Issue 103

Cover Story, Meighen Nehme – CEO of the Job Shoppe. By Matt St. Amand. Photos by Trevor Booth.

Meighen Nehme CEO of the Job Shoppe

With the unemployment rate in Windsor, Ontario among the highest in Canada, the subject of “jobs” is always a hot topic. Meighen Nehme, CEO of Windsor’s highly successful HR solutions firms, the Job Shoppe, is in the eye of the storm every day and she has some very optimistic things to say about the city’s job market.

Meighen’s bona fies are well-established across corporate Canada. In 2003, after placing runner-up in the Miss Canada Beauty Pageant, she started the Job Shoppe in a tiny second floor office at the corner of Wyandotte and Ouellette Avenue. Since that humble beginning, Meighen has grown her business – now, with three locations: Windsor, London and Kitchener – over the past 13 years. In 2012, Profit Magazine listed her No. 6 among Canadian female entrepreneurs. In 2015, Profit Magazine and Chatelaine listed her as the No. 18 top female entrepreneur in Canada.

In arguably the worst job market in Canada, how is Meighen and the Job Shoppe achieving this type of success?

“When a person walks through the door, we take the time to get to know that individual,” Meighen explains. “We begin with an information session where we ask the candidate questions about their passions, their short and long term goals.”

What does it cost job seekers to make use of this nationally recognized expertise and individualized attention? “Nothing,” Meighen says.

Employment agencies and HR solutions firms have been around for years. What is the Job Shoppe doing that differentiates them from the competition?

“When candidates first come in, they don’t feel like they are walking into an office” Meighen explains. “Our space is very modern, very comfortable. Candidates don’t sit across a desk from our recruitment specialists. We pull up an ottoman and talk to them in a relaxed atmosphere. Job seeking is so stressful as it is. We want to cut through that.

“The first question ask is not how much will you work for?,” Meighen continues. “We ask what brought them into the Job Shoppe. Even when we don’t find an immediate fit for a candidate, we ask them to stay in contact with us because their dream position may open up the next day.”

Meighen’s philosophy for her candidate clients is something she practices in her own hiring – always looking for the right fit.

“With our own people, we hire innovators, people who come in with the entrepreneurial spirit, who make the good things we do great. We’ve got a team that is always thinking outside of the box and providing solutions to clients before they ask. We are a partner with our clients.

Meighen and her team have their work cut out for them.  The high unemployment rate in Windsor means a high volume of candidates to screen.  “But that’s what makes it so interesting,” she says. “You never know who will walk through the door next. We have clients across the spectrum: students just out of school, who have no idea what they want to do, people with years of managerial experience, and even executive level candidates.”

Meighen concedes that it isn’t difficult filing positions around the city with warm bodies, but points out, “That kind of approach doesn’t tend to last, leaving employers and employees unhappy and ultimately looking for someone else.”

This approach also helps candidates avoid another major crimp in the reality of working – historically low rates of job satisfaction among working people.  What is Meighen’s advice to those who are unhappy in their jobs?  “Life is too short to be unhappy. I’d tell a person who didn’t enjoy their job to identify what they would like to be doing, then go out and meet people in that field . Look for opportunities to volunteer, establish a relationship with people in that field, and hopefully find mentorship.”

Meighen knows because she’s been there. Starting the Job Shoppe with an office, a desk and a telephone, the first question that arose was: OK, what’s next?

“I picked up the phone,” Meighen says. “I had so many questions and no immediate person to turn to. What I did have was the Windsor Chamber of Commerce directory, which listed the name of every company president in the city. So, I decided to start at the top. I called the presidents of companies and said, ‘Could I buy you a coffee and ask you a few questions?’  It was amazing how many people said yes.”

There were also those who hung up, but Meighen didn’t let that daunt her.

“The things I wanted to know from these highly successful people was the mistakes they’d made,” Meighen says. “I wanted to know about their failures. What were the pitfalls I needed to avoid. Many were happy to share their experiences with me.”

From there, the Job Shoppe grew.

If Meighen had to identify her “big break”, she says it came a few months after the birth of her first child. It was 2008 and the Windsor job market had hit a major downturn. In a move that, on its surface, seemed counter-intuitive, Meighen decided to open a second location. Originally hailing from London, Ontario, Meighen established a second Job Shoppe office there.

“At first, it seemed crazy,” Meighen remembers. “Here I was, a new mom, my husband was working for a firm in Windsor. There would be endless driving up and down the 401. But it just felt right. We figured it out and made it work. As it turned out, the London office helped buoy the Windsor office during the downturn.”

At the same time, CBC’s show Fortune Hunter learned of the Job Shoppe’s expansion and asked to do a piece about it. The show ended up filming in the office for three days, documenting one of the first candidates to walk in, right up to that person’s placement with an employer.

So, with her finger on the pulse of Windsor’s employment scene, what kind of workers are local employers seeking?

“Skilled trades are always in high demand in Windsor,” Meighen says. “People who can provide engineering services are also sought after. And we’re seeing a real uptick in firms hiring virtual assistants. With so many organizations using iCloud, they need people who can remotely organize documents and fulfill administrative duties.”

One of the biggest obstacles facing job seekers in Windsor is transportation.  Reliable transportation to and from a job – which can often be far from a bus route or have working hours that do no coincide with the bus schedule – is something that stands between many workers and potential employment.

For people who are unsure what field or occupation is right for them, the Job Shoppe has many contract positions. These allow candidates to try out multiple jobs over the course of a year or two.

“This is a great way to build skills, or to learn about skills candidates didn’t know they had,” Meighen says. “At the same time, moving from one position to another does not look bad on a resume because the contracts are time-limited.”

In recent years, Meighen’s expertise caught the notice of Ontario officials.  Back when the Windsor/Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) was beginning work on the new bridge span across the Detroit River, Meighen was contacted by officials at the WDBA as an HR advisor. “That came from them seeing my LinkedIn profile,” Meighen says, and emphasizes the importance of all job seekers making use of this kind of free exposure.

As a Mom to three young boys, Meighen understands that there is more to life than work.  “Running a business is like being a Mom,” she says. “I’ve learned to delegate. I’ve surrounded myself with a great team.”

Another thing Meighen believes in is giving back to the community. For the past five years, the Job Shoppe has hosted its annual event: the Windsor Corporate Challenge, composed of 50 corporate teams, and which, up to the present time, has raised $450,000, with all proceeds when to Sunshine Foundation of Windsor. Proceeds from this year’s event will go to Ronald McDonald House in Windsor.

“We love Windsor,” Meighen says. “This is where we live and raise our family.  We are always growing the business, with our headquarters right here, in Windsor. We’re always looking for project management talent, or the HR graduate who is looking to get into this line of work. The best way to stay informed about the Job Shoppe is visiting our website (thejobshoppe.com), our Facebook page (facebook.com/thejobshoppe) and LinkedIn page (linkedin.com/company/the-job-shoppe)”.

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