Haley Crum is optimistic about 2021

CEO Connect

Haley Crum was raised in a close family and her dad was joined by her grandfather in establishing Great American Temporary Services, a staffing and payroll firm in Clearwater, before she was born. It’s now called FrankCrum.

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

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

Bridgette Bello, CEO and publisher of Tampa Bay Business & Wealth magazine, interviewed Crum in front of a live audience at the Applied Science & Performance Institute in Tampa.

This interview has been edited for length and brevity. Photos from the event are below. (Photos by Ryan Gautier) 

Talk about some of the fun things that have happened since you let us tell your story.

Amid COVID, we had a little bit of a downturn. Being in the payroll industry we are the first to go, usually, and the first to come back. We’re kind of a loss leader and then an economic leader as it turns around. So we were very blessed.

We had like a two-month downtime as far as payroll is concerned. We are set to hit our budget and maybe exceed it a little bit for the year. So to me, that’s the most exciting thing.

We’re still hiring. That tells me that we’re continuing to grow and do good things.

Getting ready for Thanksgiving was weird. We fixed way too much food. I think it’s in our brains like, OK, we’re having 30 people [so] let’s fix it all, and then there were like six of us. It’s a very different year.

One of the things that we thought was fun but we didn’t get to go into as much detail we would have liked to, is that you’re a foodie. Your first love was culinary school. What are your top three favorite restaurants in Tampa Bay?

Mise en Place, definitely a favorite. An oldie but a goodie. Bern’s when you can get into it, which is never. I love Oystercatchers.

You eventually went on to join the family business and one of the things we talked about that I think surprised people, was that you legitimately started at the bottom. Talk about that.

I didn’t want anything to do with a family business. My grandfather was very sick and passed away in 2006. So I joined the company in March 2007.

I think my dad would come by the restaurant [I worked in] probably every week, or every other week, and say, “Are you ready to join the company?” About a year later, I said, “Fine. I’m ready to join you. But I want to start from the bottom and I don’t want to work directly for you.”

I started as a customer service representative. And, really, it was interesting, because the supervisor I was under didn’t train me at all.

I had no idea [what I was doing]. Everyone assumed that I had paid attention growing up and I had no idea what is happening. I was mortified. I thought I was going to lose my job that first weekend.

I ended up asking my dad a ton of questions.

So what’s Thanksgiving like with your brother, your dad and you all working in the business?

We try not to talk about work. It’s been pretty difficult for me because, coming into a new business and finding out that I’m pretty good at it, I wanted to know more and ask a ton of questions. But there are boundaries. I had to learn to only ask questions in certain time frames. It’s been difficult, but it works.

You talked about that when we did the interview, he would say, “Really, Haley, it’s 8 p.m. on Sunday. You can ask me tomorrow.” We can probably all learn a lesson about that.

Someone reminded me earlier that you don’t get that time back. Spend time with your kids and your family. I don’t want to look back and have regrets. It’s not like I work at NASA. The work will always be there the next day. What’s it going to say on your tombstone, she had an empty inbox?

When we talked to you about how FrankCrum has navigated through 2020, you were super positive and had great things to say. I’m curious what you see for 2021?

Going into COVID, I was one of the believers that it was going to be here for a couple of weeks, and everybody was overreacting. This is ridiculous. Then it was the summer and I realized, OK, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

For 2021, all I can do is pray that what’s meant to be, will be, and then they’ll come up with some vaccination that works and that the numbers will decrease. I don’t think we’ll ever not deal with COVID. Just like the flu. My wife and I talked about that the other day. It’s going to be like an annual vaccine. We will be asking each other, “Did you get your flu and COVID vaccine?”

I always like to look at the bright side. So, 2021 should be better.

You were on your honeymoon when this whole thing started.

Almost, we landed in the United States and then they shut the borders. We were in South Caicos. Luckily, we caught a flight out but it was serious.

Did you want to just like go back and stay there?

Yes. It would have been awful. [Laughs] It was amazing. It was gorgeous.

We found a lot of things that you talked about really inspiring. I think the most inspiring thing is that you were true to yourself through your whole story. We’re not all great at that. I wanted to ask you if you had any advice for people in the audience that you would like to share.

For the record, I still struggle with that.

I have great mentors, and people who have helped me along the way, to thank. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve lost relationships because of choices that I’ve made. But in the end, all I have is myself and my choices. So the choices that I made along the way, as long as I can remember them, I can sleep with them that night.

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