by John Roemer
Feature on Jennifer Barnes, Co-Founder, Pro Back Office
In 2012, before she co-founded the firm that would become a local leader in finance, accounting and back office operations, Jennifer Barnes was fired. “I’ve always been head strong and speak honestly with colleagues. “At my previous employer, I had a difference of opinion with management about certain things, and they didn’t appreciate me speaking up” she said. “We agreed that they would call the clients I was servicing and give them the option to go with me, but that I could not communicate with them directly. To their dismay, most of my clients ended up going with me, as did many of the staff who was working under me.”
The timing wasn’t the best for Barnes personally. “It was two months before my wedding,” she said. “A hectic period.” However, she was fortunate to be introduced to Mike Ford, who had 30 years of industry experience and was looking for a partner to grow his existing company, Pro Back Office. Mike recognized that Jennifer had the tenacity to start a business, so he asked her to partner with him.
The outcome was a startup that over the next three years maintained a sales growth of 498 percent and was named 892 on business magazine Inc.’s roster of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in America. “I was able to grow the company to $3 million in 2015 and quickly realized I needed Mike to join us full-time,” Barnes said. In 2016, Mike joined as their COO and they expanded to Phoenix, AZ. In 2017, Pro Back Office did $5.5 million and acquired another firm, allowing them to offer governance, risk and compliance services and serve startups to publicly traded companies. The firm currently has 300 clients and expects to do $7 million in 2018.
Within Pro Back Office, Barnes said she works hard to provide her 80 staffers with opportunities for growth and a company culture that treats everyone as family. “I’m a people over profits leader,” she said. “It’s the core of our success.”
She’s proud of the company she has built. “We’re making an impact on businesses throughout the Pacific Southwest,” she said, “by providing valuable insights to our clients and by hiring super happy people to work for them.” Beyond the office she focuses on programs that encourage a younger generation of entrepreneurs to develop skills and prepare for future careers. She also serves on the board of the BBB, the Business Executives Council, Junior Achievement and is a part of Rotary.