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Opening Doors to Part-time Careers

Flexforce Professionals pairs experienced professional women with local companies.

Gwenn Rosener, Sheila Murphy and Ellen Grealish are the force behind Flexforce Professionals, LLC.

Gwenn Rosener, Sheila Murphy and Ellen Grealish are the force behind Flexforce Professionals, LLC. Photo by Donna Manz.

If it weren’t for three highly-educated, resourceful local moms who wanted to be home when the school bus arrived, there would, probably, be no "Flexforce Professionals" today. And that would be too bad, because Flexforce serves the kind of purpose that like-minded mothers and small businesses profit from. And it’s like no other staffing resource in the area.

Flexforce Professionals, LLC, partners experienced professionals seeking fulfilling part-time employment with local businesses who have part-time, flexible, or project-based needs. The "candidates," as the staffers are called, are primarily well-educated "moms" re-entering the job force. Flexforce serves the Washington, D.C. area.

"Our candidates have professional backgrounds, with 10 or more years of experience and expertise in their fields," said Flexforce co-owner Ellen Grealish. "At the same time, we get to help small businesses find talented, experienced resources that they might not be able to afford otherwise."

Flexforce Professionals principals Ellen Grealish, Gwenn Rosener and Sheila Murphy are walking billboards for their rapidly-growing company. Each has sterling professional credentials and a desire to work around family needs. Rosener, of McLean, holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering and operations research and a Master’s of Science in Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech, as well as an MBA from Harvard Business School. Grealish, Herndon, and Murphy, of Vienna, both graduated from Boston College. Grealish graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, and Murphy with a Bachelor’s in political science.

Grealish worked for more than 12 years in strategic sales, marketing, consulting, and project management, in the U.S. and abroad. She studied economics and history at Oxford University in the U.K.

For more than 12 years, as well, Murphy worked as a domestic and international management consultant, mostly with government or nonprofit agencies. She spent two years in Peru as a social worker for the Center for the Working Child.

Rosener focused on strategy development, merger integration and business process reengineering for more than 15 years. She has worked for Ernst & Young’s management consulting practice, General Electric, and Sara Lee, and was on the board of the YWCA of San Pedro, Calif., for five years, serving in a myriad of positions.

IN THE UNIVERSE they created out of Flexforce Professionals, Grealish, Murphy and Rosener continue to work in a mentally-challenging environment, growing an innovative business, yet still manage to be home when the children come from school. All three remain active in school and community activities. They were inspired to establish Flexforce because the need for professional part time staffing was not satisfied. The Flexforce Professionals moms observed that many moms voiced the same concerns: I’d like to go back to work part-time and use my skills. They also observed that many smaller businesses would benefit from the expertise of skilled part-time employees.

"There are tools and resources out there to tap into entry-level talent, full-time talent, even independent consultants, but not our target talent pool," said Rosener.

Inspiration for the business model that became Flexforce Professionals arose for Grealish, Murphy and Rosener in similar fashion, the search for a quality part-time job.

Rosener and her family moved back to the D.C. area several years ago after seven years in California. During that time out west, Rosener took a break from her career to focus on her family. "When we moved back, the kids were both in school full-time and I was ready and excited to jump back into the workforce, but only part-time," said Rosener. "I thought it would be a breeze. I had 15 years of professional experience. But focusing on ‘part-time’ was the big kink. The infrastructure for searching for professional part-time jobs was virtually non-existent and most of the jobs fielded through on-line and agency searches were entry-level, low paying and low skill. And I wasn't alone. I knew dozens of other women trying to do the same thing - find a job that allowed balance - and running into the same demoralizing barriers.

"At that point, I decided there had to be a better way for professionals who wanted to work part-time to find high-quality part-time work and a way for companies to access this valuable untapped talent pool."

