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Interviews with the Best Entrepreneurs and Smart Business Thinkers

 

 

Janice Bryant Howroyd Interview:

More Entrepreneur Interviews

Biography:

Janice Bryant Howroyd is the Founder and President of the Act 1 Group. Janice Bryant Howroyd came to Los Angeles to visit her sister on a vacation in the early 1970’s, and decided to make it home.  She went to work as her brother-in-law’s assistant at Billboard Magazine, and while there, noticed that she had an affinity for organization and employee placement. Using this talent, inspiration and just $1,500, she began the ACT 1 Group in 1978 as a small, one-phone-line employee placement office located in Beverly Hills. Three decades later, the company has offices across the US, and has expanded internationally, grossing nearly a billion dollars per year! Janice has built her company business model on strong values and principles.

 

Q. What is the biggest challenge of conducting business internationally?

 

A. There are several challenges that can wreak havoc, or at minimum, muddy the opportunity for success for companies growing their businesses internationally.  Prioritizing the challenges requires understanding each business, individually.

 

Here are some of the most common challenges any business can face:

 

Area Presence:  Area Presence refers to Local Area Knowledge and Relationships…Any successful international engagement or business growth requires more than just a solid corporate infrastructure and/or web-based agility…Local area knowledge and, as necessary, a local area presence, are critical to successful implementations and to building sustaining business models.

 

Readiness: Oftentimes, companies are able to gain opportunities for which a real stretch is required to deliver to commitments.  Such opportunities can develop and mature successfully; however, if the stretch becomes a pull, this type of growth can rip the seams of an otherwise solid company. 

 

Knowing when to make the stretch geographic growth is very important, and this means knowing when an opportunity offers real growth…profitable growth.  Only a finely tuned, strategically focused executive team can successfully make the call on when, or how many, international opportunities are a right fit for an organization.

 

Clarity:  As with a conduct of business, at any level, clarity in contracting is paramount.  Lack of clarity is a common failure for businesses of all sizes; whether it is a Mom and Pop or an already sizeable corporation.  The key thing here is that a contract is an engagement of two or more parties…Being specific and complete to every facet of the relationship are an insurance to either party. 

 

Note that many companies that gain international opportunities through joint bid processes may not fully evaluate the individual requirements and responsibilities of sla’s, payment, etc.  When clarity does not exist, over-commitments are made and failures can happen.

 

Area Presence, Readiness and Clarity are key ingredients to avoiding international business growth challenges…They are the ARC of international business opportunity.

  

 

Q. There are family members working in your business.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of that?

 

A. A large advantage of having family members working in the Act.1Group is that I know my particular family intimately and professionally.  Therefore, I have been able to match skills and readiness in a way that assures performance I can depend on…no matter what!  However, a disadvantage of this, if a business is new or very small, is the temptation to over-demand of family members. 

 

One advantage of having my family members work with me is that not only do I know and evaluate their skills and fit…They know ME, and can anticipate, respond and step in, seamlessly, when opportunities require this. 

 

A potential disadvantage that can always loom close is the threat of job growth and/or job security families working in a company can represent to non-family employees.  Again, it’s vital that responsibilities are clearly understood and exceptions are not made.

 

These are advantages and disadvantages that I have, blessedly, managed well to within my company’s growth.  The lingering disadvantage to me is knowing that I hold people’s professional lives and financial security within every decision I make.  So many of Act.1Group’s employees, whether within the AppleOne staffing area or the Agile1 business solutions side, are tenured and are like family.  So, the continuous care that comes with ultimate decision making that affects families is true to me for every employee in my organization…It really hits home now that I have not only siblings and other relatives in positions…I have our own two adult children employed.  The great thing is that I have the overwhelming advantage of superior talent, highly educated and totally committed people working to continue the success of Act.1 Group well into future generations. 

 

 

Q. How has your business vision changed over the past two decades?

 

A. One very solid opportunity that maintaining the key executive role in my organization has brought me is the ability to enjoy the twenty-twenty vision of hindsight as a support to looking ahead.  The strength of experience continues to hone strategy setting, tactical decision making and functional leadership.  The greatest change in my business vision has not been one of changes courses…rather, fine-tuning growth strategies. 

 

One key thing for me over the 30+ plus years I have headed my company is to continue both my formal and day-to-day learning experience.  It’s amazing, as I consider this question, how many classes I have both taught and taken in formal, academic environments as well as organizationally.  I do believe that stepping back from the business to broaden learning keeps my leadership and vision fresh.

 

 

Q. How did the recent recession years change or influence your business strategy?

 

A. These recent years have been phenomenal for Act.1 Group!  During this time, we’ve grown more than at any other period in my business life.  Companies have needed to find and deploy new business strategies that both save monies and increase efficiencies.  That is just what our AppleOne staffing branches and our Agile1 business solutions offer.  So, we’ve been able to expand within existing customers as well as gain new ones who have not been served as well by our competitors.

 

Act.1 Group’s strategy has been adjusted to meet growing demands within our partnerships in areas that include, but are not limited to: customizing customer business models, restructuring our back office and revisiting our own hiring requirements, as well as more aggressively scheduling new country deployments.  Our delivery system requires for One World – One Workforce.  This means keeping faithful to one element on which all of our success depends – that is – The applicant (worker) is the center of our universe!