Filling the gaps

Startup approaches the recruiting space from a different mindset


by Andy Perrine (’86)


SUMMARY: Joe Barletta (’19) and Kyle Blackburn (’15) started Procession Systems in 2016 with four employees. Today, the company employs 44 people and business has grown by 690%, undeterred by the pandemic. 

Where are all the workers? Procession Systems knows.

As the United States emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have been desperate to hire. While demand for goods and services has rebounded, the supply of labor has not. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, more than 10 million job openings in the U.S. went unfilled for most of 2022. Employers in all sectors are having a tough time hiring as the economy recovers. 

“A lot of people say this is something they’ve never seen before,” said Joe Barletta (’19), managing partner at Procession Systems, a red-hot, employee-recruiting startup. “I think the main core driver is that it’s an employee-driven market. And employers have to react and adapt to that. People have options, and employers are feeling a lot of that pain, which is causing more urgency to hire.” 

Barletta started Procession Systems with his best JMU friend, Kyle Blackburn (’15), in 2016 with four employees. Today, the company employs 44 people and business has grown by 690%, undeterred by the pandemic. 

Barletta said their rapid success is a result of approaching the recruiting space with a completely different mindset. “It’s a very transactional-heavy industry,” he said. “But our business philosophy — and how we’ve been able to grow — is not on extreme, short-term profits. Instead, it’s building deeper and longer-term relationships with our clients and solving problems for them. We want our clients to be our clients for 10 years, not for 10 days.” 

Plus, they guarantee their results, which is a strong differentiator in the recruiting market, especially the extremely competitive space in which federal information technology contractors compete.

“We deliver what we say we’re going to deliver in a super-authentic and super-proactive way,” Barletta said.    

Team members celebrate successes and are rewarded for their performance. We’re extremely goal-oriented, co-founder Kyle Blackburn (’15) said. No matter how big or small the goal is, we focus the team on achievement every day.

The office occupied by Procession Systems in Reston, Virginia, is a lively, open space buzzing with team members on headsets gazing at screens jammed with analytics of all sorts. Every day the entire team convenes in the main area to celebrate recent successes. Team members who made or surpassed goals bang gongs and spin roulette wheels revealing the rewards they will receive for their performance. 

“We’re extremely goal-oriented,” Blackburn said. “No matter how big or small the goal is, we focus the team on achievement every day.” 

Both partners attribute their success and the unique corporate ethos they’ve created to their education in and out of the classroom at JMU. For Barletta, it was being on a team and building a business plan in CoB 300, and then meeting visiting entrepreneurs in the New Venture Creation class. As for Blackburn, he said, “One of my favorite analogies is holding the door open at JMU. In a very real way, we do that at Procession. We’ve got an open-door policy —  we know our team’s backgrounds and care about them as people. From when I arrived at JMU for Orientation until I graduated, it was always about putting people first and looking out for one another, holding the door open.” 


Joe Barletta and Kyle Blackburn each made five-figure gifts to JMU in 2022, despite having graduated a short time ago.

“There are so many really successful people of our generation who had great experiences at JMU but don’t know that their contributions are needed,” Barletta said. “Kyle and I wanted to create a call to action to our generation. Hopefully this is a great opportunity to be the catalyst.”

Blackburn added, “I want to be an example by paying it forward, and I want people to follow what we’re doing.”


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Published: Friday, December 30, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2024

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