CHRISTINA NELSON and PACIFIC HR: CELEBRATING 35 YEARS OF SERVING CLIENTS

Over the last 35 years, Nelson’s company has grown and evolved quite a bit—night and day as she describes it. Perhaps it’s one reason she’s remained successful through so many different economic and business cycles. She’s assembled a strong team of professionals who she relies on and considers the true force behind her success.

PEOS THEN AND NOW

Over the years, the PEO industry has evolved quite a bit. From the industry’s early days focused on workers’ comp. and payroll, to the complex, sophisticated HR services of today, the core value proposition of the PEO has endured, however.

FRANK W. CRUM, JR.: AN INDUSTRY PIONEER

Frank W. Crum, Jr. has seen and experienced quite a bit over his business career; he’s learned many lessons and met many people. He’s a humble man who eschews the spotlight, preferring to heap praise on others. The hard work, dedication, intelligence, and passion of his employees has led to his success, he says. Over the last 40 years or so, Frank has quietly helped pioneer the PEO industry. Today his company employs about 500 people and serves clients in nearly every state.

O2 Employment Services: Rallying Redding to Spread Holiday Cheer

As the second-sunniest city in the U.S., it may seem hard to make Redding, California, even brighter. But O2 Employment Services has found a way. What sets Give Redding apart is that O2 has taken it upon itself to rally participation from all across the local business community to elevate the drive to greater heights.

MEET NAPEO’S NEW PRESIDENT & CEO: CASEY CLARK

In December, Casey Clark officially joined the NAPEO team as the association’s new president and CEO. He brings 25 years of experience to the role with a background in strategy and communication consulting and association management. He spoke with PEO Insider ® about his past experiences, lessons he has learned, and what excites him about the PEO industry.

FAREWELL, PAT

In the end, I know that it’s much more important to Pat to have left his mark on the world by being a good person rather than by being a good CEO. Lucky for us, he’s been both.  

PEOS IN THE COMMUNITY: EXTENSISHR

At ExtensisHR, giving back to the community is a monthly surprise. Well, a meticulously planned surprise.  

The Woodbridge, New Jersey-based firm has embraced an employee-run, divide-and-conquer approach to its volunteering efforts. Last year, the company formally launched Extensis Gives Back, a program that created a dedicated committee of employees who schedule company volunteer days by causes they are passionate about. It is a well-orchestrated machine, with its conductor Michelle Conway, ExtensisHR’s Manager of People and Culture, at the helm.  

The committee of roughly 15 employees from varying departments and levels –from payroll to HR and from associates to vice presidents– meets at the start of the year, where they are assigned subcommittees based on each members’ desired month and volunteering activity. Subcommittees meet throughout the year, where they select each month’s theme and where and how the collective company will volunteer that month. The result: all levels of staff have a say and benefiting organizations don’t operate within a vacuum.    

The structure allows employees to plan ahead and manage coordination while also choosing champions to lead each month’s efforts. If, say, October is particularly busy for one employee, they might not volunteer that month because of job priorities and instead lead a separate month. 

“Everything we’re providing through the committee is done through the voice of our people,” Conway said. “Giving our employees the ability to choose the events and organizations to benefit is a huge part of our mission.”  

ExtensisHR’s community giveback is targeted for North and Central New Jersey, near its Woodbridge headquarters. The intent is to make sure employees’ volunteering desires are satisfied and the firm is giving back to the community appropriately.  

“We want to make sure it fits into people’s daily schedule,” said David Pearson, ExtensisHR’s Senior Vice President of People and Culture. “We don’t want people to feel burdened or forced to do things. The feedback has been very positive.” 

Some months are geared toward networking. Others are inspired by that month’s holiday(s). The coming fall and winter weeks are usually centered around giving back and fundraising, especially leading up to Thanksgiving. And the results run the gamut.  

With back-to-school season in full swing, the team is currently running a school supplies drive to help local youth stock up on crayons, notebooks, and other essentials. The committee has also organized pet supply round-ups as well as blood drives in recent memory.   

Recently, the company served hot meals to more than 500 people at Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen, an East Brunswick organization harnessing the power of food to break the cycle of poverty and alleviate hunger.  

And before the summer months, employees drove 15 minutes south to Sandy Hook Beach, part of the region’s Gateway National Recreation Area, to participate in a clean-up of the beach ahead of the busy visitor season. That was an especially meaningful event for Conway, who has beach roots and is a frequent visitor to the Garden State’s shoreline.  

