As Greg Muzzillo positions Proforma to one day surpass $1 billion in revenue, he’s already hard at work building a second business to reach the same milestone.

ProTalent, billed as the first franchise system exclusively for staffing professionals, launched last fall and will operate out of the same building in Independence as Proforma.

“I was itching to do something different, something new, something in startup mode,” says Muzzillo, founder of both Proforma and ProTalent. “When I went to franchising at Proforma in the printing and promotional products industry, I was no longer in the printing and promotional products business. I was in the franchising business. Now the inverse of that is true at ProTalent.”

Muzzillo launched Proforma in 1978 with a college friend. They each had $100 and together, built a company that reached $1 million in annual sales by 1982. In 1986, Muzzillo took the business concept he had come to know quite well and developed a franchise model around it. The company now has more than 750 member offices and 50,000 clients around the world.

With ProTalent, it’s going to be a little different. He’s going to take the expertise he has developed in franchising and use it to disrupt the staffing industry.

“I was never in the staffing business,” Muzzillo says. “It was very important that I really learn the staffing business and understand it inside and out to make it clear this wasn’t just Greg getting bored and wanting a new play toy. It was something that made sense for me and my skill set, as well as our support center team. I’ve been doing my homework for almost a year. It’s been a very careful process of listening and learning.”

An easier path
to grow
The back-office functions that Proforma and ProTalent provides their customers are quite similar.

“Instead of selling coffee mugs, we’re selling people,” Muzzillo says. “We’re billing the client on behalf of our franchise owner. We’re collecting the money. We’re paying the supplier of the product, which in this case, is a human being. Our franchise owner is supplying the staffing. We’re the back-office accounting, banking and finance department and more, for the franchise owner.”

Muzzillo does not assess an upfront franchise fee to prospective franchisees at ProTalent.

“The franchises that exist today in the staffing industry require a prospective franchisee to invest $35,000 to $85,000 in the upfront franchise fee,” he says. “Then they want people to have $250,000 to $500,000 in liquid capital to be able to spend on getting an expensive office, desks and people to staff those offices. Most of those franchisors also have limiting territories, which doesn’t make sense in today’s world of technology where I can just as easily service someone in San Francisco as Cleveland.”

ProTalent franchisees have the opportunity to grow at their own pace and work out of a home office, if needed. The company works exclusively with staffing professionals.

“Our initial phase is to attract these sales professionals and sales leaders who know the staffing business and are ready to turn their own staffing career into a successful staffing business,” Muzzillo says.

Franchisors must provide value
While Muzzillo takes a patient approach when it comes to grooming new franchisees, he understands the importance of building early success stories as a franchisor.

“There are two phases in franchising,” he says. “The first is, ‘Teach me, teach me. Help me, help me. Get me successful.’ That’s the first phase. The second phase, once they are successful, is, ‘What are you doing for me now that I’m still sending you royalties?’ If a franchise system can’t grow quickly enough, when early franchise owners have grown to a certain size, they’ll say, ‘OK, you taught me the business. But what are you doing for me now that I understand the business?’”

Franchisors that don’t have a great answer along with more value to provide are going to find it tough to continue growing their company.

“It falls apart because new people aren’t coming in and the hope for anticipated benefits that would have been created with 100 or 200 owners never happens because the company never gets that big,” Muzzillo says. “The whole thing unravels.”

ProTalent will utilize the same infrastructure that Proforma has established, with 60 employees in Tampa, Florida, and more than 100 support team members in Independence. Muzzillo says despite living in Tampa, he spends considerable time in Cleveland and will always have a special place in his heart for his hometown.

“There are just great people here with a great work ethic,” he says. “People in Rust Belt towns like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Detroit, most of them live there because that’s where they grew up. It’s easy for us to attract new talent to help with ProTalent because of our proven success with Proforma.” 

How to reach: ProTalent,