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VOL. 129 | NO. 74 | Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Upward Mobility

Gateway Group Personnel, clients’ careers reaching new heights

By Don Wade

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In hindsight, the story started exactly as it should have.

Brothers Jered, left, and Garen Haddad with a portrait of their parents at Gateway Globe Personnel. The family business is in its 30th year.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Recruited by a headhunter to move from South Carolina to Memphis, Chuck Haddad packed up the family – wife Darlene and sons Garen and Jered – and came for a job that he would lose, forcing him to make a life-changing decision.

This was in 1982, and Garen Haddad and Jered Haddad, who today run Gateway Group Personnel as president and vice president, respectively, were just kids. And their parents were making the great American gamble by taking out a second mortgage on the house and buying into a recruiting firm called Romac, which had offices in more than two dozen cities.

Ten years later, Chuck and Darlene bought out of Romac and started their own business. All was going well, Garen recalls, until one day the family returned from a beach vacation and discovered that some employees had taken all the files – this was before everything was on computers – and used the information to start a competing recruiting business.

It was crushing, especially given the humble beginnings: When Chuck and Darlene were just a young married couple, they were about flat broke.

“As the story goes, I was conceived in a blue trailer out of a four-pack of cheap wine,” Garen said.

The success of the family business, of course, was anything but an overnight sensation. Business, however, is thriving today, with the company in its 30th year and fresh off a rebranding with a new logo that is one “G” inside another “G” with two arrows pointing up, symbolizing the Gateway Group taking careers and companies to new heights.

As it was early on when their parents started the business, today’s Gateway Group is divided into two main parts: executive search and temporary staffing.

Garen, 43, oversees the executive staffing side. In 2013, he said, the company placed 121 people in jobs with a median salary of $87,000.

“When I was in my 20s and 30s, it was about commissions; I’m not gonna lie,” Garen said. “But what I always say in my elevator speech to people (now) is it’s not about placing people for commissions. The real story line is when I’m sitting in Dad’s office, in his chair – this is a vehicle by which we can memorialize my mother and father.”

Darlene died in 2005, and Chuck passed away in 2010. But by 2002, the parents had started grooming their sons to take over the business, even bringing in Dennie Smith, then a professor and organizational consultant at the University of Memphis, to evaluate the boys’ readiness and to mentor them.

So Garen and Jered were ready by the time they had to be ready. Darlene had been in charge of the temporary staffing side of things – think “Girl Friday” in the old days – but the model has matured greatly over time.

“The industry’s come a long way since then,” said Jered, 41.

Now, when Gateway places a temporary professional or “para-professional” with a company in a variety of fields ranging from accounting, administrative and banking to engineering and medical office, it can serve as a trial run for both the company and the employee, who typically is hired as a consultant.

The hiring companies pay all fees, and Jered said in 2013 the average hourly wage of 450 people they placed in temporary positions was $19 an hour.

“This gives clients an opportunity to try before they buy. That’s one of the things we tout in bringing them in as consultants,” Garen said, adding that in both temporary staffing and executive search they also stress the “cultural fit,” striving to match employer and employees in ways that go beyond a specific set of skills.

In Gateway Group Personnel’s East Memphis office on Kirby Parkway, a framed photograph of Chuck and Darlene is on display. The past is never too far from the present.

“Fire and ice,” Garen said, pointing at their father as an example of the former. “Sometimes, my inner Chuck comes out.”

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