About three years ago, Grealish’s third and youngest child was getting ready to go to full-day kindergarten. "In many ways it was a depressing thought," said Grealish. "All of a sudden, after about seven years of raising kids, they were all going to be in school most of the day. What would I do? I can honestly say that during the years of staying home with my kids, I never really missed working outside the house. I felt really blessed to be able to stay home with them, so it kind of hit me hard when I realized that my weekdays would soon be changing." It was at that point that Grealish got the "itch" to find work that was challenging yet allowing her to be home by a certain time. "I remember thinking, ‘Wow, if businesses only knew what a great deal I would be and what great value I could add if they let me work part-time. I would be completely dedicated, wouldn't need benefits, and would be willing to reduce my salary if they gave me the flexibility to be home by the time the school bus arrived.’"

Murphy was vacationing in Mexico with her husband four years ago when he "dropped dead" on the beach there. He was only 42 years old and Sheila Murphy was left to raise their three young children on her own.

"In all honesty, there is nothing about me or my nature that is anything close to entrepreneurial," said Murphy. "The idea behind Flexforce came to life about three years ago over a cold beer on the beach with one of my closest friends and, now, business partner Ellen. I think Ellen knew I needed something other than my children to worry about. So now I have a purpose and a mission that I can call my own, the flexibility I need to be able to work, and the support of two amazing partners.

"Flexforce is living proof of the power of your network too. Ellen and I are old Boston College buddies, and Gwenn was in a beach house with my husband back in their single days."

Beth Bednarek, Herndon, first learned of Flexforce last spring when she read an article about the company in the Washington Post. "I was thinking to myself when I read it, ‘this is exactly what I need.’" She said she was looking for a part-time accounting job that was a little more challenging than just doing bookkeeping. "I felt like they [Flexforce] really did want to find me a job," said Bednarek, who had been to two other recruiting agencies before she found Flexforce. "I never felt those other places were my advocate," said Bednarek. "Flexforce really did take my skills into account."

In October, Bednarek was placed as an accountant for a local financial business, who, in turn, contracted Bednarek to a client site, an insurance agency. She works approximately 25 hours a week, about six hours a day, in tune with her teenagers’ school schedules. Bednarek, who once owned her own business, said she makes the most of her hours there. "It frees the client up to handle the more research-focused elements and I handle the more day-to-day things."

Flexforce’s business model concentrates on pairing qualified candidates with businesses such as finance and accounting, sales and marketing, public relations, human resources, legal practices, strategic and business development, project management, web development, research and analysis, technical and proposal writing, employee training, event planning and administration.

THE CANDIDATES of Flexforce Professionals work at affordable rates and require no benefits, said Grealish. They accept this in exchange for the opportunity to work in flexible positions. "Flexibility is part of the compensation package," Rosener said.

Companies don’t know how to find these people, said Rosener. "We’re the conduit."

David A. Eisele, Sr., President/CEO of Davelle Clothiers of Reston, said that Grealish provided him with exceptional potential employees. "I have used Ellen to fill three different professional positions and the experience has been remarkable. Ellen provided an amazing pool of talent to choose from. I had a tough time making a decision.

"She would screen the employees, send an executive summary of her impressions along with potential employees’ resume. She simplified a job that was taking up too much of my business time." Thanks to Grealish and Flexforce, Eisele said he now has three "remarkable" new employees.

"I have always been inspired by the strength and grounding of women," said Rosener. "In so many cases, they are the glue and the safety net in our society putting kids and community first.

"And I love our candidate pool. These are moms who have amazing talent and skills and they’ve worked hard to prove themselves in the workforce. But they have given up a lot to support their families and communities, and some have struggled with a loss of identity and sometimes, purpose. I’m inspired by the prospect of creating opportunities for them to re-engage, to build their individual identities and transition into roles where they can continue feeling valued and productive as their kids need them less. Where they can have a turn again."

To learn more about Flexforce Professionals, LLC, go to www.flexforceprofessionals.com/ or call 703-854-1820.