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Putting people to work

Photo by: Christine Walsh

The Champaign Express Employment Professionals franchise marked its 10-year anniversary this past spring.

Express Employment Professionals is a leading staffing provider in the U.S., Canada and South Africa. Founded in 1983, Express annually employs more than 566,000 people across over 800 franchise locations worldwide. Champaign owners Richard and Lynn Yoerk purchased the Champaign office in 2008, and have since provided staffing solutions for over 300 local businesses and created job opportunities for thousands of the citizens in Champaign County.

Lynn Yoerk was born and raised in Streator, Ill., and graduated from the University of Illinois in 1988. Lynn is the heart of the franchise, and she is motivated each day by watching the growth among her staff and her associates. “My passion is people; there is nothing more rewarding to me than seeing a new staff member come into the office unsure of their role in the business and watch them build the confidence to become leaders,” she said. Lynn’s passion for people maintains an unshakable sense of teamwork and positivity, which contributes to a vibrant and productive office that has an impact on the community.

Richard was born and raised in the South and, despite a winter he likens to the “frozen tundra,” has fallen in love with the Champaign community. He is the strategist, inspired by the leadership qualities of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who stated, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Richard handles outside sales for the business and instills the values of integrity, personal accountability and service over self to his staff. He believes these values are imperative to developing trust, the foundation of building positive relationships in Champaign.

Richard and Lynn opened the business in spring 2008 with grand expectations of entrepreneurship. The harsh realities of being small business owners hit hard with the economic downturn of 2010, and their dreams of ownership became very much in doubt. On the verge of closing their doors, Richard left the business and took a job with Caterpillar to ensure that they could keep the lights on, and Lynn commuted each week in order to keep the business alive. Lynn recalls that time, “I can’t say much more than that it was scary and that it was one of the most difficult times in my life, but it also made abundantly clear that Richard and I could handle anything that was thrown at us.” They firmly decided that not only would their business remain open but that it would among the best in the country. Richard tells future entrepreneurs, “It will never be easy, but if you believe in your business, are prepared for a lot of hard work and decide that you will do whatever it takes to be a success it will happen; failure is not an option.” Failure was not an option, and it did not become a reality.

In 2012 their sacrifice and hard work paid off as business steadily picked up, and Richard was able to rejoin the business. The Yoerks are often asked how they were able to hold on and not abandon the business. “It’s because of the people; the customers that trust and depend on us is something we take very seriously,” Lynn said. “And the associates that come to us for help; we are able to provide a job that helps put food on their tables. It’s all about helping people; what could be better than that?”

Lynn and Richard both believe that people are the foundation of the business, and this driver sets them apart from other staffing services. The associates that walk through their doors are valued first and foremost as an individual not just a name in a computer.

Today the Yoerks employ 42 full-time employees across Illinois in five different locations. They service nearly 300 customers and pay over 1,600 temporary associates on a weekly basis. Their Express locations assist with entry-level, skilled-labor, clerical and professional-level staffing needs. The Yoerks have been recognized both locally and nationally for their leadership and community stewardship, contributing to organizations such as Wounded Warrior Project, Children’s Miracle Network and Eastern Illinois Foodbank. They currently rank in the top five of the over 800 franchises internationally and have their sight set firmly on being number one. The road has been a bumpy one but after 10 years the fact that stands out the most is that “this an amazing community that has so much to offer,” Richard said.