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Rose to the occasion

by Jim Molis

ABM_V6i1-coverThe old adage goes something like this, “Success is when preparation meets opportunity”.

The variations of this sentiment are numerous, and the underlying principle applies to almost any successful business, but entrepreneurs don’t always recognize it as such. Some business owners take too much credit for themselves, while others defer too much to the work of others or just to happenstance.

The JAX Chamber’s 2014 Small Business Leader of the Year credits her success to a combination of teamwork, perseverance and fortuitous timing.

“I would be delighted to say that StaffTime resulted from a grand life plan that I mapped out in my youth, but the truth is that it evolved almost organically. And in spite of all our hard work and planning, I still find myself astonished on occasion that I’m: a) in business at all and b) successfully so,” StaffTime CEO Rose Conry said.

In 2004, Conry was was working in the human resources department at CSX but thinking it was time for something new. Her father had recently passed away and had left her a small sum, which she says made her either reckless, brave or both.

Conry called together a couple of friends who were also in the HR field—including Kelley Moore, who’s still her business partner today—and said, “Hey, would you like to start a business with me?” They agreed and shook hands.

Within weeks, the partners had all quit their jobs and rented space for their as-yet-to-be-determined enterprise. The space was one executive suite office for the three of them to share.After rejecting their initial plan to purchase a franchise, Conry said, they decided to “do our own thing.”

“And through perfect timing, divine intervention or pure dumb luck, a friend referred us a client who needed hiring assistance,” Conry said. “Amazingly, that first client was Union Pacific, the largest railroad in the United States.”

Conry and her partners in what eventually became Employment Resources & Solutions (ER&S) went on to do hiring and HR consulting for Union Pacific and other Class I railroads without a break until 2009. “It was a great beginning, and we still work with railroads today,” Conry said.

But the ER&S train almost lost its wheels when revenues plummeted in 2009. “Our third partner had moved on in 2006, and Kelley and I realized that we needed to change our business model in order to survive,” Conry said. “We thought we were going to lose everything, including our livelihood, and our employees would be out on the street.”

So, Moore and Conry contemplated what would happen in the business world in the wake of the recession. Anticipating “a huge need” for temporary staffing, they opened StaffTime, a staffing agency.

“As we’d originally done with our hiring and employer services business, we once again jumped headfirst into the swimming pool and hoped there would be water,” Conry said. “Fortunately, we got great advice, our existing relationships and contacts proved to be golden, and there was indeed something there to break our fall.”

They had their first client within a month. “Once again, fortune smiled on us,” Conry said.
Hard work also helped. Accustomed to receiving all of their clients via referrals, Moore and Conry became more deliberate in developing business.

Reasons for growth

StaffTime has grown from a startup with two full-time employees to four full-time employees and 20 consultants, all of them women. There are two offices, and Moore and Conry continue to run their HR services firm.
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“We have also hired more than 6,000 employees on behalf of clients and helped more than 1,300 individuals transition into new careers,” Conry said. “Those statistics sound great, but they cannot capture the human impact and gratification behind the numbers.

“Being able to help our clients find the staff they need and connecting individuals with meaningful employment is more than a job for the StaffTime team. When I think about people being able to pay their bills, support their families and build better lives because we helped them find the right job, I know that God put me in this business!”

StaffTime’s commitment to serving others is apparent in its policy of “radical customer service” and in the way that it treats candidates for employment, Conry said. As a Mexican American woman who has experienced discrimination because of her ethnicity and gender, her core values include treating everyone with respect and kindness.

“That attitude, and our willingness to go the extra mile to assist individuals making career transitions, including military members and ex-felons, has generated goodwill and made it clear to our clients and candidates that we genuinely care about their success and well-being,” Conry said. “The relationships that have resulted have been rewarding both personally and professionally, and they have led to repeat business, ongoing contracts and frequent referrals.”
Clients cited commitment and service among their reasons for supporting Conry’s nomination for Small Business Leader of the Year.

“StaffTime is customer focused and respond quickly when called and are true professionals in every aspect,” Amy Germann, AVP, legal department manager, EverBank, wrote in a testimonial letter. “The quality of applicants presented by StaffTime is evidence that they have taken great consideration to ensure the applicant has the experience and skills requested.”

StaffTime strives to do even better.

“In addition to good fortune and hard work, I believe that StaffTime’s success is due to our willingness to ask questions and seek help from those who are smarter and more experienced; our commitment to our core values of individual initiative, kindness, respect and ‘radical customer service;’ and our ability to visualize the future, think strategically and plan and execute well,” Conry said. “We have worked hard, we have worked smart, and we have placed a premium on continuous learning and doing our homework.”

Conry and the StaffTime team are willing and eager to learn. She particularly credits the following for contributing to their success: entrepreneur Dea Sims, JAX Chamber Foundation President Sandy Bartow, Jacksonville Women’s Business Center Manager Pat Blanchard, Beaver Street Enterprise Center Executive Director Jackie Perry, JAX Chamber Senior Director (Entrepreneurial Growth Division) Carlton Robinson, and Sandler Training.

StaffTime also has incorporated formal planning, regular progress reviews and ever-more-sophisticated training to raise its level of knowledge and professionalism. All employees are certified staffing professionals and participate in regular online training to maintain their edge.

“We have set bold goals, created a vision for the future and put practical plans in action to get us there,” Conry said. “We are clear about our values and our decisions, and our actions are based upon them.”

Throw in the occasional luck and good fortune, and you have a recipe for success.

