Rona Borre launched Chicago-based Instant Technology in November 2001, not long after the tech bubble burst and a mere two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Even though market conditions were far from ideal, Borre—who had been working at a global recruiting firm—decided it was time to branch off and start her own business.
Borre worked with many candidates at the global recruiting firm who liked her so much that they followed her. It gave Instant Technology a good start, even in tough times.
“The candidates are key to success,” Borre says.
In its eighth year, Instant Technology provides technology staffing to Fortune 1,000 companies as well as small and medium-size firms. Its clients are in a number of industries, including advertising, airline/aviation, banking/financial, consulting, consumer goods, education, entertainment, food, health care, legal, manufacturing, printing/publishing, retail, telecommunications and travel.
It helps to have a niche
Instant Technology focuses strictly on technology staffing, and it helps to have a niche, Borre points out.
“A lot of people try to be everything to everyone,” she says. “We try to stay true to what we know and what we’re good at. We know our space and industry. I think it [bodes] well to stay at what we’re good at and try to grow the business that way.”
The company is a certified woman-owned business enterprise with the city of Chicago, state of Illinois and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
Instant Technology generated $17 million in 2008, and the goal was to hit $20 million in 2009, according to Borre. She says her company doubled or tripled its revenue every year in its first five years from 2002 to 2007.
In early 2009, Instant Technology opened a second office in Washington to accommodate its growth and client base there.
“We’re trying to grow our organization and get into markets where we have existing clients,” Borre says. “D.C. is a big area for us.”
The plan is to expand the company’s Chicago operations in 2010.
“The goal is to be a No. 1-tier supplier to the Chicago area,” Borre says.
Instant Technology is beefing up its staff to accommodate growth. The company had 33 people on staff last summer and that number was expected to grow to between 56 and 83 people by the end of 2009.
“We’re extremely busy right now,” Borre says. “We’re ready to bring in our next crop of people and develop them.”
Landing on the Inc 5,000 list two straight years
Instant Technology made the Inc 5,000 list this year and in 2008. Inc also named the company one of the Top 100 Human Resources Companies in America in 2009 and one of the Top 50 Businesses in Chicagoland in 2008.
Instant Technology also was recognized by the National Association for Business Resources as one of the Top 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in Chicago.
Some of the factors in choosing the winners included communication, community initiatives, compensation and benefits, diversity and multiculturalism, employee education and development, employee engagement and commitment, recognition and retention, recruitment and selection, and work/life balance. Winners were chosen from hundreds of nominations, according to Jennifer Kluge, NABR president.
“The 101 best and brightest are companies that excel in all areas as it relates to people,” she says. “Customer satisfaction is directly related to how they treat their employees.”
Keys to success
Borre attributes her company’s success to listening and responding to clients’ needs.
She adds that her company also tries to connect with people and build relationships—something that can be especially valuable in these tough economic times.
“Hopefully those relationships will foster and grow, and people will know you’ll be there for them when things do turn around,” she says.
Instant Technology also trains and motivates internal staff. The management team fosters, grows and develops staff, and the company’s turnover rate is under 15 percent, according to Borre.
“We expect a lot of people,” she says. “We also give them the tools they need to be successful. We don’t expect them to do anything management wouldn’t do. We’re a very lead-by-example type of shop.”
Hiring the right people, celebrating victories
Liz DeFazio is vice president of sales and operations for Instant Technology and was responsible for hiring staff when the company started.
“If you don’t have the right people internally and the right candidates, it doesn’t matter what you sell,” she points out. “You have to have solid relationships with your employees and your candidates.”
DeFazio, who divides her time between the Chicago and Washington offices, says, “We celebrate the victories. We have a bell, and when we make a placement or close a deal, we ring a bell. We have short-term contests that we tailor toward our demographics. It’s about making it fun, keeping people positive.
“We’re like a family here, and we take care of each other,” she continues. “We pull on people’s strengths and not their weaknesses. We want to challenge people to do more because we are a small company. We really try to hone in on their strengths. ... We’re very hands-on. I think that’s one of the things that separates us from other companies. We walk the walk.”
Sales manager Michael Gurican joined the company in 2005 and quickly became its top producer.
“When you close a deal, it’s twice the fun, because you’re making two parties happy,” he says. “It’s really a good feeling and a great business to be in.”
Approach saves clients time
Instant Technology knows that clients want quality rather than quantity. That’s why the company uses a 2-1 approach, presenting just two carefully matched candidates for each job opening. The idea is to present candidates who are such a good fit that clients only have to interview two people to find the right person.
Yury Dubinsky, IT director at Northfield, Illinois-based Sawdust Investment Management, a privately owned investment management firm, works with Instant Technology when he has an opening.
“Every candidate that we interview in person we have hired,” he says. “The first time I met them, I had a seemingly impossible role to fill. They actually found a guy. When we met him, we knew he was the right one. He turned out to be phenomenal. My experience with them has been tremendous.”
Dubinsky, who also worked with Instant Technology when he was at Bank of America, says other staffing companies were not as attentive to his needs and didn’t care as much about him as a client.
“They felt entitled to our business instead of working for it,” he says. “[Instant Technology’s] general approach to me as a client has always been great. They’re responsive. They’re on the ball. They’re easy to work with.”
Strong community involvement
Instant Technology believes in giving back to the community, Borre says. The staff has volunteered for the Chicago Park District and the Humane Society. They also have given time and money to such causes as Voices for Illinois Children.
Additionally, Instant Technology hosted a benefit for breast cancer programs at the Cancer Health Alliance of Metropolitan Chicago.
The biggest reward of running Instant Technology is watching people succeed and mature, Borre says. She points out that one person who started at the front desk now runs one of the company’s largest accounts.
No day is the same
A saleswoman at heart, Borre is involved in driving the sales of the organization. She also works with the leadership team and meets daily with the CFO.
“It’s crazy,” she says. “No day is the same. I pick up the slack wherever my staff needs me to.”
In the 14 years Borre has been in the staffing industry, she hasn’t done anything other than IT staffing.
“I just think the quality of candidates and the people you work with are competent and smart,” she says. “They’re really smart people. They’re teachable people.”