Published in Crain’s Chicago Business by Greg Hinz, April 12, 2021
Elements Global Services CEO Rick Hammell says he plans to more than triple headcount here after moving his company from Barcelona.
A corporate outsourcing company with an international focus is moving its headquarters back to Chicago after a stint in Barcelona, due in part to COVID-19. And this time, it’s a lot larger.
Scheduled to set up shop at 1 N. Franklin St. on May 3 is Elements Global Services, which describes itself as a “tech-enabled services company” that specializes in helping U.S. companies seeking to expand overseas cut international hiring red tape.
The company has leased 14,000 square feet in the Loop tower. Founder and CEO Rick Hammell said the firm plans to expand from its current 61 Chicago workers, expecting to have up to 225 Chicago staffers in a couple of years and potentially leasing an entire floor.
The company now has about 235 employees worldwide and says it’s active in more than 135 countries.
Elements handles HR, payroll, benefits and other administrative functions for clients, using its own staff. In a somewhat unusual feature, the company also acts as the official employer of record for some companies, treating workers selected by clients as its own employees. That enables companies to expand without enduring the year or longer it can take in some countries to create their own legal entity.
City Hall is aware of the company’s plan and is cheering on the move here of a black-owned and -operated firm that’s in a quick-growing field.
“Elements’ office opening is a testament to Chicago’s leading status as a global hub for tech and innovation,” Michael Fassnacht, Chicago Chief Marketing Officer and interim CEO of World Business Chicago, the city’s corporate recruitment arm, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Hammell and his team as they position the company for growth and success in Chicago.”
Hammell, 34, who grew up in north suburban Evanston, said he always had an interest in HR functions and learned in a previous job how little formal support there was for companies just getting started overseas. He founded the company 2016 and, with big international expansion in mind, moved it and himself to Barcelona. “I’ve still got my condo there,” just two blocks from the waterfront, he told me in a phone interview.
But after a business trip to America left him stuck here when COVID hit and cut off most international air travel, “I realized how much I missed Chicago,” Hammell said. With 80 percent of the company’s clients located in the United States, “it made sense to be centrally located” in the U.S., he said.
While the city may be going through a bumpy stretch now, in the long run Chicago has advantages for a company like his, Hammell said. “It’s a great place. And it’s an international city.”
In a statement, Elements Global said its new office here will be configured for the post-COVID era, with socially distant workspaces and new designs for meetings spaces.
Barcelona will become the firm’s European regional headquarters.
—Published in Crain’s Chicago Business by Greg Hinz, April 12, 2021