Precise leadership Featured

7:00pm EDT November 18, 2010

Janis Mitchell has always been up for a challenge. If someone tells her she can’t do something, she’ll do it and she’ll succeed. Although she is dyslexic and has struggled with learning disabilities throughout her life, Mitchell applied grit, determination and passion to overcome these disabilities with gusto. And, not surprisingly, she uses these same characteristics in her business life and volunteer work.

Mitchell, the founder, president and CEO of Precise Resource, was named one of the 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Blue Technologies. We asked her how she innovates at Precise Resource, an executive search and technical staffing firm that specializes in providing talent resource management to Fortune 500 companies and fast-growth companies of all sizes.

Q: Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it?

I’m a work in progress, despite the successes. I’m a graduate of The Ohio State University, recipient of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year for Central Ohio in 2003, awardee of the Women for Economic Leadership and Development’s one of  “12 Women You Should Know,” and honoree of  the National Association of Women Business Owners 2005 Visionary Award winners. While I’m a serial entrepreneur, it has never come without work.

In 2000, I gained national recognition when I founded Info Fortress Solutions, the first company in the world to deliver cross-company single sign-on with SAML protocol. In 2004, I sold Info Fortress to Betrusted, a global provider of security trust services. Under the acquisition, I served as president of Betrusted Consulting for the Americas, managing the firm’s domestic professional services group.

I try to balance running companies with being involved in areas I care deeply about. I currently serve on several nonprofit boards, including Ohio IT’s Alliance, where I am actively involved with Ohio’s Get it Green Initiative. It is dedicated to providing education, awareness and proliferation of IT energy-efficiency best practices, standards and policies to assist IT leaders and data center managers in addressing the economics behind the ecological need to embrace green IT solutions. My most recent philanthropic effort is founding a nonprofit aimed at helping dyslexic children and families prevent having doors shut of opportunities, called D.O.O.R. That has been challenging.

Q: In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

Understanding the application of technology to business and personnel problems is as much art as it is science, and we have demonstrated a flair for both aspects of this challenge. Once I identify an opportunity and direction, I drive innovation and success forward, sweeping up those around me in the pursuit of success. No more dramatic example can be given than my identification of a fundamental security need in the networking world, the adoption and adaptation of XML and SAML for a solution, and the founding of Info Fortress. From inception to Wall Street sale, the innovation and commercialization process took only four years. It is safe to say that this technological life-cycle can only be performed by leaders with a rare instinct for opportunity — combined with a tremendous capacity for work and focus.

After succeeding in the crucible of the IT security space, I recognized the need for businesses to recruit critical technical talent. But as an employer, I recognized a deeper need to find the right person for the right job… and that technical skills alone were not enough to ensure a “good fit” between an employer and an employee. Sensing a deeper problem than simple skill matching, and understanding the value to clients and employees for getting the hiring done right, I began to apply my technology skills to the process of executive recruitment. The result is Precise Resource.

At Precise Resource, a complex proprietary set of methods and technology come together in an innovative forensic recruiting process. By combing technical skill matching with a subtler, complex set of psychological profiling, we have achieved a demonstrably higher level of success in finding and matching critical talent to businesses in need of strategic contributors.

Viewed from a high level, the forensic recruiting process capitalizes on a fundamental understanding of business needs, the understanding of the complex employer-employee relationship, all backed up by extensive computerization and dynamic modeling. Experience and skill drive the process at Precise; technology enables and informs the opinions of the clients and candidates.

At Precise Resource, a complex proprietary set of methods and technology come together in the innovative “Forensic Recruiting” process. By combing technical skill matching with a subtler, complex set of psychological profiling, Precise has a demonstrably higher level of success in finding and matching critical talent to businesses in need of strategic contributors. Viewed from a high-level, the Forensic Recruiting process capitalizes on a fundamental understanding of business needs, the understanding of the complex employer-employee relationship, all backed up by extensive computerization and dynamic modeling. Experience and skill drive the process at Precise — technology enables and informs the opinions of the clients and candidates.

Even outside my business endeavors, I use my understanding of technology and entrepreneurship to add value to my many causes. From helping elected officials understand the economic impact of technology in Ohio — to helping non-profits become more effective in their missions, I have been able to provide a unique blend — a balance — of technology, innovation, and business leadership.

Precise Resource has been successful as a professional, executive search partner due in part to our unique methods and experience. Our executive search consultants are truly consultants in the purest sense of the term. They are very intelligent and aggressive, they truly understand how to communicate with senior leaders, they are very insightful of industry market conditions and leadership talent acquisition trends, and they have a high level of knowledge in our industry of expertise (IT).

Through a unique process we call forensic recruitment, we use technology and logical processes to uncover facts, evidence and the truth, and we marry those efforts to our clients’ enterprise talent acquisition strategy. Through research and a variety of sourcing tactics we locate ‘precisely’ the candidates our clients need, even when they are not quite sure what they are asking us to find for them.

We take time to truly learn about candidates (our products and future clients), we conduct hard skills assessments, leadership competency profiling, and through the relationship building cycle we gain an understanding of the conditions our candidates and clients face and what it would take to get both of them to say “Yes, that’s the one.”

Much of the recruiting world is driven by simple “skill matching” — the lining up of requirements and available resources. While this process may be effective in some cases, when it comes to finding long-term, key contributors to a business — simple skill-matching becomes about as effective as the “mail-order bride” business. You can do it, but the results might not be quite what you expect.

