advantage of another key benefit of the franchise model: semi-absentee ownership.
“I effectively retired in 2015, but I still wanted to own a business,” he said. “Office Evolution is the perfect way for me to build and grow something of my own without having to give up my personal life."
Mostly, Patenaude says he’s happy to be building a team again, flexing the muscles he’s been exercising for his entire career.
“I like to run the show,” he said. “Office Evolution is a great model, and they’ve given me the tools to run a great company.”