Defining A New Reality

Hubby for Hire. That’s the name Debbie Spindler initially had in mind for husband Rick’s post-corporate-world venture.

Once a field operations manager for a large telecommunications company, Rick received the ubiquitous pink slip in March 2009 and the comfortable lifestyle his family was accustomed to during the past two decades was replaced with a new reality:  Dad had been laid off.  Rick quickly wearied of sifting through mountains of online job applications and trying to land even a return phone call in response to his resume.  Although he had several interviews during his diligent job search, Rick found himself not honestly answering the standard, “Why do you want to work here?” question.

“The fact of the matter was, I really didn’t want to work for another large company,” says Rick.  “I wanted to steer my own ship for years, but with the pay and benefits I was receiving at my job, it didn’t make sense to walk away.  I have a wife and two children–one of them disabled–depending on me.”

An eternal self-starter, Rick, along with Debbie’s encouragement decided to embark on a life-long dream of launching a professional remodeling and repair business that provided affordable, custom work for clients.  He was spurred by the appeal of being his own boss and also the opportunity to use his hands and building skills to make a difference in people’s lives.

“Rick has always been a handy guy and is obsessed with attention to detail,” says Debbie.  “He’s done many projects in homes we’ve owned over the years, both in Florida and Overland Park, including kitchen and bath remodels to appliance repairs.”

The business was jump-started with a whimsical ad Debbie placed on the Spindlers’ south Johnson County neighborhood Web site, touting Rick’s talents and a willingness to share her “best-kept secret” with people anxious to remodel or make repairs around their homes.  A more business-friendly name made the ultimate cut as the couple cobbled together an entrepreneurial vision:  Blue Valley Remodeling and Repair.  

“The phone rang, rang and rang some more,” says Debbie.  “We received requests from turning on sprinklers and hanging lights to designing and finishing a basement.”

Suddenly the Spindlers were in business, and Rick left the world of conference calls, posturing E-mails and back-to-back-meetings behind. Now he dresses in jeans and a T-shirt instead of corporate attire and hammers and saws have replaced spreadsheets and computers. Rick lost 30 pounds, went down two pant sizes and saw minor health issues disappear soon after starting the business.  Now he arrives home at night tired but genuinely satisfied about the work he accomplishes and the people he helps.

“When we realized things were coming together and how happy Rick was, we decided he would never go back to a corporate environment without giving the business a real go,” says Debbie.

Debbie assists in the business with scheduling, marketing, working up bids and designing rooms.  She shares Rick’s eagle eye for quality control and detail–points-of-difference the Spindlers know customers appreciate.

“We’ve worked with enough contractors over the years to know that not everyone has integrity,” says Debbie.  “Rick loves to be a general contractor and is adept at coordinating a team of vendors to achieve an excellent product.”

The back story to Rick Spindler’s job challenges is a bittersweet one.  The couple has a disabled 20-year-old son, Michael, who is afflicted with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy.  Michael was diagnosed with the severe recessive muscle degenerative disease at age 4 and is now a quadriplegic who must be turned over four to six times during the middle of the night to prevent bedsores.  Rick and Debbie take turns tending to their son during the wee hours of the morning, while Debbie is the primary caregiver during the day.

The day Michael was diagnosed, the Spindlers made a pact that their singular goal was to make their son’s life the best it could possibly be.  They say it’s tough emotionally and physically, but the rewards of loving their child and providing for him far outweigh the negatives.

“An important part of our mission with Blue Valley Remodeling and Repair is the ‘golden rule,'” says Rick.  “We want to give back to the community in a way that has personally touched our lives.”

In addition to building garage shelves and remodeling rooms, Rick helps clients who need to adapt their living environment to accommodate a physically challenged family member.  Making a home handicapped accessible is a passion the Spindlers have that goes far beyond two-by-fours and plywood, something they say can help someone live a more dignified life.

Debbie and Rick designed a three-level elevator for Michael and worked with an architect to help execute the design in the couple’s suburban home.

“I’m uniquely qualified to use the knowledge I’ve gained in living with Michael to help others,” says Rick.  “I’ve heard too many stories about people not being able to access their home safely or easily get to the bathroom to bathe.  I can’t bear to think, ‘What if that was my son or daughter?'”

The Spindlers have a 14-year-old daughter, Oksana, whom they adopted from Russia when she was 7 and didn’t speak a word of English.  The vibrant teenager now is a ninth grader at Blue Valley, fluent in English and a driven honor student focused on community service and a possible career as a doctor.  According to Rick the family sticks together like glue through tough times.

Debbie and Rick acknowledge they’ve had to make adjustments in their lives as they adapt to their new reality but also stress they’re doing something they both enjoy.

“I think everyone has the thought of controlling their own destiny run through their mind,” admits Rick.  “You get in that comfort zone with great benefits and money, but you’re not happy in the job.”

And Debbie is the first one to say that the “hubby for hire” concept has added to the family’s overall happy quotient. 

words: Kimberly Stern

photos: Gary Rohman