Garrie Harris, President and Co-Founder of Alpha1 Staffing + Search Firm, has been in the contract labor and temporary staffing industry since the early 90s. After starting her career in banking, she worked for a large national staffing firm and loved it. She ran several offices in downtown Miami before going to work for a smaller boutique staffing firm, also in Miami. Working with the smaller firm, Harris was exposed to more of the internal operations. She learned the business from the front office to the back office and grew the firm significantly. Unfortunately, in 2006, the economy started going in the wrong direction. The staffing industry felt the effects of the recession before it officially hit. Harris had a decision to make.
"My boss was forced to do some layoffs," she said. "That's when I decided I wouldn't work for another firm and that I had the necessary skills and drive to start my own staffing business. I brought together some investors and, by October of 2007, we launched Alpha1 Staffing."
Originally from Fort Myers, Harris grew up watching her father face the challenges of entrepreneurship. He owned a construction firm and she saw first-hand the stress and the many the ups and downs that come with owning your own business. At a young age, she was convinced she wanted nothing to do with entrepreneurship. However, as Harris put it, "I guess the bug was in me."
Not long after launching her business, Harris experienced for herself why entrepreneurship can be such a difficult road. "In 2007, we couldn't give people away," she said. "It was definitely a bad time to start a staffing agency. We also suffered from a lack of funds. We were under-capitalized and quickly ran out of money. This forced us to think of non traditional staffing opportunities. As a result, we started doing staffing for non-profits. We worked with groups like CareerSource Miami and eventually extended our services to municipalities, where we would serve as the Employer of Record and also do payroll processing for them."
Working with the municipalities gave Harris and her team the credentials and confidence to go after even bigger contracts. In 2015, they were awarded a contract with Miami-Dade County to supply qualified candidates, manage candidate selection and assessment, conduct on-boarding, and provide compensation of temporary workers within the county budgetary constraints. Throughout the life of the contract, Alpha1 Staffing became the top vendor and billed upwards of $80 Million.
Harris shared what Alpha1 Staffing does to stand out in such a crowded industry. "We're seen as a middle-range staffing agency," she said. "We're not big, but we're not little. In the class where we compete, I believe our secret sauce is our customer relations and how we treat them. As the president, I’m the ambassador of great customer service and nothing is beneath me. Further, we all treat every single client as if that’s our only client. We give everyone personalized attention and cater to their needs, not ours."
Harris expanded on Alpha1 Staffing's capabilities and why they're so passionate about what they do.
"We are your partner in business providing solutions from recruitment, assessment, training, development, and career management, to outsourcing and workforce consulting," she said. "We are experts in maintaining long-term contractual relationships with companies across many industry sectors and government municipalities throughout the Southeast region. Delivering a quality, personalized experience to both the employer and career seeker is our goal. Alpha 1 Staffing/ Search Firm understands the important role PEOPLE play in every aspect of the success of our careers, businesses, our day-to-day lives, and our world. That is why the goal of serving, assisting, and developing people is at the very heart of our business."
Harris, who's motivated by providing an under-served staffing pool with good reliable income to support their families, is very much focused on expansion. Since establishing her original Miramar location, she's branched out to include offices in Miami, Fort Myers and North Carolina. They're expanding into the debris removal business and staffing for municipalities after natural disasters. According to Harris, they're increasing their market share in this area it might be their, "next chapter of success."
What advice does Harris have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Find yourself a mentor and dig into what it takes to operate in your industry," she said. "In lieu of not having an opportunity similar to the one I had that allowed me to see the ins and outs of an industry up close, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. It's also very important to have a business plan and make sure the plan has a healthy financial plan to go with it. The last thing you want to do is run out of capital."