Finding the Right Person for the Job: Women in staffing agencies

Recession, high gas prices, low numbers of college graduates and high levels of unemployment translate to a job market where quality counts.
Now more than ever, it is imperative for companies to hire only the best and most capable employees in the field, not only in order to enhance fiscal growth, but also to avoid the cost-prohibitive procedures that can result from a bad hire. But with a dwindling talent pool and an economy in decline, finding a perfect fit can be difficult at best. That is why many companies turn to professional staffing services to do the research for them.

The following women are at the top of some of the most successful staffing agencies in San Antonio, and they all have outstanding track records when it comes to placing the right person in the right job. Their success in the staffing industry translates to an improved way of life for many local citizens as well as an improved bottom line for local businesses, which in turn translates into an improved local economy.

At the tender age of 10, Ann Bohl Deacon had made up her mind to own her own company one day. It seemed the only natural thing to do for a girl whose father was an entrepreneur in the food brokerage industry. “I grew up in that kind of dynamic environment in a very close family,” Deacon recalls. “I always knew that I would own my own business too.” Her opportunity came when, while working as a public accountant, she was contacted by a headhunter attempting to recruit her to another accounting position. Deacon became intrigued, not with the position offered, but with the recruiting business, and she changed career paths to take a position with what was then one of the largest staffing firms in San Antonio. Convinced she had found her calling, Deacon went on to open her own staffing firm in 1994, and today Deacon Staffing is an award-winning company responsible for handling some of San Antonio’s largest and most influential companies. “We understand organizations and their intangibles,” explains Deacon of her company’s success. “We understand their sensitive issues and that client confidentiality is a must.” Deacon Staffing is actually made up of two distinct entities: Deacon Recruiting, which is the executive search firm, and Deacon Professional Services, which handles consulting and contract based employment. Her highly educated team is skilled in handling both needs, and the firm has placed 575 employees in San Antonio in the past 12 months.

“Our position is that there is a place for everyone. We try to help people capitalize their strengths and articulate their limitations,” Deacon says with her trademark optimism. One of her own strengths is her ability to create a positive work environment where employees are encouraged to grow, not only professionally but also personally. She even has a company development plan in place that requires each employee to include personal goals. She is committed to helping her team achieve them. “Our team members must have a good life balance,” she asserts. Deacon sets the example by balancing her own career with plenty of hobbies, including ranching, sailing and traveling with her husband of 21 years, local attorney Charles Deacon. Clearly this is a woman who has found her niche in the world, and she is firmly committed to doing her part to make that world a better place. Deacon says her greatest satisfaction comes from the fact that she is making a difference in people’s lives every day. “We make a difference in the candidates’ lives by finding them employment and improving their quality of life, and we make a difference in the companies by putting top talent in and improving their bottom line,” she says.

The only thing this petite dynamo might be more committed to than changing lives is living her own life, both professionally and personally, by what she calls the “basic core values.”

“We live by the golden rule and try to do the right thing every day,” she explains. It is a formula that has served Deacon well over the years, as is evident by her longevity in the business. “We are committed to San Antonio, to our companies and our clients,” she says with a smile. “We have been here a long time, and we are in this for the long haul.”

Tina James has an interesting theory when it comes to finding the best candidate for the job. “Look for people who are not looking for a job and who are successful in their current roles,” she says. Given the fact that H-E-B has the fourth best recruiting department in the country, she must be on to something.
An H-E-B employee for 11 years, James has spent the last four in her current position of vice president of human resources, and she says that the grocery giant promotes internally whenever possible. But on the occasion when the company must look externally for new talent, James has developed some creative strategies. “We post on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and LinkedIn Web sites,” she says with a chuckle. “The war for talent is significant and must be really progressive.” Once in the H-E-B family, employees are encouraged to develop and hone their talents and skills and rise through the company ranks. “Several of our officers at H-E-B started out as baggers,” James boasts. “Our internal talent development is a high priority.” Flexible hours and a high hourly pay rate offer added incentives for employees to stay and grow with the company, and James says the hourly retention rate is the best in the industry. Then there is the people- focused culture of the company, which allows everyone to feel responsible for the bigger picture. James is constantly communicating with store leaders to determine which areas need improvement and which areas are successful.

“The store leaders are the glue and the key to good communication,” she explains. James says her life’s purpose is helping people, and she feels so blessed to be in a job where she can do that every day. When she is not making a difference in the lives of H-E-B employees, she is making a difference in the life of her husband, a trapshooter who recently qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games, and her two children, with whom she spends all of her free time. When it comes to instructing her children on their own career paths, James has these words of advice: “If you are good at something but you don’t love it, it’s a job,” she states firmly. “If you love it but you aren’t good at it, then it’s a hobby. But if you love what you do and you are good at it, then that is heaven on earth.”


JoAnne Santa Cruz is an adrenaline junkie. This former emergency medical technician thrives on excitement and bringing order to chaos. And while she may not be in life or death situations anymore, she is still in a position to change lives by bringing quality employees to a field that is near and dear to her heart. With a mother who worked as both an RN and in hospital administration, Santa Cruz grew up around the medical community. That fact, combined with her 11-year EMT career, means that Santa Cruz is especially committed to staffing that field with only the best qualified candidates. “I want to maintain a level of professionalism within the medical community,” she says. “It is what I know and love, and I want to see it remain stable. I am not here just to put a body in a position.” But BCMS does put bodies in position — lots of them. The company works with more than 4,000 physicians, and in the month of May, they were able to place approximately 20 people in permanent positions within the medical field, along with countless temporary positions. “Our staffing company has won awards for our mixed placement,” says Santa Cruz with pride. BCMS staffs only to the medical community and therefore is governed by a different set of rules. The company is designed around the physician-based board, and every applicant must have at least six months of experience in the medical field. “Our standards are higher because the physicians on our board tell us exactly what they are looking for in the candidates,” explains Santa Cruz. Again, this is where her own medical background has proved useful in her current position: “I can teach some of my skills to the staff, and I can speak to physicians and communicate to the staff what they want.”

Santa Cruz has undergone extensive training and met the highest standards of work ethics in order to receive her certification as a personnel consultant from the Texas Association of Personnel Consultants. In addition, she and her qualified staff offer one-on-one coaching to those candidates who need help in honing their interview skills. “The younger generation is not really schooled in that,” she explains. Santa Cruz is a good person to educate the younger generation. She is a mother of five children ranging in age from 6 to 17. When she isn’t staffing the medical field, she can be found working in the field. The family owns a 10-acre farm, and Santa Cruz and her 17-yearold son spend their free time searching for and restoring rare antique tractors. Life may have calmed down for this adrenaline junkie, but one thing remains the same — her love of saving lives. “I know that saving lives and placing jobs are very different,” she says thoughtfully. “But they are similar in that, although I may not be saving a person’s physical life, I am often saving their way of life.”


If Susie Jones looks familiar, it might be because she and her husband owned the Pet Pantry Pet Store in North Star Mall for 20 years. It almost certainly isn’t because she is the face of Trinity Staffing, as this is one businesswoman who prefers to stay behind the scenes. “I have no desire to be the front woman,” laughs this grandmother of three. “I take care of operations and support my account managers, who basically run their own mini-businesses,” she explains. “I don’t want to interrupt their synergy.” Jones is quick to give credit to those 11 account managers (who have close to 140 years’ experience among them) for the success of her company. “This staff is seasoned and knows how to take care of the clients,” she says. “They are the single point of contact for the client, and that makes a huge difference.” Trinity Staffing handles direct-hire as well as temp-to-hire clients, and Jones says that San Antonio has a good pool of people to select from when it comes to finding the right candidate for the job. Like Deacon, she takes pleasure in the fact that her job benefits the community as a whole. “This is the best industry to be in because you are doing good in the community every day,” she explains. “People need help, and we offer windows of opportunity.” Part of the opportunity that Jones and her staff offer potential candidates is training and advice. Computers are set up in the Trinity offices for tutorials, and the company offers continuing education classes at community colleges for those candidates who want to further their careers once they are on the job. “We encourage our candidates to grow,” Jones says with kindness. “If there is potential there, we will work with them.” In addition, her many years as an elementary school teacher prepared Jones for dealing with people who may need more guidance when it comes to finding and keeping a job.

“People are the same whether they are 6 years old or 6 feet tall,” she laughs. “It’s all about positive reinforcement. You have to counsel them and come at it from the approach of ‘How can you do better?’ Sometimes the big picture can be a little overwhelming for them.” Judging from Trinity’s success, Jones and her staff are finding and placing top-quality candidates. Much of the company’s growth is directly related to referrals, and there is even a branch of the company that works on the Toyota campus and staffs three of the first-tier suppliers. “If we say we will do something, we do,” says Jones, explaining why the companies Trinity works with give them such glowing reviews. “We are a very ethical group of people, and we want to look at building relationships in the long run. We don’t want to be a quick fix.” When she is not working, Jones can be found working out. Yoga, kickboxing and Pilates keep this busy woman in top condition to do what she loves best — help others. “It is such a delight to do this,” she says with a twinkle in her eyes. “At the end of the day you can say, ‘I did some good for somebody.'”


When stay-at-home mom Janet Connell stumbled into a small direct-hire firm on Broadway and accepted a commission based job, she had no idea that she would go on to become the president of one of the most recognizable names in the staffing industry. “I just never gave up,” she says with a smile. Connell began her career at Bullock Personnel in 1984 and took over as president 10 years later. Placing only direct hires, she uses her tenacity and determination to contact local companies and market her database of candidates. “Cold-calling is still a very resourceful and productive way to conduct business in this industry,” she explains, adding that it takes a strong, sales-type personality. Bullock places many of its direct hires within the construction business, a field that Connell knows a thing or two about, having been married for 40 years to a man in that industry. Together they have three children, two grandchildren and a beautiful blonde chow named Saks. “I am a big animal lover,” says Connell, who donates both her time and financial resources to the San Antonio Humane Society. When she isn’t finding satisfaction from helping her four-legged-friends, Connell, like others in her field, finds satisfaction from helping others. “The most rewarding part of my job can be as simple as putting food on the table for someone or creating an entirely new career for them,” she says with pride.

And there is the satisfaction of a job well done. Bullock has been in San Antonio for 27 years, and Connell makes sure that the candidates receive the attention they deserve and that the clients receive only the best possible candidates. “We only place candidates with experience in the field,” she emphasizes. Connell is so confident in her candidates that she offers a 90-day free replacement guarantee, but she is quick to point out that the firm is almost never called upon to honor it. “We do our due diligence up front,” she says. This stay-at-home-mom turned company president is proof that success is possible with hard work and dedication, and she says that for the right person, hers is a wonderfully rewarding profession.

Author: Bonny Osterhage

Photographer: Robert French

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