Express Employment Professionals
Express Employment Professionals wants its franchisees, clients
and the job seekers it works with to be successful.
By Jim Harris
Express Employment Professionals does more than just help place people into jobs. “One of our purposes is to give everyone hope and encouragement that there is a good job out there for them if they are willing to learn skills, have integrity and a good work ethic,” says Robert A. Funk, founder, CEO and chairman of the Oklahoma City-based international staffing company.
For the company, helping people succeed by gaining employment ultimately benefits not only the employee, but also the community they live in. This philosophy, which Express refers to as its culture of caring, is at the heart of its leadership decisions.
Express’ compassion for the people it helps led the company to expand its services into South Africa, where it has 14 locations. Funk was inspired to open offices in the country after attending a staffing convention there in the 1990s, shortly after the end of Apartheid. “At the time, South Africa had a 42 percent unemployment rate,” he says. “I felt that was a place we needed to be to help people.”
The company has placed more than 90,000 people into manufacturing and other commercial jobs in South Africa since it set up shop there. “For us, being there is a mission project to help that country grow and survive in a high-unemployment environment,” Funk says.
Express also is highly active in many of the U.S. communities where it has offices that participate in numerous charitable activities and organizations. In addition, it has relationships with several career and technical schools to offer training programs.
One of the companies’ community-related offerings is Job Genius, an online-based educational program designed to teach young adults how to enter the workforce. The program includes a guide to interviewing. “Teachers are using this program profusely to help students interview and know what it takes to find a good job,” Funk adds.
Express specializes in placing workers into positions in the commercial and light industrial sectors. Roughly 70 percent of its available positions are commercial, with office services and professional services comprising the balance. The company works mainly with small and medium-sized clients.
“During a recession, there are plenty of people and not enough jobs, but when the economy rebounds, we find ourselves in short supply of quality people with marketable skills,” Funk says. “Even with the rise of automation in manufacturing, someone is needed to run the robots. We encourage people to go back to school and learn the technical skills needed in the workplace.”
The company has 789 franchise locations, with 37 locations in Canada, and has plans to reach 800 sites by the end of 2017. Ultimately, Express has a goal of opening 900 locations.
In 2016, Express employed 510,000 people. In late October, it set a new company record when it reported 4 million hours worked by associates for client companies in a single week. “I’m incredibly proud of how hard everyone here works to find the best associates for our clients and pair our associates with reputable businesses,” Funk says. “While other staffing companies are posting deficits for the year, our sales numbers have continued to increase, which is a direct reflection of the character of our employees. They see the value in our mission.”
Express will mark 35 years of helping people find work in 2018. Funk started the company in 1983 after leaving Acme Personnel Services, where he served as first vice president overseeing Midwest operations.
Express Employment Professionals opened with six offices, each overseen by a manager, but Funk quickly recognized that it needed capital funding. “Acme’s operations were half franchise and half corporate. I was on the corporate end, but saw that franchise locations were making more money,” Funk says. “I knew the only way to grow the company was to franchise it.”
The average mature Express franchise reports $1 million in gross revenues per year, which Funk attributes to the company’s systems as well as the support it provides to franchisees.
“I love franchising, and I love the relationships we have with semi-entrepreneurs,” he says. “We have a methodology to help our franchisees be successful, and that’s where I get my thrills.”
New Express franchisees pay a $35,000 franchising fee and are asked to have at least $150,000 available to cover operational costs. The corporate organization finances payrolls for the workers placed into jobs by each office. Each office has a territory of roughly 175,000 available jobs.
The corporate headquarters works with new franchisees to find an ideal office location and provides three weeks of training before opening. The training covers topics including finding clients and working with the state workers compensation and unemployment systems.
The company also hosts an international convention for its franchisees each February, where it hosts high-profile speakers, including former President George W. Bush. Franchisees and their employees are also invited to attend regional sales summits every fall.
Express provides ongoing support to franchisees in the form of 40 corporate employees known as “developers.” “Our developers help our franchisees in the field with basic business issues and inspire them to a higher level of productivity,” Funk says. “These people are responsible for making the offices they oversee successful.”
Funk says disputes between Express and its franchisees are extremely rare. “Our No. 1 motivation is to always look at what our franchisees need or would like to have,” he says. “We do what’s in the best interest of our franchisees and not the franchisor. The reason we’ve been successful is because we do what’s best to develop them and their business.”
Express continues to find ways to assist not only franchisees, but also their clients and the job seekers with whom they work.
In spring 2018, the company will release its ExpressJobs app, which will show job seekers available jobs in their area. In addition, the app will allow people to apply for jobs via their mobile device. Express associates will be able to access details including work assignment history, payment history and employment forms.
The new app is just one way the company intends to improve and expand its existing operations. Although the company sees its primary responsibility is to the United States, Funk sees potential international growth into countries such as New Zealand and Australia.
“We feel compelled to build North America first and then look at the rest of the world, but there could be opportunities for us in countries that share our values of integrity and honesty,” Funk says.
In the Hall
Express Employment Professionals Founder, CEO and Chairman Robert A. Funk recently received the highest honor available to a resident of his state when he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame on Nov. 16. Since its inception in 1927, the Hall of Fame has recognized 683 residents for their personal and professional accomplishments, the organization says.