What is your full name, title, and business name?
Brittany Tutwiler, Vice President, A Plus Staffing Solutions
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Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
A Plus Staffing specializes in recruiting high quality, skilled individuals for businesses in the following industries:
Hospitality & Food Service
Healthcare Support Services
General Labor & Light Industrial
Administrative & Clerical
Busy employers growing their businesses come to us for staffing solutions. Knowing that we will provide top quality talent gives them the freedom to work on reducing risk, improving bottom lines and getting work done. Our services include temporary, temp to perm and management recruiting. Our focus is connecting individuals looking for a new career, better opportunities or a chance to gain new skills with the right companies and positions with ease and efficiency, so they can get hired faster and start making money as soon as possible. For those looking for more flexible schedules, we have numerous opportunities in the hospitality industry.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I am the third-generation business owner in the staffing and executive search industry. From a very young age, I spent many afternoons working at my parents’ office. This made pursuing my passion of building and having my own business, which was my dream and my passion, an easy decision. Working in my parent’s businesses provided me valuable experience and insights including the inherent understanding that companies will always need people, people don’t expire or have a shelf life, and staffing is relevant to every industry.
In 2013, at the age of 25, my mother, and now business partner, presented me with an opportunity to partner with her in the acquisition of a staffing franchise. While researching available markets, we learned the Columbus franchise was struggling under the former licensee. By offering the franchisor a better outcome than a potential failed market we were able to capitalize on ownership options not typically available in franchise concepts. It was a no brainer for me, even if it meant moving to Ohio. We never looked back and quickly rose to the top, and remained in the number one position system wide in billable hours and revenue. In February 2017, we were awarded the right to operate independently under our own brand which has opened numerous possibilities for the future.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
Almost immediately, we rose to the top of the franchise system in terms of sales. I knew we had something special when I realized the demand. I also recognized that we could have an edge up by truly understanding our clients’ businesses, operations, culture, hard to fill positions and other needs. Having a better understanding of the business enables us to better qualify candidates and determine the hard and soft skills required to be successful. Fortunately for me, exploring and learning other businesses is a passion of mine. I love getting a new client or prospect in a business whose reason for being is something that I have never heard of or knew existed and then realizing the market for their services and/or products.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
To me, entrepreneurship has meant sleepless nights, trying to find more hours than there are in a day, an endless list of problems and projects, and the personal responsibility for the leadership of and the success of the people on our team combined with moments of pride and appreciation for everyone who has believed in A Plus and contributed to our success. Looking back to where we started and sometimes thinking “How did we get here.”
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
Before moving here for business, I had never stepped foot in Columbus. I have been so impressed by the people, as well as the pride that they have for this city, the support and connectivity throughout the business community and our ever-growing economy. I couldn’t have asked for a better city and community to be a part of and to grow our business.
Are you from Columbus? If not, please explain what brought you to here and ultimately what made you stay.
I grew up in Tampa, Florida, went to school at Clemson University, and had never even visited the state of Ohio – it wasn’t even on my radar. We evaluated multiple cities and available markets, while assessing the franchise opportunity. It was easy to recognize the opportunity in Columbus and the potential for growth, as we’ve seen come to light over the last few years. In my five years, Columbus has progressed so much as a city and I feel blessed to be here, now watching, and participating in the continued development and recognition of our city.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Have the courage to commit and be ready to do what it takes. Have faith in yourself, be genuine and honest, never stop learning, and seek the advice of others that have done it before you!
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
How to align myself with other business owners that want to offer knowledge and shared experiences. It can feel like you are on an island alone sometimes, but there is a large community of people who are or have been in the same position.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
Internally, a huge challenge for small businesses is finding people who want to work as if it’s their business, without being able to offer all the bells and whistles of a large or corporate company. Creating a culture that can withstand the challenging, not so pretty moments, and trusting that they will benefit from our success and growth. Creating, implementing, and altering processes for efficiency and accountability continues to haunt me.
As a business, the staffing industry is particularly difficult at this time in history, with record low unemployment and a declining labor market. Finding people willing and able to work is our biggest challenge.
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
It may be the middle child in me, but I have always been a People pleaser – my natural inclination is to be “too nice”. Being a business owner has forced me to get better at direct communication even if it’s uncomfortable or something someone needs to hear but doesn’t want to.
