| Tri-Star Search and Staffing Makes its Mark
|Rudi Bellinazzo, CEO and President, with Chawn Peterson, Vice President of Operations.
How does a company manage double-digit growth in sales, purchase and remodel new office space, and keep a loyal core group of employees motivated to work toward achieving and doing more? For Tri-Star Search & Staffing, the answer lies in the strength and dynamism of its leadership.
Tri-Star, a temporary, contract and permanent placement staffing service owned by Rudi Bellinazzo, CEO and President, specializes in information technology, finance and accounting, engineering and general administrative positions.
Founded in 2002, Tri-Star had five employees at the end of 2005. By the end of 2006, the company has grown to 15 employees, with increase in gross sales of more than 150 percent.
The company recently moved its headquarters from the Lincoln Towers into a newly remodeled standalone building which is 10 times the size of its old space. Chawn Peterson, Vice President of Operations, took a central role in the company’s purchase and transformation of the company’s new headquarters. She credits the company’s continued success to the dedication of the Tri-Star team.
“Our best break is finding the best people in the industry. We’ve had challenging times with the purchase of the new building. We’ve worked long hours in the last few months working on all aspects of our new building, to create a space we’re proud to call our home. It hadn’t been easy: we had to keep a very positive attitude. Our employees’ support through the transition is immeasurable,” she said.
“We couldn’t ask for a better work environment, which will allow us to be even more successful than our record year last year,” said Edrie Bizak, Director of Business Development.
“Many of our clients are local, but we do business on a national and international level as well. We are certified as a Minority Owned Business (MBE) and also have a diversity emphasis in our mission with the ability to assist clients with their own diversity processes. Our company is yet another example of minority owned businesses that succeed and assisting others in doing the same.”
Colors of Influence recently had the opportunity to speak with Rudi Bellinazzo, founder and President, who shares more about the Tri-Star story and the success of the team that is making all the difference.
What was Tri-Star’s creation story? Prior to starting Tri-Star, I was working for a national leader in the industry. After 9/11, it was a very difficult time in the market for recruiters, and as you can imagine, many other businesses as well. My organization was going through a lot of changes: many firms lost a tremendous amount of recruiters. With the changes came expectations from the company to our clients and to the market in general, which was very challenging to respond to in that environment.
In that environment, it made sense for me to start my own firm. With my own firm, I had the vision of tailoring search services to market conditions by being sensitive not only to people’s personal challenges, but also to the market sensitivities concerning pricing, talents and flexibility. These were the things that I could not offer to the marketplace, given the structure of my organization at the time.
I wanted to do something different. My parents were entrepreneurs. I became involved in the family business at an early age.
What unique talents do you bring to the industry? I never thought that I’d be doing what I’m doing today, in terms of owning a search firm. I graduated from the University of Portland in 1990 and spent a number of years in corporate finance and accounting. I moved up in the corporate environment to controller and other top financial executive positions. I fell into recruiting by accident, and have loved it since. I started out in 1999 and stayed with one firm the entire duration of my career, before starting Tri-Star in 2002.
I primarily did finance and accounting because of my academic and professional background. Here at Tri-Star, we do a combination of accounting and finance, as well as engineering and information technology.
What was transition like from a corporate environment to launching your own firm? It was challenging. When I was working as part of the search firm, there was a corporate environment providing data, systems, financial and administrative support. There were defined and established processes. Taking a step on my own, I considered all those factors. I knew I had to start small and have realistic expectations. Like many startups, I launched Tri-Star out of my home office.
How did you decide on naming the firm Tri-Star? We are in an industry where we have to effectively cultivate relationships with our corporate clients and candidates. As a search firm, we serve as the intermediary that catapults candidates to a successful transition into a new career opportunity. For corporate clients, we serve as the link to highly skilled candidates that best fit their requirements.
What were some of the challenges during the startup phase? I’ve worked in different capacities in corporate America, and I have experienced what it took to run a company from different levels and functions. But I had never been in charge of the entire operations of a firm. We started everything from scratch: from our candidate management software, to our accounting system. Building relationships as a new entity also was a challenge. Re-branding the company – and myself – as a new player in the market was very important.
We didn’t have the financial support of a large corporation. In this business, you have to start with certain resources to get into the contract business, for example. We had contractors working for us that we needed to pay on a weekly basis. We needed a certain amount of cash flow to push that process.
Our initial efforts were targeted at direct hires: we place a candidate and receive a lump sum fee. We used that infrastructure to continue to build the contract side of the business, which focused primarily on finance and accounting. In September 2005, we branched into search services for information technology professionals. We were fortunate to have great people leading the IT division who allowed us to leverage our current relationships. The timing was good for us.
What is the core Tri-Star philosophy? We’ve established a number of core values, but of foremost importance is to make sure that we exceed our clients’ expectations. We want to be a strategic national leader – we want to have a presence in multiple states. We also want to push our diversity initiatives within the company.
Diversity is an important consideration that we keep in mind as we recruit for our clients. We have a diverse staff made up of Italian-Americans, Hispanics, Russian-Americans, Swedish-Americans, Irish-Americans and more. As for myself, my personal background represents diversity as well: my Dad’s from Italy and my Mom is from Liberia in West Africa.
What is the one thing that Tri-Star is the “best in the world” at? We have a wonderfully experienced staff. We have excellent sales and marketing backgrounds, in our operations and business development groups. In our Finance team, we have CPA credentials for majority of our staff. In the IT unit, we have staff whom were former IT project management professionals. Our Engineering staff has very solid experience and expertise in technical areas.
We have a good mix of strong internal staff that are able to address the needs and expectations of our clients. We know the business first-hand to effectively and thoroughly screen potential candidates. We know what credentials and backgrounds to look for. We’ve experienced working in different functional areas, so we know what our corporate clients are looking for in a new hire.
We always tell our team: “The only way to predict your future is to actually create it.” We know that nothing is going to be handed to us because we’re a smaller company. We’ve had to work for everything we had and create that avenue to be successful.
We’ve been fortunate to have loyal and committed staff. For example, Edrie Bizak has years of experience in business development and we’re quite lucky to have her. She recently decided to relocate from Junction City – a four-hour commute to Portland, back and forth – to be closer to our office. It’s a huge commitment on her part, and we’re grateful for that.
We’ve been blessed with the loyalty and commitment of the people we have working for us. It truly feels like a family environment here. It may sound like cliché – but we really have an “All for one; one for all” attitude across the board. We’re all in this together.
What is your long-term vision for Tri-Star? We would like to be a multi-state organization. We’re pushing to have a physical presence in the Seattle-Bellevue area. We also want to see our local operations in terms of market share. We want Tri-Star to be more prominent in the marketplace. We want organizations to think of Tri-Star when they’re making the decision to outsource, or for their hiring needs – whether it’s an executive search level, or a project manager level.
Our repeat business comes primarily from the strength of relationships we have cultivated. Our Business Development Group is focused on long-term client management and relationship-building.
My job here is simple: I listen to what everybody has to say. I incorporate ideas and concepts into the strategic vision for the company, then come back to the group and present them with how we’re going to execute.
In the end, our success not only lies in my vision, but from what my staff contributes. Being open-minded certainly comes from my multicultural background. I’ve been fortunate that my experiences growing up have given me a diverse perspective.