The Staff of Life

Keeping The Business On A Personal Level

To be successful, you must love profits and people. In addition to providing a generous benefits package, Creative Assets offers employees education credits for every hour worked. "It's very expensive," explains Knight, "but I need to have a training fund so I can attract and retain the kind of people I want." That strategy has paid off, as her business has blossomed into a $25 million company.

If you want to reel in top talent, you're going to have to offer good benefits, paid time off, and possibly 401(k) packages. You've got to court the client-worker and keep the romance humming along. "We get to know everyone on a personal basis and find out what's going on with their lives," says Smith, who periodically takes client-workers out for happy hour.

Do The Math

If you want to know just how hot this market is right now, look at the numbers: Last year, there were nearly 20,000 staffing firms around the country, according to Brogan. Many of those offices are spinoffs from original start-ups, usually in a different city from the debut locale. This indicates that entrepreneurs are not only staying in the industry, but are also expanding, a sure sign of serious profits.

Potenza plans to open a second office later this year in California, despite the fierce competition in the high-tech arena. "Business has been just incredible. Why not go there and take advantage of the opportunities?" he says. "Besides, part of being an entrepreneur is taking risks."

Likewise, Knight, who has established Creative Assets offices in Denver; Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco and will soon have offices in Atlanta and Austin, Texas. The trick, she says, is to grow while maintaining personal relationships with clients. "We don't want people thinking we're only there because we want to make money," she says. "We want to develop lasting relationships."

For Smith, the hardest part about growing so fast is that you don't have a big learning curve, so when you make mistakes, they really sting. For instance, in a rush to get the company up to speed, Smith invested in "crappy computers" that cost the company $10,000 in a single day.

Still, Smith's business is thriving wonderfully. Why? "It's all about picking the right people and investing in them," he happily attests. "I credit my success to the people I have with me." How fitting. In a business that's all about finding the right people, there's no better place to make perfect matches than on your own home turf.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Staff of Life.

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