Three seasoned Greater Des Moines human resources professionals have teamed up to launch Connectify HR LLC, a new professional employer organization focused on serving small and medium-sized businesses.  

The company is led by Melissa Ness, who previously held several leadership positions with Aureon HR, which was originally Merit Resources. She most recently was chief financial officer of West Des Moines-based technology services provider Aureon, which sold Aureon HR three years ago to Oasis Outsourcing, which was subsequently acquired by Paychex Inc. During her 14 years with Aureon HR, Ness held leadership roles as chief financial officer, chief operating officer, and president and CEO.  

Joining Ness in Connectify HR is Joel Duncan, who previously led Merit Resources and then Aureon HR as president and CEO, along with Ned Flynn, who worked with both Ness and Duncan in building revenues for Aureon HR. 

“I was born and raised here in Iowa and just love everything about Iowa and the people here,” Ness said. “We know that when businesses and employees thrive, our community thrives. … Simply put, we feel like we’ve already made an impact and a difference in this community, and we want to do that for years to come. Our goal is to build something that lasts, and we’re pretty excited about that.” 

As a professional employer organization, Connectify’s mission is to simplify the business of running a business by connecting numerous vendors, suppliers and services through a single organization that can take the time to understand each client’s business. “That includes everything from onboarding to payroll, workers’ compensation, benefits, employee relationships,” she said. “There’s also a lot of compliance training and all the technology needed to support those functions and to streamline it for the employee experience.” 

The pandemic has dramatically accelerated what had already been an increasingly complex atmosphere for small business owners, said Flynn, the company’s revenue and strategy officer. “Our solution helps provide employers with a mechanism to reconnect with their clients, because they can focus on their clients versus the other things, reconnect with their employees and help them manage their employees in this new way of doing business.” 

With the new venture, the trio is essentially hitting the refresh button on a synergistic relationship they built together while at Aureon HR. Aureon HR had doubled its sales between 2015 and the time it was acquired by Oasis in 2018, and it nearly doubled sales again in the subsequent two years as Oasis’ most productive unit, Flynn said. 

As part of an increasingly larger company, “I think both [Ness] and I would say we felt that even though our offices didn’t change, we felt further removed from the client,” he said. 

“In particular, in what we do working with small businesses, we are more effective as a solutions provider when we’re familiar with the business,” Flynn said. “We understand what their goals and objectives are. … So a very significant differentiation piece for us is our familiarity with our businesses and communities and the people that we’re dealing with.” 

Duncan, whose role in the company will be as a senior adviser, said it was an easy decision to reconnect with friends who share the same commitment and care for Iowa, its small business owners, and serving its communities. Since leaving his position as president of Aureon HR three years ago, he has provided consulting for small businesses. 

“It has become increasingly apparent to me that information and resources intended to assist small businesses are abundant, but connecting to the right resources and information is complex and time-consuming,” he said. “Additionally, navigating the rapidly accelerating changes in the way we work, employee expectations, client expectations, risks, exposures and costs of doing business is daunting for most small businesses and nonprofits.” 

Upon speaking to Ness about her vision for Connectify HR, “it was one of those trifecta moments where awareness, experience and passion intersect,” Duncan said. 

Ness is the largest shareholder in the limited liability company, which has a handful of local investors in addition to Duncan and Flynn. 

“I did explore traditional bootstrapping, if you will,” Ness said, “and decided that in order to give back and to create the environment that I wanted to create for employees and businesses that I would raise funds, so I did raise funds here locally. I actually had more interest than I had room on the cap table, which was unexpected but continues to validate the need that not only we all see, but that others in the community see as well.” 

The company plans to round out its initial staff with seven additional hires this year, and will operate on a hybrid basis from a leased office space at 1840 N.W. 118th St., Suite 206, in Des Moines beginning in mid-August.

A launch event is planned for Thursday, Aug. 26. For details and to RSVP, email Melissa Ness at Melissa.ness@connectifyhr.com by Aug. 18.