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.
"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.
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.
DKW Value Recovery LLC offers interim crisis management, turnaround advisory management, bankruptcy advisory management and information technology services to troubled mid-market companies.
"DKW Value Recovery is already involved in several deals, and we are confident in the results this new entity will bring to its clients," says Leo Keevican, managing director.
A construction products manufacturer facing a downturn recently retained DKW Value Recovery, which provided an interim controller and performed an assessment and financial report of the company's engineering and manufacturing processes. The report will be used to run the operation more efficiently.
The AIRMALL is offering an online application for prospective employees that can be submitted to more than 100 shops, restaurants and services in the airport complex.
For those who prefer, the AIRMALL continues to offer paper applications as well.
"Having a universal application for the AIRMALL streamlines the recruiting process," says Mark Knight, president, BAA Pittsburgh Inc., the firm that manages the AIRMALL. "Making it available online affords added conveniences for candidates, who can submit a single application in the comfort of their own home, day or night."
Meanwhile, JobHouse, operator of the JobMobile, a roving employment and recruiting office, is expanding into outplacement services.
The firm, whose focus has been primarily in recruitment efforts for corporate clients, is placing its JobMobile at key locations to assist dislocated workers in their job searches. Leslie Bonner, president, says the expansion grew out of a similar smaller scale project that JobHouse executed for Allegheny County.
The company offered the service to laid-off US Airways employees in October.
Clients can choose services ranging from basic resume writing and interview training to stress reduction with massage therapy and appearance makeovers. How to reach: JobHouse, www.thejobhouse.com; The AIRMALL, www.airmall.com. Paper applications available by calling 1800-ITS-FAIR.
At the top of my think topics list most of the time is Fitting Creative, the business I started in the basement of my home 16 years ago. Then, as now, it was enormously pleasurable to think about the possibilities. How big would we be? What services we would offer? To whom would we offer them? And how would we measure success?
The big difference is that when the business was tiny, I had plenty of time to dream.
Now that my business is substantial, the day-to-day activities, decisions, meetings, crises and paperwork leave little time for me to dream. In fact, as the stakes get higher, some of the dreams have turned to nightmares. The more people I employ, the more families that are dependent on my good judgment and leadership.
But thinking and dreaming about the big issues remains one of the highest-payoff activities I can do. The problem is, I have so many demands on my time, so many small things to think about and do, that I have to force myself to do the thing I love most.
So I've started to schedule ''think time,'' usually when I'm traveling or when I know I'll have an hour or more to wait somewhere -- assuming I'll be relatively uninterrupted. Sometimes, though, before I have that opportunity, I'll reach a psychological critical mass of putting out daily fires and need to hole up at home when everyone else is out.
I do some of my best thinking then and I usually return to the office feeling turbocharged about my new ideas. There's no feeling quite like having solved a big problem.
And when you figure out a problem, 10 other smaller things that have been driving you crazy fall into place.
What does this have to do with marketing? The best and most creative marketing ideas come from stepping back and thinking, mentally playing out various scenarios and letting ideas ripen.
I don't want to minimize the need for facts, figures, competitive intelligence, research results and other information. All are grist for the mill. But some of the best ideas and strategies I've come up with for clients happen when I go quietly into my own head and let the gray matter do its job.
So whether it's big marketing matters or other heady business issues that challenge you, pick a time and place that's just for you and focus your mind's eye on the global ball. Andrea Fitting is CEO of Fitting Creative, a Pittsburgh-based agency specializing in strategic marketing and breakthrough creative. Reach her at (412) 434-6934.
It's hard not to smile in his presence because his enthusiasm is so contagious, and Krisby is the first to admit: "I've had people tell me I'm too high energy."
This abundance of energy may be th reason he's been able to turn motivation into a profitable one-man business called Success Solutions. With clients including Ashland Inc., Altmeyer Pre-Arrangement Center and Vector Security, Krisby conducts seminars focused on mind, body and spirit to teach determination, dedication, desire and attitude. His clients swear by the results and Krisby prides himself on being a different kind of motivational speaker.
Unlike other speakers, Krisby leads by example.
He is a competitive weight-lifter, and during his Wellness-Energy-Success seminars, he bench-presses 300 pounds three times in a row after leading his group through aerobics and free-weight training. As an ACE-certified instructor, Krisby started working out at age 14 and competing in the YMCA Weightlifting Championships at 17.
Krisby served in the Air Force, spending time in Southeast Asia, and upon his return to Ohio, got his first job, selling mortgages, and became manager after nine months. From 1980 to 1989, he was Executone Communication's general sales manager, gaining experience developing sales training and motivational techniques, which he would later use in his own business.