“It’s an event I’ve wanted to do since before COVID. It really meant a lot to me personally,” she said.  

Over its 26 years of existence, ExtensisHR has seen both its regional and national footprint swell, especially over the past half-decade. And as it grew in employee count, so did the collective desire to give back to New Jersey. Both Pearson and Conway agreed that the company gets a lot from the community, so it’s also on them to give back to the community.   

It was last November when the formal “Extensis Gives Back” brand to the company’s volunteering efforts. Pearson says this resonated with employees, leading to better marketing as well as the monthly champions who guide the year’s outings.  

“This way, it’s not all on Michelle’s shoulders,” Pearson said. “Even though she’s driving it, she’s getting help from other folks.”  

When asked of a poignant volunteering experience, Conway pointed to this spring, when the ExtensisHR team put their artistic abilities to the test decorating and filling “sweet cases” for foster children through the nonprofit Foster Love – Together We Rise. These decorative duffle bags and suitcases were packed with essential items were provided to foster children, who often have only a garbage bag to keep their few personal belongings in when they are placed with families.  

It was the second time ExtensisHR helped these children in need, and Conway says it won’t be the last.  

“It’s a heartbreaking experience for children and this program aims to give a bit more pride back and personal identity to them,” Conway said. “And our employees love helping. It gives them the opportunity to express their creativity with the stencils provided to them.”  

InTANDEM HR: Success Through Teamwork

The Denver, Colorado metro area has enjoyed a surge of newcomers in recent years; young Americans in particular have flocked to the Centennial State. Count InTANDEM HR President and CEO Monica Denler as one who sees an upside to this trend. The population growth means more small business owners and more potential worksite employees (WSEs) her PEO can service. 

InTANDEM HR prides itself of being the premier Colorado-based PEO committed to providing exceptional service and expertise to clients. The leadership team behind the operation is a close-knit group of professionals who work well together as a team. You’ll never hear someone utter the phrase “not my job” at InTANDEM. This formula for success has worked well, as the company celebrates 14 years in business this year. 

The journey began when Denler decided to set on her own. 

EARLY DAYS

Having just graduated college with a sociology degree, Denler set out looking for a job in 1998. She landed an entry level sales job with a PEO. Immediately she enjoyed the role and the opportunity for growth it brought. 

“I found that working in a PEO, we were able to change employees lives for the better by helping them gain health insurance and other benefits,” she recalls.  

Denler excelled in her role and when her company was acquired by a larger PEO, she became the youngest sales rep in the class and one of only two females. This brought its own challenges, but she jokes that being a Colorado Avalanche fan at a Detroit-based company was the toughest obstacle to overcome.  

She continued her PEO sales career, eventually rising to VP of sales and operations. Around 2010, a private equity company had purchased the PEO she worked for. She was privy to much of the discussions and process.  

“I felt that some of the decisions that were made didn’t align with what I thought was most important to our clients: providing local service at a local level,” Denler says, “They wanted me to open sales offices all over the country and oversee it all.” 

“I also had two young children and was concerned about being gone much of the time, so I did the next craziest thing and started my own PEO,” Denler adds.  

She began by raising capital. Luckily, her older brother offered to help so long as she agreed to recruit two business partners.  

“He did not charge me a low interest rate,” Denler jokes.  

But nonetheless her brother’s investment helped get the new PEO off the ground. Denler’s husband is a software engineer by trade and agreed to attend HR Pyramid (later to become Prism HR) training with her. She explains that in previous PEO roles she never dealt with the software, so this was not exactly an enjoyable experience.  

She also leaned on other friends and fellow entrepreneurs for advice and assistance. A web designer friend agreed to build her website for only a small fee; a marketing and graphic designer friend helped create a logo and develop marketing materials. She was also able to secure office space from another friend who had extra room.  

“Employees take for granted that someone has set up the internet, and phone system, and copiers, and computers. Being able to office share was a big help with basic needs,” Denler says.  

Plus, a few months later she was even able to convince them to come on board as a client.   

Simply getting to market and securing benefits plans was a hard challenge, too, but nothing was more important than assembling a strong team to work alongside her.  One of Denler’s first hires was a friend and former colleague, Stacy Jensen.  Jensen began her career in the staffing industry and soon landed a job in HR at a PEO where Denler started working shortly after..  

