John Sharpe, owner of Knoxville, Tenn.-based company StaffSource, explains how he started his business—and why he never backs down from a challenge.
What led you to launch StaffSource (previously known as ARG Financial Staffing) in 2002?
I was motivated by the idea that I could deliver services more effectively than the company I was working for at the time. The marketplace needed an offering that was more service-oriented and value-driven, and I was willing to take that risk.
StaffSource specializes in human resource outsourcing, with the majority of our services in the recruiting and staffing arena. Today, we have 30 employees, and we were recently named to the Inc. 5000 Honor Roll after being recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in America for five consecutive years.
What do you love most about running your own business?
The challenge. ‘Entrepreneur’ is a sexy term now, but the reality is it’s very, very hard. I’m risk-oriented, so my risk tolerance enables me to look beyond the problems and see the opportunities. I really embrace the challenge of putting a plan together and executing that plan in a competitive marketplace.
What makes Tennessee a good place to run a small business?
As an investor, entrepreneur and operator, I want predictability and logical behavior. The state of Tennessee provides that in a regulatory environment that isn’t overly politicized. The legislative atmosphere is very pro-business across the state.
StaffSource has offices in other states, too, including Alabama. What challenges do you face in dealing with varying state tax laws?
From the state of New York to the state of California, and even within the local municipalities, the law variations are extremely challenging. I think the good news for us is that we transcended to a size where we were able to buy the level of talent—from an administrative and accounting perspective—that we needed to execute those functions.
What state-level policy issues concern you the most?
Workers’ comp, unemployment insurance and wage initiatives. I’m a free market guy, so I am all for smart and simple regulation. I think uniform codes would also be beneficial, but not necessarily a reality.
What led you to become involved with NFIB?
We were aligned from a philosophical perspective. Moreover, I realized that we needed to use our voice to advocate for certain initiatives, and due to our alignment with NFIB, we felt like it was a good place to invest. I’ve been a member for five years.
What advice would you give to other small business owners?
Perseverance. We want to be a dramatic growth company, so we know we’re going to experience some challenge. I welcome that each and every year, and I never back down from it. I would encourage others to think the same way. Just because you get a new challenge doesn’t mean you quit. You keep accepting those challenges and looking for new opportunities.