Elaine Brink, Executive Vice President of Zone Sales, Express Employment Professionals
Years in Staffing: 37
Fun Fact: After a successful sales career focused on point-of-sale equipment, Elaine was looking for work that proved more meaningful. After several promotions as a sales professional, she knew she had the gift to influence people but was still looking for the right place to make an impact. She first joined the staffing industry as a temporary employee with the intent of “getting an inside view of companies” to help inform her next move. Every time she picked up her check on Friday at the local office, the staffing firm tried to recruit her! Finally, she learned more about the role that staffing plays for candidates and decided to join. After nearly four decades (and 21 years at Express), her passion and drive to make a meaningful impact is still at the forefront.
Can you share more about your career path in staffing?
I went to work for a staffing firm and was fortunate to work for a woman that became a great mentor of mine. I started out as an outside sales rep in 1979 and truly enjoyed making connections with people. However, I left the industry in 1983 to support my husband’s dream of buying a business. We bought a retail store in La Jolla, CA and I ran that not knowing anything at the time! However, I used my staffing knowledge to run the store, instituting a flexible staffing model with 40 people on the team. I was able to attract great people as I would accommodate their calendars, which helped them grow their careers and delivered great service to our customers. If they could give me 12 hours a week, I’d find a way to put them to work! The industry had such an impact on me so when my husband got sick and we sold the business, I found my way back to staffing.
I was connected with Express and started as a developer, working specifically with our franchisees. We were at 283 offices when I started, and are now at 773. As we’ve experienced tremendous growth, I’ve been fortunate to receive several promotions and move to different parts of the country on behalf of Express. Twelve years ago I moved to Oklahoma to join our team at headquarters and have served in both VP and SVP roles. Most recently, I accepted the role of EVP and I’m proud to be the first female EVP in Express history.
What advice would you give to your rookie self in staffing?
I wish I had known Express offered franchising back then and I would have bought one!
I’d go back to the importance of learning. Don’t just depend on the company you are working for to develop you. Take the responsibility to develop yourself. Seek mentors. Seek learning experiences. Do your research. Listen with the intent of being influenced. Know that being a salesperson is a noble career when done with the right intention.
What’s your proudest career moment?
Narrowing down to one would be very difficult as I see a sea of faces when you ask that question. I may have helped open the door, but so many people on my team have done the work. I see single mothers that went through hardships and created a very successful life as part of Express. I see franchisees that have been able to learn the industry and truly make an impact in their communities. I’m also extremely blessed that Bob Funk decided to make me the first female executive. Those are all proud career moments.
What does it take to be a great sales leader?
When I’m interviewing for a role, I ask: what’s your definition of sales? You can imagine the myriad of answers. Then I ask if I can share my definition: getting people to think and take action on that thinking. If you consider what that means, we’re not telling people what to do. You can’t make anyone do anything – it’s all about influence. You have to show them how much you care, you have to listen twice as much as you speak, you have to be willing to not just tell, but show what a good job looks like and believe that everyone that shows up wanting to do well. No one wakes up to say they want to do 50%. If a leader is willing to show what a good job looks like, and help coach that individual to that potential through empathy and demonstration, great results will happen.
Staffing is truly a noble profession. Within our industry, what could be more fulfilling than knowing, as the result of your sales abilities, you put people to work. You help companies grow. You impact the economy. By helping one person, you touch an entire family, helping to put food on the table, a roof over their head and gas in the car. You provide more than just a paycheck. You provide hope. It is absolutely the best job.