By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Express Employment Professionals: Respecting People, Impacting Business For 35 Years

Richard Shirkness and Kim Whitworth are a professional couple with five kids between them, and have longstanding North Alabama roots. For close to 25 years Madison was home, and then Kim was hired by AT&T in Atlanta to develop and manage a very specific Leadership Development Program. Richard has been a software engineer for several high-end tech companies, and because he can work anywhere, he geared up with Kim for the “adventure that became Atlanta,” and off they went.

Kim and Richard both understand dealing with the stress and anxiety of being unemployed, something that they both have experienced in the wild ride of downsizing that was part of the recent Great Recession. In addition, Kim and Richard both have a heart for millennials, who oftentimes emerge from high school or college poorly prepared for competing in the job market, and they wanted to sow into the next generation.

Kim told me that eventually the time came when they wanted out of Atlanta and to get back to North Alabama to be with their children and grandchildren. They also wanted to work together, make a difference, and own their own business. They knew that becoming franchise owners was the most logical step, but the question was, which franchise?

Richard and Kim set to work to find something that fit with their moral and spiritual compass, their giftings as well as experience in the market place, and a franchise opportunity which was linked to a stable and a seasoned company that was unashamedly pro-America and pro-military. They found a gem in the form of Express Employment Professionals, which was started in 1983. The company is headquartered in Oklahoma City, and right on the front of their building are large brass letters that say, “God Bless America.” Kim told me, “We were overwhelmed with the welcome we got. People lined up and applauded us as we entered the building, and they didn’t just say it, they meant it. They get thousands of serious inquiries a year, and they select only about 80,” said Kim. “We felt so honored to be offered a franchise in North Alabama.”

One of the requirements for being allowed to purchase an Express Employment Professionals franchise is to give back to the community. Would-be franchise owners must select the charity or charities of their choice, and demonstrate that they are partnering with them to strengthen their city or town. Another thing that is encouraged is to call up other franchise owners so they can “talk shop” and find out how things are going and what challenges have been faced and overcome. “We heard over and over again that every Express owner and employee truly cares about finding jobs for people. Our goal is to put 1 million people to work this year.” All in all, everything was a perfect fit, and they were ready to get started.

Richard and Kim opened up the Decatur office just a few weeks ago, and already they are busy. They want to open an office in Athens as their next step, and with how things are going, they may not have to wait long. In general, Kim is out in the field seeking out and vetting businesses that could use their services and are looking for quality candidates, while Richard interviews and screens candidates back in the office. They have already needed to hire two staff members to handle the volume of business. One of their first success stories was helping a single dad who was raising four children get a much-needed job that allowed him to be a hands-on dad. Others have said, “You saw in me what I didn’t see in myself.” Richard in particular enjoys the fact that most often if those seeking employment have a coach who believes in them and helps them to polish their skills, they end up being a successful employee. He tells them, “We are here to move forward together,” and that expression of support can be a game changer. There is help available for polishing a résumé, mock interviews, a “pocket résumé” that reminds interviewees how to answer interview questions well, winning tips on appearance, crafting a positive email address, and more. All associates have a background check, drug testing, e-verify as to citizenship, and some testing prior to their first day on the job, just to make sure this is a good situation for everyone.

If you are a business owner, you sign an agreement where expectations for both sides are clearly laid out, and there is not a continuing obligation for either side. If the employee is not a good fit, the owner is not contractually bound to continue. If the employee is not comfortable, they are not required to keep working there. “We have zero tolerance for any kind of discrimination,” said Kim. In addition, she goes out and views places of potential employment. “I want to make sure I have a clear understanding of the work environment, so we can effectively communicate back to the prospective employee.” Work spaces need to be safe - and if I am not comfortable or it feels too risky, I am not going to put anyone in that situation,” she added.

It was personally gratifying to me that Kim and Richard are keenly interested in helping troops returning from deployment to find work, and are planning on increasing that outreach. They closed our time together by saying, “We want to be the obvious choice because of quality, culture, and support.” If you are teachable and willing to work, or if you are looking for someone with those same qualities, then give Express Employment Professionals of Decatur a call today for an appointment. This is a place that is skilled at both respecting people and impacting business, and they are ready to serve the people of North Alabama.

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