COMING UP ACES
AS SEEN IN STRATEGIES IN SMALL BUSINESS

As early as Shane Jones can remember he’s wanted to own his own business. In high school, he took a shot at starting an arcade, but he underestimated how much the games would cost. He then tried a janitorial service, but that never took off either.

Finally, he found a product – workers – that could never keep pace with demand and 11 years ago founded Ace Personnel, a temporary worker service. Unlike his earlier attempts, Ace has proved to be very successful. Revenues have doubled in the past four years, bringing the total to more than $10 million. Ace ranked No. 11 on the Kansas City Business Journal’s most recent Top 25 list of temporary staffing agencies.

“Ace was the first business I started that got off the ground,” he said, “It was the first one I ever made any money off of.”

After college, Jones worked at a national staffing agency. “They were widely successful,” he said, “But they weren’t computerized.”

Jones recognized that computerizing the staffing operation would allow him to get a lot more accomplished.

“It was then that I identified that this was a business I wanted to be in,” he said. “It was a business that I could be successful in, and I told my wife that if I don’t make it this time, I’ll get a real job.”

Luckily for Jones, it didn’t come to that. “There was a lot of fighting to get in the game,” Jones said, “And I was in the right place at the right time.”

How it Works

Ace Personnel has its headquarters in Mission but has surrounded itself with a dozen satellite offices including sites in Downtown, Sedalia and Overland Park. Jones said this enables him to attract applicants from every corner of the metropolitan area. “This business is all about finding people,” he said.

The staffing service acts as a business partner to its clients. Its team of 20 interviewers, staffing coordinators and trainers screen potential associates, or temporary workers. Candidates then are put through a variety of tests, a personal interview and two telephone interviews before reporting to work.

Ace hires the associates, so the agency is the legal employer to its 400 to 500 associates. The associates work on Ace’s payroll for 90 days and then can be rolled over to the clients, if all parties agree.

“This way employers can get a feel for a candidate,” Jones said. “It’s also more cost-efficient to hand it off.”

Jones defines everything he promises a client in writing so what he’s committed to doesn’t get lost in conversation.

Ace then updates the commitments annually to ensure that the client’s needs will continually be met. Jones attributes his company’s growth to this attention to the client.

Happy Clients

Clients appreciate that focus and reward it with their business. “I’ve worked with lots of other temp agencies,” said Selena Hill, director of human resources at Emerson Ventilation Products. “Ace is head and shoulders above the rest.”

Emerson has been using Ace for more than five years. When Hill joined the company a year ago, she decided to reevaluate the company’s choice of staffing agencies to make sure Emerson was getting the best bang for its buck. “There’s no one better out there,” she said. They are eager and interested in finding solutions to our problems, and that’s a rare find.”

Jones has even set Ace’s sights on national clients. Recently, he went to Dallas to pitch his agency to J.C. Penney Co. Although it’s still early in negotiations, it appears that Ace soon could be providing staffing services to the multibillion-dollar department store. Jones hopes to provide the manpower needed to handle the company’s catalog department for the holiday season later this year.

Craig Beasley, president of Comer Packaging, began the company’s relationship with Ace 10 years ago quite casually, “I went to the phone book and pointed.” But the relationship has blossomed since. Once, Beasley said, his company needed 125 people in three days, and Ace rose to the occasion. “He hustled up and got me the people,” he said. “From that day forward, we’ve had a strong relationship.”

Beasley said Ace can do what the bigger companies can’t because Ace doesn’t make clients wade through dozens of channels to get an answer to a problem.

Jones has even gone so far as to work in Comer’s warehouse, side by side with employees, to learn which candidates would be best for Comer. “He wants to be on the cutting edge,” Beasley said. “And because of that he’s willing to change what needs to be changed on the fly.”

By Christina Guest Staff Writer

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