Rapid growth can be a double-edged sword.
Handled carelessly, a business owner can cut down the very business he or she worked hard to create. Wield it well and a business thrives.
Lindsay McCutchen, president of Career Start of New York Inc., knows all about rapid growth, having powered through several years of double-digit expansion, including a revenue increase of 119 percent between 2014 and 2015. She expects to close the books on 2016 with revenue of $20 million, a 47 percent increase over the previous year.
“No one ever felt a kink outside, no customers, but internally there were times when we struggled,” McCutchen said. Keeping pace, making sure the staffing and systems were in place to absorb the growth became critical. But having made it over the hurdles, McCutchen will celebrate this summer the 10th anniversary of the company she created.
Helping Rochester-area companies find the employees they need, whether for a manufacturing line or the corner office, requires skilled recruiters, qualified workers and most importantly, good communication with employers, she said.
Career Start’s reputation rides on the service it provides, she noted. At times, she has opted to turn away business rather than risk disappointing an employer.
But heading into 2017, McCutchen feels confident she’s made the adjustments needed to continue the upward trajectory. Part of that was adding employees. She went from six in 2013 to 21 full-timers and three part-timers today.
Director of Operations Kendell Schmitt was one of those new hires, joining the company about two and half years ago during the growth spurt. With help from a new software system and strong teamwork, the company was able to take on more business without sacrificing customer service, she said.
“The end result is an organization with an efficient set of streamlined processes (and) an excellent home-work life balance for our employees,” Schmitt said.
“We’re much calmer now than we were $10 million ago,” McCutchen said. “But it’s because we took the time to put the system and the structures in place. If you don’t take the time to do that, you’d have a lot more mindsets to change. When you’re all running around at 90 miles an hour with your hair on fire, it’s pretty hard to get everyone changing.”
McCutchen started in employment services moving people from public assistance into the workforce for Monroe County. As she built relationships with employers, they began to ask for her help with other placements as well. That’s what led her to start her own company.
One of Career Start’s specialties is day labor, with as many as 300 people a day placed with employers all over the city. This is one area where her background working with vulnerable populations has helped her ensure her workers are reliable.
“We don’t just send people out to work. If they need a bus pass, we give them a bus pass. We have a van pool system here where we actually have a 12-passenger van where we’re able to take people back and forth to work. We try to eliminate those barriers (to success) ahead of time,” she said.
But the company also finds candidates for higher-level positions in finance, customer service, information technology and administration. As the labor market tightens, this has become much more competitive.
“Sometimes it’s a cold call to an individual, and you have to pique their interest in the first five seconds or it’s over,” McCutchen said. “You have to take the jewels right away and not sound like a telemarketer.”
Doing job placement for the medical field has been the latest addition to the company’s lineup, and McCutchen is already hiring her third recruiter to focus in this arena, which includes nurses, direct care workers and administrators among others.
It’s a particularly challenging field—not only is there high demand, but liability is an issue with people who are providing direct care to patients. Career Start must vet and test the employees before placing them.
“That medical field is booming now. It’s huge. We have really strong employers out here, everything from your assisted living to your hospitals and your doctors’ offices,” she said.
Now she’s ready and poised for another round of growth. “We’re at the point where it’s quiet and I’m saying: ‘OK now it’s time to rock it,’” she said. “We have a system in place to be able to support an organization with 50 percent, 60 percent new growth.”
The Rochester Chamber Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2017 Rochester Top 100 event is slated to be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to greaterrochesterchamber.com.