Three years ago, Krisby faced his biggest personal challenge when his wife, Kathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Instead of crumbling under the pressure and succumbing to emotion, he turned his energy and enthusiasm to the challenge and created a small pocket guide entitled "Success is as Simple" to sell at his seminars.
One dollar from each book sold is donated to an account in Kathy Krisby's name at the Susan G. Koman Foundation. Today, her cancer is in remission.
Good listening skills and the ability to deal with people are two keys to his success. Here, he shares his thoughts on success.
SBN: What motivates you?
Krisby: I came out of the womb motivated. Really, [it's] teaching people and creating ideas. I love to see people go outside the box. People get stuck in an everyday routine, keep their unhappiness to themselves, don't want to talk about it and do everything to hide it under the rug.
Just seeing how many people need direction -- a lot of people are so pessimistic. It's great to see people in my seminars understand that their problems aren't really that glaring. And my wife keeps me motivated, too.
What are the basic principles behind your Success Solutions seminars?
Educating, elevating and motivating people. I've attended thousands of seminars, and in 1989, I was a sales managing trainer with Digital and Analog Design in Columbus. In December 1999, I decided to move my family to Pittsburgh so my wife could be closer to her parents. I was financially in a position to open my own business and it's been a blast.
I have six solid clients in town and had seven speaking engagements in October alone.
Why use weight-lifting in your seminars?
It gives people lifestyle changes and more directional focus on changing habits. You know it takes 21 days to change a habit? Weight-lifting helps their focus and motivation. At the end of each seminar, I bench 300 pounds three times because people ask me to.
What are your biggest pet peeves?
'Excusitis' kills me -- that and 'blameitis.' People say they can't do something because it will upset their significant other, children or their lifestyle. You should always consult with your significant other before making a major lifestyle change, but don't blame others and use excuses to prevent action.
What has been your biggest business obstacle?
Establishing an identity in the Pittsburgh market. The way I did it was using my methodology by building networks. As soon as we moved here, I met all my neighbors and tried to build community togetherness. I found out many of my neighbors are golfers, so I created a community golf tournament at Diamond Run.
These networks helped me find clients. I only work in the tri-state area and don't spread myself too thin. It's imperative for every businessperson to understand how to build a powerful network.
What is your primary goal?
I want to touch as many people as possible with the Pocket Guide to generate $1 million for breast cancer research over the next 10 years. For more information on upcoming Success Solutions seminars, the Pocket Guide and other Krisby events, visit www.4successsolutions.com or call (800) 493-3557.
Amanda Lynch is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer.
Only a week before, I'd attended a leadership development program put on by Shared Vision Alliance (see this month's cover feature) that used horses to demonstrate the most effective ways to approach and lead people. Using what I had learned, I walked toward Pockets in a roundabout way, not aiming my rather stocky frame right at his face.
I then called to him calmly as I petted him and scratched his back at the tip of his mane. I even scratched under his chin as I talked to him like a 3-year-old child. I could tell he liked me, so I placed my left foot in the stirrup and climbed into the saddle.
Taking the reins, I nudged him with my right heel, and we slowly clip-clopped out of the corral. So far so good, I reasoned, proud that I had remembered my recent horse training. And now I, the 21st century Horse Whisperer, was heading for the vast rolling hills of my cousin's farm in Ohio.
I had just ventured outside the corral when I decided it was time to lead Pockets in a joyful run for the hills. So I clicked my tongue, gave him a good nudge and aimed my head and body toward a far hillside. That's when my leadership ability, shall I say, faltered.
Pockets had other plans. While he obeyed my command to run, he wasn't interested in that distant hill. Setting his sights back on the corral, he lunged 180 degrees to the right, while I leaned about 90 degrees to the left. As he began to run, my saddle slipped, and I found myself riding horizontal to the ground, gripping the saddle horn for dear life. Not exactly a John Wayne movie, I figured, as I felt my body wrench and my panicked mind fill with humiliation.
For the next several days, I hobbled slowly around my office, nursing a pulled right calf muscle and other saddle sores. But it also gave me a chance to think about what I'd learned. Obviously, that single lesson in leadership wasn't enough to make me an expert. Only experience -- and many more hard knocks along the way -- would carry me boldly into the distant hills.
The same holds true for learning good leadership. I applaud those of you who take the time to step out of the trenches of your businesses to re-energize or develop your leadership abilities. And I would encourage you to attend seminars, retreats and even an Equine Business Experience or two. You'll learn a lot.
But make no mistake. You may come out of those courses swaggering like a newborn leader, and your confidence may make you appear like a strong, wise, visionary guide. But nothing will get you to where you're going without some good, old-fashioned practice and hard-knock experience.
