There are a number of reasons why Asheville continues to make the many “Best of” lists. Asheville and the surrounding area’s tourism-based economy draws people in part because of its beauty and access to amazing outdoor activities, the many great restaurants (most with a Farm-to-Table and organic focus), its vast live music and art scene, and let’s not forget the thriving brewery businesses.
People come to visit and many wish to stay … let’s face it, Asheville is a hot market! And where jobs are concerned, new development and redevelopment are bringing new businesses to the area. Let’s look at the numbers. According to Forbes, Asheville is #40 in Best Places for Business and Careers and #10 in the Cost of Doing Business.
As of September 2016, data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Job Growth rose 2.3% with Unemployment at 3.8%. For the past six years, Asheville has seen year-over-year employment growth.Not surprisingly, at the crest of the job growth is the health services industry. Next in line is the professional and business services sector that includes accounting, architecture, law, and consulting firms—jobs offering higher pay and requiring a higher level of education.About now, you may be asking yourself how you can tap into this growth and find a job in Western North Carolina (WNC).
The process of finding a job has changed dramatically over the years, with even the content and formatting of your resume changing.
There are companies that can help you navigate this process and two family-owned businesses are options in this area: Express Employment Professionals, located in Asheville, and Friday Staffing, with offices in Arden, Hendersonville and Morganton. On the surface, some may think this type of business doesn’t have much of an impact on the marketplace; however, this industry makes a large financial contribution to the job market.
In 1987, John Modaff and his wife, Diane, bought Friday Temporary Help Services, tapping into his customer service experience as a commercial banking officer to successfully compete with national and international firms.
What had started with one person working out of her home on one job at a time with revenues to match grew into Friday Staffing, with revenues of $20 million and 22 internal employees covering eight WNC counties. Friday has 500 - 700 employees assigned to work at over 200 client companies. They handle traditional industrial and clerical staffing, but also provide workers in technical and professional fields.
Express Pros is another family business that provides a much-needed service to individuals and businesses. Their tradition of “helping good people find good companies and good companies find good people” supports their process.
Being successful in this field and connecting the right job seekers with employers is a skill that takes more than matching resumes with job descriptions.
With a team of certified employment professionals who focus on specific industry sectors, Express has the business knowledge to be able to more effectively consult with their Associates (individuals who have successfully completed the Express application process). Services are available to help support Express Associates, and the connections the Express staffing representatives make with businesses provide the team with a much deeper understanding of the need.
Gary Gallagher is at the helm of Express. Gary’s daughter, Meredith Campbell, is co-owner and has the distinctive title of Chief Joy Facilitator. This helps set the stage for what is important for this company. They have a heart-driven philosophy where they truly care about the people they work with—where doing their job right means losing their Associates that get hired by companies with whom they get placed.
I had an opportunity to visit their office recently and was greeted by Meredith’s dog, WhoDey, a rather large, friendly Golden Doodle. Thank you cards line the window where Lauren, the front office coordinator, provides fast and friendly service. With a fish tank angled near computers set up for Associates to use, the office has a warm and welcoming feeling.
Asheville Express is a franchise, which means they have the right to use the award-winning, successful business model and proven methods from Express Employment Professionals International, in business since 1983. With access to staffing resources and tools provided by the international company, the Asheville Express team are the experts in the local job market. Prior to moving to Asheville in 2006, Gary had spent most of his career in sales and Human Resources with large corporations, two of which were Fortune 50 firms. After attending UNC Asheville, Gary’s oldest daughter decided to stay. With the birth of their first grandchild, and a request from his company to transfer, Gary and his wife decided he should leave the corporate world behind, and together, they would create something of their own in Asheville.
When they moved here, the local Express franchise had been operating since 1997. Gary had met the owner through a networking event and decided to contact him about a job. As it turned out, the owner was interested in selling the business, and following a due-diligence period Gary took over ownership of the Asheville Express franchise in April 2007.
Gary was able to lure his younger daughter, Meredith, to Asheville to potentially become part of the business. Following a process where the current Express team interviewed Meredith, she was hired in 2007 and became co-owner in 2014.
While this is a true family business, Meredith runs the day-to-day operations and according to Gary, is the “oil that keeps the engine running.” Gary explains, “When Express started out, much of the focus was on industrial jobs, the hospitality sector, and more transaction-based work. Prior to 2007, the job market was candidate driven. When the recession hit in 2008, everything changed and it became more company driven, with lots of people, but not so much work.”