“I was working in HR for the Colorado Judicial Branch which was a great experience, but perhaps not the best match for my personality,” Jensen says.  

“We had lunch on her birthday,” Denler recalls, “and I convinced her to come work for me as my HR Director.”  

Next to join Denler’s team was Pete Sartoris as Chief Financial Officer. Sartoris brought many years of accounting and financial experience to the role, but he’s the lone member of the leadership team who did not bring prior PEO experience.  

He started out on the self-described typical public accounting track which grew boring after a while. So, he switched gears and jumped into the start-up fray. The wild west of business, he calls it. After some years, the constant high energy needed to keep up with the CEOs became too much. 

“I was looking for something with more stability that was focused on the clients,” Sartoris says, “I didn’t know what at a PEO was at first, but I’ve loved it ever since.”  

The most recent member to join Denler’s team is Lisa Petrovich who heads up payroll and operations. She too brought years of prior PEO payroll experience to the role. What began as a temporary placement at a PEO grew into a career that she continues to love today.  

SUCCESS THROUGH TEAMWORK

InTANDEM has grown quite a bit since Denler first opened the company’s doors. Much of this success can be attributed to hard work and a united team working towards a common goal.  

During a leadership meeting, the team put pen to paper to flesh out their core mission.  

“We decided that our purpose is to help clients succeed, our cause is to provide HR and compliance solutions, and our passion is watching entrepreneurs succeed,” Petrovich explains.  

InTANDEM’s story represents the good that can happen when a group of professionals commits to a common goal and set of values.  

“I was in a meeting with Monica and a prospect once, and Monica mentioned that we are a diva free zone,” Jensen says, “You’ll never hear someone say, ‘that’s not my job’.”  

“From the top down we all walk that walk. We are all willing to chip in where needed,” Denler says. “Having started the company alone, I value every role because I know how difficult each one is.”  

The spirit of collaboration and support underpins a positive workplace culture, too.  

“In one word, our culture is wholesome. I feel more confident, more seen, and more valued than any other job I’ve had,” Sartoris says.  

While staying true to themselves, the InTANDEM team has grown the company into what they consider to be the top privately held PEO in Colorado. They remain loyal to service partners and have long standing relationships with insurance carriers. They only market to Colorado domiciled businesses, although they are licensed in more than 30 states. 

Over the years they have seen the PEO sale and service model evolve from a workers’ comp play to a sophisticated HR and technology partnership. Access to a team of experts is more and more important to small business owners, too, Denler explains. She describes Colorado’s legal and regulatory compliance landscape as one that’s beginning to resemble California’s. 

“It’s more challenging than ever to be a Colorado employer which increases our value proposition but we’re also pro-employer and aware of how these changes affect clients,” Denler says.  

Medical inflation is another issue really affecting small businesses. As the COVID pandemic raged a few years ago, many people decided to forego doctor’s visits and appointments. Now, there’s a bit of catchup phenomena going on as people seek medical care they had put off.  The economy overall is not inspiring much confidence among businesses either, Denler says. She’s seen apprehension among businesses to take on new projects or ventures amid economic uncertainty. 

That being said, Denver is still a very attractive market. Denler notes Colorado is a top state for young people to want to move to. There’s a great sense of community, too. With the PEO industry as whole being so strong, she’s confident the company is poised for growth.  

ACTIVE AND ENGAGED

Being active members of their community is big priority for the InTANDEM team, too. The company supports local charitable and non-profit organizations trough the InTANDEM HR Foundation. Their efforts focus mostly on advocating and supporting women, children, and healthcare organizations. Employees are encouraged to volunteer, and even receive paid days off per year to do so. The goal is to reinforce the company’s values of giving back and serving others. 

Denler and her team are also heavily involved in the industry and association. Denler serves on NAPEO’s Board of Directors and other committees. Her team regularly participates on committees and working groups, and attends many conferences and events.  

“Being on the Board is a huge honor,” Denler says.  

“I felt that it was time to give back more to the industry and help grow and promote PEOs.”  

ESI: THE COURAGE TO BE DIFFERENT

Successful entrepreneurs stay on the lookout for new ideas and new ventures. They seem to have a knack for recognizing a good idea. They embrace the inherent uncertainty of starting a new business. Such was the case for Terry Hookstra in the mid 1990’s.  

