Haley Crum’s journey to success and happiness

Haley Crum is one of those rare stories.

She was born in Dunedin, raised in Clearwater, and still lives, works and plays here to this day.

She was raised in a close family and her dad was joined by her grandfather and in establishing Great American Temporary Services, a staffing and payroll firm in Clearwater, before she was born.

In 2020, after years working her way up, starting from entry-level, Crum and her brother, Matt, were both named co-presidents at the company.

“2018 and 2019 were both banner years for our company, of the 39 years we’ve been in business,” Haley Crum says. “We’ve definitely doubled in size [in the past 10 years].”

In 2008 the company had revenue of about $1 billion and in 2019 that number had grown to $2.3 billion.

While 2020 has been hard on everyone, in some capacity, FrankCrum weathered the storm. It’s still going strong and as Crum tells it, hasn’t missed a beat.

“My dad is very old school. He likes to shake hands and see faces. I don’t think, in his lifetime, we would ever be 100 percent remote,” she says. “With that being said, we did very well. We had about 50 percent of our staff working remotely for almost two months. And we did great. As far as our clients knew, we were still there.”

Moving their workforce to a remote setting wasn’t without some challenges, but when dealing with people’s payroll, the work simply must get done.

“We have about 95 payroll processors and we process about 5,000 payrolls every week. So everything is a time crunch,” she says. ”We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, but because of COVID, we can’t process your payroll.’ It’s like, whatever, just get it done.”

The FrankCrum staff has since returned to their office campus.

Haley Crum

“We were lucky that our cubicles are spaced out appropriately, to fit CDC guidelines. So unless they’re in the café, walking the hallways or in the elevators, our staff doesn’t have to wear facemasks,” she says.

It wasn’t the first time FrankCrum had to adapt. After all, this isn’t the first major crisis it has endured.

“In 2008 we took a dive … and we learned a lot from that dive. Because of what happened in 2008, we came out of it stronger and a better company because we diversified the clientele more,” Crum says. “We used to be just blue- and gray-collar. And with that comes its own set of inherent issues. Now we’ve moved more into the white-collar space and put more dollars into technology.”

Crum, a self-described “problem solver” in not so many words, is no doubt prepared for the next obstacle, whatever that might be.

The irony is, she didn’t want to be in the family business at first. She wanted to chart her own path.

STARTING FROM THE BOTTOM

After Crum had finished school, she was not eager to follow in her family’s footsteps.

“I was actually not in the family business and, quite honestly, didn’t have any desire to be,” she says. “I was a chef by trade.”  

She worked at Mecca Cafe, which is no longer open.

“Fast forward, my grandfather, who was my dad’s business partner, became ill and passed away,” she says. “My dad started stopping by the restaurant, and we would converse. He would ask, ‘Are you ready to come work for me?’ And for about a year, the answer was no.”

She was about 25 at the time and a desk job just seemed boring for her at that age.

“I finally said I would give it a shot. But only under two conditions. One, I didn’t want to work for my dad directly. And two, I wanted to start from the bottom,” Crum says.

Crum started as a customer service representative working three levels down from her dad.

There wasn’t a lot of training so Crum spent a lot of time in her dad’s office and got to learn directly from him.

“I wasn’t trying to get anyone in trouble but I wanted to know, from his perspective, how did he want me to handle things?” she says. “The business is so complex. There are so many moving parts and so many department heads. It was overwhelming.”

Crum worked her way up and ended up becoming a vice president. After some time, she was finally ready to work under her father in a more-direct capacity.

“My niche has been taking departments that needed some adjustments, operationally, and fixing them and then putting somebody in place to continue. I have this weird mish-mash of departments.”

Crum oversees the on-site cafe, because of her background in the restaurant industry. She recruited the chef from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, who is still there 10 years later. She recalls, “I told him to come and make his own menu. Make it your own and I’ll get out of your way.”

She says the diversity of the different departments she works with keeps things interesting.

“If someone would have told me when I was 10 years old, that I would be working with my brother and father I would have said, ‘Absolutely not,’ ” she says with a laugh. “It’s been great. I’ve learned a lot. And I feel that I’ve grown from it.”

Crum says she and her brother, who happens to have a strong mind for numbers and economics, progressed into their respective roles organically, over time.

“My brother is solely on the insurance side and I’m solely in staffing. He’s big into quoting accounts and working with the salespeople. I’m more about the operations or customer support roles. Anything that touches the client. That’s where I thrive,” she says. “It was a matter of truly defining it. And I feel like that was a big step and very helpful. There are clearly defined roles and everyone has their lane, it’s worked out well so far.”

