Alley Her, who came to the U.S. with her family from Laos, founded Recruitment Alley, a health care recruitment agency. Her husband James Pak is chief operating officer. Contributed
Written by Jeanne Kuang
Alley Her, 40, immigrated to the United States as a young girl who didn’t speak English. Today, she’s running a fast-growing health care recruitment agency that she started from the ground up.
Her founded Fresno-based Recruitment Alley after being laid off from her previous job, a recruitment agency for temporary industrial, financial and health care workers.
She was part of a mass layoff after a change in leadership, and after taking a couple days to process the situation, she decided to start her own company in 2019.
“Two weeks after I got laid off, I opened up officially,” Her said.
James Pak, chief operating officer and Her’s husband, said, “She comes into the garage, opens the door and just looks and goes, ‘Honey, I think I want to start my own company.’”
Pak says she got up early one morning and came back in the afternoon with her business paperwork from Fresno City Hall.
Recruitment Alley recently celebrated its second anniversary and has grown to more than 200 employees, but Her had developed a sense of determination long before adulthood.
Her has memories of fleeing Laos to Thailand, living in a refugee camp for three years. Her’s parents risked their lives to find safety in the U.S., and she helped raise her six younger siblings while learning English.
“My parents always told me we could’ve easily been killed on our way over,” she said.
“I learned how to pay bills by the age of 10 because I had to learn how to write checks for my parents to pay PG&E,” Her added.
She seeks every day to honor her parents’ sacrifice of bringing the family to America.
She leads the company with respect after having dealt with a poor work culture in the past.
“Kindness heals the world. My mom taught me that and I’ve always believed that. So Recruitment Alley, that’s our culture — kindness and compassion,” she said.
She said communication makes everyone feel like they’re interconnected. Recruitment Alley has developed its own app for communication between employees. Employees can schedule, talk and post shifts on the app.
“Everybody in our company feels like we’re together under one roof even though we’re in 45 different facilities,” Her said.
Her manages to sustain employees full time on a per diem basis — shift by shift in the medical world. This is not the norm, she said. Rather, people who are signed onto a temp agency might score three shifts in the hospital per month, and not hear from the hiring agency again.
“We make sure that we maintain and strengthen our relationships by making sure that they can always rely on us. Always,” Her said.
In May 2020, the client base for Recruitment Alley started gaining momentum, but it came after a hiring freeze in the first couple months of the pandemic. The disparity of health care workers placed a demand on recruitment agencies like Recruitment Alley.
“From then on it just started snowballing,” Her said.
Pak said spending time with their two boys inspires them to work hard now so they can spend more time at home as the company grows. Her has grown the company enough to invite Pak onto the team full time.
Rebecca Roberts, director of skilled nursing, used to work in a skilled nursing facility before she came to Recruitment Alley.
“I could see their drive, what they wanted to do, what they wanted to accomplish,” Roberts said.
Before Recruitment Alley’s growth spurt, Roberts learned about Her and Pak’s plans to grow the company. Roberts told them she’d love to be part of that dream.
“From there on, me, Alley and James — we all kind of worked our butts off and built their company to where we’re at today,” Roberts said.
Nicole Rangel, talent acquisition manager, started as a certified nursing assistant and was exposed to Recruitment Alley as a means of getting hired at a hospital.
“I’m happy to be a part of a company that really cares about their staff,” Rangel said. “Alley, when my grandpa passed away, she showed up to my house just to console me and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh.’ Just that kind of compassion, you don’t get that anywhere else.”
Rangel said the culture of their team is what stands out at Recruitment Alley.
“Alley’s so open with her knowledge, so I’m able to be open with my knowledge with the team,” Rangel said.
Her has managed to contract with national accounts and plans to double the company’s growth per year over the next five years. She dreams of moving into a four-story office space to house her team and a school for nursing students.
“We’re the little company that is not afraid to try big things,” Her said.