(Photography by Collin Richie: Lisa Coleman)
Lisa Coleman keeps her finger on the pulse of the local talent market and the regional business climate. Through her six Westaff franchise locations across the state, she works to staff businesses big and small, from industrial plants to mom-and-pop shops. “Good people: That is what we look for at every opportunity,” says Coleman, who also happens to lead the largest woman-owned business in Baton Rouge. With recruiting constantly on her mind, Coleman will even go so far as to hand out her business card in the grocery story if she senses that someone might be a good fit for a position. It is that passion for people that has allowed her to grow the business to what it is today.
How do we solve the workforce problem in Louisiana?
Well, as a former educator, my one-word answer is “training.” We also must retain the talent we have in Louisiana. Everyone needs work/life balance, and as a community we must provide and continue to improve upon what individuals desire in a community.
How would you describe the talent market in Baton Rouge?
I just love the people in Louisiana, but we definitely have some talent gaps. There is no doubt about it. We definitely cannot fill all the open positions we have. We are constantly recruiting. We have to.
What’s your secret for recruiting?
Well, we certainly tap all the traditional sources. As a staffing company, we can never tire of recruiting; our team is always on the search for exceptional candidates when they are out in the community. We listen to our clients, work to understand their business and then seek to find the candidates that align with those skills and business values.
Tell us how you came to acquire six franchise locations statewide.
Every market had a unique reason for entry, but to get those opportunities for expansion, you have to prove yourself in your current marketplace and when opportunities arise, evaluate and asses that opportunity. Not every opportunity that presents itself is a fit for you and your company, and I have certainly walked away from some opportunities. You have to measure the opportunity against your “true north” and your business mission.
With the industrial expansion, are you seeing increased competition in the staffing sector?
Somewhat. In our industry, worker’s compensation insurance and safety can be a barrier to entry. It is of utmost importance for a company to partner with a staffing company that is strategically aligned in those areas and can provide the service they need.
What is your read on the Baton Rouge business climate?
It is a healthy, growing market. If you come in and do good business, you should have no problem succeeding. Even if it is a flower shop on the corner, you’ll have no problem.
You’re the largest woman-owned business in Baton Rouge. How did you build and grow the business to that point?
Literally one client at a time. [Clients] need to get your undivided attention. There is no one way we do business for anyone. We have our ethics and our values. We tailor make the plan for each project. We’ve had plans where we’ve had to do outsourcing before. We’ll even go in and conduct exit interviews for clients to help those people transition to a new job. We really have to listen to their needs and solve their needs. If you listen to clients’ needs you will continue to grow the business, and I think that is the mantra we follow for all of our offices.
Do you have a mission statement by which you operate?
I am very goal-oriented. I have a personal mission statement, and I encouraged my staff to have a mission statement. I make sure that whatever I do, it lines up with that. If it doesn’t, well, there have been times when we walk away from clients because of that. Anytime you walk away from business it is scary, but I know what we stand for and by developing a personal mission statement and living by it, we are able to achieve our goals.
What’s next for Westaff?
Further penetration in our current markets by servicing the needs of the business community.