Michigan entrepreneur and advocate reflects on the workforce needs of the small business community

Leo Carr

While Leo Carr began his career in sales at Philip Morris, he “always had the bug to own my own business.” In 1999, he started his entrepreneurial journey and bought Express Personnel Services, a franchise staffing company. Leo had the opportunity to act on his passion, which was to fill a need by helping small businesses with their workforce needs while also helping people get jobs. This has given him unique insights into how small employers can meet the moment in addressing their staffing needs. 

He now serves as Executive President at the Elite Group, an education management and consulting company that offers staffing primarily in the education sector. The Elite Group also has a training institute and insurance program. In his role, Leo grows all aspects of the business, including working to meet their 15-year goal of playing a major role in eliminating the teacher shortage. He believes that many people can trace their success back to a quality education provided by teachers who care for their students, and that every child deserves that opportunity. 

In addition to his professional journey, Leo has a long history of small business advocacy. He believes that “any time you can help out your community, it’s important to do so.” He was invited to participate with the East Side Industrial Organization–a group primarily made up of small business and civic leaders–shortly after he started Express Personnel Staffing. Also, Leo helped establish the Highland Park Business Association to bring resources to the local business community.

As a former entrepreneur who’s highly involved in the small business community, Leo possesses a wealth of small business knowledge. He notes that although the business landscape improved since the COVID-19 pandemic ended, small businesses still face challenges. Workforce recruiting and retention is a major barrier for small businesses in all industries. Human resources is one of the most important things for small businesses because you need to find great employees and also “have the right policies in place to pay employees well, treat them well and retain them.”

In the next five years, Leo asserts that it's important for small businesses to have digital resources and knowledge of new technologies. He predicts that artificial intelligence (AI) will become increasingly prevalent in the business world, and that small business owners and their team must learn how to effectively utilize AI to grow their business. Furthermore, he thinks that small businesses need to be more attuned to Gen Z because “if you're going to be successful now, you have to think like they think.” He notes that they want flexible schedules while still getting the same work done, which is important to consider because they’ll soon be the ones leading companies in their communities.

Leo reflects on his small business experience, saying “I love to help people. If I’ve had any modicum of success, it’s because of that. It’s a value that everybody should have: just make the world a better place.”

Small Business Profile