JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – I wanted to do a big story with U.S. Marine Corps veteran Joe Padlo so the entire world would know who he is and how he just received a huge honor from the federal government for hiring military veterans.
But, he told me no -- sort of. He said the story he wanted to tell is not about him at all, but rather about how he hopes to inspire other business owners to follow his lead and hire our nation's heroes.
That made me want to do his story even more. Can you blame me?
Padlo owns Veterans Elite Services in Jacksonville. His business, along with five other companies across the country, caught the eye of the Department of Labor. On Nov. 8, Padlo, his wife Brandie, and several of his employees went to Washington, D.C. to receive the 2018 HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration Award, which recognizes job creators for their leadership in recruiting, employing, and retaining America's veterans.
"I hire veterans because I want to have the best company in the country," Padlo said to the D.C. audience. "I want to have a national organization that always provides the best services possible and the only way to do that in my opinion is to hire veterans."
Here's the deal: Padlo started his maintenance and janitorial business in Jacksonville in 2014 under a different name: U.S. Military Maintenance. He had two employees.
Eight years later, Padlo has 34 military veterans working for him and he pays them a living wage. Along the way, he also changed his company's name to "Veterans Elite Services," a name to better represent who they are and what they do.
"I want to be a selfish business owner and the only way to be a selfish business owner is to hire the best people, and those best people are veterans," Padlo said after receiving his HIRE Vets Platinum Medallion from U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
Last year, President Trump signed into law the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) American Military Veterans Act, creating the HIRE Vets Medallion Program.
Padlo told me receiving this national award is not about him. He said it's about his employees, his clients and his suppliers.
"I look at my company and the U.S. economy as a MAGTF -- Marine Air-Ground Task Force where multiple units come together. It’s an Air Unit, Ground Unit and Force Service Support Unit coming together to accomplish the mission and make our country a better place, and the world a better place," explained Padlo.
"So when I look at my company, and I look at who I hire and how I hire, I also look at the whole picture. I look at internally, also externally. Who are my clients? Are my clients hiring veterans? If they are not, I will make sure that they know how to do it. Who are my suppliers?"
The Marine Corps veteran wants other business owners -- veteran or not -- to look at their own companies like a combined task force too, which will result in a positive impact on military communities everywhere.
So, while standing at the podium in Washington, with national leaders listening to every word he said, Padlo took the spotlight off himself and turned it on all business owners, making it clear they are invited and encouraged to join his mission.
"I want to leave here by challenging all of you -- anyone that can hear my voice -- to go out and hire more veterans," he said. "And not just inside your organization, but look outside. Look at who you are working with. Talk to those folks, talk to those suppliers, and ask them to hire veterans as well."
Well said, Joe Padlo.