One trip in the saddle won't suddenly make you Leader of the Year. Nor will one leadership course. It's a life-long challenge for which you should be prepared to invest your heart and soul, over and over and over again. And expect some saddle sores along the way.
I did manage to ride into the hills that day in spite of my early accident, and the view of my cousin's 200-plus acre farm was worth the effort. But perhaps my greatest gift was when I rode back into the corral at the end of my ride. As I dismounted and walked toward the gate, Pockets lifted his head and followed me.
For I was a leader, indeed. How to reach: Daniel Bates (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of SBN Magazine.
In an interview, South Dakota Gov. William Janklow was explaining why he had decided to add National Guard troops at the state's airports for security. The governor, not one to mince words, apparently, said, in essence, that when it comes to war, we should be shooting first and asking questions later.
I found myself cheering him on until I wondered what would happen if, for some reason, I turned out to be one of those people the National Guard or any law enforcement official decided to question later.
Acting reflexively isn't unusual in the wake of the kinds of scenes and accounts we've witnessed over and over since the Pearl Harbor of our time unfolded before us. We are all searching for something that will make things right, to help those who are suffering, including ourselves.
We ask our clergy, our political leaders, academics and each other for answers. We light candles, observe moments of silence and send money to the affected. Not surprisingly, none of those efforts seems to be quite enough.
We put flags in our windows, lash them to our car antennas, show them proudly in our places of businesses and our homes.
I'm wondering if we'll be able to convert our swelling fervor for making the symbolic gestures into the less emotional, yet no less necessary work of citizenship. Or will our zeal fade into a cosmetic patriotism that lacks a commitment to citizenship?
Showing our patriotism comes naturally and, in a lot of cases, easily. Demonstrating citizenship, on the other hand, takes a little more patience, thought and even planning. We'll have to make time to go to the polls to vote, attend a local government meeting or read the newspaper to make some sense of what's going on around us.
Over the long haul, will we be able to resist the temptation to sacrifice our civil liberties because we are too fearful of the cost of defending them? Are we willing to put some time and effort into our own communities by engaging in civic activities, like supporting our fire departments, picking up litter in public places, working in food pantries or volunteering in hospitals, schools or libraries?
Will we be willing to do the simple things that matter? Do we care enough about each other to do what is necessary to avoid having to see a sign in a construction zone that says, ''Drive Carefully. My Mommy Died Here''? Finally, perhaps most important, will we be able to tolerate the opinions of others who may propose an idea that doesn't square with our own?
If I sound sanctimonious, believe me, I'm as culpable as anyone else when it comes to taking our liberties and our blessings for granted. If anything good comes out of all of the anguish, perhaps it will be a lasting appreciation for what it takes to remain free.
Preserving liberty, as we have heard so often, requires eternal vigilance. I hope we're up to the task. Ray Marano (email@example.com), who never will take his freedom for granted again, is senior editor of SBN Magazine.
''What is leadership and how do we apply it?'' she asks the small audience.
The attendees talk of command-and-control, position power, coercive power, the importance of trying to understand your employees and the overriding notion that good leaders find a way to inspire their employees past the visible horizon and toward some future goal. Allen, meanwhile, writes everything down.
At first glance, this program may sound rather routine and academic for anyone who has ever attended an executive seminar or workshop on leadership development. But it's not as if these attendees are sitting in a classroom, auditorium or hotel meeting room.
The marker board rests on an easel anchored in mud, surrounded by fencing. That outdoor leadership development classroom doubles as a corral, with a small pile of horse manure neatly to one side and large horses grazing nervously inside the fencing, no more than six yards away.
The academic session didn't last long that morning. Skolen ended the exercise by calling over one of the horses. And suddenly, her guests found themselves face to, well, shoulder to an animal that once led men into war and carried rough-and-tumble cowboys into the Old West.
And with that introduction, the real lessons in executive leadership began.
Welcome to the Equine Business Experience, a package of experiential leadership development programs developed by business partners Skolen and Allen and introduced officially this past summer to local business executives and their teams.
Skolen, who for a number of years provided leadership development and strategic planning consulting for her business clients, grew up with horses and decided to combine her work with her love of horses. Horses, she says, serve as a profound teaching tool because of the instinctive ways they interact with other horses and people when it comes to relationship building, trust and leadership.
The concept is by no means new. Therapists have been using horses for years to help children who are physically or mentally challenged. And now, across the country, the concept is being adapted to teach business leaders how to be more sensitive to their employees and management teams while effectively guiding them toward their visionary goals.
''It's really about creating self-awareness and accountability,'' she says of the value of her program.
Allen, meanwhile, had been a marketing consultant and found that many of her clients needed to address more fundamental leadership and other big-picture strategic planning issues before effectively designing a marketing plan.
