Written by Sophie McNeil Wolf | Photographed by Frank Farmer
At the age of 40, Jane Sanders Waugh made a change most wouldn’t consider doing at her age. She went to law school.
Reared in the small Mississippi town of Wesson years before that with a speech and theatre degree from Mississippi College, Waugh was looking to apply law skills to her current work. She and her then-husband had a successful employee-leasing firm, People Lease, the first of its kind in the Deep South.
“I did not go with any expectation or desire to work in a law firm,” she said. “Or practice. I was going to stay in People Lease, which was heavy on compliance and lots of regulation. Really, we were going to put processes into place so that we wouldn’t have to spend as much on attorneys.”
On the other side of her law degree, she found herself in the midst of a divorce and unemployed in the middle of a recession. It was her skills from employee-leasing and a rise in legal work, primarily around asbestos and tort cases, she found a unique niche.
“I had this idea (with fellow graduate Jack Lyon) – we had graduated in 1990-91 at the tail end of the last recession, ‘We are going to contract ourselves.’ He was a fantastic brief writer and I knew how to get the job to write the brief.”
From there, Legal Resources was born.
Since then, Legal Resources continued to be a top resource for contract attorneys in the Jackson area and through partnerships and revamping, became Professional Staffing Group.
One of the first companies to move into Fondren Corner in 2001, Waugh says they have been able to see Fondren revitalization from the group floor.
“We are Fondren people,” she said. If they ever thought of moving, they couldn’t get too far out of the business district, she said.
While the legal industry is still one of the industries Pro Staff is known for, the company now offers a gamut of services, from temporary placement, head hunting, contract work and more.
“There are certain individuals who prefer to do temporary work because it fits with their life. They want to get out of the house and do something that will compliment them. We touch over a thousand people a year,” Monique Bouyer, general manager of Pro Staff.
“We probably get a hundred resumes a day,” Waugh chimes in. “And we respond to every single one of them. Right now, we probably do five interviews a day, on average.”
Sometimes, clients aren’t interviewing to get a job, but are looking for career consultation. “That is something we are not paid for,” Bouyer points out. “They come in thinking, ‘I want a job.’ But, in actuality, they are looking to reconfirm their thoughts such as, ‘Is this a path I want to do?’ or ‘Do I want to stay with my company and move up?’ Sometimes we are looking at resumes and having a heart-to-heart conversation with them about what is their career objective.”
“We are social workers half of the time,” Waugh says, something her staff — currently all female — agree with. “People leave here pretty happy, even if they don’t get a job. They feel like it has been a good experience. They are usually hugging a recruiter like they have known them all their lives. It is intended to make them feel welcome and listened too.”
Fondren’s central location, parking, restaurants, walkability and interesting people, no doubt, lend to the experience, they say.Â “The fact that they get to walk into the Fondren Corner building is fun. When they come in here and walk into all the wacky art (in the Pro Staff office), then they wonder, ‘Who are these people?’ They are greeted as if they were friends before that ever started,” said Waugh.
Bouyer adds, “We don’t always meet with a candidate in the office behind closed doors. We can go across to Sneaky Beans and have a cup of coffee and talk on the porch. Fondren lends itself to being able to go walk around the block and have a conversation.”
In turn Fondren’s workforce also lends itself to Pro Staff Group, including the young professional set.
“(People) who really want to work for themselves, but might also want to have another job that provides another income while they are building up whatever avenue they are pursuing. We are able to work with a lot of them in the sense that they are looking for a position right now. A good area would be social media. A lot of young professionals are looking to work with multiple companies. We are able to work with them. Companies sometimes ask, ‘How do I find someone who is young, professional, energetic, who can perform?’”
What makes Pro Staff Group stand out from the rest after all these years? Bouyer believes their experience from across separate sectors gives them a unique edge.
“We all started our careers in other Â industries, but were able to transition pretty well here,” she says.
For Waugh, that helps their core mission, something she has always kept a priority with her business. “That is why our tagline is ‘Our expertise is understanding yours.’”