Editor's note: This is one in a series of profiles of businesses nominated for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award.
Chris Rickerson has stood in some of the same work boots as the people he finds jobs for.
After a troubled childhood, Rickerson edged into a productive lifestyle through manual labor jobs.
Today, he’s the owner of 4-year-old Elite Staffing, which he says did over $3.2 million in business last year, a portion of it finding day laborers for local employers in construction, manufacturing and other fields. Rickerson also places people in “temp-to-permanent” jobs and serves as a headhunter for executive talent.
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But it’s helping people get back on their feet that he finds most fulfilling.
“I’m on a mission,” Rickerson said. “I have really found my focus: to build these people up.”
Elite Staffing is one of the nominees for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award for “tier two” businesses – those that employ 26 to 100 people.
Rickerson says he dropped out of high school and battled drug addiction. After finding Christianity and getting sober, he managed an amateur poker league and ran a banquet hall. Then, after three years working for another staffing firm, he started Elite in a modest building on Central, maxing out his credit card and refinancing his van to raise the necessary money.
Rickerson promised that if people seeking work showed up at the place at 5:15 a.m. with a pair of work boots, he would likely be able to find them a job, at least for that day. Their employers would then have the option of hiring the person on a regular basis.
Rickerson recently bought a 12,000-square-foot building at 415 N. Poplar and expects to move Elite there within a month. He’ll use about a fourth of the space himself and attempt to lease the rest. The building will feature a LED sign that helps attract attention. Many industries are facing a shortage of workers right now, he says, which means more work for him.
“It’s real good,” he said. “We’re growing like crazy.”
Rickerson found jobs for 1,200 people last year, receiving a fee from the businesses they work for. They are considered his employees until and unless they are hired by another business. Some companies keep the workers on Rickerson’s payroll for a 90- to 120-day tryout period.
Not all the work involves manual labor. Rickerson says he filled a controller’s job for an aviation company that pays $120,000 annually. He said his staffing agency is unusual in handling everything from day jobs to executive positions.
Rickerson employs six people on his own internal staff, with plans to add a full-time accountant after the move. He tried expanding into another city once before but wasn’t successful. However, now that he has the right “policies and procedures” in place, he’s thinking about trying again.
“The goal for me is to do this again in other regions.”
Address: 2601 E. Central
Owner: Chris Rickerson