An Awesome Ride

Bringing purpose and passion into the day to day

The Ōnin Group is a Birmingham, Alabama-based, privately held group of companies focused on creating opportunity and empowering people. In addition to the Best Staffing Firms to Work For list, The Ōnin Group via its four staffing brands — Ōnin Staffing, Excelsior Staffing, A3 Solutions and Fōcus — spent many years on SIA’s Fastest-Growing US Staffing Firms list. The group’s non-staffing brands comprise Mōmentum Capital Funding, Mōmentum Equipment and Supply, Woodhaven Custom Calls, Ōnin Properties and Pleasant Hill Timber.

The Ōnin Group has enjoyed significant growth and success since its foundation in 1993 as InStaff Personnel, thanks in no small part to the vision of its leadership. The company was rebranded as Ōnin in 2007. “We’re on a march to be a billion-dollar, debt-free employer of choice who makes raving fans out of talent and clients,” says COO Jim Weaver. “We’re going at it full force and old school, getting out there and building our brand piece by piece.” The firm now counts 596 in-house employees and posted revenue of $490 million in 2020.

Weaver joined Ōnin in 2001 as part of the sales team in Nashville, Tennessee. As the organization experienced exponential growth of its market presence, he emerged as a leader and was given increased responsibility. From sales, he moved into area management, and then into general management — a role that slowly morphed into his current position. “I think I got the title of COO around 2008, but it was gradual. Honestly, at first they just needed someone with a ‘C’ in their title!” he chuckles. “But the meaning has changed over the years — it’s constantly evolving.”

Currently, Weaver’s focus is on developing smart systems and a corporate culture that inspires employee performance; he keeps his finger on the company’s pulse through regular check-ins with field leadership and department heads. “I look at myself as a coach,” he says. “I enjoy when people dig in and crack the code. When they perform at their best, it’s a win-win; the company flourishes, and they themselves are happy and excited, advancing in their careers.”

Opportunity and Empowerment

This is the culture that Ōnin prides itself on: creating opportunity and empowering people, with a focus on the core values of performance, integrity, innovation and service. “There’s this idea that in order to be a great place to work, you need ping pong tables and flip flops, maybe a beer cooler. I don’t have a problem with that, but it isn’t us,” Weaver says. “We’re a great place to work because we believe in what we do. We operate with a sense of mission and purpose. We go out there and compete to win, because if we’re winning together, then we’re happy.

Our culture is about rallying around the cause and building something great.” Perhaps the greatest cheerleader of Ōnin’s culture is Senior Business Development Manager Maribel Gonzalez, who joined the organization five years ago after a career move from textile sales. “Ōnin was actually a client of mine,” she laughs. “I got along with the branch manager of the office where I work today. When this position opened up, she encouraged me to apply.” She adds that with no previous experience in the light industrial sector, she felt a rush when learning about what Ōnin does. “I said, ‘I get to work with these people that I already have a good relationship with, and I get paid to help others? Woo-hoo!’”

In the last five years, Gonzalez used her strength in sales to grow from one to three markets and has become a coach and mentor to incoming sales team members, equipping them to be self-sufficient. Starting every morning with an enthusiastic cheer (“Good morning! Let’s make some money today!”), she energizes her team and brings passion into the day-to-day. “I have a vision board in my office with everyone’s short-term and long-term goals on it. Everyone has something on [the board] except me because this isn’t a job you can do alone,” she explains. “Success comes from everyone — the recruiters, the back office, my boss — it takes a group! So it’s important to me that every member of my team is happy.”

The growth that Gonzalez and her team experience at Ōnin is only one facet of the corporate culture that draws people to the organization. “The flexibility I get from Ōnin and the commitment of its people are also what keeps me here,” she says. “I’m not stuck on a professional or personal level.” Without a set schedule, Gonzalez has the freedom to adapt on the fly in order to meet client needs. “Can you imagine having to work in a territory, and a customer suddenly needs something, but you can’t help them because that’s not your area?” she adds. “That’s a relationship killer. The flexibility I have with Ōnin is priceless because I can adapt to any situation.”

Additionally, the commitment to excellence demonstrated by every member of her team promotes the sense of purpose that Ōnin prides itself on. “I help sales for three offices,” Gonzalez notes, “and when I walk in, they all say, ‘Mari, what do you need?’ They’re eager to jump on projects I give them and take the lead on new accounts. It makes me feel like Madonna walking into the branch!”

Enriching Lives

This communal sense of passion is what drew a newer Ōninite, Christina Johnson, to the organization. Coming from a niche staffing business placing independent adjusters with insurance companies across the US, Johnson knew that her next career move needed to be just the right one. “My top goal was to work for a company that was recognized as being a best place to work, and that’s just who Ōnin is,” she says.

“We have our core values of performance, integrity, innovation and service, but also an unspoken value that I call soul: passion and enthusiasm for what we do. If you’ve been with Ōnin for any length of time, you embrace that idea.”

As Ōnin’s director of people and culture, Johnson is especially proud of how the organization extends its culture to its workforce, both internal and external. In-house Ōninites have access to traditional rewards such as health insurance and also non-traditional rewards such as Wildsparq, the company’s leadership development platform. The company’s goal it to “enrich the lives of our Ōninites in every aspect of their lives; health, wealth, work and home,” Johnson explains. Ōnin’s contingent workers, whom it calls teammates, can enroll in a benefits program, which gives access to usable, affordable healthcare. For entry-level light industrial workers who might not have had access to benefits before, $5 prescriptions, $5 doctor’s visits and free counseling is often life-changing. “This year, we even added life insurance to the program, paid for by Ōnin,” Johnson says. “Many benefit programs are difficult to navigate, but we simplified it.” With an average of 73% enrollment, the benefits program is a testament to the dedication that Ōnin shows its teammates.

As Gonzalez puts it, no one can get close to Ōnin when it comes to benefits, and this is paying off for the organization in big ways. In 2020, amid Covid, the organization experienced 13% growth year over year, and Gonzalez’s region is projecting 20% growth in the near future. “We’re working with our clients not to be vendors, but partners, and that gives us an edge,” she says proudly. “Ōnin is a spaceship, and we’re going for an awesome ride to the stars. Buckle up!”