- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) - Many people would call Sue and George Wooten headhunters for the hospitality industry.

Sue prefers a different term: matchmakers.

The Wootens have signed on as franchisees of Patrice & Associates, an employee search firm that specializing in hospitality industry management positions. Headquartered in Dunkirk, Maryland, the business named after owner and founder Patrice Rice has grown to 90 franchises.

The New Market couple made the move when George finally bought into what Sue was saying.

“I’ve been telling him for many, many, many, many years that he need to be his own boss,” she said Sept. 26 in their offices overlooking South Main Street. “We were finally able to convince him.”

The Wootens’ territory includes Rockingham, Augusta and Rockbridge counties and the cities within their boundaries.

Sue manages their seven employee recruiters; George will work to sign up local restaurant and hotel owners as clients and also is a regional developer and can award franchises in Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.

The couple has focused on hiring and training their employees and hasn’t landed any local clients, but George said the recruiters found 80 candidates for openings at 82 companies outside the area in their first 16 workdays. They can find employees for Patrice & Associates clients outside their territory but will focus on the local market once clients are developed.

George Wooten knows plenty about hiring. The 37-year restaurant veteran said he’s worked for multiple fast-food restaurants, including Arby’s and Burger King, as well as the Safeway grocery chain.

“I’ve interviewed and hired literally thousands of people in my life,” he said.

Sue raised their family but also ran a diner they owned in Berlin, New Hampshire, for three years.

The Wootens said they view their job as one of helping people.

“Restaurant managers really get trapped,” Sue said. “They don’t have time to look for another job, don’t have time to interview.”

Said George: “What we really get paid for is matching the right person with the right client.”

The company finds employees by various means, including searching the professional social media website LinkedIn.

Patrice & Associates doesn’t just arrange interviews. George said they write resumes for the people they recruit, coach them before the interview, speak with them after the interview, and stay in touch months after they’re hired.

In addition to hotels and restaurants, Patrice & Associates fills positions for casinos and high-end groceries. George said they’ll work to fill any job for a client, but their emphasis is on positions from shift manager up.

Their recruiters range in age from 27 to 70, George said, and none had experience in the field when hired. They’re paid a salary to start, eventually transitioning to commission only or a salary-commission hybrid. Most report to the office at 107 S. Main St., but two work from home.

George said the couple hopes to grow to as many as 12 recruiters by year’s end.

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Information from: Daily News-Record, http://www.dnronline.com

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