STOCKTON — For Jennifer Wallace, owner of Premier Staffing in Stockton, her employees and her clients are her business. She places strong emphasis on creating a well-rounded team to carry her company’s success.
“You need to really take care of your employees because your employees take care of your clients,” Wallace said. “Your employees are your business.”
Wallace will be honored at the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce 2016 Business Awards Luncheon on June 2. Heralded for both her business successes and her work in the community, she was designated 2016’s Businessperson of the Year.
“At first, honestly, it felt a little intimidating,” Wallace said of the award. “I’ve worked hard but so have a lot of people.”
Bakul Patel, senior vice president of the Chamber, nominated Wallace. He cited not only her business prowess, but also her community involvement.
“I nominated her because I’ve known Jennifer for at least five years,” Patel said. “She’s grown the business and provided lots of employees opportunity.”
While Patel made the nomination, a selection committee had final say. In addition to being a chamber member, all nominees must have owned their business for a minimum of five years and have an annual gross income receipt between $250,000 and $5 million and/or six or more full-time equivalent employees.
“I knew it was a privilege and a honor, but I had no idea what it really meant. It’s like a huge deal,” Wallace said. She added her mother will fly down from Washington state for the award ceremony. “(My employees) are so excited.”
Since Wallace took over Premier Staffing in 2011, its total pool of employees has grown from 1,004 to 1,982. That includes nearly 400 people who are employed on a regular basis.
Wallace bought Premier Staffing when her former boss, Roy Miller, retired. She started her career at Premier Staffing in 1998 and worked her way up the ladder.
Prior to working at Premier Staffing, Wallace worked in staffing in the nursing industry in Sacramento.
“It’s not just finding employees for companies, it’s finding companies for employees,” Wallace said.
Premier Staffing matches employees with clients in clerical, light industrial, accounting, medical, bookkeeping, warehousing, administrative and technical career fields. Ultimately, her staff places qualified individuals in open positions advertised to the team by their clients.
Wallace said she’s had a number of mentors throughout her career. The first was Miller.
“He took the fear out of sales,” She said.
Others include Patel, who encouraged Wallace to join boards and committees for nonprofits, is another.
The last was Elise Beckerman, her boss when she was 21, a woman Wallace said taught her all the basics about business –“Business 101.”
Wallace said having a good mentor is key, especially for people just starting out in the business world.
Later, she learned the importance of building a complete team.
“Surround yourself with really smart people,” she said.
It’s a practice Wallace employs in her own business – choosing team members who compliment her own skills and are strong in areas she isn’t.
“She has a great group of employees that she takes care of,” Patel said.
Working in the Stockton-Lodi area, where everyone is connected, Wallace said business boils down to building relationships.
While she admits a large part of her job used to include pounding the pavement to drum up business, she doesn’t have to do that anymore.
Entering the world of nonprofits helped.
“We do give back a lot,” Wallace said of Premier Staffing and its employees. “We’re out in the community a lot. It’s a benefit because it definitely gets (our name) out there.”
Wallace has contributed to the success of local organizations and events such as March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society, United Way and more.
While Wallace faces many challenges daily owning her own business, she said, for her, finding work-home balance is the hardest. When she first started out she was a young, single mother going to school and working part time.
“When I was younger and I didn’t have as much responsibility… (I) could always be involved, be the room mom,” she said.
With her second child, it’s different because Wallace has more responsibilities at work.
“You need to be available 24/7. (Clients) need to know that when they call you’re going to be there,” she said. “People say you can have it all. Yes you can have it all, but there’s going to be one thing suffering.”
Looking to the future, Wallace said she hopes to grow her team and continue doing as much in the community as possible.
“I’d like to do more with hospice,” she said.