Business Dynamos

Black women are making inroads in the world of business. Like these three, you can tap exciting markets and achieve entrepreneurial success.

live with her sister. While temping for her brother-in-law, who was head
of Billboard magazine, Howroyd decided to open an employment agency. With a $1,500 family loan, she leased a small Beverly Hills, California, office, installed a phone and began making business contacts. This networking capital helped to spread her name. Soon thereafter, she nailed the employment placements that would eventually make her a success.

“Pride in performance” is ACT*1′s company motto. “You’ll find throughout the office and our training that we try to keep the humanity in human resources,” says Howroyd, 45, who attended North Carolina A&T University. “Some companies treat applicants and human resources services as products. We don’t compromise personal for professional growth,” she adds. “We have global capability, but we are small enough to care about each other and each hart of the business relationship.” That means working with a lower fee margin instead of lowballing the employee while providing quality workers to the client.

One thing she has been very careful with is growth. “Early on, we made it a point not to compete against national- and international-size companies and grow only if our employees could grow with us, states Howroyd, who took small steps in creating opportunity for a staff that now numbers 255.

Another issue she has had to contend with are detractors who say that her business was largely helped by her husband, who runs AppleOne Employment, a $350 million personnel firm. “I was doing over $10 million in business when I married my husband in 1982,” says Howroyd of her husband, Bernie, who is white. “It’s just hard for people to believe that an African American woman and her family can develop systems and do what we do on our own. I have had to be a stronger and more deliberate person because of being married to Bernie, and it’s been quite an exercise to have to grow your business within a climate of racism.”

Howroyd hasn’t let any of that stop her. “I wanted us to be a company that can hire in every level and be able to manage intelligence, education and information,” she says. That strategy has played out perfectly for clients such as Silicon Graphics in Mountain View, California. Four and a half years ago, ACT*1, using its own brand of advanced time-keeping technology, consolidated all the computing systems company’s temporary services. By issuing ACT*1 swipe cards to temp employees, both Silicon Graphics and the agency were instantly able to track attendance and hours on a real-time basis. No longer did it take weeks to manually tally hours for a temp force that might number up to 800 strong.

“Because of their technological expertise, we have made them our on-site partner to manage all 23 temporary-help vendors we use,” says Madelina Williams, workforce alliance program manager at Silicon Graphics. “At the end of the week, our managers can push a button and see the status of any temp employee. ACT*1 did in six weeks what their predecessors couldn’t. They are truly a

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