William McCloskey

Tuesday, 30 October 2001 11:15

Joyce Query

If creating a successful business from scratch is a good thing, then growing a second firm out of the first one must be even better. That's what Joyce Query has done with her TechWrite Inc. and its little sister, i2 (i-squared).

Now one of the region's leading technical communications authorities and innovators, Query was a humble technical writer within a giant investment firm when she launched TechWrite in 1989.

''TechWrite is a technical communication and documentation firm which was founded at a time when business began making a cultural shift toward outsourcing expertise that fell outside of core competencies,'' she says. ''TechWrite was also a first-wave participant in what has turned out to be the surge of entrepreneurial activity that has carried on to the present day. TechWrite's innovative response to both trends and culture resulted in activities and services that went far beyond traditional notions of technical communications.''

As the business grew and prospered, Query recognized a need for related services that were more comprehensive and organizationally focused than traditional technical communications. So she founded her second business, i2. Now with 20 full-time employees in a North Shore headquarters, Query is president and CEO of both firms, keeping a steady hand on the wheel as both her companies cruise through a sea of opportunities. And frequently, one company is able to feed business activities to the other.

KM: A new discipline

i2's line of business, knowledge management, didn't even exist a decade ago.

Says Query, ''i2 is a spinoff from TechWrite that occurred as the tools of our trade increased in number and sophistication, as did the means for delivering information. Because we always maintained a staff of full-time consultants, writers, editors and project managers, the cumulative knowledge of our company grew geometrically. It quickly became clear that our customers' greater area of corporate need and the work that our consultants had become uniquely qualified to perform had gone far beyond the role of technical communicator.''

She says that even though the concept of knowledge management has been around for several years, what her company does is unique.

''Our work is an amalgam of business analysis, process improvement, content blueprinting and development and more. Anyone with content and knowledge to manage, in any form -- text graphics, data, interactive multimedia -- can benefit from our insight and process. Most everybody in business looks at hardware, software and pipelines, but companies rarely look at or think strategically about the information itself, about the nature and characteristics of the content they use. We do.''

Her experience has taught her that when you understand the knowledge you have, the knowledge you need, all of its audiences and how that knowledge must be used, then you can use all your resources to the greatest effect.

''We help organizations evolve into a fruitful knowledge culture rather than try to impose wholesale change on an operational environment,'' Query says. ''In addition to providing the customized formulas for knowledge efficiency, i2 also maintains the practical expertise to help implement our knowledge strategies, to capture, evaluate and share information, according to an organization's technology and culture.''

Local woman makes good

Query's story is a classic example of one good thing happening after the other. Born in Pittsburgh's South Hills area, she graduated from Mount Lebanon High School and attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1974.

In 1975, the first of her two children arrived. After a few years, she was back in school, this time at Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in technical writing in 1983. That was a rare and specialized degree in those days, and she was quickly hired by Federated Investors, where she became of an anchor of its budding technical communications section.

''I really enjoyed that experience,'' she says. ''Making the decision to go out into business, walking away from a very good position like mine, was just plain scary. But I did it -- and I promised myself I would give it two years.''

She didn't need two years. Query and TechWrite quickly secured one major client, then slowly and steadily expanded. Unlike many successful high-tech start-ups, she grew her businesses from the ground up -- without the help of a grant, guru, sponsor, mentor, lawyer, accountant or consultant.

Query is a member of the Society of Technical Communication and WIRED (Women Initiating Regional Economic Development in Western Pennsylvania) and does work for Habitat for Humanity. She has no plans for drastic expansion of either company and no interest in early retirement or an alternative occupation.

''I love what I'm doing, and I'm doing what I love,'' she says. ''I'm going to focus on growing these two businesses and advancing the quality of the tools and concepts we use. Knowledge management is just beginning to be understood.

''I want to be part of that business evolution. How to reach: Joyce Query at (412) 278-3400 or jquery@isqrd.com

William McCloskey is a Pittsburgh-based free-lance writer.

about this series ...