ILLUMINATING DREAMS: NAPEO GIVES BACK AT GIVE KIDS THE WORLD VILLAGE

In the heart of Florida, minutes away from NAPEO’s 2023 Annual Conference & Marketplace, a place of pure magic and wonder awaits those with dreams and hope to fulfill and embrace. Give Kids the World Village, a haven for children with critical illnesses and their families, stands as a beacon of light and joy. This year Give Kids the World Village is our NAPEO Gives Back partner.

PEOS IN THE COMMUNITY: InTANDEM HR FOUNDATION

When you start your own company, you make your own rules. In the case of InTandem HR, Monica Denler made sure that giving back to the Centennial State was one of those rules.  Denler, InTANDEM HR’s president and CEO, began the Denver-based PEO in 2010. She founded the firm as one that would be entrenched in the community – both in the PEO services it provides as well as its volunteering efforts. 

AN OVERNIGHT SENSATION

I’m always amused when I hear people – typically athletes or entertainers – described as “overnight sensations.” In truth, most have been toiling in obscurity for years at their chosen sport or craft until they finally catch the public’s eye. They are an overnight sensation only to those who had no idea of their work ethic and their rise, but not to those who were with them every step of the way.

THE QUESTCO STORY: TREASURE WHAT IS THERE, BUILD SOMETHING BRIGHTER

A few years ago, Questco served primarily blue-collar businesses operating largely in the state of Texas. Fast forward to today and Questco has service centers in six states, internal employees in 26, and worksite employees (WSEs) in all 50 states. The company’s client base has expanded too; Questco now serves clients across a diverse base of industries, with an emphasis on fast-growing, sophisticated businesses.

NAPEO GIVES BACK: THE POWER OF MANY

If you have attended a recent Annual Conference & Marketplace then you witnessed the power of many. Former NAPEO Board Chair Barron Guss launched the NAPEO Gives Back initiative in 2019 to encourage NAPEO members to harness the power of many to leave our conference host cities better off than when we arrived.

CELEBRATING NATIONAL PEO WEEK

For our May edition, I would normally say “Welcome to the Cap Summit issue!” but I’ll get to that in a minute. Instead, I’ll say “Welcome to the National PEO Week issue!” Thanks to the combined creativity of Kerry Marshall and the work of Thom Stohler to have it recognized, we are celebrating the first-ever National PEO Week during our PEO Capitol Summit, May 21- 27.

THE KENTUCKY PEO BILL: A GRASSROOTS STORY

A core mission of our state government affairs efforts is passing the NAPEO Model Act in every state. In states with the model act on the books, PEOs enjoy the benefit of operating in a fair regulatory environment that does not disadvantage PEOs and our small business clients simply because of the unique nature of the PEO business model. Kentucky is the latest state where NAPEO successfully worked to pass a Model Act thanks to the efforts of many members.

VICTORY IN NEW MEXICO

In recent years, NAPEO has seen growing threats to a PEO’s ability to offer large group health plans in Democratic-led states. For example, in New Mexico, this started in 2019 with PEOs receiving “a cease and desist” letter from the New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance (OSI) for operating an illegal multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA).

MEET CONGRESSWOMAN ERIN HOUCHIN

Voters in Indiana’s 9th Congressional district elected Congresswoman Erin Houchin to serve in the United States House of Representatives in November 2022. In doing so, Rep. Houchin became the first woman elected to Congress from her district. She also holds the distinction of being the only person elected to Congress who has worked for a PEO.Rep. Houchin spoke to PEO Insider about her decision to seek public office, her experience working for a PEO, and the policies she champions.

CHARACTER FIRST: T&T STAFF MANAGEMENT

PEO veterans will often repeat a familiar industry origin story: in the late 1980s and early 1990s businesses turned to PEOs as a solution for lower workers’ compensation costs. There was no talk of talent acquisition, DEI training, mental health benefits, or any of the other many components to the services and benefits PEOs now provide. In the old days, businesses typically partnered with a PEO to save on costs.   And that’s exactly why Thad Steele first encountered PEOs.  

FROM HR MANAGER TO PEO OWNER: Celeste Johnson and The Applied Companies

Celeste Johnson leads Reno, Nevada-based The Applied Companies (TAC). A regional PEO that also boasts a robust recruiting services division, TAC is dedicated to serving northern Nevada as its premier workforce solution. Johnson’s team is committed to high touch service and providing clients the custom tools they need to grow and thrive.  Today, she’s the owner and CEO of the company, but her career path in the HR world began as a summer job while still in college.