How One Woman's Company Broke the $10 Million Ceiling

The steps her company took to help profits soar year after year. By Nicole Smartt (Vice President & Co-owner, Star Staffing)

This post originally appeared on Business Collective

Getting over the $10 million hump in our business has taken some time and has not been an overnight process, as some might think. My company, Star Staffing, has been in business since 1998. I joined the company in 2009 as vice president, and my business partner transitioned from CFO to CEO.

We worked tirelessly on repositioning ourselves in the market and becoming known as an industry leader. In two short years (during the recession), we broke our companies’ sales and profit record. We had finally exceeded the $10 million hump that seemed so hard to get past years before and have continued to increase our profit each year since. It wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t overnight, but we focused on pushing our business to its next phase every day.

Interested to learn how we did it? These seven steps were crucial in our success. Following them can help you propel your business upward to bring in more revenue.

1. Hire Talented, Driven People

Even if you’re the best sales representative or manager, you can’t do it all on your own. It may seem like a no-brainer, but the quality of your staff reflects your company. Aim for people who are more talented at what they do than you are at what you do, and you’ll be on the right track.

Spend time hiring candidates who add to both your business and your company culture. Focus on hiring people with a can-do attitude over flawless experience. Candidates who are engaged, willing and able to tackle any challenge can be more teachable and bring valuable energy. We’ve hired people with minimal HR experience and have been able to train and mold them to doing it the “Star” way.

2. Find Your Uniqueness

Think about what will set you apart from your competition. For us, it was personalization. I spent a lot of time closing every deal that I had the opportunity to, and for each deal I put together a unique proposal for that client.

I researched each business inside and out to truly understand their needs. You’d be surprised how much information exists online, so take the time to understand the client you’re working with, and then get personal. I focused on providing a personalized approach to everything we did; it really set us apart from other agencies. However, it did take a lot more time and commitment. There is no “one size fits all” for our clients.

3. Go Above and Beyond for Clients

Empower yourself to break the mold. One of the top reasons my company has become a leader in our industry is because of our customer service. We started by working around the clock for our clients.

While other agencies shut their doors at 5 p.m., we were arriving at client sites. When other agency recruiters were still sleeping at 6 a.m., we were calling our clients to make sure all placed employees arrived on time for their shifts. I remember once skipping my Valentine’s Day dinner for a conference call with a client. I can also recall not being able to go on family trips many times because I worked straight through the weekend. Going above and beyond can make all the difference.

4. Remember Marketing & Networking go Hand-in-Hand

So you think you’re the best? Well, how will people know? The best way to build your brand is still through word-of-mouth. My goal has always been to be like Starbucks: on every corner.

While we can’t have an office in every location, we can use mobile signs, billboards, flyers and so on. Spend at least one hour a day on social media, growing your network and strategically connecting with leaders. Your target audience should dictate where you spend your time, and there’s ample research out there to help you determine which social media tools to focus on.

5. Be Innovative

You need to constantly consider what’s next while staying solid in your core business. It’s a tough balancing act, but one that can be mastered. I schedule time in my calendar for “innovative thinking” sessions. These sessions allow me to continue to put my ideas into action and follow up to make sure they are working.

It keeps me constantly moving forward with new ideas or better ways to do things. While your competitors are trying to keep up with where you were six months ago, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your competition. Make sure to focus on your business more than you focus in your business.

6. Listen to Feedback

Your employees, clients and community members are your single biggest asset. Your staff will have some good ideas. Listen to their input, ask questions and consider any angles you may have missed.

We have a suggestions form on our website that we ask all staff and employees to fill out (you can make yours anonymous for more candid suggestions). Each time we make a significant change, we ask for feedback and suggestions. Some of the most innovative solutions have come from surprising market pressures, and when you’re open to feedback, you will be better prepared to act before anyone else can.

7. Stay True to Your Vision

While feedback is invaluable, don’t let naysayers sway your ultimate vision. While we would ideally like for everyone to be in agreement, we don’t make decisions based on consensus. Instead, we want to disrupt our industry, and that means breaking the change barrier. Your clarity of vision will guide your hard work right on past the $10 million mark. I suggest that you write down your goals and put them where you will see them every day. Make sure your entire staff knows the direction in which you are heading. This way, everyone is working towards the same goal. Each quarter, hold a meeting to discuss your goals for the next quarter, review past goals and evaluate whether or not they were accomplished. This will keep you aligned with your vision and goals.

Currently at Star Staffing, we are breaking records year over year. We’ve tripled our staff since 2009, adding more niche positions including those in marketing, an assistant for myself, an operations manager and assistants to support our senior-level recruiters. Each of these seven steps has helped propel my company into a recognizable brand with a great reputation, an industry leader and a profitable business. Following them as it best suits your business can put you on a similar trajectory.


About the guest blogger: Nicole Smartt is the Vice President and co-owner of Star Staffing. She was awarded the Forty Under 40 award, recognizing business leaders under the age of 40. In addition, Nicole co-founded the Petaluma Young Professionals Network, an organization dedicated to helping young professionals strive in the business world. Follow her on Twitter at @Nicole_Smartt.