Staff Management owner and President Fran Morrissey and her husband, John, knew the needs of their fellow business people and founded the company in 1983 as a way to help make businesses run smoother. “Fran assisted in John’s accounting firm for some time,” said Staff Management Senior Human Resource Representative Kimberly Remmert. “As she listened to the problems and challenges of business owners, Fran heard a common theme from many of them, and the needs of these businesses certainly reflected the same kinds of issues John and she faced in their accounting business as the firm grew and added staff.”
What they had in common with those business owners was a constant effort to recruit, retain, and motivate staff, among other issues. “We struggled with how to deal with the growing influence of employment-based legislation; how we should develop a good answer to the administrative tasks associated with being an employer; and importantly, how we could manage their risks as an employer. Those were all reasons larger organizations invested in a human resource department—to provide these support activities and leverage the size of their organizations in purchasing employee benefits. Fran knew they weren’t going to develop a human resource department, per se, and those issues really fell on their shoulders as owners,” Remmert said.
It was about this time Fran read an accounting journal article about staff leasing. “The basic concept of being able to outsource administrative and risk management tasks to a supplier of human resource services really caught her attention. That was really a concept that energized her because she felt it had great potential for business owners like John and her, and Fran began her research into what was then called the staff leasing industry. I’m happy to report 18 years from that moment, Staff Management, Inc. is one of the recognized leaders in what has evolved into the professional employer organization (PEO) industry. Not only were we the first PEO in the Midwest, but today we continue to be one of the largest Midwest-based PEOs. And I’m proud to work for a woman-owned business with this kind of passion and experience,” Remmert said.
Staff Management offers a full range of human resources services, which fall into three broad areas, according to Remmert. “Professional employer services is the evolution of the original staff leasing concept. This is our core business, and it serves the needs of many organizations, but it’s mainly targeted at small and medium-sized businesses. As a PEO, we become co-employers of the client’s employees. Through this arrangement, we can provide the payroll services, employee benefit programs, risk management, human resource consultation, and many other administrative tasks associated with employment. In short, I tell clients we’re their human resource department.
“Another area is human resource consulting. From revising an employee handbook to sexual harassment training to development of a wage and salary program to direct recruitment, we have the capability to deliver human resource services. This is typically project work—it has a beginning and an end, contrasted to the PEO service, which is an ongoing relationship.
“Also, we have a relationship with some clients that involves Staff Management functioning as their in-house human resource department. The client may have one person assigned to their location to provide direct services, but that individual can rely on the other resources of Staff Management, Inc. when difficult or unfamiliar situations occur. They can even call our in-house legal counsel to talk through problems or issues that arise in the employment scene. While not imparting legal advice to the business owner, they ought to have confidence our recommendations for handling situations have been reviewed with people who know employment law,” she said.
Since the company’s beginning—with one office in Rockford—expansion has occurred in the number of locations, employees, and services. “From the Rockford origins, we added Peoria and Cedar Falls, Iowa, as regional offices. We have employees in 17 states and some employees in other countries. In the PEO industry, we talk about our internal staff and the number of co-employees or assigned staff,” Remmert explained. “Internally, of course, Fran and John were the first two employees, and through the first few years of a struggling new business, there were about three or four others added. Today, we have 38 employees in the three offices.”
She said their expansion has a lot to do with what makes Staff Management unique among other companies in their field. “I think a firm with 18 years of experience in this industry is almost without precedent. Longevity is important, particularly as any industry will have its share of failures as new firms enter the market. It says a lot about our long-term commitment and our business ethics. Also, we’re a woman-owned business enterprise (WBE) and are certified as such. We’re proud of that, and it opens doors for us with some large organizations where we might otherwise not have an opportunity.
“We’re one of only 18 PEOs—out of 2,400 in the country—to gain accreditation through an industry-recognized but independent agency. The accredited status helps assure the client we meet very stringent operating, financial, and ethical standards, which in today’s business environment is really important. Through this industry mechanism, we can also give the assurance to the client that if Staff Management, Inc. is unable or fails to meet it’s obligations for payroll or employee benefit plan premiums, there’s a surety bond that will cover those obligations. Even though we have a long and successful history that minimizes the possibility, it lets our clients sleep a little better at night,” she said.
Remmert said as Staff Management has grown, she’s proud to have had input into the present vision and mission of the company—both as a human resource professional and as a person providing direct service to clients. “The organization has broadened the scope of services delivered and our vision reflects this change. We’re in business for the benefit of our clients and employees. We provide human resource services and professional employer services we try very hard to be sure are unmatched in the marketplace. We try to walk that important line that incorporates value and high quality so we can surprise clients with the services. I always think if I can do that with the clients I serve, it will be a mutually successful relationship.”
Remmert noted the industry has seen many new firms enter the market through the years, including some very large, publicly-traded organizations. “That’s probably been a good thing in terms of increasing competition, and it helped educate the marketplace through some national level advertising. That competitive environment caused us to focus on how we would differentiate ourselves from firms that emphasized price over service. We think the short run cycle of low price/low service, which can characterize any industry for a while, has run it’s course and our high service and good value model will be the successful one in the long run.”
Even with the longevity of Staff Management, Remmert said the Midwest still seems uninformed regarding the industry in general. “Informing the marketplace of who we are and what we do really helps with any misperceptions. We’re often characterized as part of the staffing industry. While we do some selective recruitment projects, we don’t provide temporary employees. There are a number of good staffing firms in this area, but those services are narrower in scope than what we try to provide.
“There may also be a misperception that because we work with a couple of the area’s largest employers as clients that our focus is primarily larger firms. While we have a very successful relationship with those organizations, our real target market is the majority of businesses in central Illinois that are small and medium-sized employers,” she said.
Remmert said marketing the company’s services is really accomplished through developing and building relationships. “It isn’t like comparing the price and attributes of toasters, so marketing is best accomplished through some one-on-one conversation. That’s why we’ve emphasized direct selling efforts for several years. We’re members of several area chambers of commerce and think that’s important to gaining recognition in the community.”
When it comes to hiring employees, Remmert said each situation may be a little different, but there are certain principles important to recruiting people and retaining them over the long term: the job itself, the work environment, pay and benefits, and recognition. She said the best employment situations happen when the company and employee are a good fit for each other. “It’s the selection process most organizations really need to spend time on. Basic screening, reference checks, behavioral interviewing, and appropriate testing are all tools to use in making employment decisions. We emphasize this because of the importance of choosing the right person for the job, but also because of the employment risks inherent in the environment today.”
Remmert said one challenging issue in her field is keeping costs in line so the company can price its services competitively. Another is finding good talent. “People are a little less secure today, so they may stay longer in jobs where they may not be happy. So, it takes patience and good recruitment techniques to find talent. And then the key is being really good at selection so you avoid the unnecessary turnover.”
The most rewarding aspects, she said, are forming good partnerships with clients and delivering what was promised. “I’ve found when we do that, it inevitably leads to the client coming back and asking for additional support.”
Future plans include continuing to improve Staff Management’s service model based on input from their clients. “We’ll also provide clients with more information so they might manage their business better. We’re already moving toward more of a consultative role with all our clients, regardless of the particular service we provide. If we can continue to evolve, particularly as related to managing information, our vision can be constant. We’re a service organization, and it will always be important to develop relationships that work over the long term.” IBI