Perfect vision

Laura Carey and Linda Littler, owners of Carey & Littler Staffing Inc., didn’t follow the normal path of corporate community service.

Thoughts of being a good corporate citizen usually come after a business has weathered the challenges of a start-up and seen some measure of success. But in their first year of operation, the two began what would become a flourishing and unique charitable organization in the Akron community.

The clerical, office, secretarial and accounting staffing company provides employers with candidates on a temp-to-hire, temporary and direct-hire basis. Since its inception in 1996, it has grown while maintaining a lean staff. Outside staffing placements have increased tenfold and the company will soon relocate from West Market Street in Akron to larger offices in the Montrose area.

The entrepreneurs have achieved another important goal: “School Bells,” the nonprofit organization they began just three months after starting their company, has grown at the same pace as the business.

“When we opened our business, we had two goals,” Littler says. “We felt a real need to build bridges and relationships with the companies that are our competitors in our own industry.

“Our second goal was that we always felt a responsibility to give back to our community. At the same time, we became aware of the children in the Akron city school district. Some of them are really needy.”

Carey and Littler approached the Akron Public School system with an idea to help needy children with school supplies.

“There are programs to provide necessities like school lunches, shoes and coats, but there was nothing in place for the start of school,” Carey says. “These kids don’t get new crayons and markers and notebooks.”

The district gave them a list of the most needed school supplies. Then came the challenge of resources. This is how the partners met their first goal of building relationships with their competitors.

“We were just starting our business,” Littler recalls. “We just didn’t feel we could take that much away from our company, so we got a phone book and wrote letters to other companies in our industry.”

A few representatives from other staffing companies assisted them the first year and School Bells distributed 100 bags of school supplies in August 1996. Four years later, participation has increased and companies outside the staffing industry have asked to participate. School Bells distributed 700 bags of school supplies to area children at the start of the 2000 school year.

“This hasn’t been something we’ve had to labor over to get people to participate,” Littler says. “People have good hearts. It’s really not our program; it belongs to everybody who participates. We couldn’t do it alone.”

Carey and Littler, who both have backgrounds outside the staffing industry, met while working at another staffing company. Littler started her career as an elementary school teacher but found herself drawn to sales and took a job with a temporary agency.

“I like feeling like I’m doing something good,” Littler says. “It’s just satisfying to be able to find someone a job and to make a good match.”

Littler’s role in the company includes day-to-day operations and work as a placement coordinator. Carey handles the sales and marketing aspect of the firm. She began her career as a child life specialist, caring for sick children at a Pittsburgh area hospital.

“It was very emotionally difficult, and I found myself drawn to the fund-raising aspect because I didn’t know how to detach myself from the children,” Carey says. “I had to go to the business side.”

Carey helped the hospital organize its first “Children’s Miracle Marathon” before she left to work in sales. The sales job led to a recruiting job, then a job with Littler at a staffing company.

“We worked together for five years and became good friends,” Carey says. “The industry was just really booming and we decided to become business partners and start our own business.”

The two attribute some of their success to building a clear vision statement from the beginning.

“We took everything very seriously,” Littler says. “Our vision is to meet and exceed needs through trust, resourcefulness, generosity, commitment, creativity, reliability and consistency. That’s our response to customers, employees and the community.

“We believe in the need to be leaders and continue to grow our company, and that includes giving back, too. People work as a result of our company, and we’re generous every chance we get.” How to reach: Carey & Littler Staffing Inc. and School Bells, (330) 668-9800