Phyllis Eller-Moffett, Quality Staffing Specialists

In 1995, Phyllis Eller-Moffett, president and CEO of Quality Staffing Specialists, began paving the way for her company’s future in North Carolina by convincing herself that failure was impossible — or so said the sticky note on her computer.

“It became my mantra,” she joked. “I put those sticky notes everywhere to remind myself.”

A little positive reinforcement went a long way in helping Eller-Moffett to create what is now one of the largest personnel staffing agencies in the Triangle.

“It just catapulted, and from there we’ve just been getting better and better,” she said.

For Eller-Moffett, relying on that mantra wasn’t only key for her own success, but for her children’s success, as well. “It was terrifying for me because I had three children who depended on me for income. I employed them.”

Today, her children still work by her side. In fact, Eller-Moffett’s seven grandchildren even spent the first six months of their lives in the agency’s conference room with a full-time nanny.

It wasn’t a lifetime of experience in the staffing industry that called Eller-Moffett to start the company, but rather a desire to start a business that she felt couldn’t fail.

In Washington, D.C., at the time, she had raised her three children as a stay-at-home mom, and returned to school for a graduate degree in hospital administration. She said she wasn’t tied to that line of work, though, and began looking at other opportunities.

“I researched different jobs out there to see what had staying power. Temporary staffing was in the top three, and I thought, ‘I can do that.’”

Eller-Moffett left school and sent her resume with what little work experience she had to a lady named Helga Tarver who owned a local agency, TeleSec Temporaries. “It was truly challenging starting my career from scratch, especially when you’re used to being in control,” she said. “I just wanted them to hand me the phone and let me call and talk to the clients. I wanted to see if I could meet my goals first. But it doesn’t work that way.”

Under Tarver’s tutelage, her determination paid off and she bought into the company. After nearly 10 years in the D.C. market, TeleSec was being sold, and Eller-Moffett’s son persuaded her to move to North Carolina.

And she started from scratch again.

Eller-Moffett attributes much of the success of her company in North Carolina to sage advice from Tarver. “The best thing Helga ever taught me was that you’ve got to be able to afford to do it,” she said. “This industry pays once a week, and you have to have the budget for it.”

Her keen business sense, Eller-Moffett found, was innate. Her ability to budget helped propel the company through tough economic times when others were closing their doors.

“We had people call us and say that they showed up to work one day and the doors were locked. Or, instead of hiring people for weeks, they would hire them for days,” she said. “It was tough, but you just have to tighten your belt and do what you have to do.”

She also attributes part of her success to being a middle child. “As a middle child, you’re always trying to make things work out right, to keep the peace. Staffing is kind of the same way. You’re like the center of the client/staff Oreo.”

The first client Eller-Moffett signed when she started her business in Cary is still with the agency today. But since then, Quality Staffing Specialists has grown to include not only the Triangle market, but statewide and national clients as well. On any given day, the agency has 300 to 350 temporary workers placed in jobs. She places people of all ranks, from clerical work to executive levels, and in a variety of industries, from government to health care. Her agency was also the first in the area to provide subsidized health care and retirement benefits for its temp placements.

To remind herself and others in the office of what they are working toward, a “brag board” hangs in the office reception area. Thank-you notes, cards, letters, pictures and general fanfare hang as a tribute to a job well done.

Eller-Moffett says one of her favorite perks of locating her business in North Carolina is the friendly nature of the people with whom she works. “This part of North Carolina is so nice,” she said. “People are not only grateful, but they want to reward you for helping them. It’s not just a thank-you card, but people bring us flowers, homemade cakes and gifts. They are so genuinely thankful.”

The feel-good side of business is what keeps Eller-Moffett going. “It feels good to have everyone working to the same goal and being happy about it, to see all the pieces and parts and watch it all come together,” she said. “And it helps to have a positive reality.”

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