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Fearless leader Featured

8:00pm EDT June 28, 2006
Peg Mativi is not afraid to take risks.

After working for 11 years at a national staffing company, she faced a career crossroads when her employer lost its Columbus franchise. So Mativi and Mary Iannarino exercised their entrepreneurial muscle and started Solutions Staffing.

“We went in to it with confidence,” Mativi says. “Sometimes opportunities present themselves at inconvenient times. You must have the courage to go for it.”

The company started operations in 1980 as JTSG Staffing.

“This was a compilation of our children’s names, which shows our priorities were in the right place,” Mativi says. “However, the name was difficult to explain and for our customers to remember, so we subsequently changed it to Solutions Staffing.”

Solutions Staffing is a full-service permanent and temporary staffing company with 100 employees in seven cities, with plans to grow even further.

“We have aggressive growth plans,” she says. “The sky’s the limit as far as we are concerned.”

Smart Business spoke with Mativi about launching a business, staying motivated, and balancing life and work.

What strengths did you focus on when establishing your business?
Our strategy was one-on-one marketing. We literally talked to people all day long.

There was no other way to determine what our potential clients’ staffing needs and preferences were other than intense communication. I believe our dedication was apparent because we were able to gain clients quickly.

What is your leadership philosophy?
Strong leaders must have a strong sense of self, but their focus has to be on their staff. This needs to be a constant mindset — what is good for the employees? What are their needs? How will they react to this decision? These are the questions that run through great leaders’ minds.

Effective leadership teams have clearly defined managerial functions. So often, leaders trip over each other unless it is crystal clear who is supposed to do what.

There are four people in our senior management team — myself, Mary, my son, Jeff, and Mary’s son, Anthony. We have divided our management responsibilities into four strategic areas capitalizing on the strengths that each of us brings to the table.

This approach has worked beautifully for us because we are tapping into our own individual strengths, and we are not overwhelmed or distracted by trying to do it all.

As the company grows, how do you train employees to remain focused and enthusiastic?
We put a huge emphasis on training. Because we are in several cities, we have instituted weekly conference calls that are focused on skills.

In these calls, and our other training efforts, we constantly remind employees of the basics — communication, how to provide outstanding service and methods for keeping customers happy.

Training is not a two-week deal intended only for new hires. We believe in life-long training. Employees who have been here 18 years are still being trained so that their skills stay sharp and they remain focused and rejuvenated.

The surveys I have read seem to continually point to a training deficit. When asked what they want more of, most employees mention skill training. We do not want to become complacent in this area, so we keep training as a top priority.

How do you maintain your personal balance and motivation?
I am naturally a very internally driven person. I put in long hours at work, but I have a life outside of work. You cannot be one-dimensional and remain effective.

I am most gratified by seeing young lives change. Many former employees have sent us thank you notes years later saying how much they grew and learned from us. That keeps me refreshed and motivated.

We tell our new hires that we do not expect them to be here forever, but if they give us two good years, they will leave with some great experience and a strong reference.

How do you maintain a positive working relationship with your business partner?
The partnership must be built on 100 percent trust and honesty, and there is no room for competition. There is enough competition from other staffing companies — we cannot afford to have it internally.

Keeping our focus on our employees and clients rather than pettiness and keeping score between ourselves has kept our partnership healthy and allowed our business to thrive.

HOW TO REACH: Solutions Staffing, (614) 732-5800 or www.solutionsstaffing.com