Jesse Vance became an entrepreneur in 1994 because he wanted to spend more time with his wife, Nancy, and the couple’s three young sons. Vance had been based out of Atlanta managing the southeast division of a major staffing company. When an England-based firm purchased the company, he was required to travel extensively.
Family was Vance’s priority, and he had years of experience in staffing, so he decided to go out on his own. The decision was a first step toward the successful staffing businesses the couple operates today.
Today, Nancy is CEO and Jesse is president of two on-site staffing companies they co-founded — North American On-Site which supplies 1,700 workers to Tuscaloosa County, Alabama-based OEM, and NAOS Staffing LLC, which has a separate management team and develops business within the distribution and manufacturing sectors, among others, throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The Vance-led companies are headquartered in Duluth, Georgia, about 30 minutes northeast of Atlanta. Both businesses specialize in on-site contingent staffing and workforce management and are certified woman-owned businesses. The certification gives the businesses minority company status, which provides networking opportunities and the ability to bid on contracts seeking minority-owned company participation.
Jesse Vance was based in North Carolina as a regional vice president for Norrell Corp. when Talent Tree Inc. approached him with a lucrative offer, and a challenge – move to Boston as regional vice president and return the company’s northeast operations to profitability. If Vance turned operations around, the Florida native would be named southeast division vice president, a position based out of Atlanta.
“Within 14 months we returned to profit with all the same people and we never had to terminate anyone,” Vance says. “We did it just by giving them a different view. I still have a plaque in my office given from the team that says, ‘Thank You for Your Different View.’
I was told I would have to clean house. I was thinking people are people and you don’t have to do that.”
When Vance took over the southeast division it already was in good shape, he says. Vance’s team landed a contract with the Coca-Cola Co., which represented the largest on-site operation within the company with more than 1,000 contingent employees, he adds. Positions ranged from information technology to clerical and support positions.
When Talent Tree was sold to a British company, and Vance’s job required more time away from home, he founded Advanced Personnel Services (APS), a staffing company that focused entirely on on-site placements.
“When I was with Norrell, my first on-site was with Vicks cough drops and I gained a real passion for the onsite model, which allows you to go inside the client’s facilities and set up office and management staff to recruit employees and place them in positions for clients.”
Being onsite allows the staffing company to get to know the client and its needs, Vance says. In Memphis where the company has a large distribution client, there are strict rules for employees, including a dress code. Certain skills are also required including use of a forklift.
“When we get requests to fill positions, we know who to send because we see the client every day and know them. Our fill rates and retention are excellent because we get the match right the first time,” he says.
North American On-Site
Vance sold APS in 2006 and was offered a three-year consulting arrangement with the buyer, but he saw another opportunity.
“The recession was about to end, and I saw a tremendous need in corporate America to fill jobs. Companies were not going to make the same mistake they had before, by wanting to hire, hire, hire; so I saw a need for contingent employees, which typically are recruited, hired, managed and paid by the staffing company based on a contract with a client.”
Vance talked with employers who wanted to do business based on his reputation and started North American On-Site. The company grew quickly and in October 2010 secured a contract to recruit and manage workers for an Alabama-based OEM. Initially, North American On-Site supplied 50 employees. Today, North American supplies 1,700 employees to the manufacturer. Four North American On-Site employees work full-time inside the OEM, on the human resources floor, to focus on employment needs.
Getting good people onboard early at North American On-Site helped the company succeed, Vance adds.
“In the beginning, I reached out to two long-term employees of APS Group – James Riley in accounting and finance, and Ed Burr in field operations. Both men agreed to come work with me. They banked their careers on our startup. They are still with me today. As we continued to grow, we were able to secure large contracts… We had the intuition and knowledge of what the next step should be. We had a vision and added layers upon layers as we grew.”
In 2012, Vance saw a need for contingent staffing within the automotive industry and others. He wanted North American to focus on the Alabama OEM, so he and Nancy co-founded NAOS Staffing to develop new business. The company grew quickly. In 2014 Josh, one of the couple’s three sons, officially joined the company, although he had helped at NAOS much longer.
Josh, who lives in Roswell, Georgia, is now senior vice president and often oversees daily operations at the company’s headquarters. While in college he helped with the company’s books and other tasks.
The company’s client base is automotive driven, but it also serves clients in many industries.
The Southeast was already a big automotive hub when the company was founded, Josh Vance adds. “We serve many OEMs and their Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers,” he says.
While NAOS actively recruits new business, It’s been necessary at times to end client contracts, Jesse Vance says.
“We have terminated clients who didn’t recognize changes in the economy regarding wage and employment rates. They wanted to put a square peg in a round hole, and that put stress on our employees. We focused our energies and worked with clients, and prospective clients who soon became clients, who understood those dynamics and we were able to recruit based on those models.
He says the company had a client who wanted to pay minimum wage, or just above, in a market with 3 percent unemployment. Research showed employers were willing to pay $14 an hour for the same positions, he adds.
“When you are paying roughly just above minimum wage [federal minimum wage is $7.25], say $8.25 or up to $8.50 an hour for the same position, you are setting yourself up for failure.”
Vance is quick to add he wants his companies’ successes attributed to the overall team. “Our whole premise is our dedicated recruiting and knowledge. We take that knowledge and apply it to each client. Our recruiting goes on daily. We are always able to obtain a 100 percent fill rate with our client base,” says Vance.
Josh Vance says the company works to maintain lean management to better serve clients.
“Lean upper management means there is a lot less red tape. We can respond to clients and provide solutions for their needs more quickly.”
North American On-Site and NAOS Staffing operate using an on-site contingent employee model. Most employees are hired, managed, paid and provided benefits by those companies. until hired by a client as a permanent employee.
Many benefits are provided to the contingent employees. “We have healthcare and 401K programs, health insurance, and vacation and bereavement pay. “We recognize the need to take care of the contingent employee and let them do a good job,” Vance says, adding most clients recognize good labor and good talent and that helps the contingent employees get hired as permanent employees.
North American and NAOS assess skills using computer-based programs and can identify employees best suited for an employers’ needs, which adds to retention rates, Vance explains.
Vance says while NAOS has some short-term assignments where employees are placed for two or three weeks, or a month, 90 percent-plus of business is onsite with clients hiring contingent employees.
Vance prefers the term contingent rather than temporary.
“I don’t care for the word temporary. Temporary means just that. If an employee is a temporary worker and doesn’t have the opportunity to get hired, they can feel their time is running out. We try to create an environment where there is hiring opportunity. We know our clients due to our on-site model and we select the right employees for positions from the start. We have a client that half of their workforce has been hired through us.”
Jesse Vance says he’s grateful he made the decision to become an entrepreneur. He coached his sons’ sports teams and was there for them at other times. He’s also thankful or Nancy, to whom he’s been married 37 years; and that she could spend time with the boys when they were young.
“She’s the rock of the family, and it was important to me that she was able to be there for them 24-7 when they were young. I wanted the boys to be able to get off the bus after school and be able to talk with mom and have cookies and talk about the bullies.”