Elaine Stroman was making great money.
She had spent the better part of two decades working as a mortgage banking consultant helping people buy and renovate brownstones in old New York City neighborhoods such as Harlem. She worked on 100 percent commission and was completely in charge of every penny she earned.
"I was earning good money," she recalls. "But then I realized there was a glass ceiling I was facing." She discovered that once she reached a certain financial level, that her ability to earn commission was capped. It was a revelation that led her into franchising.
"I didn't want to be limited in the amount of income potential I had," says Stroman, who operates the Express Employment Professionals (formerly Express Personnel Services) franchise in Brooklyn.
She says she had no particular background or real knowledge of the personnel and staffing industry but she desired to have her own business. And, as she says, "I wanted to go into business for myself but not by myself." A perfect scenario ï¿½" and prospect - for the franchise model.
Stroman did a lot of research, worked with a broker, and attended several franchise industry conferences. She was looking for a strong brand that was well established. She heard someone talking about Express at a conference and then one day she ran across a trade industry publication story on Express. Soon, her list of prospective franchises based on her skills and interests had been narrowed down ï¿½" Express was on that list - and she ultimately chose the private Oklahoma City-based franchise. "I knew that to do something like this I wanted a business partner and that business partner is Express," she says.
After some initial training and preparation, she opened her franchise last October. She primarily serves clients in the south Brooklyn area, but has provided services as far away as Manhattan, Long Island, and Nassau county.
It's been a positive experience for her so far, although she admits that one of the keys to franchise success is to follow the franchisor's model to a T. Looking back on those first few weeks of operations, she says, "I'd change how I came out of the gate a little. I should have followed the complete system a little more closely." But she's made the adjustment and is doing fine these days.
She's working with five primary clients supplying more than 80 "associates" (temp workers) to more than 27 jobs. Everything from warehouse shipping and packing workers to office and IT jobs.
There are four employees in Stroman's office (including herself) each with a different but vitally important function. Stroman spends her days pounding the pavement visiting existing clients and making cold calls. It is, after all, a people business.
Managing people has been one of the biggest challenges for Stroman. "I've had to learn that I can't do it all that I must rely on my employees and our associates to get the job done," she says.
She says the personnel and staffing industry requires franchisees who have great "natural sales abilities" and the capacity to work with people from all kinds of educational and skill level backgrounds. "Being passionate about this business is really critical," she says. "If you just want to earn money, this is not for you."
Stroman has always been in the business of helping people and one of the things she likes best about her new job is "helping people fill jobs and helping people find jobs."
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