Anyone who says youth is wasted on the young doesn’t know Carrie Rowan. Four years ago at age 22, Rowan launched Mississauga, Ont.-based Absolute Recruitment, which provides temporary staff to mid-sized and large employers. With a team of top-notch employees and a core philosophy of premium service, Rowan grew Absolute by 264% in three years, to 2003 revenue of $2.2 million. That performance earned Absolute Recruitment 31st spot on the 2004 PROFIT HOT 50 ranking of Canada’s emerging growth companies.
PROFIT: What specific business opportunity did you see?
“I had worked in this business previously, and I saw a pocket in the market that no one was taking advantage of: service. A lot of my competitors were founded in the ’70s and ’80s and were stuck in a rut. They weren’t able to really grasp what new grads were looking for. I went into it with a fresh approach, and I targeted the new generation of job seekers.
“As we’ve grown, everybody has added their own touches. And a lot of it comes from staff. New employees bring fresh ideas. Everyone here is part of a group. I don’t make decisions on my own. We make them as a group.”
PROFIT: What’s the basic explanation for your company’s success?
“Hard work. Really, really hard work. Hiring the right people with the right vision. There’s a lot of companies that do what we do, but not in the same niche. And no one offers the kind of service we do. My clients have said to me, ‘Wow, we’ve got someone live on the phone! Wow! You’re friendly. You’re answering my questions.’ That’s very unique in our business. It really is.
“We’re able to establish loyalty from our candidates and our clients. And when you have that sort of loyalty, you begin to develop a referring network-people who market your company because they genuinely care. It’s not part of my business plan. Everyone in this company cares. And I think when you care about people, and you take the time to develop that network of quality people, then they’re out there developing your business for you. I’ve had people call me and say, ‘I overheard someone talking about you in the hair salon.’ We get this all the time. I would say referrals are a definite way we’ve been able to outrun people.”
PROFIT: Why would the best people want to work for your company?
“We have a healthy balance between life and work. We have zero tolerance for gossiping or speaking negatively about co-workers. We’re a very, very positive organization. It’s a real team-spirited organization. We do a lot of group activities, such as Pot Luck Fridays. We laugh a lot.”
PROFIT: What’s your best human resources advice for other entrepreneurs?
“Lead by example. Gone are the days when you can sit in your big office, go and play golf and have a long lunch. The staff won’t respect you. If you expect them to work hard, you work harder. You expect them to be on time, you get in earlier.”
PROFIT: Tell us about your best sales and marketing tactic?
“We’ve evolved as we’ve grown because there’s been more money and more staff to play with. Probably the major marketing approach we use is sponsoring events and charities. For example, we’rv aligned the company with a young, innovative charity, called ReThink Breast Cancer. We’re one of their major sponsors. We’re affiliating our name, our energy, our spunk and what we stand for with companies that have similar values and similar business practices.”