Kayla Edwards, managing partner at Express Employment Professionals, credits her parents for instilling in her the drive to succeed. "My parents had high expectations of what I did in school, sports and how I practiced. My mother emphasized academic excellence and my dad encouraged me in sports," she said.

Edwards now encourages other people to improve their lives. "I do what I do every day because of the sheer fulfillment of impacting people and making their lives better. In my business, better means success at work and that means success in living," Edwards said. "I was an accountant for three years, but never felt passion as a practicing accountant. Once I found staffing, I realized what had been missing."

Grounded in her Christian faith, she approaches each day with the focus on others – her team and the people they serve. "In order for me to fully serve the people I work with, I have to continue to improve myself. They push me to be better, and that helps me help them reach their full capacity." Edwards said she reminders herself frequently of Express' vision "to help as many people as possible find good jobs by helping as many clients as possible find good people."

Edwards hopes her selection for Women of Influence inspires other women to know there are unlimited opportunities to those who are willing to strive to do their best and never stop challenging themselves to improve. Building a fulfilling career does not happen overnight. Edwards started as an employment specialist with Express Employment Professionals in June of 1994. She'll tell you the journey is worthwhile, and the relationships built along the way are priceless.

Don Adams, director of business development at Express Employment Professionals, was trained by Edwards, who he holds in high esteem. He said he admires her determination and supportive approach to any hurdle you might be facing. "She will teach you what went wrong and how to avoid the pitfall in the future," Adams said. "She's never negative, and I never hesitate to go to her with a problem."

Adams says she also has the unique ability to be vulnerable. "She surveyed her team, asking where she could do better. She's willing to grow, and that's motivating. She's about resolution, moving forward and making life better for the other person."

Kirk Considine, senior director of business services at Express Employment Professionals, was also trained by Edwards. "She has helped me grow professionally," he said. He describes her leadership style as collaborative and easy to follow.

"She's gives you a long and wide runway to run your team, and she's there to assist when you need it," Considine said. "I've never been in a job where I walk in the door happy, knowing I have the security to be who I am. The support I have from Kayla makes it easy for me to receive her feedback."

Considine added, "Kayla has had many accolades in her career. She's been recognized as a top performer, and when she speaks at corporate events, she always gives the credit to her team."

Edwards shares her time and talent with the Springfield community. She serves on the executive board of The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and was in charge of the search committee that hired the current president and CEO, Mike Murphy, who said he is impressed with how thoughtful Edwards is.

"She listens and learns, and grasps information extremely quick. She analyzes well, and is a great problem-solver, which makes her perfect for her position," Murphy said. "What I admire most is her passion for providing opportunities for the clients of Express and the people who are placed in jobs that makes their lives better."

Sharon Riechers, senior director of global sales administration at BUNN, worked closely with Edwards when they served together on the board of directors and executive committee for the Chamber of Commerce. Riechers said Edwards' leadership skills were obvious, as well as her ability to gain the trust and respect of other board members and the chamber staff.

"Her communication skills are exemplary. She is patientt and kind, and people are drawn to her," Riechers said. "It's these qualities that enable her and her colleagues at Express to have one of the top performing offices. She encourages and enables her team to do their best, and they do. She embodies the qualities of a woman of influence and is very deserving of this award. She is a role model for other women, no matter the stage of their career."

Jim Britton, co-owner of Express Employment Professionals, said he recognized Edwards' potential early on and wanted her to be a part of the company from his first meeting with her. He said, "Kayla connects with people in a way that makes it easy for them to trust her and have confidence in what she says. She tells the truth – good news or bad – in a way that people can receive it, knowing it is for their benefit. Kayla truly embraces our purpose of helping people succeed. She is dedicated, caring and committed to her work and team members. We are very fortunate to have Kayla as a leader on our team."

To Edwards, her career is not about money, position or recognition. In her words, "I get fulfilled by helping others find their fulfillment and dignity."

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