 

Accolades earned

Colleagues, clients, and community members laud StaffTime CEO Rose Conry for her work.

Some representative comments from testimonial letters:

  • “Once she’s decided to do something, my advice to you is to get out of the way. Rose will find a way to make it happen.” — Dea Sims, 2003 Small Business Leader of the Year
  • “Rose has generously underwritten 100 local teens so they could have five hours of life skills taught by young adult role models.” — Pam Mullarkey, CEO, Project SOS Inc.
  • “I have personally witnessed Rose share her success by giving second chances to people who no one else would. Rose is both a business leader and community leader.” — Virginia Baker Norton, Circuit Judge, Fourth Judicial Circuit of Florida

 

Awards received

  • Named as one of the “Fastest-Growing Private Sector Companies in Northeast Florida” by the Jacksonville Business Journal, 2013
  • Selected for Jacksonville Women’s Business Center’s Athena PowerLink Program, Spring 2013
  • Named as one of “Northeast Florida’s Top 40 Minority-Owned Businesses” by the Jacksonville Business Journal, 2005-2013
  • Leadership Jacksonville, Class of 2010
  • Named as the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency’s Minority Enterprise Development Week Professional Services Firm of the Year, 2009
  • Beaver Street Enterprise Center, Volunteer of the Year, 2009
  • West Jacksonville Elementary, Community Award, 2004
  • Guest Speaker at the American Shortline Association Annual Meeting, 2005-2006

 

Words to live by

Here are some of Rose Conry’s favorite quotes.

  • “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” — Albert Schweitzer
  • “It’s never crowded along the extra mile.” — Anonymous
  • “Never let the urgent crowd out the important.” — Kelly Catlin Walker
  • “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
  • “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” — Ella Fitzgerald

10 Years to become an overnight success

As a person of faith, StaffTime CEO Rose Conry feels a sense of mission about her business.

“I believe God put us here to serve, and one of the greatest services you can provide is to help someone find meaningful employment,” she said.

With that values-based approach, Conry and the StaffTime team give back to the community through volunteerism, trusteeship and philanthropy.

Personally, Conry volunteers with organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association. She is also a familiar face at West Jacksonville Elementary School.

“As an educator of underserved youth, I have witnessed her willingness to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of students and families,” Liz Duncan, educational liaison for Duval County Public Schools and McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation, wrote in a testimonial letter.

“She is passionate about providing support for students to assist them in recognizing their full potential. She understands the importance of community transformation through education and has been actively involved with school supply drives, fundraisers and sponsorship.”

When the kitchen at West Jacksonville Elementary burned down over the holidays in 2004, Conry and her team helped to rebuild it, bought presents for every child and teacher in the school and created a Christmas show for the student body. Also, each year, they step in and provide Christmas presents for remaining “angels” on the angel tree at BJ’s Distribution Center.

“As a values-centered business—and one that has benefited enormously from the assistance of others—StaffTime is committed to giving back,” Conry said.

StaffTime makes it easy to volunteer and its team partakes in numerous activities, like helping at local schools. Conry’s business partner, Kelley Moore, even has a character presentation called “Miss Liddy Airy” through which she advocates for literacy and reading.

Community service efforts include pro bono professional assistance to people in transition as well.

“We help veterans move back into the civilian workforce, and we have secured employment for a number of former felons who’ve paid their debts to society,” Conry said. “Since most employers will not consider someone with a criminal record, a great deal of time, effort and education goes into this effort.”

StaffTime also assists job hunters who are unemployed in writing resumes and preparing for interviews, including providing coaching on what to wear, interview etiquette and questions to expect. “We know that if they don’t have a job, they really don’t have the money to pay someone to assist them in this manner,” Conry said.

Conry also has volunteered for Channel 4’s “Morning Show” and Channel 12’s “First Coast Living,” appearing regularly on air to discuss employment-related topics such as how to find a job, the best way to prepare a resume, what to say in an interview, networking, what to do if you get fired and how to get promoted.

“She (Conry) spends countless hours working on lifting her team up to be leaders in the Jacksonville community and encouraging them to be active in the volunteer efforts close to her heart, namely the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority Chief Administrative Officer Rosa Beckett wrote in a testimonial letter.

“Suffering the loss of her father from cancer, Rose has encouraged her friends, associates, family and neighbors, to take care of each other and themselves by being more aware, getting more involved and volunteering … any time they can, in whatever capacity they are able to offer assistance.”

Conry said, “I am proud of our entire team and grateful to have the opportunity to give back to our community by creating jobs, performing important business functions for clients, connecting others with appropriate employment, and acting as a volunteer and trustee.”

Associations and positions held

  • JAX Chamber, Silver Level Trustee, Member since 2004
  • Mayor’s Hispanic American Advisory Board, Board Member, 2010-2012
  • Women Business Owners of Northeast Florida; Board Member, 2005-2008
  • American Heart Association, Executive Leadership Team for “Go Red for Women,” 2009
  • First Coast Manufacturing Association, Member
  • Florida Minority Supplier Diversity Council (FMSDC) Certified
  • American Staffing Association, Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Technical Services Certified (TSC)
  • U.S. Small Business Administration, E-200, Class of 2009
  • JAX Chamber, 2012 “Get Smart” Program Participant
  • JAX Chamber, Financial Matters (2006) and Advanced Financial Matters (2012) Participant
  • Jacksonville Women’s Business Center, Athena PowerLink Program, Spring 2013
  • Jacksonville Military Veterans Coalition Member

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