Over the years, a shift occurred in how Express interacted with its clients. They wanted to be the employer of choice and partner with companies, not be just another staffing vendor. For their Associates, they wanted them to reach out to the staffing team and ask for advice; they wanted to support them more broadly.
Express focused on having a broader vision of the market … to grow something of value. This meant a move in direction to the healthcare industry and the professional and business services sector, not surprisingly the two areas that are at the top of the current job market growth.
To help make the best decisions, both for their Associates and clients, Express offers a variety of services.
For its Associates, they offer training resources, development opportunities and other programs to assist them with building the skills necessary to be successful. They also try to keep them engaged and working … the Associates, after all, are their employees. At Express, 250 - 300 people get a paycheck every week, with an average pay rate of $14 an hour, and they are happy when Associates are hired by Express client companies.
As for supporting their clients, Express works closely with businesses to assess their needs, and then match qualified Associates who will succeed at meeting those needs. They also offer a variety of resources designed for businesses and business leaders. These include live seminars, leadership webinars and videos, white papers, and many more tools.
Express conducts regular lunch and learns that are open not only to their clients, but also to other local and WNC businesses. Decision makers attend and discuss pertinent topics, many times suggested by the Express team members who may be hearing things that cross business lines. Business leaders have an opportunity to ask questions, engage in discussions, compare notes and basically talk to each other.
Express is a hands-on business. According to Gary, “We never send anyone to work unless our team member has been there.” It’s their belief that they need to feel the place, breathe the air, really understand what the role is, so they know who can do it best.
In the past 10 years, Express has conducted 12,430 interviews, filled 19,463 jobs, put 5,567 different people to work, and placed 1,675 different people in permanent positions.
As family-owned businesses, both Friday Staffing and Express are members of the UNC Asheville Family Business Forum (FBF). Membership in this organization provides access to other family businesses in WNC and to educational events sponsored by the FBF. These events cover a wide range of information pertinent to family businesses, with the knowledge offered specific to business operations in general.
In 2000, John Modaff’s son, David, joined Friday Staffing and in 2006 became president with all operational responsibility. “It has been a wonderful opportunity to work alongside my father and to take what he and my mother created into the next stage. Friday is facing many challenges as staffing has become more of a commodity and we are adapting our business to stay vibrant for another 35 years and beyond.”
For Friday Staffing, the FBF has provided awareness of the pitfalls and problems other family businesses have gone through. David says, “By understanding their successes and their responses to failures, we’ve been able to better plan for success.”
As the data has confirmed, Buncombe and Henderson counties have had the lowest unemployment rates in all of NC for some time now. The growth has been substantial and the opportunities numerous.
According to David, “A person has to know what field they’re looking for work in and research that field. Although Friday Staffing has many openings, we don’t have openings in all fields. Our Metro population is just not large enough to support every industry.”
While Friday Staffing and Express are competitive, they are also collaborative and complement each other well. While their focus is different, together they support the WNC job market and the companies looking for the right employees. This is a perfect example of how the FBF provides networking opportunities and a chance to connect with others in similar businesses.
For Express, it doesn’t stop there.
With a focus on the community, they are engaged in helping charities where they can. Over this past holiday season, for example, their Pay it Forward Hiring Drive focused on placing as many job seekers as possible. In collaboration with area businesses, for each Express employee hired, they made a $10 donation to MANNA Food Bank where a single $10 donation provides 30 meals to those in need.
As Gary says, “People from all walks of life come through our door. Our business is about getting business life squared away; it’s about helping to put food on people’s tables.” The owners and team members at Express are embedded in the community—they live here, they work here, they raise their families here, and they work with other organizations to support the well-being of the WNC area.
For Friday Staffing, their company’s logo says it all. Created by John’s daughter, Lynda, it features a friendly Dalmatian puppy with the slogan “Hang On, Friday’s coming!!” It’s an accurate reflection of Friday’s corporate culture, a professional business that’s also a fun place to work.
Fun is a key theme for Express as well. As Meredith says, “We’re about building relationships … making connections and building trust.” And along the way, they give back, enjoy life and above all, they have fun!
Asheville Express Employment Professionals: (828) 654-8101, www.expresspros.com/AshevilleNC
Friday Staffing: Website: www.friday-staffin g.com
UNC Asheville Family Business Forum: Contact Cindy Clarke, Executive Director at (828) 232-5091. For membership or upcoming event information: www.fbf.unca.edu.