The SBN/PNC Women in Business Series is a monthly series sponsored by PNC Bank showcasing the achievements of some of the region's top women business owners and the obstacles they have overcome.

PNC Bank continues to expand its commitment to women business owners. Its PNC Bank Foundation continues to support Seton Hill College's National Education Center for Women in Business with a $250,000 grant to fund the design and maintenance of a Web site resource for women business owners. This article may also be viewed online at its Web site at www.e-magnify.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:47

Industrial husbandry

An exciting new technology — bearing the seeds of a potentially gigantic industrial harvest — is taking root in the region within the fertile confines of what has been dubbed the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse.

During the past decade, Pittsburgh-area businesses and entrepreneurs have had more than their share of conferences, committees, partnerships, alliances and other aggregations of experts seeking to nurture high technology — as if it were a commodity. The Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse, unveiled in June 1999, is something else entirely.

The local entrepreneurial ranks may soon rejoice and worship at the new Greenhouse because of its tightly focused, single-minded goal of growing one specific cash crop: the new “System-on-a-Chip (SOC)” technology.

Planting the seeds of growth and prosperity

Leading the charge in this nonprofit organization, funded in part by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a consortium of private-sector members, is Dennis Yablonsky. Yablonsky, former president and CEO of Carnegie Group Inc., is president and CEO of the Digital Greenhouse.

He’s working with a host of companies which are among the who’s who of the nation’s high-tech industries. Among them are international giants Cadence Design Systems Inc., Casio Computer Co.,Ltd., Cisco Systems Inc., Oki Electric Industry Co. and Sony Corp. Academic members include Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Civic, business and professional organization members include the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Local associate members include Neo Linear Inc., Pittsburgh, which develops and markets software tools for the design of mixed-signal integrated circuits; Videon-Central Inc., State College, a provider of digital video hardware and software designs for the computer and consumer industries; and Sima Products Corp., Oakmont, an innovator in consumer electronic accessories.

“The Digital Greenhouse was born out of a corporate demand for an integrated environment that enables innovation and sustains new product development,” Yablonsky says. “Each component works in synergy, creating an ideal environment for forward-looking companies. Every angle of research, product development and marketing has been considered in planning the ideal environment for the 21st century SOC-based product design.”

The Digital Greenhouse is designed to operate through five distinct but interrelated programs:

Electronic Design Technology Development Program — This is the key building block. It will provide research funds, expertise from Greenhouse leaders and project management to facilitate breakthroughs in focused intellectual property (IP) applications for digital video and digital networks.

Electronic Design Education Program — This will develop courseware and training modules for the retraining of electrical engineering and computer science personnel in SOC technology. It also will create a joint degree program among academic participants.

Electronic Infusion Program — This is a new technology concept centered on sending highly specialized teams into medium- and large-sized companies to identify opportunities for the use of electronics to add value to existing products.

Intellectual Property Exchange Program — This responds to a need for commercializing intellectual property available at local universities and high-tech companies. The center will develop the standards and processes to exchange intellectual property and develop marketing plans and alliances with similar R&D groups around the world.

Complex Support Program — This will be housed in a facility with highly secure electronic infrastructure that enables technology companies to efficiently transmit their product to supplying, collaborating and user companies. It will connect organizations within the Digital Greenhouse to suppliers, collaborators and users outside the region. Companies involved will have access to a telecommunication test-bed environment. Access to venture capital will be provided through the Complex Support Program.

How the technology works

Charles Brandt, PhD, chief technical officer for the Greenhouse, describes the infant technology this way: “SOC integrates many functional systems directly on a single chip to more efficiently control the features of the product into which it is incorporated. For example, designers previously would use one chip for memory and another chip for data processing, and so on, all within a single device. SOC eliminates that process by combining these various functions in a single microchip.

“Smaller, faster and more affordable smart products — from integrated data, cable and cell phones to wireless handheld devices for voice, fax and data — are in the works,” Brandt continues. “These, and others not yet imagined, are examples of digital consumer devices enhanced by the addition of an SOC microchip.

