Cindy Pasky, president, CEO and founder of Strategic Staffing Solutions, worked her way up from programmer to project manager to director at another company before deciding to pursue her entrepreneurial instincts in 1990.
“In the 1980s, there was not a lot of definition around IT,” Pasky says. “I saw tremendous opportunities and started Strategic Staffing Solutions at an excellent time, ” with two employees in a small office in Detroit. Today, her company supplies IT professionals from 14 offices serving 33 states and two in Europe.
Discipline is a word that comes up frequently with Pasky.
“Although we are privately held, we run our business like a public company,” she says. “It has not been easy to remain focused. We specialize in serving clients in the finance, energy and public sectors. It takes discipline not to veer from what we do best, especially when opportunities arise.”
Smart Business spoke with Pasky about finding the best employees to grow her business and how she measures success.
Besides discipline, what other things are key to the success of Strategic Staffing Solutions?
I realized early on that to survive, we had to grow. It was either merge or sell. So in 1992, we formed a partnership with another staffing company to capitalize on our respective strengths.
In retrospect, this was an excellent move toward solidifying the organization. The company we merged with had a strong finance background, which we were weak in at that time. In turn, we brought skills to the table that they needed. It was a good marriage, which in fact led to marriage.
Two years after our businesses merged, the owner of the other company and I got married. He is currently the CFO of Strategic Staffing Solutions.
Every move we make is tied to servicing our existing customers. We focus on meeting their needs above all else. As they have expanded to new markets, we have expanded to serve them in those new markets. From there, we then expand to other customers in the new market.
How do you find top-quality employees?
We have two distinct groups of employees, each requiring different skills sets. Those hired to serve on projects include those manning help desks, programmers and field executives. They must be state-of-the-art knowledge workers adept at providing technological solutions.
For our internal team, which consists of office staff, sales and branch managers, we look for more intangible skills such as the ability to be flexible and a willing team-player.
How do you measure success?
I tell my employees that nothing else really matters if we are not profitable. The need to remain profitable drives everything else good and worthwhile in the business. Profitability allows us the ability to do the right thing.
For example, Hurricane Katrina forced us to evacuate our New Orleans office and resulted in 80 of our consultants being on the bench. We were able to keep them on payroll for two months.
Had we not been profitable, we would not have had the ability to do that. Today, we are back in our New Orleans office and we have a bigger staff and more business in New Orleans than we had before the hurricane. Employee satisfaction is higher when companies are strong and vibrant and demonstrate a loyalty to their employees. People want to work for a winning organization.
What is the hardest management lesson you’ve learned?
One of the hardest things I had to learn was the need to let go of nonperformers. Again, this takes discipline. The predicament is difficult because once you have hired someone, your ego has a personal stake in the outcome. It is hard to let someone go after the tedious process of interviewing, hiring and training him or her.
But the reality is that it is completely unfair to the organization, the employee and the rest of the staff to ignore or tolerate performance issues. You must part ways in a manner that preserves dignity but cuts your losses. Not allowing an unacceptable staffing situation to go unchecked is what strong leaders do.
How do you get the best results from your staff?
I have high expectations and am not afraid to put a winning employee on a challenging path. I move people up before they know they are ready. I make sure our people know where they stand with me.
And most important, I never expect my staff to work harder than I do. I believe in setting a personal example of discipline and determination.
How to reach: Strategic Staffing Solutions, (313) 965-1110 or www.strategicstaff.com