Lead Right

A former boxer retires to pursue his main event in the corporate staffing industry.
Trading in his boxing gloves for the corporate staffing sector, Jeff Styers launched Arrow Strategies in Livonia in 2002. Last year, the company posted $44 million in annual revenue.

Jeff Styers was 14 years old when he saw Rocky II at the Quo Vadis Theater in his Westland neighborhood. Soon after, he built a makeshift boxing ring in the backyard.

“I challenged all the kids in the neighborhood and they systematically beat me up, one by one,” he recalls.

Styers could have given up. Instead, he went on to train. And train. And train. He compiled a 98-4 record as an amateur boxer and, after high school, fought for a year on the All-Marine Boxing Team. After being honorably discharged, he won the 1987 Michigan Golden Gloves championship and was national Golden Gloves runner-up.

He turned pro in January 1988 and won his first 11 fights before he said a message from God told him he was done in the ring. There was no Marlon Brando “coulda been a contender.” He walked away from a promised title shot.

Having no college degree, he pursued sales where, he says, “you could make as much money as you wanted.” After pitching everything from hydraulic machinery to printer ribbons, Styers says he realized that what he liked about sales was the people. Since staffing was about people, he took a job as a headhunter, first at Robert Half, then at Ciber, and finally at Ajilon, where he was the company’s youngest-ever senior vice president. “It was there that I saw corporate America at its worst, and I said I could
probably do this better myself,” Styers says.

From a one-room office in Livonia, he launched Arrow Strategies in 2002. He could claim both Native American- and Veteran-owned status, but didn’t make a big deal of either. Only when asked does Styers explain that his $44 million private company is named for the Six Nations Arrows lacrosse team in Brantford, Ontario, where the Mohawk and Onandaga Clear Sky tribes are part of his heritage.

Finding passive talent — a pipeline of professionals not necessarily looking to move — and with referrals from current and former Arrow employees, Styers fostered most of the company’s growth, along with acquisitions. Potential employees are reference-checked, technically evaluated, and jointly interviewed at Arrow, all before being sent to a client.

Ron Posa, senior director of brake systems and applications for the AutoLiv-Nissin Brake Systems joint venture in Southfield, has on-boarded 70 engineers from Arrow in the last 18 months. “As you’re adding that amount of people, you don’t have a chance to do the vetting process yourself,” Posa says. “You need someone who understands (hiring). There’s a high percentage (with Arrow) that we’re going to bring people in who are going to fit.”

Styers trademarked the term Agent for Life, and his company, now based at the American Center in Southfield, is nothing but focused. He says the business shares many attributes with boxing, which has four basic punches: the jab, the cross, the hook, and the uppercut.

“The champion of tomorrow isn’t going to come up with a fifth punch,” he says. “A jab is a jab. A right cross is a right cross. Who throws it better? Who refines it better? Who throws it stronger, faster? Who has better timing? That’s who wins in boxing, and I think the same is true in staffing.”