SOC also will allow designers to bring products to market faster and cheaper.

“Previously, chip designers would start from scratch when developing a product. But SOC technology allows designers to mix and match capabilities — sort of like building blocks — rather than having to come up with a whole new chip at the outset.”

Before joining the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse as its science guru in October, Brandt was a researcher at the Northrop Grumman Science & Technology Center in Pittsburgh for 11 years, most recently as manager of the microelectronics department. He will coordinate the Greenhouse’s Electronic Design Technology Development Program.

Something for everybody

Digital Greenhouse marketing literature describes the organization as “an attempt to leverage the region’s existing assets to create an SOC cluster that initially focuses on the digital video and digital networking markets, but will ultimately come up with new ways to put innovations like SOC to work to develop a wide range of next-generation products.”

The Digital Greenhouse is held up as a new model of public, private and academic business and technological initiatives designed to foster the growth of smart products in Western Pennsylvania. The aim is to generate, in one environment, the essential components which support SOC development and technology.

Among its greatest benefits to industry leaders that join, Yablonsky says, is that they gain access to an unprecedented concentration of highly specialized resources specifically geared toward SOC design. And they’ll be able to work toward establishing a set of standards and an efficient market for reused intellectual property. They also will help create a pool of engineering talent with special training in repurposing intellectual property.

For these corporate giants, the technology-friendly environment described by Yablonsky means access to streamlined legal frameworks, intellectual property valuation models and technical practices which will reduce intellectual property lead-time transactions.

Regional businesses that join will enjoy the influx of companies attracted by the Greenhouse. That means more buyers and sellers, more intellectual property availability and a more robust intellectual property market. These firms are expected to work through the Greenhouse toward building a standard methodology for reusable intellectual property and construct an electronic infrastructure that enables such property to be easily bought and sold among participating companies.

Local start-up companies likewise will get a reliable framework for sustained growth as well as special access to specialized design software, venture capital funding for SOC-related businesses and support services such as marketing, finance and legal assistance.

The Harrisburg perspective

Gov. Tom Ridge has been a prime mover in the creation of the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse, putting up state funds to launch the initiative and traveling to Japan and throughout the United States to attract ideas and members.

“The world has taken notice of the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse,” Ridge said recently. “Unlike traditional economic development strategies which focus on the attraction of individual companies while placing the emphasis on bricks and mortar, the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse gives Pennsylvania a competitive advantage by establishing a total and unique environment for the 21st century electronics industry.”

Ridge’s hope is that it will give Pennsylvania the high-tech credit he says it deserves.

“World-class firms now recognize what we have known for some time — Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania are forces to be reckoned with in today’s high-tech economy,” Ridge says. “We seek to create the greenhouse of tomorrow to grow the products we’ll all use tomorrow and the high-tech jobs we need to ensure Pittsburgh’s prosperity into the 21st century.”

How to reach: The Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse, (412) 201-3423

William McCloskey is a free-lance writer living in Pittsburgh.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Anita Brattina

Anita Brattina wasn’t yet 27 years old when she put a desk in the spare bedroom of her apartment, recruited her sister-in-law as a secretary/bookkeeper and set out to build a multimillion-dollar international marketing consulting business. A brash dream, even for 1984.

Today, Brattina is president and CEO of Direct Response Marketing Inc., a full-service telemarketing and telephone research organization providing business-to-business and consumer capabilities to clients around the world. The firm, now based in Forest Hills, provides everything from buyer preference profiling, direct mail follow-up, customer research, appointment setting and telefundraising to market research, opinion polls, seminar and focus group recruitment and database enhancement and verification.

Humble beginnings

At the outset, Brattina’s resources were scant — a journalism degree from Duquesne University, seven years experience in corporate marketing, and a little cash from an employment separation package she had received.

But she had two secret ingredients that give this story a positive twist — persistence and a willingness to learn.

“As I got into it, I was totally unprepared to realize how little I knew about business, even after years as head of a corporate marketing department,” says Brattina, looking back on 15 years of progress. “I was naive. I knew how to do the business, but I didn’t know how to run it. So I was forced to learn, somewhat painfully at times, that knowing your craft doesn’t make you a CEO.

