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Firm Discovers Gold In Jobs Downturn

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Boutique placement firm taps highly qualified with personal touch

By Chris Levister –

In 2009 when Senoka Staffing Solutions, Inc. founder and CEO Jayson Mercurius and Managing Partner, Lashondra Ferguson left six-figure executive positions at job placement giant Robert Half, to sail the murky waters of entrepreneurship, people reacted with one word: ‘crazy’.

“It was a gutsy move— here I was starting a small, minority-owned business while bigger firms were stumbling through the recession and putting thousands of workers on the street,” says Mercurius. But it was that very job killing disarray that made the 35-year-old entrepreneur think the time was right.

“There was a lot of carnage in the staffing and human resources market,” says Mercurius. “I saw a golden opportunity to tap the unprecedented pool of highly qualified professionals who’ve been relegated to the unemployment lines.”

His instincts proved prescient. Since launching the Ontario-based company Senoka boasts annual revenues of $2.5 million with projections of $15 million by 2016.

“We saw a chance create a firm that provided critical staffing with the flexibility to adjust to changing times and still hold on to unchanging principles,” said Ferguson an accountant with an extensive background in human resources management.

Mercurius recalls two previous attempts to launch Senoka failed.

“Aspirations take time, patience, sustained effort and the willingness to fail. I had to get out of my comfort zone.

What I discovered was there’s still a place for high quality personalized service,” said Mercurius.

Together, Mercurius and Ferguson have more than 17 years of experience in government and corporate staffing and human resources management.

Senoka is a full service staffing firm with clients ranging from government entities such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development to private companies Ventura Foods, Niagara Bottling, and Fortune 500 construction and engineering services company Kiewit.

As an MBE, WBE and DBE (minority, women and disabled owned business enterprise) Senoka specializes in connecting highly skilled candidates within the field of engineering, accounting, IT (information technology), clerical and administration. What the pair doesn’t need is a crystal ball to predict the likelihood that the Inland Empire is sitting on a gold mine for jobs.

The regions transportation networks, where many highways and railroads intersect, have made the Inland Empire a major shipping hub. Some of the nation's largest manufacturing companies have chosen the IE for their distribution facilities including Toyota Motor Corporation's North American Parts and Logistics Distribution (NAPLD) center in Ontario and APL Logistics in Rancho Cucamonga.

Hewlett-Packard Co. has leased a 1.4 million-square foot distribution complex in San Bernardino. Whirlpool Corporation recently leased a 1,700,000-square-foot distribution center in Perris that is larger than 31 football fields and one of the biggest warehouses in the country. These centers operate as part of the system that transports finished goods and materials from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to destinations such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Denver. More than 80% percent of the state's imported cargo is shipped through the Los Angeles/Inland Empire Corridor.

High speed rail construction funds to include those rejected by GOP governors in Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio could be California’s gain after the Obama administration recently took back $2.4 billion in stimulus funds for high-speed trains between Tampa and Orlando.

Ferguson said the prospect of building a nimble business without the burden of a bigfirm bureaucracy puts Senoka in the driver’s seat as the job market recovers. “We’re personalized matchmakers connecting employers and candidates.

We don’t have a big marketing department, an HR department or hundreds of associates to keep busy. We’re a small diverse team of specialists dedicated to providing a custom fit solution that goes far beyond placing a warm body in a client’s seat.”

“We take seriously the candidate’s skill set, personality and special talents. We manage the process from beginning to end allowing our clients to rapidly expand or contract a well thought-out mix of talent to meet current and long term goals,” said Mercurius.

Mercurius says Senoka is working to make the process more personable. He said web-based employment search board sites and other technology-driven recruiting vehicles have made job searching an opaque process for employers and job hunters.

“We talk to candidates all the time that feel like their resumes are going into a black hole. Our goal is to respond to as many job seekers as we can, and get them in front of hiring managers to nail those opportunities.”

“We’re on the front lines. We see the hardships caused by the economic downturn,” said Mercurius. “Irrespective of what happens in any given day, we still have to be service- oriented, keep a smile on our faces and work hard to stay competitive.”

“Being your own boss and the captain of your own ship sounds really great, but when you become an entrepreneur, you trade in your one job for 10 others,” added Ferguson. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this.”

But the hard work is no match for their partnership. Both Mercurius and Ferguson agree that their partnership has been a key element to their success as business owners.

“It’s great to partner with someone who shares my belief that the one who never makes mistakes is the one who never tests the water,” said Mercurius whose family migrated from Guyana.

“My father came to America with only the shirt on his back. He worked hard to raise a family while earning a PhD. in education. His advice to me while growing up was ‘lead with a core of integrity, honesty, and respect for the individual. The ability to listen to all perspectives is the key to real leadership.”

Mercurius’ and Ferguson’s advice to anyone considering entrepreneurship is to have a vision that exceeds a superficial appetite. “If it’s about money, it’s not going to be sustainable,” said Ferguson.

“Think outside the box. Stay out of foul trouble,” added Mercurius. “Compete fearlessly and focus less on being a minority entity and more on what the competition is doing and do it better.”

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0 # Guest 2011-03-17 17:44
Thank you for spotlighting this firm. That someone does think about the highly qualified professional is greatly appreciated and gives me hope.
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