''I wanted some experiential learning to open people up for change,'' Allen says of her attraction to Skolen's equine ambitions.
Together, they tested their newly developed curriculum for about a year and a half on business leaders and other leadership development partners before launching their company, the Shared Vision Alliance -- ''Partners in Organizational Evolution.'' The pair will run most of their programs from a brand-new stable on newly acquired property off Route 79 South between Bridgeville and Southpointe. The property includes an indoor riding rink for winter equine programs, pasture land and at least 15 horses. The facility, which Skolen and Allen call the Horsense Learning Center, is scheduled to open this month.
The programs aren't cheap. The complete package for larger executive teams costs upwards of $7,500 and includes a diagnostic meeting with the team prior to the day-long event to determine its needs and desired goals; an intensive day-long program that includes leading, herding and riding horses and other creative exercises; a post-event meeting to evaluate the event and its effect on the team; and a videotape of the event for training use by the client.
Individuals looking to develop their own leadership abilities can sign up for eight equine-oriented, one-on-one coaching sessions for $3,500.
Why horses, you may be asking? Back at the ranch, Skolen hands a lead rope to a participant and asks him how he would approach the horse, fasten the lead to its bridle and guide it to a spot in the corral. It was leadership in its simplest form, he thought.
So he took the rope, held it in front of him with one hand, walked directly over to the grazing horse and looked him in the eye. With that, the horse lifted its head and ears warily and leaned away. As the participant attached the lead and pulled to get the horse to go, the horse just stood there. Nothing.
Now, Skolen asks him, how would you approach one of your managers or a co-worker with, say, a revolutionary new idea or constructive criticism? Would you stop and think about that person's personality, motivations or circumstances before approaching? Could you charge right up and spout off your idea without scaring that person away or threatening his or her personal space? And how might people react if you simply threw your idea at them and told them what to do?
People may not be quick to show how they really feel in such situations, but as Skolen points out, horses certainly are. Horses, she says, demonstrate a number of innate qualities that make them exceptional leadership development tools.
They are considered prey and herd animals, which means they instinctively stay alert together watching out for predators. The horse that is the most alert and which is the most resourceful when it comes to locating food and water becomes the Alpha, or leader, and the other horses naturally follow. It's not so much a matter of which horse is the toughest and meanest -- it's the one that is most alert.
Moreover, as prey animals, horses have eyes on the sides of their heads instead of the front, so they can't see directly in front of their faces. But they can see more than 270 degrees around them, which means they spend most of their time looking at the panoramic ''big picture,'' which helps them stay alert.
People, on the other hand, are considered predatory. Their eyes are in the center of the faces, which allows them to see directly in front of them. And most people tend to use their eyes to focus with intensity on other people, either to threaten them or send other nonverbal messages.
The man should have approached the horse calmly and in a more roundabout way, according to Skolen. And he never should have pointed his eyes -- or his torso -- directly at the horse's head. He then should have talked reassuringly to the animal and petted it before reaching for the bridle.
Once he established trust, he could have simply tugged lightly on the lead, making a clicking sound to signal the horse to go, and walked with the horse as he pointed his head and body directly toward his goal.
''What I got out of this is mostly is an appreciation of the sensitivity you have to have with those you're leading,'' says Alberta ''Pudge'' Lizza, manager of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in Greensburg, who had never been around horses before. ''My leadership style tends to get very impatient with those who weren't motivated or who didn't show initiative.
''This was a real growth experience, because these horses graphically depicted our strengths. There is an integrity we got in the feedback from the horses. So I got a sincere appreciation for good leadership. I had taken it for granted, but it's an art.''
Lizza, 54, who manages 20 real estate agents in her office, sold her company, Metro Real Estate Services, to Howard Hanna three years ago. Part of the reason she came to Skolen and Allen, she says, is because her three-year management contract was about to expire, and she was looking for ways to step back and figure out what she might do following her departure from her one-time business.
''I'm really trying to identify my strengths and weaknesses and to identify my passions,'' Lizza says. ''I want to get involved in something I'm really passionate about.''
The Equine Business Experience, Skolen says, can help individuals as much as it can teach leadership and team-building.
''Horses allow for a more real-world experience, where the horse requires people to interact with something outside themselves,'' Skolen says in her marketing materials. ''Through working with horses, we help people develop self-awareness and self-responsibility.''
As Lizza says, '' If you're not growing, you're dying. And if you're not getting out and seeing something else or seeing things from a different perspective, you're not growing.'' How to reach: Shared Vision Alliance, (412) 257-6097, or www.sharedvisionalliance.com
Daniel Bates (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor of SBN Magazine.