“I didn’t know about business plans, financing, hiring, delegating — the skills it takes to keep all the plates spinning.”

Chronicling the journey

That Brattina learned — both quickly and well — is evident from the success of DRM. In the process, she documented her struggles and the lessons learned, producing one of the most popular small business books in recent years, “Diary of a Small Business Owner: A Personal Account of How I Built a Profitable Business” (AMACOM, 1996, $21.95, available from the National Education Center for Women in Business, (724) 830-4615, and in bookstores).

The challenges, obstacles, strategies — and ultimately the triumphs — she describes are invaluable reading for those who would be entrepreneurs.

Brattina reports, for instance, that despite her enthusiasm for the new enterprise, she experienced an unexpected and painful sense of isolation when she stepped out on her own.

“Moving from the connectedness of a thriving corporation to the isolation of working in the apartment was severe a culture shock,” she wrote. “No secretary, no phones ringing with incoming business, no using solid years of business to justify constant name recognition, no flood of mail from professional organizations, no phone calls from colleagues sharing ideas.”

Even five years into the venture, Brattina still was learning basic skills, she wrote.

“In some ways, I had been running two businesses concurrently ... my business and the business my employees saw,” she noted. “My personal vision wasn’t focused enough. I saw possibility in every idea. That meandering of vision dragged me through more trouble than I needed to endure.”

Turning the corner

Brattina’s open-mindedness and willingness to learn eventually carried the day. By 1992, the company was doing annual business of $250,000; by 1994, it generated more than $1 million in revenues.

During those two years, Brattina got help from Powerlink and other women-owned business consultants who provided her expert advisory boards and taught her to delegate responsibilities, focus on the CEO role, develop business plans and attract and optimize financing.

Through the learning process, Brattina says, she managed to hang onto her core values. She wanted to operate a professional and expert service based on customer and employee loyalty — sore points in the teleservice industry at large. And she wanted to establish a work environment that fostered employee involvement and ownership.

Everything else was open to revision for this married mother of four, who came to Pittsburgh from her native Philadelphia to attend Duquesne. Today, five years after the intensive CEO training, she finds herself re-energized and refocused.

“Our growth has been strong and steady,” she says. “Personally, I’m enamored of the entrepreneur role again. I’m getting the fulfillment I sought when I started.”

And her plans for the future?

“We’re for poised for the next step,” she says. “It was a gradual and painstaking process to grow from a local company to a regional company, then from regional to national and international. Now we intend to become a truly global enterprise and open offices in other parts of the United States, and eventually, in key locations around the world.

“Whether we grow our own or expand through acquisition — that’s something I can’t say today. But we have the vision and the skills. So it’s not a matter of how – just when.”

How to reach: Anita Brattina at Direct Response Marketing Inc., (412) 242-6200, or by e-mail at drmanita@usaor.net.

William McCloskey is a Pittsburgh-based free-lance writer.

About this series...

The SBN/PNC Women in Business Series is a new monthly series sponsored by PNC Bank showcasing the achievements of some of the region’s top women business owners and the obstacles they have overcome.

PNC Bank continues to expand its commitment to women business owners. In its latest initiative, the PNC Bank Foundation offered a $250,000 grant to Seton Hill College’s National Education Center for Women in Business to create a Web site resource for women business owners. Its Web address: e-magnify.com.

Monday, 18 February 2002 05:39

Joanne Sujansky

Joanne Genova Sujansky tells people they need to change. And they're willing to pay her for that.

Actually, it's Dr. Sujansky, a much sought-after author, speaker, lecturer and consultant. She's all about organizational change, and she preaches innovative, optimal ways to harness it in business and industry. Sujansky, Ph.D., CSP, is CEO of KEYGroup, the new name of her recently expanded Training Connection, the Pittsburgh-based consulting and training services company she founded in 1980.

