Following decades of business experience, TES has truly established themselves as a leader in the staffing landscape. With annual revenues of over $100M, TES is one of the largest staffing businesses in Canada, and it does it all with only 78 employees! That’s a company making over a $1M per employee!
Co-founder Frank A. Wilson is committed to evolving TES’ business practice to capitalize on technological advancements and ensure the highest level of service is provided to clients in the recruitment process. His successes have allowed him to remain the industry leader almost all the way back to 1975 when TES was first founded.
When TES launched as a staffing business in 1975 the industry had given itself a bad name. “Clients needed the talent badly, so agencies took shameless advantage,” says Frank Wilson, Founder. “They charged exorbitant markups, and treated candidates like inventory. It was greed and shortsightedness. I saw a flaw in the market we could fill, but more than that, I saw that staffing agencies could be so much more than they were. For everyone’s benefit.”
Frank and two friends who shared the same goals and aspirations partnered up and put up their homes to raise TES’s startup funding. Rearchitecting the client-candidate-agency relationship to a more equal, win-win-win model was just the start. TES would do more than just bring talent to a client’s front door. TES moved inside, helping clients build teams, solve problems, plan projects and pursue goals. TES became the go-to firm for finding the needles in the haystack – the critical skill sets and perfect-fit team members that turbocharge an organization trying to compete in today’s economy.
In 1993, TES assembled a team of IT experts to architect and launch our Information Technology division. From there, it rose rapidly to a dominant position in the Canadian IT staffing market. Its annual revenues exceed $100M, and its clientele now includes high-tech, finance, energy, government, engineering, retailers, service industries, manufacturers, and many others.
What led to my success? Tenacity. If you work hard, and work smart, you get lucky. Luck doesn’t just happen.
The Frank A. Wilson Story
A Welsh-born émigré, Frank started learning the engineering business in New York, then transferred to Canada at age 21 to open a new branch for his firm. When asked to return to the US to open other offices in the South and West Coast regions, he opted to remain in Canada. “I liked it here.” He continued building his experience in all aspects of the staffing industry – sales, recruiting, client relations, training, business development, and marketing strategies.
In 1975, Frank and two partners started Temporary Engineering Services, which later broadened its offerings and ultimately became TES The Employment Solution. It supplied engineering and technical personnel to roles in the manufacturing, engineering, energy, construction, transportation and several other major industries, as well as to a variety of government agencies.
Frank has maintained a leadership role in this fast-changing industry, supporting an association for engineering staffing firms (Canadian Association of Contract Engineering Services), which met in TES’s offices to set business standards and lobby the government on regulatory and employment issues. This important role was ultimately taken on by the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services (ACSESS).
Frank has lobbied Ottawa for a European-style apprenticeship program to enhance Canada’s supply of skilled workers, and fought for the refunding of EI contributions for contract workers. He was asked to speak to committee hearings on Ontario’s Bill 139, governing the staffing industry, and he has also served on the Canada Pension Review Board Tribunal.
Frank’s special skills include a flair for public and motivational speaking (“I’m not shy!”), a good eye for talent, and a commitment to healthy, inclusive communities. His 17 years of intense involvement with the Reena Foundation, which provides independent living and leisure/work opportunities for developmentally delayed children and young adults, includes tenures as Director and Chair. TES also donates computers and furniture to vocational training programs for Reena clients, and sponsors a major annual Reena fundraiser.
As President of the Jewish National Fund for Canada, Frank leads ten offices, directing thousands of volunteers, raising millions of dollars for the organization’s worldwide development of new environmental and agricultural technologies. JNF-developed techniques are used internationally for preserving dwindling forests, developing drought-resistant grains, and providing skills training for youth of many nations. JNF scientists have contributed to rehabilitating Canada’s freshwater ecologies.
Frank’s philanthropic work in this and other organizations won him the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, the Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal, and most recently the Vaughan Volunteer of the Year Award.
The best part of owning a business? Being your own boss. Dealing directly with success and failure, navigating between risk and reward, getting to reap the results—for better or worse– of your own decisions, not someone else’s.
What was it that caused you to start your business?
Frustration. Frustration with the way the industry was being run, in a short-sighted way that stressed short-term profits over long-term relationships. And the desire to make my own decisions, reap the results of them, and even make my own mistakes and learn from them. I wanted to make a difference.
Where did your business’s seed capital come from, and how did you go about getting it?
We raised it ourselves rather than seek out investors. We wanted to really be our own bosses. We put it together from a variety of sources, and all of us put our homes up as part of our commitment to starting the business. It was three guys and one phone and one table, in an office over a butcher shop. We’ve come a long way since then!
Tell us about what you sell.
The short answer would be that we sell staffing services. We find the IT, engineering, and technical people you need to do the work that drives your projects, whether it’s for the short term or the long term. The long answer is that we help build and grow your business. We locate the specialized skill sets that are critical to your projects, we assemble teams, we take over the time-consuming HR work and do it precisely the way you want it done. We take on the logistics of government remittances and employment regulations and the liability concerns that go with them. For employers, managing these issues consumes a lot of time and money, and we take all that away.
