Jonathan Barnes, founder and CEO of Staffing as a Mission might not have started his staffing agency had he not been dared to one morning over breakfast at a Nashville diner.

Jonathan Barnes, founder and CEO of Staffing as a Mission might not have started his staffing agency had he not been dared to one morning over breakfast at a Nashville diner.

Prior to founding Staffing as a Mission, Jonathan Barnes worked for 12 years at one of the largest healthcare staffing providers in the country. And while he celebrated success with that team, he was constantly thinking of how to do things differently in a transactional, crowded, and traditionally “cutthroat” industry.

“It seemed like there was constant tension between profits and people,” says Barnes, “and I wondered if we could thrive with both. Could a staffing company grow based solely on the way it treated people?”

In 2015 - Staffing as a Mission’s first full year - it had revenues around $500k and in 2018 it generated close to $6M in revenue. That kind of growth doesn’t happen by accident. Instead, it began like many of the good things in life - during a conversation over a cup of coffee.

One October morning in 2014, Barnes was visiting with a friend over breakfast. Their conversation, which you can hear more in detail below, began with a bit of a challenge:

Their discussion took shape around a few foundational questions: “If we started a new staffing company, how could we make a difference?” “What would it take to change the perception of staffing agencies in the marketplace?” “Could we build a staffing company that placed faith at the top of its list of values?”  

A month later, Staffing as a Mission emerged to answer those questions.

From the beginning, Staffing as a Mission focused on fostering a business culture which actually cares for and listens to all of the participants in the process, and to include new ones as well - ones that are traditionally not included. 

To achieve this, SaaM had to rethink the process from start to end. Staffing is a people business, so the definition of people has to apply to clients and candidates. Because of this, SaaM’s definition of success isn’t limited to providing the best candidates. It must include providing the best experience for clients, candidates, and, ultimately, employees. 

Second, we knew we would have to reconfigure the discovery process with our clients. As we worked through this with clients we developed a system to help our team craft an Ideal Team Profile. Barnes recalls, “Our first couple of client requests were for Medical File Clerks in Texas and Technology Help Desk positions in rural Tennessee. Completely different company environments, skill sets, and culture. We had to ask the right questions of the clients or else we wouldn’t have any current or future clients!”

While many agencies immediately get their recruiters to search for candidates based on whatever job description is provided, we knew we had to step back and first deeply understand the core values of the existing culture and the attributes of key members of the team. 

Spending this extra time with a client up front, ironically, helped our team deliver qualified candidates faster in the long run. It also ensured we communicate precisely the expectations and requirements to potential candidates. 

Our goal to deliver excellence didn’t end there. We wanted to be at heart a service company, what if we could help ministries and non-profits and fund the important work they do by sharing a portion of profits with them? 

But beyond just 10 percent of profits, we decided to commit to donating time and talent to ministries and non-profits focused on areas that resonate with our work as an employment agency. We call them mission partners, and the work they do is centered on career transitions, workforce development, character and leadership training. From helping to end family homelessness, to enabling former inmates to find employment, to training community and church leaders, to giving children with diverse background the chance to go to summer camp and grow together, the opportunities for impact are endless.

“We have the privilege to work hard for clients, care for our employees, volunteer as a team, offer strategic guidance and connections, and we have the opportunity to fund hundreds of thousands of dollars into organizations that we deeply believe in, and see that making a strategic impact into their ministry — that has been the most gratifying part of this whole journey.”

As SaaM’s unique approach was realized, we developed our four-fold definition of success:

  1. Clients meet their unique staffing and hiring needs.

  2. Candidates fulfill their purpose through meaningful work.

  3. Employees work in a fun, productive, and inspiring environment.

  4. Mission partners further their message and increase their impact.

Since 2014, Staffing as a Mission has grown by leaps and bounds, and along the way we have learned that success comes through focusing on our relationships with people. As our business grew, our ability to forge stronger relationships with all those we interact with has, too. The greatest example of this has been our steadily increasing ability to give to and serve our Mission Partners. For SaaM, there is no greater measurement of success than that.

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