The title CEO is something of a misnomer, because 21 years later, Sujansky still is out there doing hands-on work in an immense variety of styles and settings for organizations that want her help with finding a better way. The difference now is that she has an international organization at her back, with additional resources in Cleveland and Amsterdam.

KEYGroup consults nationally and internationally to industry, government, health care, business and education organizations. The group's claimed areas of expertise include change management, leadership and motivation. Its client list includes a startling number of major business and institutional entities, as well as dozens of smaller concerns.

A self-confessed overachiever, Sujansky has written several books, including the just-released "The Keys to Conquering Change: 100 Tales of Success," co-authored with John Van Sprang, a senior member of her Amsterdam organization. Some of her earlier titles include "The Power of Partnering: Vision, Commitment and Action;" "Putting Change In Your Pocket;" and "Training Games for Managing Change."

Every case is special

"The whole idea of change often has a negative connotation -- as in: 'We missed our third-quarter projections. Something's wrong. Quick, call the consultants!'" Sujansky says. "In fact, change can arise through any number of causes other than disaster and failure -- such as unexpected growth and prosperity, sudden opportunity, modifications of law or government regulations, the launch of new initiatives or changes of ownership.

"No matter what the trigger for change, the key to managing change -- that is, using change to the client's advantage -- lies in working with the people who are most directly affected. We sit down with them and listen to their concerns and ideas. We address those considerations and we work to build consensus and motivation, so these people can move forward with enthusiasm and skill."

According to Sujansky, the ideal situation involves KEYGroup partnering with the client upstream and being involved with ownership or senior management in designing the change before it is promulgated. Then, the roll-out of the organizational change is more effective, because the people factors -- such as motivation and morale -- already are integral to the plan.

Still, she admits, the more likely scenario is a call for help when change already is underway within an organization and obstacles and problems are emerging.

Proven methods

"Our solutions are as varied as our clients' needs," Sujansky says. "Some clients come to us looking to strengthen their people skills. Some want development programs to aid in employee retention and attraction. Others are reinventing themselves to meet market demands and ask our help to fix problems or create opportunities.

" Our approach is personalized to each client. In all cases, homework comes first. We listen to the individuals' concerns and goals and analyze the organization and its needs before suggesting any course of action."

Sujansky says her company's focus always is to provide "practical solutions with measurable results," whether she or her staff tailors one of her proven programs or creates a custom program, coaches an executive one-on-one or trains the client's entire staff.

"Our principal tool and strongest expertise is assessment," she says. "We help companies by helping their people gain insight into their individual strengths and opportunities for improvement through a rigorous assessment of who does what and what they wish to accomplish."

To capitalize on that business approach, Sujansky's company name is cleverly exploited in the firm's marketing material. It explains that KEY stands for:

* Knowledge -- Referring to the firm's repository of proven methodology and best practices in adult active learning and human behavior.

* Experience -- Indicating its track record of work with business, industry and government, as well as the experiential learning provided by the firm.

* Yield -- The strengths built by the client's employees as a result of the consulting, and the results gained by the client, as well as the goals that it meets and often exceeds.

Changes of her own

For somebody in the business of change management, Sujansky's personal and professional lives are an intricate blend of continual, unrelenting change and slow, steady progress.

On the change side, the Beaver County native pushed herself to a Ph.D. degree in education. She never intended to be a teacher in the traditional sense, but wanted expertise in theory and methodology concerning human and organizational behavior.

She also pushed herself into public visibility by way of her speaking and writing. She says a major turning point in her career occurred in 1985 when she became national president -- at age 35 -- of the prestigious American Society for Training and Development, and later received that organization's highest honor, the Gordon M. Bliss Award.

She is a major player in the Pennsylvania Speakers Association and the National Speakers Association, where she has earned its highest credential -- Certified Speaking Professional (CSP).

The calm, steady, conservative side of Joanne Sujansky features a marriage of 25 years and three children, ages 21, 20 and 9. She also enjoys a rock-solid, mutually beneficial 17-year professional association with her closest business colleague, Jan Ferri-Reed, Ph.D. As president of KEYGroup, Ferri-Reed consults, trains and manages the firm's operations and oversees delivery of service.