Organization, accounting, those things that I am not passionate about or do not have inherent abilities. I must force myself to chip away at them every day to get whatever it is done and to continuously work to improve. I have also learned the value of hiring and surrounding myself with people to compensate for my weaknesses.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
I believe there are several common reasons that can cause business owners fail . For one, anyone who thinks owning a business means they will have more freedom, start working around their own schedule, take more vacations etc. in the early stages can often miss huge opportunities and issues within the business or team. Secondly, Owners who don’t truly understand the needs of their clients to determine how they can add value to their client or don’t differentiate themselves in the market, are going to have a much harder time driving their business forward. Owners that can’t measure and determine a profitable business model can burn through money and find themselves in a difficult financial position.
What was you biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
Not acting soon enough with internal staff members who were not a good fit for our culture. Ignoring red flags or questionable behavior and not making the tough decision to let them go soon enough: out of fear, because we were complacent, or because we needed them to get through busy season. Our worst fears came true anyway and it cost us a lot of time and stress. In hindsight, we had been busy transitioning the company out of the franchise system and had become too distracted and removed from the day to day. Any business owner that’s had an employee do things to intentionally hurt the business and everything they have worked for can understand the vulnerability and self-doubt it causes. In the end, it was a necessary opportunity for my partner and me to really get our arms back around the business. It was almost like a “restart” or “recharge’ and we are creating our company culture with intent enabling us to make tough decisions when necessary knowing that protecting the other team members and our business is always the right thing to do.
What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
Implementing paperless on-boarding and management of employee records. We never have to worry if an employee file contains all of the necessary documents in a secure environment.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
A large portion of our business is seasonal so every year we have added staff during the busy season (August-December). Over the years, busy season has continued into all seasons and much of our seasonal help has become a part of our full-time team.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
Landline to text technology. Using a texting platform has hugely improved our communication with employees and allows us to reach more employees, quickly.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out.
Attempting to implement a new front office software, without a strategic evaluation of available products, and implementation process.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
Our people and professional advisors.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
New software with user friendly portals for both clients and employees. It will take some of the work load off our internal team, by allowing our temporary employees to have more accessibility, notify us of their availability or access open jobs and opportunities. It will give our clients more options and efficiencies when it comes to making staff requests, confirming time sheets, reviewing past invoices etc.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Word of mouth and employee/client/community engagement. Currently, customers are easier to come by than employees. For us, word of mouth has been the best way to attract new clients and employees. We try to add value to our clients as often as possible and we treat our employees as individuals and in the same manner that we would want to be treated. We never want our employees to feel like they are calling a recording or texting into an electronic abyss. They have a way to reach us at any time of the day . We try to instill pride and ownership in our temporary workforce and remind them it’s their opportunity and encourage them to make the most of it. We have an employee of the month recognition and bonus program, host pizza parties at our clients for their employees and ours, run contests, and conduct random giveaways. People will share positive, and negative, experiences about services they’ve used, and we appreciate and respond. All of which creates even more loyalty and referrals.
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)? Please provide name and business name so we can give them credit!
The Entrepreneurs Organization Columbus Chapter. The EO Community has shared their most valuable resources and experiences that address many of the same issues we encounter. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce and The American Staffing Association have also been a huge resource for us. As a community, we can share and learn from each other.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
My business partner, my boyfriend, and my EO Forum.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
Now that we are independent, the next step will be opening other small to medium profit centers, utilizing our Columbus office as our headquarters. In 10 years, it would be nice to think we are running like a well-oiled machine while we remain steadfastly focused on making a difference on behalf of our clients, employees and communities.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
Looking back at my parents, building two companies with three kids at home is humbling and inspiring. I have always looked up to my mother because she truly embodies the meaning of entrepreneur. She has the confidence to dive in or make big decisions, a passion for learning, and she sees opportunity everywhere. She continues to see the bigger picture, when I might get caught up in the operations. Having the opportunity to partner with my mom is something that we are both so grateful for, and I continue to learn from her every day.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
Start at the North Market to try some food and walk up High Street, stopping in all the fun shops and galleries along the way.