His parents came to Indy from Mexico in 1953, one of the first Hispanic families in Indianapolis. Morales’ father Manuel often challenged his successful son: “When are you going to give back?” His father also set the example, informally welcoming Hispanic immigrants to Indy from the 1960s until his death in 2003.
Launching into the second half of his life, the younger Morales set up a resource center with a social work emphasis. He helped some Hispanic immigrants with food or housing, but one of them gave him some divinely inspired direction: “Mr. Tom, thank you for trying to help my family with this resource center. What I would really like you do is to get me a job. I’ll take care of the rest.”
The result has been a closely held, family-controlled business that integrates Scripture into the core of the business in several ways, yet in a style of subtle common grace as opposed to Bible verses on the walls.
With 100 full-time employees, Morales had a payroll of about 11,000 associates in 2017. About 40 percent move into full-time positions with the companies where they start on a temporary basis.
The others work for Morales Group, assigned to temp jobs week to week. Wages range from $9.50 to $16 an hour, depending on job skills. Example: A business would pay Morales $13 an hour per employee, with $10 going to the associate. Then the additional $3, called a markup, is used by Morales to pay for business taxes, workers’ comp, and Morales company administration. Morales negotiates each markup with the hiring company. Revenues were close to $100 million in 2017, with net profit of about 6 percent.
The Morales launch caught a wave of expansion of the temp business in the American economy. Businesses used independent contractors for about 9 percent of the workforce in 1995, with the number rising to 15 percent by 2015. Large businesses sometimes outsource half of their workforce or more to staffing agencies. Sometimes businesses need seasonal employees. Other times they improve their profit margin by cutting employee costs.
“Never before have American companies tried so hard to employ so few people,” Wall Street Journal reporter Lauren Weber wrote last year.
The company tries to maintain a human touch in a fast-moving business. “If it weren’t for associates, we wouldn’t be in business,” says account manager Hansel Garcia. “Each candidate needs to be treated with dignity and respect. We try to put ourselves in their shoes, remembering they may be living paycheck to paycheck.”
The personal touch offers an edge in the growing field of temp employment. Big players such as Manpower, Kelly Services, Adecco, or TrueBlue are publicly traded with an emphasis on quarterly earnings. The larger publicly traded companies tend to miss a segment of the market that works through personal word-of-mouth connections that Morales has in the growing immigrant community in central Indiana.