POSTED ON MAY 8, 2013:
The Talent Matchmakers
Staffing agency sees fun as part of the job
Don Rowland's childhood memories include a few epic quests.
"I can vividly remember 40 years ago, my mom loading us all up in the car so we could go treasure hunting," said Rowland.
In Shreveport, La., that just meant it was spring. His family, like many others, became excited each year about a community treasure hunt that's long been a featured part of a yearly festival.
Now, Tulsa has Mayquest, a similar, clue-based chase timed to coincide with Mayfest. This year, clues will be announced starting Monday, May 13. Sponsoring the event -- and its $1,500 prize -- is The Rowland Group, a staffing business founded by Don and Debbie Rowland.
"I would think, within just a few years, this is going to be gigantic," Rowland said.
He and his wife, Debbie, haven't been the type to shy away from big dreams. The pair left a large staffing agency to strike out on their own 19 years ago, just a few months after their wedding.
Don Rowland described the company's early days.
"We started in a small executive suite in downtown Tulsa," he said. Both were "top producers" in their previous jobs, Debbie Rowland said. That didn't mean success came early, however.
"Stepping out on our own, we thought we were much bigger than we were. It was humbling to leave those doors of that big, big staffing operation," she said. "We just applied the principles and the knowledge that we had from our training and just everyday came in and did the same thing over and over."
That meant making lots and lots of phone calls to companies. "The challenge was really just, no one knew who we were," Debbie Rowland said.
Over the years, that can't be said anymore. The Rowland Group has made a name for itself in a crowded industry while also frequently supporting community and civic events.
Company president and managing partner Lynn Flinn founded the Tulsa chapter of the Oklahoma Business Ethics Consortium, a nonprofit organization promoting integrity in business.
"It's something I guess was instilled in me from a young age," said Flinn, a frequent speaker on business topics. "We're on the planet to give back. We're not just here to take up space."
Debbie and Don Rowland
The company now has about 50 staff members, including a Houston branch that opened in 2006.
The Rowlands described the industry as very competitive.
"There's really no barriers to entry in this business, not a lot of capital required to start up," Don Rowland said. "When times are good and the economy's rolling, lots of people are popping up all over the place. They're trying to undercut prices."
The company specializes in engineering, energy, accounting and finance jobs, as well as information technology staffing. "The way you beat your competition is providing superior service," Debbie Rowland said.
For the company, that means working to recruit top talent for the positions most in demand -- always a challenge.
"There's a lot of work that goes into the qualifying of the people," Debbie Rowland said. "Finding the people is the number one difficulty."
The company also helps employers understand their own needs, Don Rowland said.
"The deal here is all about helping our clients maximize the investment -- the return on the investment -- that they're making when they hire an individual. It's more of a sort of a consultative business partnership with our clients, as opposed to just filling jobs," he said.
Flinn said the most in-demand jobs at the moment are in technical fields. As an advocate for women in business, Flinn said there remains a gender gap.
"I've met actually, a few women engineers, and, of course, women accountants. On the IT side, I still feel like we're lacking," Flinn said, describing a need to promote technical professions to girls at an early age.
Skilled workers turn to a staffing agency for a variety of reasons, Flinn said.
"I would say our sweet spot would probably be middle management, like lower to middle management, probably," Flinn said.
Sometimes, a worker will seek out an agency because they want more project-oriented jobs that allow them to have time off during the year, Flinn said. Other times, people turn to a staffing agency with the goal of landing a full-time position -- something The Rowland Group says happens frequently. On its website, the company states 74 percent of contract employees convert to full-time work.
Flinn described a healthy job market.
"Last year was a really strong year for us in placing people," Flinn said.
The Rowland Group expanded as the business grew, moving in 2005 into its current building on S. 103rd East Avenue.
The company now focuses on planning for the future and developing the company's next leaders, Debbie Rowland said.
"That's the biggest challenge now for us, as a company, is how do we take care of our people? And it's not always the monetary side, it's the fun," she said. "So if you bring in the hard work and the fun, and you're fair to people, people want to work, people want to be here. People are very loyal," she said.
As for the company's various civic and charitable efforts -- which often involve employees, such as the company supporting the Tulsa Heart Walk in April -- Don Rowland said he's just grateful to the community.
"The local economy has been so good to us. We've been able to enjoy some success. You just want to give back," he said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Mayquest treasure hunt can find contest rules at tulsamayfest.org/mayquest.
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