‘Idea maker’ Rose Conry wins JAX Chamber Small Business Leader of the Year Award
All of the nominees for the JAX Chamber Small Business Leader of the Year had support systems.
But only Rose Conry's included Superman and Darth Vader.
Soon after she was named a finalist for the annual award, Conry's business partner built a display in the StaffTime office, pairing Conry with Superman and Darth Vader.
Signs with "May the force be with you" and "Soaring to new heights as she takes on Jacksonville in a single bound" were accompanied by statues of Darth Vader and Superman.
It was one of many ways the staff found to focus on the power of positive thinking, said Kelley Moore, Conry's business partner.
And it worked.
Conry won the honor Thursday morning, as her staff, clients and friends cheered on the woman they called the "idea maker," "an inspiring person" and "an honest friend."
StaffTime, of which Conry is CEO, opened in 2009, really getting underway in the latter part of the year. The company brought in $300,000 that year. Each year, business increased, with the company bringing in $1.9 million last year.
Conry credited the five-person team and the consultants who work at the staffing agency, located at 7845 Baymeadows Way.
It was a venture that began when she raised her hand at CSX Corp.
Taking a chance
Conry was working in the Human Resources Department at CSX in 2004 when the railroad company offered buyouts to volunteers. Conry raised her hand.
She said she and Moore had been thinking about opening a business together. The two had known each other since 1984, when they were cheerleaders for the Tea Men, a professional soccer team in Jacksonville. They worked together at CSX, as well.
Conry and Moore opened Employment Resources & Solutions, a human resources consulting business.
When the economy dropped, the business was hit hard because many companies brought human resources issues back in-house. Several of those companies asked Conry and Moore if they could help supply temporary employees.
So, Conry said, the two thought, "Why don't we start a new staffing company? How hard could that be?"
Jen Deffense, who had worked at the human resources consulting business with Conry and Moore, joined the team at StaffTime.
"In the beginning, we all had our hands in everything," said Deffense, who is vice president of operations.
Doing that gave each team member the chance to see what everyone does, she said.
"One of the greatest aspects of Rose as a leader is none of us are pigeonholed," Deffense said.
She praised Conry's perseverance and work ethic, as well as her leadership skills.
"She's definitely a go-getter. … She's the idea maker. I'm the one who says let's put everything in order to make sure we can do that," Deffense said. "I think it's a good balance."
That balance is what has kept StaffTime growing through the years. Four members of the staff, which also includes Amy Churney, have been together since the beginning.
"Because of them and because of how we've worked together as a team, we kept plugging away and kept thinking of new ways to attract business," Conry said.
The big day
The team attracted enough business to get Conry on the list of finalists for the chamber's Small Business Leader of the Year Award.
When asked how often the issue was discussed in the office, Moore said, "Only like every hour."
As part of the art of positive thinking, she created the Darth Vader and Superman display, had rocks with words like "believe," "trust" and "inspire" on a nearby table and put a note on Conry's chair that said, "The Small Business Leader of the Year for 2014 sits here."
At Thursday's event, the entire StaffTime team was there, as were many of the company's clients. At first, Moore said, the group was very nervous. When they called Conry's name, Moore said, "I felt like I needed to fall down and faint. … We all stood up and cheered and were extremely overjoyed she won."
Conry was thrilled, as well. She wanted to win, and she wanted to win badly.
"If it had been a different outcome … I would have been happy for that other person," she said. "But I'm glad it was me."
Now that she's won the award, the team can focus on her next goal: Bringing in $10 million this year.
While it may seem extreme to some, it's not to those at StaffTime.
"I call it a big hairy, audacious goal," Moore said. "But we know it can be done."
After all, they've got the Small Business Leader of the Year leading the way.