“Published in the Winter 2017 FAPEO Update Newsletter”
Abram Finkelstein, president of StaffLink Outsourcing, Inc., in Plantation, is no stranger to the Florida Association of Professional Employer Organizations. Soon after entering the PEO industry in 1994, he began serving on the FAPEO Board of Directors. His tenure on the board ran from 1995 to 2008, and during those years he held the offices of secretary, treasurer, vice president and president. He now serves on the board of the Florida Professional Employer Organization Committee, a political action committee that was founded to assist and educate legislators on political issues that affect PEOs in Florida. Abram’s involvement extends to the national level as well. He served as chairman of the NAPEO Board of Directors from 2015 to 2016, and remains a member of the NAPEO Legal Advisory Council and Government Affairs Committee.
Abram is well-known for his advocacy work on behalf of the industry, having published numerous articles concerning legal issues that affect PEOs, the operation of PEOs and other legal issues both within and outside of the PEO industry. His service as an industry member, vice chairman and chairman of the Florida Board of Employee Leasing Companies has provided a perspective that balances the needs of business owners with those of employees and the government. Governor Crist appointed Abram to the BELC in 2008, and Governor Scott reappointed him in 2013. He along with the rest of the board members resigned their positions earlier this year when the Legislature failed to pass legislation to protect industry board members from potential antitrust litigation.
As a commercial litigation attorney specializing in insurance policy litigation and employment issues, Abram was well prepared to enter the PEO industry. After he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin, Abram moved to South Florida to attend law school at the University of Miami. After earning his law degree, Abram worked as an associate at a small law firm. He learned about the PEO concept from an acquaintance who shared his passion for aviation.
“I was introduced to the concept of the PEO by a friend who worked in my office building,” Abram recalls. “He told me he had been involved in the employee leasing industry and that he was thinking about getting back into the industry. He asked if I was interested in working with him and becoming the vice president of operations. When I researched the industry, I realized that not only was it legal, but it was a really good business idea!”
Abram and two partners opened a PEO in 1994. The three of them worked to build the company to approximately 2,300 worksite employees in about three years; Abram, however, believed the PEO industry was shifting from a workers’ compensation insurance arbitrage model to a full-service HR and benefits delivery model. His vision was to build a high-touch boutique approach that would focus on personal delivery of services to PEO clients, along with all of the other components that PEOs traditionally offer. Abram worked with his partners until 1997, when he decided to launch StaffLink Outsourcing, Inc., in order to pursue his vision.
About his decision to focus on the PEO industry as a career, Abram says, “I thought that the business concept made too much sense and that the possibilities for the industry were endless. I also saw the industry developing in a different direction than most companies were going, so I felt that there was an opportunity to provide high-touch service with real HR services to small business.”
It’s a decision that Abram embraces some 20 years later.
“I still think the industry is fascinating and that it provides a lot of value to small and mid-size businesses in a very cost-effective way,” he says. “I believe there is still room for the industry to grow, and I believe that each PEO can differentiate itself by determining what level of service they wish to provide and what kind of client base they choose to serve.”
Of course, this ability to make choices can cut both ways. Abram sounds a cautionary note for the industry, saying, “I believe that, like a great society, the death to the industry will not come from outside of the industry, but from within. I am very concerned with the continued devaluation of the services the industry provides, which leads to commoditization of the components of the service.”
Abram continues to work within the industry to promote best practices, and he views his membership and participation in FAPEO as a key way to accomplish this.
“What really drew me to the industry was the amazing people that I get to interact with on a regular basis,” he says. “I got involved with FAPEO because I wanted to learn everything I could about the industry, and I did it by attending meetings and talking to people about the issues I was having. By sharing experiences, I learned how to run a PEO and I made some lifelong friendships along the way!”
When it comes to being active, Abram is equally busy in his personal life. He and his wife are parents to three sons, ages 17, 14 and 11, and Abram volunteers as a travel soccer coach. And while most people like to say they are “flying” from one activity to another, when Abram says it, it’s not always just a metaphor.
“When I am not working, I am an avid aviation enthusiast,” he explains. “I volunteer for several aviation charities and have a side career as a professional corporate pilot. I am active with the Veterans Airlift Command, Angel Flight Southeast and Challenge Air for Kids and Friends.”
Abram also participates actively in Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO, eonetwork.org), a nonprofit peer-to-peer global network for entrepreneurs.