Some people enlist in the United States Military solely out of love for country, but other service members join for reasons that have more practical application to their career prospects. The U.S. Military boasts a technological superiority that is the envy of the world, and it provides considerably generous benefits to help service members pay tuition for college or vocational training.
As such, military experience makes job applicants seem more disciplined, experienced and skilled than many competing civilians in the job market. However, their tenure in the military oftentimes ends in mental anguish so severe that it impedes their ability to live a normal life.
A 2019 survey from the Pew Research Center found that one in six Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have found it difficult to readjust to civilian life upon return. In the same poll, one-third of the 1,284 veterans surveyed said they have experienced trouble in paying their bills and meeting other basic needs when it came time to start a new life after leaving the military.
North Dallas resident Jim Steinmark is one of the many veterans whose military training has equipped him for a life of formidable achievement. He has used entrepreneurship as a vehicle for success in civilian life. With the platform and resources he has accumulated over the years, he dedicates his life to helping other veterans thrive in the competitive job market just as he did.
“People always say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ and then they think, ‘Well, you were in the Air Force, so you flew,’ or, ‘You were in the Army, so you drove a tank,’ but there’s a lot more to veterans than that,” Steinmark explains. “The military gave me an opportunity to become an educated man.”
Steinmark’s exposure to military life happened well before he enlisted in the United States Air Force, as he was raised in a military family and spent his childhood living in various parts of the world. Upon graduating high school in Hawaii, he enlisted in the Air Force in 1981 and served in active duty until 1992. In the interim, he obtained two associates degrees, which translated to a bachelor of science in electronics engineering at Chapman University. Toward the end of his active service, he earned his master of applied science in operations and management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
With 11 years of education and training under his belt, Steinmark joined the Air Force Reserve and ventured into the then-burgeoning Internet technology industry as a design engineer for Compaq. In 2001, the year his time in the Reserve came to an end, Steinmark worked as a consultant for Microsoft. His service to country did not end there; however, as he used his expertise to help financial firms recover in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The recipients of this aid had offices in the World Trade Center who performed crucial operations.
“They lost everything, to include their back-up systems, the tapes that all their data was stored on, their paper – for the most part – was gone,” he recalls. “We took them and reconstituted some office space and then eventually some trading capabilities in New Jersey.” Following the terrorist attacks, Steinmark extended his strategic prowess to helping design systems more impervious to such unforeseen disasters.
In the years since, Steinmark’s IT experience extended to other big-name firms such as Fidelity Investments. The ubiquitous necessity of the services he provides have led to opportunities in various industries, be it healthcare, logistics or automotive. In describing the precise nature of his work to an audience of laypeople, Steinmark says, “I am an IT executive that develops strategy to apply technology to grow businesses or make them more profitable.”
His time as an IT executive led him to New Hampshire, where he met his wife, Sheila (née Rondeau), via eHarmony. Two days after they eloped in 2011, they moved to north Texas, where they currently reside.
“We just love it here,” he says with a tone of contentment. “It’s a fantastic community – great culture, great atmosphere. It meets our personal and political views, so it’s just a great fit for us.”
Upon this move, Jim became a managing director at Dell, while Sheila became a managing partner at Plano-based marketing firm MOGXP, a position she holds to this day.
Like her husband, Sheila is also a veteran. During a 14-year stretch as a service member of the U.S. Army, she got her first taste of marketing in working as a project manager for Anheuser-Busch. Her focus in marketing revolves around a technique known as “experiential marketing,” or engagement marketing. This form of marketing focuses on the more interactive properties of a brand in trying to make consumers feel a sense of connection. Some of MOGXP’s past clients include CVS Pharmacy, Live Nation and Toyota.
Mr. Steinmark left Dell three years upon moving to the Metroplex. Since 2017, he has owned Crimson Technology Partners, a technology consultant firm based in Plano. Amid the success of this operation, he decided to allot his time in delving into an entirely unrelated industry: soft washing.
“I’m always growing as a business owner and as a leader,” he says. “I went to a business owners’ mastermind course in Destin [Florida], and then again in Houston. In those mastermind groups were folks who owned companies like carpet cleaning companies or window washing companies … they were all service-oriented, and I just really noticed how that industry impacted people in a very positive way.”
These courses helped Steinmark identify an under-tapped market in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. After spending two years learning the ropes of the exterior cleaning industry, his fortuitous entry began when he opened the aptly-named Patriot Softwash in January of this year.
One distinctive core competency that has made customer acquisition possible for Patriot Softwash is the fact that even the most luxurious houses are vulnerable to organic stains such as mildew, grime and algae. Steinmark maintains that customers oftentimes do not even know their home needs a soft wash until they opt for his service. But even a cohort of those that recognize the necessity for an exterior clean buy into a common misconception that self-administered pressure washing can achieve the same result.
Steinmark displays an encyclopedic knowledge of exterior cleaning and bacteriology. It is certainly a far cry from his technological background, but just as his service in the Air Force equipped him to venture into the Internet technology circuit, his experience as an IT executive helped him become a more effective leader as the owner of Patriot Softwash.
As Steinmark himself puts it, “The program and project management skills you have to have as an IT professional [are] really important when you’re looking at estimating, selling or deciding what the first steps are, how to lay out a job, how to keep a customer happy.” These values align with his emphasis on service, and this extends well beyond his professional life.
Steinmark has made it a point to use his platform to help veterans adjust to civilian life. From 2017 to 2018, he served on the board of directors for Momentum Texas, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides professional training and resources to veterans in helping them pursue the American dream.
“I taught them how to start their own company,” he recounts. “How do you learn how to do a profit-and-loss statement? What’s a good marketing plan? How do you write a business plan?” As the committee chair and founding member of the Veteran’s Council of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, he has also worked to educate local employers on the benefits of hiring service members. In addition to acting as a referral agency, the Veteran’s Council also gives its job applicants resources and training for personal and professional development. In these endeavors, Steinmark has earned the unwavering support of city officials.
“The great thing is, the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, the Frisco City Council and the Frisco Mayor are all very pro-veteran and pro-military, so it makes the job very easy,” he lauds. Easy or not, one of the key pillars of Steinmark’s very being is the act of service, whether it be his service to country, his community or even his customers.
“I want to give back to others as they build their companies so they can grow and be self-sufficient,” he says. “My legacy is entrepreneurship.”
The unfortunate reality is that veterans with success stories like Steinmark’s are greatly outnumbered by the number of veterans who struggle to start or maintain a career in the civilian world. While there are indeed enormous differences between life as a soldier and life as a civilian, servitude remains a constant for people who have experienced both realms like Steinmark. So if you tell Steinmark, “Thank you for your service,” just remember that it is still ongoing.
Garrett Gravley is a Dallas-based arts and entertainment writer, journalist, and music critic.