Franchise owner Bradley Jenkins shares the keys to his success after 13 years with Express Employment Professionals, including a thriving resale franchise
by Joelle Kidd
Bradley Jenkins had his first taste of working at a staffing company in his early 20s. He was fresh out of post-secondary education in his native England and got a job with an office called Wise Employment.
“At the time I didn’t consider staffing would become my career path and instead thought it would be a great way to get my feet wet, professionally,” Jenkins said. “As someone who likes to help and serve others, I really enjoyed the work because it was service-oriented and I could ‘relate and communicate’ with others, just like newspaper ad promoted!”
Jenkins moved on to work in the hospitality and tourism industry, throughout Europe and the Caribbean. But when he moved to Canada in 2009, he found himself struggling through a post-recession job search. A posting for a “staffing consultant” caught his eye. Remembering how he’d enjoyed his previous job, he applied, and started work with the Burlington, Ontario location of Express Employment Professionals in March 2010.
Now almost 14 years later, Jenkins owns his own Express location in Cambridge, Ontario, and works as a franchise developer for the company, helping other owners grow and find success with their Express Employment Professionals franchises.
The road to a resale
Jenkins made the jump from employee to owner by first purchasing an equity stake in the Burlington location. Later in 2016, he was presented with a unique opportunity when the owners of the nearby Cambridge Express office were looking to sell their established business.
“They knew […] in order to run an Express franchise and be successful, [and] have the impact you want, you have to really, really commit all your time and energy to it,” says Jenkins. “Knowing I was up for the challenge, I sold my interest in the Burlington location and purchased the Cambridge office.”
Jenkins went into a silent partnership with the previous owners’ partners, which he says helped ease the transition. “They’d owned Express franchises before and were a good sounding board for me to learn from.”
The franchisor also helped, he says, offering support “to work through what I needed to become a majority franchise owner.”
While the transition went smoothly, it still required hard work. “Ultimately, I wore every hat, working 12 hours a day, six days a week—sometimes seven days a week—to build the Cambridge office into a staffing leader in the community,” Jenkins recalls. “We worked hard, and I ultimately bought my partners out in 2019 and became the sole owner of the franchise.”
“Franchising has allowed me to be able to do what I enjoy, and because I enjoy it, I’m good at it.”
“You blink and all of a sudden, it’s 2023, almost 2024,” he says with a laugh. “I’m in my 14th year with Express—14 years with Express, 10 years as an owner of a franchise, and been in the Cambridge location for the last seven years. It’s never dull. You can call this business a lot of things, but it’s never boring. Because you’re dealing with people.”
Jenkins says he wasn’t looking specifically to buy a resale, but when the opportunity came up, he knew it was a good fit. It might not be the case for everyone, he cautions. “There are pros and cons when entering into any business ownership. For a resale, ultimately, the office is up and running and has a presence in the market, good or bad. If it’s a really good presence and the business is booming, you’re going to pay a higher price for it. If you’re starting a brand-new franchise, you have a clean slate, which can be attractive, but can also be a longer road, and in most cases I can confidently say it usually is.”
Growing the team
Express Employment Professionals is the largest franchised staffing company in North America, boasting nearly 900 locations around the world, including 50 in Canada. Founded in 1983, the brand celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. The brand connects job seekers with employers, offering positions in many different lines of business, including accounting and finance, human resources, engineering, IT, light industrial, customer service, and more.
The brand stands out, Jenkins says, because of its franchise business model. “One of the taglines that many of our franchise owners use is that we’re ‘small enough to care, and big enough to support,’” he says. The brand also has a leg up on territories, he notes, as its locations cover smaller geographical areas than most competitors, allowing franchisees to really dig into their communities and offer more localized services and connections.
When he bought the business, Jenkins says, it had one staff member and a co-op student. “I did everything. I did check-in calls with candidates and clients, I interviewed candidates, I visited clients.”
This time was important, he says, for building relationships. “You’ve got to get to know people, then they’ve got to like you, then they’ve got to trust you. And once you can do that, then you can add some value.”
“I say this to any franchise owner, the first two to three years, you’ve got to be prepared to do all of it and any of it,” says Jenkins. “That’s the great thing about the Express system—the employees see the owner working directly alongside them, showing how they are all part of the same team and working toward the same goals.”
Today, Jenkins has nine employees and says this team spirit remains. “Being a leader isn’t about being the best, it’s about making your team better, making sure they have what they need to be successful.”
For example, he says, when he looks to bring a new team member in, he has his existing team participate in the interviewing process, sharing he does not hire anyone without the approval of his team. He also tailors incentives to each team member’s preferences, whether that be commission structure, time off, salary, or the ability to work from home.
“We don’t have much turnover in my office. Our team members tend to stay, and I want this to be the best long-term option for my people—I want it to support the lifestyle that they want.”
Jenkins says this motivation is also reflected by the franchisor, sharing that “Express International does a great job of recognizing and rewarding excellence.”
The franchisor offers plenty of internal support, he notes, including an International Franchise System Support Center that franchisees can call anytime, legal, human resources, and marketing supports, and an education/training department, Express University. There’s also a Circle of Excellence program that rewards franchises that reach certain milestones, and an annual leadership conference that brings together upwards of 1,500 Express owners and managers.
Jenkins also participated in a three-year program called the Express Leadership Academy (ELA), that brought together a group of franchisees across North America for monthly webinars on aspects of being a business leader and developing an Express franchise. “I made some great friends, not just colleagues, through ELA. It feels like a really big family.”
Reflecting on his professional career, Jenkins says he feels franchising has been the perfect system for him.
“Franchising has allowed me to be able to do what I enjoy, and because I enjoy it, I’m good at it,” he said. “Whereas the areas where I need support, the areas I’m weaker in, well, that’s where I have support from my franchisor letting me know I don’t have to do everything myself.”
That’s not to say business ownership, through a resale or otherwise, is a walk in the park, Jenkins cautions.
“If business ownership were easy, everyone would be lining up to do it! It is meant to be a challenge, but with franchising, you have the opportunity to build something that’s yours and will endure for generations to come.”