JACKSON — It may sound like a rather odd beginning, but YoungWilliams Child Support Services, which has been named a Fast 40 award winner as one of the fastest-growing private companies in Mississippi, was formed in the early 1990s by a Jackson attorney, Rob Wells, and his partners with YoungWilliams, P.A. The premise was simple yet community- and family-focused — a chance to make a difference in the lives of children and families across the nation.
It has not always been easy. YoungWilliams Child Support Services landed its first work after the State of Mississippi made the move to privatize child support efforts. In 2000, a new administration cancelled the contract. YoungWilliams Child Support Services was faced with either finding work elsewhere, or folding. The firm decided to forge ahead.
And, it was not cheap, either. YoungWilliams attorneys anted up the working capital to begin pursuing out-of-state contracts. It submitted a bid to the State of Nebraska, and immediately began serving some 35,000 clients there.
Wells said overcoming this challenge was fulfilling.
“I simply fell in love with the work,” Wells said. “It had so much to offer — helping children, making government more efficient, reducing welfare payrolls, streamlining legal processes and just overall doing good.
“I did not really think through the business model so much as I just did not want to stop doing it. The fact that our potential competitors were already entrenched and had revenues over $100 million did not matter. We just had a ‘go for it’ attitude.”
Fulfilling, maybe, but the firm has also proven a tremendous business opportunity. Over the last decade or so, YoungWilliams Child Support Services, a Fast 40 winner the last time the competition was held in 2007, Wells developed the expertise and necessary qualifications to provide child support services to state governments of a contract basis. The company got a big boost from a contract with the State of Kansas in 2005, and has been on the growth plane ever since.
Today, YoungWilliams Child Support Services count clients in Mississippi, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Wyoming, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Hawaii, allowing state and local governments the opportunity to outsource their child support enforcement activities.
The payroll has grown accordingly. Jackson-based YoungWilliams Child Support Services currently employs approximately 600 workers, up from a “mere” 350 employees two years ago. The company has announced plans to have a payroll of 750 workers by the end of the year.
The return on that investment in 2000 has been healthy. From 2003-2006, the firm grew 70 percent. In 2006, the firm grew again when it landed the State of Kansas contract, aided materially by a partnership with JP Morgan Chase. By early 2007, YoungWilliams Child Support Services was processing approximately $400 million in child support payments in Kansas alone.
Working with state and local child support agencies, which are authorized and funded under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, the company offers such services as establishing paternity, establishing and modifying child and medical support orders, locating absent parents and their assets and collecting and distributing child support payments.
The child support enforcement market consists of a small group of close-knit clients, and the keys to success are (1) maintaining strong references from all of the firm’s current clients by exceeding their expectations and (2) maintaining a lean corporate organizational structure to be competitive from a contract pricing standpoint.
However, managing growth has been perhaps YoungWilliams Child Support Services’ biggest challenge. Maintaining a balance between enough size so services do not lag and becoming too aggressive has been key. That challenge continues as the company adds clients and employees.
“The key to our success has been to dream big, set goals, stay committed hire great people and get better every day,” Wells said.
YoungWilliams Child Support Services’ future vision is still in line with its original mission — to seek new opportunities to have a positive impact on the lives of children.
“I’ve heard a couple of people I respect call us ‘social entrepreneurs. I’m not sure it fits,” Wells said. “But, if it is making a living doing good things for children while also reducing welfare rolls and the cost of government services, I’ll take it. Either way, it is nice to a job where we make a difference.”