Cindy Pasky Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2007

After Hurricane Katrina, Cindy Pasky knew she had to do something to help the employees of Strategic Staffing Solutions Inc.’s New Orleans office. The founder, president and CEO of the company — which provides information technology professional consultants — split the corporate team, with half working as part of a disaster group while the other half focused on moving the business forward.

Pasky says that even though there was a tremendous tragedy in New Orleans, it was important for the company to keep a focus on the day-to-day operations of the business. One executive went to New Orleans a week-and-a-half after the hurricane, while Pasky, who led the disaster side, went down two months later to assess the damage.

Pasky said it was important to send the message that the company — which posted 2006 revenue of about $140 million — was going to take care of its employees.

Smart Business spoke with Pasky about how to earn respect and how to grow a company while maintaining a personal life.

Earn respect by making tough decisions. When you make a tough decision, people shouldn’t be surprised. You should be willing to, within reason, explain why the decision needs to be made, and you need to be consistent across the board as you make decisions.

You have to be more interested in having people respect you than like you. Usually, when people decide if they like someone, it is your personality. Are you fun to be with? Do you make me laugh?

My objective in the business world is to be viewed as a businessperson first and be respected for that. Then, if my style happens to fit with someone’s and they decide they like me, that’s an extra benefit.

If you are yourself, then I find that people like you more anyway.

Realize growth isn’t easy. You have to recognize how hard you are going to work to make that happen. You are going to get it done through other people, but you mostly start by getting it done through yourself. What I’ve seen is a lot of entrepreneurs, they reach a certain point where they think they should be able to live the life. But, what happens is, they have to become a CEO, and a good CEO should always work harder than anyone else in the company. That is a mindset. You might be able to go out and buy the nice car, but you aren’t going to be able to drive it often.

Then you have to say, ‘Can I do it? Where do I think my voids are, and how can I supplement them with other team members?’

Mix work and play. It helps if you really like what you are doing. If I have an operation in Eastern Europe, every third trip, you might add a country onto the trip for a couple of days. I love to golf, so if I can get a customer to golf, that’s a win-win.

I’m a runner, and our company sponsors an 8K to raise money for a woman’s shelter every year. If you look at what you like to do and how you want to do it, you can find lots of ways to intersperse that in your life.

As you grow and get a good team around you, it creates opportunities for you to take a vacation, take off early and play that round of golf, or take the dog for a walk. I think balance is a bad idea, and I just don’t think it’s realistic. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a life.

Get involved in the community. It’s the obligation of the corporation to do that. It’s good for your employees. They can participate or they cannot participate, but it sends a message to them that the business does have an obligation to do this.

A lot of people, that’s the type of company they want to work with. It gives them an outlet. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get involved on their own. But, if their company does, then they can participate.

Then, from a benefiting-the-company standpoint, it does make recruitment easier. It gives you other reasons to strengthen relationships with your customers if it’s a shared activity and something else besides business you are working on.

We’re pretty particular about what we get involved in. The first thing we say is, ‘Does it fit in to the category of the type of organization we want to support?’ The second thing we do is we’ll look at, ‘Does this align with something a customer has asked us to do?’

Then we’ll look at it and say, ‘Do we have the budget to do it?’

Culture has to start at the leadership level. We believe every position in the company is equally important. A customer once told me, ‘For a good size company, you are the huggiest company I have ever met.’ We all see each other and hug. It’s ridiculous. Our customers do it, too. You have to start at the top and really care about people.

You have to be willing to say, ‘Thank you. Nice job,’ and recognize that there is nothing wrong with having a little bit of silly fun. You have to be comfortable enough in yourself to do that.

In the corporate office, we have a workout facility and showers; a really nice kitchen. Each branch picks what works for their teams.

In our world, people are going to work really hard. If you can create an environment where they are working hard, they feel like they are appreciated, can get a good workout in and fix their lunch, then the work they provide is going to be better and provide a higher sense of loyalty. They are people; take care of them.

HOW TO REACH: Strategic Staffing Solutions Inc., (313) 843-1243, (888) 738-3261 or www.strategicstaff.com