What makes TES unique?
Two things. One is our total flexibility. We individualize our service model for each client. Every part of what we do to assist you from the technology we use to accept/respond to your job orders, and the criteria we use to screen candidates, to the types of questions we use for interviewing them, to the format of candidate submissions, on through to invoicing and payment methods, is customized to the client’s preferences. This “wraparound service” helps us operate as an extension to the client’s HR department, in a way that meshes smoothly with their existing business practices.
The other is our agility and our ability to problem-solve actively with the client. Unlike many of the large generalist agencies, we don’t just deliver bodies to the door. Our lean, flat corporate structure keeps us able to respond to last-minute and unusual requirements, and able to implement unique solutions to challenges as they arise. Many clients trust us to come on board and help them plan for major projects; we can advise and assist and help clients get closer to their goals.
How did you build your management team?
You choose good people and then you get out of their way and let them do what they do well. We selected seasoned specialists who had the entrepreneurial spark we were looking for, who were willing to take some risks. They came from a variety of backgrounds, which keeps us from falling into the “groupthink” trap.
What insights do you have from building and attracting your workforce?
You need to pay well, you need to structure incentives to reward entrepreneurship and hard work, you need to create a good working environment that people are happy to come to. People are happiest when they are supported and empowered to do what they do well. I work hard to instill an entrepreneurial spirit at all levels and in every role. They all have important ideas and perspectives to contribute. But I also want our workplace to be a fun place to be, as well as a motivating business environment.
How did you brand your business and market it?
Ethical, upfront, professional and personal. We put our energy into relationship-building. A client or a candidate who knows you and trusts you sells your business more powerfully than any logo or marketing image.
What is your biggest success so far?
More important than anything is the fact that we’re out there competing head-to-head with multinational staffing vendors much larger than us, and we’re being successful in that arena. That’s when you know you’ve got the stuff.
Other major milestones reached recently?
We just passed our 35th year in business, and we’ve survived and stayed profitable through four recessions. We won and held a very prominent place supplying specialist IT skills to Nortel, and when it went down, we were able to win and hold a prime vendor role with IBM Canada, against some extremely stiff competition. We’ve made huge inroads to the financial sector, and we’re a supplier to some of the largest clients on the Canadian landscape.
Do you have plans to expand to new markets/products?
We are currently pursuing expansion into the aerospace sector, and exploring ways to deliver our service, which is very information-driven, to clients through a wider variety of communication channels.
What are your goals as an entrepreneur?
I want TES to be the most respected and most successful company in our industry.
What is your exit strategy?
That’s a good question – I don’t have one yet!! I’m toying with the possibilities of what should come next, but I’m still very much immersed in ongoing change with this unique thing I have helped to create. I always want to know what’s going to happen next.
Do you have any other ventures you are working on?
As mentioned earlier, we are working on becoming a top-rated player when it comes to supplying specialist skills to the aerospace industry. It’s an exciting field – very Canadian and completely global at the same time.
We put our energy into relationship-building. A client or a candidate who knows you and trusts you sells your business more powerfully than any logo or marketing image.
How do you define success?
Success lies in the reputation you build, as a human being and as a business entity. It’s being in the position to give back to the community and make a real difference.
To what do you most attribute your success?
Tenacity. If you work hard, and work smart, you get lucky. Luck doesn’t just happen.
If you were to recommend a book or movie to a young entrepreneur, what would it be?
If you are looking for something that’s about the subject of business, then I’d recommend the book “Think and Grow Rich”, by Napoleon Hill. I’ve read it, and so have several of my team, and it most definitely does work. But if you want something that’s not necessarily “about” business, then go watch “Forrest Gump”. It’s about real people and the way we connect and what’s really important in life. That’s what business is truly about.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your life?
It’s allowed me to travel, to create lasting relationships, to give back to the community. Entrepreneurship demands so much, but it gives so much back to you, and lets you give in return. On the negative side, when you’re your own boss and working and travelling intensively to get your company off the ground, you can end up missing out on quality time with your family. Thank goodness for grandchildren!
What is the best part of owning a business?
Being your own boss. Dealing directly with success and failure, navigating between risk and reward, getting to reap the results—for better or worse– of your own decisions, not someone else’s.
If you had the chance to start over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I could go back and correct some of my mistakes, but I’d only go on to make different ones. Your mistakes are as valuable as your successes. You need to make them, learn from them, build that knowledge into your work. It’s the sign that you were willing to take risks.
It was three guys and one phone and one table, in an office over a butcher shop. We’ve come a long way since then!
The Enduring Visionary
Rewarding talent and ensuring effective communication with clients defines the success of TES. A true visionary to the core, Frank A. Wilson is driven to further develop services provided to a rapidly evolving client-base, aspiring for ever higher heights in the Canadian landscape.
Click on the following for more information about TES The Employment Solution.