Working with leading experts in the fields of employment satisfaction and psychology, Precise has gone further and developed technology that supports our Forensic Recruiting process. Our technology includes extensive public and private databases and data sets. We utilize a number of online tools to help in the profiling of candidates and client work environments, and we use advanced scoring and modeling algorithms to inform our decisions. Developed over the past four years – and still undergoing continual refinement and development — the Forensic Recruiting system leverages technology to provide better real-world results.

All of our technology is real-time and online. This allows us to conduct business globally as easily as locally. Our clients and our candidates exist in different parts of the world, different time zones, and they are always on the move. By keeping our processes fully automated and accessible through the Internet, we have advanced the ability of our clients to recruit, assess and review qualified candidates more quickly, more efficiently and more economically. Our innovation continues, and the application of advanced profiling methods will continue to help our clients achieve greater results in their search for the right talent — their search for the precise talent they need.

Q: How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

I use my understanding of technology and entrepreneurship to add value to many causes. From helping elected officials understand the economic impact of technology in Ohio to helping nonprofits become more effective in their missions, I’ve been able to provide a unique blend — a balance — of technology, innovation and business leadership.

While the true nature of leadership is an intrinsic quality with many successful entrepreneurs, I move away from the pack in my leadership qualities through one, unmistakable attribute: passion. For any business, client, person or cause that has me as an advocate, the overwhelming quality of my work and leadership is passion. To know me, to survey my work and to observe my leadership style is to understand how good leaders can become great leaders if they are passionate about the work before them.

Few people — and even fewer women — have the talent and charisma to create a technology company from nothing, base it in Ohio, recruit world-class talent, define new applications and functionality in the nitty-gritty world of XML and SAML, then sell the business to a Wall Street firm. Imagine the sales pitch: “Yes, I would like you to quit your Silicon Valley job, come to work for a company that did not exist a couple of years ago and work for me (a woman). And by the way, we are located in Ohio — it is between California and New York City.” These types of propositions sound silly without passion, and passion is exactly what drives the core of my leadership style.

Today, at Precise Resource, I have learned to channel my passion and enthusiasm to the benefit of my clients’ businesses and my candidates’ careers. It is important to recognize the balance required to find the right person for the client ... not simply the best set of skills but also the best fit for the personality and environment of the workplace. To better understand the needs of her clients and candidates, I have led Precise Resource to develop a unique, computer-assisted matching methodology. This process leads to an integration of three critical success factors: the right client, the right candidate and the right set of personalities.

In my nonbusiness roles, I work with organizations as diverse as the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, The Center for Healthy Families, Mayor Coleman’s Jobs and Technology Workforce Commission, Columbus Partnership’s 2020 Vision and the Central Ohio Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. I try to inject a level of enthusiasm and passion to every setting, from strategic planning to fundraising.

Over time and with experience, I have learned to temper my executive skills, adapt them to a variety of situations, and add value to individual careers, business missions and organizations. With clarity of purpose, the wisdom of experience and the passion for excellence, I try to serve as a model for engaged, successful and giving executives and emerging business leaders.

I am a tireless advocate for the state of Ohio in both my professional and volunteer roles. A native of Delaware, Ohio, I have lived and worked as a visible and notable citizen of Ohio for my entire career. The technological and entrepreneurial achievements I have accumulated in that time represent only one facet of what I’m trying to contribute Ohio’s recognition in the greater country, and indeed the world.

Precise Resource maintains a roster of large, multinational client companies. Our work with these clients involves recruiting internationally, frequently for executive-level positions. With a client base spread throughout the United States and with candidates identified in every corner of the world, our work has us on the phone, online and in boardrooms from east to west, north to south. In each of these interactions, our friends and colleagues recognize we hail from Ohio. What more identifiable and conspicuous brand could I offer other than my “OSU Alumni” affiliation? It is nearly impossible to know me and not also know that I am a Buckeye!

Info Fortress was an early innovator in online security. Such an early innovator, in fact, that interest in the company came from more than just clients — a large, nationally recognized business based on Wall Street in New York acquired the business. Breaking out of the pack, demonstrating value and being from Ohio are all integral aspects of my career and life.

Also, within the state, I am a regular guest speaker and commentator on matters related to technology, innovation, dyslexia and entrepreneurship.

As with all driven entrepreneurs, my personal and charitable interests also benefit from my media connections and skills. Most notably for the IT industry, I was appointed to the board of the Ohio IT Alliance where I work to help the organization that has contributed significantly to adding to employment and sales revenue during the past eight years by providing business assistance to early-stage companies including direct consulting and investment fundraising. The organization was also an early-stage and original funding partner in both Jumpstart in Cleveland and the Business Technology Center now known as TechColumbus.

In addition to my work with the media, I have cultivated and maintained important relationships with elected officials at the local, state and national level. Serving as a trusted adviser to men and women elected as Ohio’s political leaders, I help shape critical thinking about the role of technology in Ohio, influencing how our state representatives and even presidential and gubernatorial candidates think about the impact of the legislative and political process on the business climate for entrepreneurs.

How to reach: Precise Resource, http://www.preciseresource.com/.

The Smart Leaders class of 2010

In August, 2010, Smart Business and Blue Technologies recognized 14 business leaders for their commitment to business excellence and the impact their organizations make on the regional community. Treated to a keynote address by TechColumbus CEO Ted Ford, these 14 leaders composed the honor roll: