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Playing to people’s strengths pays off

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in Career Management,Hiring,Human Resources,Workplace Communication

Janice Bryant Howroyd was the first to integrate her North Carolina high school, where her teacher explained “why Africans were so well-suited to slavery and how we’d be much poorer as a society if we went any further with this affirmative action.”

That nasty reception, along with a happier stint as a temp for her brother-in-law at Billboard magazine, helped inspire Howroyd to start placing employees in supportive working environments where their talents would be appreciated. As it turns out, she understood the dynamics of running an office, and she also liked helping people land the right job. Before long, she hung out a shingle.

Starting with only $1,500 and a telephone, Howroyd called employers and offered to return their money if they used her services and an employee didn’t work out. Her recruiting firm, now the $480 million ACT 1 Group based in Torrance, Calif., still uses personal networking to place temps and full-timers.

How could Howroyd make such an ironclad promise? She strove to know applicants personally, which she did better than her competitors. For her, it wasn’t so much about catering to clients as it was about making the most of people by playing to their strengths and desires. She figures she has two clients in each placement: the employer and the employee.

Howroyd’s philosophy: Never compromise who you are personally for whom you wish to be professionally. “This value became rooted deep inside me from my childhood,” she says, “seeing working people whose work did not afford them dignity. I believe in empowering people.”

— Adapted from “She’s the Boss,” Tamara E.Holmes, Black Enterprise.

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