That's highly appropriate mix for a woman who has developed herself as a doctor of change. If your professional life is dedicated to thriving in the midst of flux, you'd better have some very strong and dependable supports of your own. How to reach: Joanne G. Sujansky, Ph.D., (724) 942-7900 or at www.KEYGRP.com

William McCloskey is a Pittsburgh-based free-lance writer.

Monday, 31 December 2001 08:02

The doctor is in

Carol Utay isn't your average entrepreneur because her business is secondary to her occupation as an educator.

After a long career as an educator and educational administrator, Utay decided to establish an educational center to address the specific needs of individuals. As executive director of Total Learning Centers, Wexford, that's just what she does.

Founded in 1999, Total Learning Centers offers a broad spectrum of services for school-aged children, adults and couples seeking professional help in adding to their skills or overcoming skill deficits. The services can be described as evaluation, tutoring, counseling and training.

Says Utay: "There are well-established models out there, national organizations that offer similar services. But there's a difference. They operate, in my opinion, on client retention, holding on to clients to generate more fees. Our philosophy is to focus very specifically on each individual and meet their needs in the most direct manner possible."

Utay admits her "get-them-in-and-out" philosophy may not be the best money-making technique, but she considers it both an ethical and effective long-term business strategy.

"If we do a good job for our clients and are affordable, our reputation will spread by word of mouth," she says. "In the big picture, that's where I'd like to see our business coming from -- clients, their families, their peers and educational counselors."

Return of the native

A Pittsburgh-area native who graduated from Mount Lebanon High School, Utay completed a bachelor's degree in elementary education at the University of Pittsburgh and earned master's and doctorate degrees at East Texas State University, where her studies emphasized special education and learning disabilities.

It was during a study abroad program that she met her husband, Joe Utay, a Ph.D. psychologist from Dallas. The couple settled in Dallas, where they pursued their careers in different but related specialties, and later lived and worked in Kentucky.

In 1999, the family, now including a daughter, Andrea, returned to the Pittsburgh area to establish a learning center. Joe Utay is director of evaluation and counseling services for the organization.

"When you study the demographics, you can see that Wexford is a natural location for us," says Utay. "Of course, there are other communities in and around the Pittsburgh area that are just as viable. So one of our future objectives may be to open a second center, possibly in the eastern suburbs."

All-star team approach

Initially, Total Learning Centers was Carol and Joe Utay. Today there are 10 full-time employees and three dozen part-time associates, necessitated by the wide variety of services offered.

Utay located her business in 5,000 square fee in the Pine Tree Shoppes, a shopping mall on Perry Highway.

"It's a really ideal location for us," Utay said. "Pine Tree Shoppes is located at a natural crossroads of the community. It's easy to find and there's ample parking. Just as important are the plenty of other facilities nearby. Many of our clients are young people who are driven here by parents or other adults. And not every adult wants to sit in the lobby and read a book while the client is working with us."

Culminating a life's work

For a woman who'd spent her career in large, public educational institutions and organizations, the shift to the ownership and management of a small, specialized private company has been an education.

"There is no single, dramatic moment in our development that stands out in my memory," she says. "The challenge for me has been to acquire skills and a comfort level for some basic and not so basic business, organizational and ownership activities.

"Sure, I was district technology coordinator for Jessamine County Schools (Nicholasville, Ky.) and administered a $1.2 million budget. But that didn't prepare me to negotiate with suppliers when we bought equipment and supplies for the center."

Total Learning Centers is not just another career move. Utay considers it the culmination of everything she's done.

"This is it," she says. "This is what I want to be doing for the rest of my career. I expect there will be major business decisions along the way, like whether or not we establish one or two more locations. But as for the work itself, this is what I want to be doing."

Her principal challenge will be to balance the demands of entrepreneurship against her talents and instincts for evaluating, counseling and educating.