Even though the Crum family has quite a few family members working in the family business, there’s no shop talk allowed at the dinner table.

“I don’t ever recall having business talk at the dinner table. We’d talk about our sports or what else we did in school,” she says.

Crum admits it’s a challenge, at times, to keep the boundaries clear and defined.

“It’s hard, and it was something I had to learn because I was so ambitious. I had to hold myself back. It took my dad a couple of times telling me, ‘Don’t bring it up,’ or ‘Could you not call me at 8 p.m. with a work issue?’ ” she says. “But that’s when my mind was going because I was starting to learn. He would tell me, ‘It will be there tomorrow.’ ”

LAW AND ORDER

Crum was going to get an MBA when she developed another ambitious goal.

“At the time, we had in-house counsel that ended up leaving to go back to private practice,” Crum says. “So instead of hiring another person to backfill it, I went to my dad and said, ‘Why don’t you let me pursue law school? That way I can engage and hire, and fire, outside counsel as we need it.’ ”

Anyone who has been there knows, law school is not for the faint of heart.

“There were days I regretted it. I did the part-time program for four years. I had my full-time job and then I would go at night until 11 p.m. The last two exams I had right after having Annabelle [her daughter],” she says. “If you’re not sure, don’t go.”

While she is not a practicing attorney, Crum says the experience was invaluable for her professional development.

“I think my biggest ‘a-ha moment,’ or takeaway, was [to] slow down the thinking process. I think, inherently, I’m analytical but not to the degree that law school trains you to be. It’s looking for what is maybe not on the surface. Especially in dealing with insurance. They tell you to follow the money and you will typically figure out the cause, and effect, of what happened or has taken place,” she says. “It allowed me to mature in my business thinking, and analytical skills, and to broaden, instead of just looking at the black and white of the situation … there’s usually more to it. It helps you dig deeper.”

FINDING HAPPINESS

Born in 1982 in Dunedin, Crum is one of those “born-here, raised-here and stayed-here” stories.

She attended Countryside High School where she played soccer. She played the piano growing up. Her baby grand is still at her father’s house and she says she wants to start playing the piano again.

“My mom told me when I was 17 and quit, that I would live to regret it someday,” she says. “And sure enough, she was absolutely right.”

She was musically talented when she was growing up, playing in the jazz band. “I still have my flute, but I don’t play it anymore,” she says with a laugh.

She’s lived in Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale, for brief periods. “I pretty much have always called this my home,” she adds. “My friends are here. I have some of the same friends I’ve had since second grade. Everything I know is here.”

Crum has made some significant transitions in her adult life. From chef to insurance, and payroll, and even more in her personal life.  

Before meeting her wife, Shelby, she had a husband. She brushes off the significance. She was simply in a very different place in her life at that time.

“We were just two very different people and had different goals in life,” she says. “At that point, I was in law school and I was checking all the boxes.”

With a husband and young baby girl, Crum realized it just wasn’t the right fit for her, though she’s extremely grateful for the daughter the relationship blessed her with.

As what happens to a lot of people during marriages, and as clichéd as it might sound, you don’t always choose who you fall in love with.

“It’s the person. I wasn’t looking for Shelby,” Crum says. “I fell in love with her in a very short period.”

Haley Crum, her wife, Shelby and their two children.

Crum and her wife are now enjoying the happy family life with a new home they designed from the ground up and two young children.

“I think she’s already looking for a bigger home though,” Shelby says with a laugh. “This one isn’t even totally done yet.”

Crum admits she’s a bit of a homebody but she still dedicates time to get involved with passions of hers, which include helping those that need it the most.

She is a guardian ad litem with Voices for Children at CASA, which is a role that advocates for children in foster care, and has been for seven years.

“I volunteer to go into the court and visit kids when they’re in foster care. We are the voice of the child,” Crum says. “I don’t think people realize in Hillsborough County alone, I think there’s like 2,800 foster kids without even a guardian ad litem assigned to them. The system is stretched way too thin.”

Crum started the program in law school as a part of her pro bono hours.

“Instead of working for a firm, I decided to go the route of someone who couldn’t repay me,” she says.

If Crum was to go into law, as an attorney, she says she would practice elder or family law.

“I like to be an advocate for those who can’t help themselves,” she says. “To me, it’s a privilege, and a blessing, to be able to raise my kids. It’s not a right. I think a lot of people are misguided thinking, ‘Oh, they’re my kids so I can abuse them and misuse them.’ And they are so lost themselves,” she says.

Also, she’s chair of the Homeless Empowerment Program where she started as a volunteer in 2015.

“I’m passionate about helping people navigate waters they may not know,” she says. “It’s rewarding work.”

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