Written By Jeffrey Green | Photos By Anthony Harden
Gary Gallagher chose Asheville for family rather than business reasons, but buying a franchise became the means to achieving the family lifestyle he sought with his wife, daughters and grandchildren in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina.
After spending six years in the Navy, Gary spent most of his career in Human Resources positions in Ohio, North Carolina and Maryland working for large corporations like Allen-Bradley, AIM Executive, Inc. (AIM) and Taylor Nelson Sofres – National Family Opinion Market Research (TNS NF0).
Gary discovered the area while working for AIM in Charlotte. His oldest daughter, Heather, played soccer for the UNC Asheville Bulldogs in 1998-99. Gary and his wife, Diane, were regular visitors to watch Heather play. The pull of Asheville became even stronger when Heather decided to settle in Asheville after college, and the first granddaughter arrived.
But, moving to Asheville from a business perspective was challenging. Like many tourist communities with stunning scenery, Asheville does not command a lot of high paying jobs. Gary, a champion networker, was undeterred and made multiple trips to the area meeting with many area executives and taking every referral he could get. He got a job offer or two, but at compensation levels less than half of what he had made in bigger city, corporate jobs.
Finally a local member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) referred him to Gil Walker. Gil owned the local franchise of what was then called Express Personnel Services, having bought the franchise and opened the office in 1997. After listening to Gary outline what he was looking for Gil told him bluntly: “The job you seek does not exist in Asheville, but I’m interested in selling my business.” This led to six months of talks in late 2006 as Gary evaluated both the franchisor and Gil’s local office.
While Gary had worked most of his career in corporate America, he was not completely unprepared for an entrepreneurial venture. Back in his Navy days, he had dabbled in antiques trading and then ran a combined beverage store and bar and grill in Cleveland while going to school and working. Gary said: “I was always interested in taking responsibility for my life and making something of it.” In fact he was almost wistful as he recounted some of the bar ownership adventures. It was a neighborhood family place with lots of social events, which “generated some half a dozen marriages”, and a bowling machine with about two hundred participants in a league. They drank lots of beer when they came in each week to play.
But the bar eventually took its toll on Diane who was managing it during the day. She finally presented Gary with an ultimatum: “Make a choice. Quit your job and run it, find somebody else to manage it, or get a new spouse.” Fortunately, a neighborhood buyer soon stepped forward, and Gary escaped with his marriage intact.
Express Employment Services
In the fall of 2006, Gary set out to do his due diligence on Express Personnel Services.
According to the company website: “Express Employment Professionals was created in 1983 by founders Robert A. Funk, William H. Stoller, and James Gray, from the dissolution of Acme Personnel, a Washington-based staffing company in which all three were associates.”
The first franchises were sold in the midst of the 1983 recession. “That first year, Express Employment Professionals was able to generate gross revenues over $2 million despite the depressed economy. In 1984, due to the bankruptcy of Acme Personnel, the partners acquired the franchise rights to 30 Acme staffing agencies across the United States.” Significant growth followed in the next five years with “Express Employment Professionals being recognized as one of the fastest growing privately-held companies in the country. In 1990, Funk and Stoller purchased Gray’s shares of the company.”
“Today, Express Employment Professionals has more than 600 franchises in the United States, Canada, and South Africa. The staffing company generated $2.3 billion in sales in 2012. Express Employment Professionals offer a full range of employment solutions for area businesses and job seekers, including professional search and contract, temporary and contract staffing, evaluation and direct hire, flexible staffing, and onsite services. For employers, Express can also provide solutions to HR challenges, including an HR Hotline, HR compliance audits, employee handbook creation, Organizational Effectiveness Surveys, onsite client training programs, and affirmative action plans.”
Taking the Plunge
Back in 2006, as Gary Gallagher negotiated his deal with Gil Walker, he also had to get the blessing of Express Employment Professionals. Like most franchise agreements, the sale of a Gil’s franchise required approval from the franchisor.
Interviews in Oklahoma City with Bob Funk and the management team led to his approval. Gary’s road was easier than others because of his HR background which was unusual. A more normal Express franchise purchaser has some corporate business and sales background, but specific HR skills are not required because the franchisee has such a rigorous training program.
Like any new franchise owner, Gary had to go through two weeks of classroom training in Oklahoma City. Express Employment Professionals has a very structured approach based on 30 years of best practices. Their programs and training are ISO9001 certified which means they are vetted and approved by an independent International Standards Organization in each country.
Most franchise owners also have to work an additional week in another successful franchise office, but this was waived due to Gary’s background and Gil’s desire to complete the transaction. So in early 2007 Gary found himself a franchise owner.
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