"There's a natural concern about becoming too much the business person and less the educator," she says. "So I continue to think of myself as an educator and to value my interaction with individual clients, helping them develop their special and unique skills and helping them to achieve their dreams." How to reach: Carol Utay, (724)940-1090.

Thursday, 29 November 2001 17:51

Carol Harris

Conventional wisdom has it that you'd either better know something or know somebody to succeed in business. Carol Harris would ask, "What's wrong with doing both?"

The story of Carol Harris Staffing LLC is a delightful tale of entrepreneurial success because it exemplifies almost everything small business people have been taught, imagined and dreamed about.

It's a story of working hard, persevering, paying attention, learning and growing -- then knowing just when to take the leap from employee to entrepreneur.

Harris, president and CEO of Carol Harris Staffing, previously was a single mother living in Boston with her two young children, working in real estate to maintain a home life for her family.

A graduate of Penn Hills High School and the University of Pittsburgh, she decided to return home to be near her family, friends and familiar places and to build a career.

That's when she connected with Kelly Services, where she worked part time as a receptionist. There, she studied the industry, learning the staffing business from an industry leader. Within eight years, she had committed to a full-time career and progressed through the ranks of Kelly, rising to branch manager, then regional sales manager.

After eight years, in 1987, she ventured out on her own, forming Carol Harris Temporaries Inc. in Monroeville.

Mutual benefit

"It was one of those situations where the employer wanted to make a change, and I did, too," Harris says. "So I had the opportunity to basically form my own company from the organization where I had been an employee."

After sitting out a noncompete arrangement, she started her business in the Jonnet Building, where her headquarters is still situated today.

Since then,. she has opened two additional offices, in New Kensington and Youngwood, near New Stanton. The company has grown from its first office of 400 square feet to three offices totaling 6,700 square feet.

Although Harris has more than 20 full-time staff members, the true measure in the staffing business is how many workers get placed with client businesses each year. For 2000, Carol Harris Staffing issued more than 3,000 W-2 forms.

Those workers represent clerical, industrial and technical specialists, from word processing experts to chemists. Most work a 40-hour week, although some are part-timers.

Shared interests

Harris says the staffing industry is built on a mutuality of needs.

"You have to recognize that there are a surprising number of people who only want to work temporarily," she says. "There might be very obvious reasons for this, or the worker may have unusual circumstances.

"Some workers view temporary employment as a type of paid job search. Being placed temporarily with a company gives them a chance to see how they fit in there, what possibilities exist within the company, and whether they might want to work there permanently."

The benefit to the client business is simplicity. The firm pays a fee and gets a qualified worker, avoiding the costly overhead associated with recruiting, hiring, training and maintaining an employee.

Businesses like Carol Harris Staffing match workers to available work, making money from fees paid by client businesses. Only a portion of that money goes to the worker as wages.

According to Harris, "What differentiates the success, growth and reputation of one staffing company from another is the ethical behavior and the fairness it brings to both the worker and client sides of the equation. We've based our success on the ability to attract and locate only the best workers. That's how we can best serve our clients, and that's why we have long-standing relationships with a very impressive roster of clients."

The agency's highest priority is the recruitment of employees.

"We are constantly developing innovative ideas to interest employees in our company," she says. "As part of that effort, we work with technical colleges, trade schools, business schools and high schools, and our staff visits off-site locations to interview prospective employees."

Awards and rewards

In 2000, Carol Harris was named Entrepreneur Of The Year in the Service category by Ernst and Young. She was recently named one of the "50 Best Women in Business in Pennsylvania," an award presented by the governor's office, and her firm has been named one of the "100 Fastest Growing Companies in Western Pennsylvania" two years in a row.

Harris is a member of the board of Habitat For Humanity and was featured on the "Oprah Winfrey" show for donating $60,000 to build a Habitat home in the Pittsburgh area. She also sponsored a bike ride for the Allegheny Valley Habitat affiliate that raised more than $30,000 to rehabilitate a home in New Kensington. How to reach: Carol Harris, (412) 856-3666 or www.chstaffing.com

William McCloskey is a free-lance writer based in Pittsburgh.

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