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In an industry where competition is fierce, having an edge is key. Jerry Lewis and his wife Sindy, co-presidents and CEO and COO, respectively, of the Providence, Rhode Island-based Allied Personnel Inc., are major contenders in the New England temporary staffing sector.
At one time, the $3.5 million, five-year-old firm placed personnel mostly in packaging and assembly line jobs for the manufacturing facilities in the area, but today many of these factories have closed down and moved away in search of cheaper labor in other countries, says Jerry, 32. Now the demand is for high-tech workers.
“In 1998, we started a subsidiary, Allied Office Services, to provide light office clerical, customer service, reception and data-entry office workers,” says Jerry, whose 30 clients include Weingeroff Enterprises, the Providence Journal Bulletin and Johnson & Wales University. The firm also subcontracts with Olsten Staffing, the second-largest employment agency in the world.
Along with 10 employees in the Providence and Fall River, Massachusetts, offices, the Lewises, who can place a worker within two to 24 hours of a client’s call, go the extra mile to make their firm one of the top 10 in the region. They provide transportation to and from assignments; teach math skills, office procedures and English as a second language; conduct safety training; and coach workers on professional behavior.
This year, Allied also started a new payroll venture. Clients consolidate their weekly payrolls into one monthly payment. Allied offers a 30-day payment plan and provides payroll funding.
The firm was launched by Sindy, 27, who was an operations manager at a major employment agency. After she landed the firm’s largest account, the entrepreneurial bug struck. Armed with her industry experience and Jerry’s marketing and sales expertise as a district manager for Chrysler Corp. in Massachusetts, the couple devised a marketing plan, scouted the competition and launched the firm with a $12,000 inheritance from his uncle and lots of family support. Within a year and a half, they had secured a $100,000 loan from Fleet Bank.
“Two weeks after we started, we took a job [to place] 100 people,” says Jerry. “Then we realized we had to come up with $20,000 to $30,000 to pay these workers. It was very scary. We said, ‘How are we going to do this?’ My parents gave us $40,000-basically their life savings. Without family support, I would have had to turn business away.”
Jerry says that consulting an attorney and accountant are also key to overcoming (and preventing) difficulties.
“I didn’t do that,” says Jerry, who is still trying to retrieve $10,000 from a construction client who reneged on a contract three years ago. I was a know-it-all. The bumps would have been smaller if I had consulted them.”
But the Lewises have endured, and last year won the Small Business Administration’s 1999 Rhode Island Minority Small Business of the Year Award.
“I firmly believe that your attitude determines your altitude,” says Jerry. No doubt, Allied Personnel will be soaring to new heights.
Allied Personnel Inc., 280 Broadway, Suite 200, Providence, RI 02903; 401-751-4715, ext.