Originally published in Staffing Success Magazine (Sept-Oct 2001)
By Luanne Crayton
“We need to make sure that our industry glows with integrity and professionalism,” urges Linda Carchidi, CEO and cofounder of JFC Staffing Associates, based in Camp Hill, PA. “When any of us exhibits a lack of integrity, it hurts the entire industry, and our enemies use it against us. We need to have the highest work ethic possible and not give legislators doubts about our integrity.” In 1999, when legislators in her state did target the staffing industry, Carchidi went to work. We need to start a staffing association in eastern Pennsylvania, she decided, and contacted the American Staffing Association to help get things rolling. She serves as president of the Pennsylvania Staffing Association-East, and under her leadership, the ASA-affiliated chapter has grown, with record attendance at its July meeting.
“It is important to work with our legislators to mold legislation so that it doesn’t have an adverse impact on our industry,” she says. “And we need to get more staffing professionals involved in protecting the interests of our businesses.”
Dedicated to Teaching And Mentoring
Carchidi, who was recently appointed to the ASA board of directors, describes one of her passions in life as “a dedication to education.”
In 1995, in response to her customers’ requirements for employees with IT skills, Carchidi started the JFC Career Development Center to provide employees with the training they needed. Since then she has opened two more licensed training centers where employees learn software skills and can enroll in a Microsoft certification program. “As an added value for clients, we offer complimentary training at the school for their regular employees,” she says. Carchidi places a high priority on mentoring her staff and helping them learn all aspects of the staffing industry. “I believe we should take our staff to the ASA convention so that they can see more of the staffing industry-not just the markets they work in-and how professional it is,” Carchidi says. Six members of the JFC staff will accompany her to the convention this year in New York. In addition, professional certifications and successful completion of the ASA Employment Law Accreditation Course are required for her staff.
Carchidi’s dedication to education extends beyond her business. Several years ago, she worked with Trinity High School, her alma mater, to establish a development board, which so far has raised $2 million for the school. Before she became involved, the school didn’t even have a football field. Now it has a stadium-with lights.
“Linda had a vision for the school and wanted to see it grow,” says Pat Brosious, the school’s development director. “Our enrollment has grown 30 percent, and we have opened a science wing, largely because of Linda.”
Through PSAE, Carchidi has worked with local schools to help teachers and students learn about the staffing business. In August, JFC hosted a field trip for teachers to show them how staffing firms operate and to explain the size of the industry, its diversity, and the types of positions it offers.
During the school year, a student worked at JFC for four weeks in various positions in the company-from branch manager to recruiter to owner. “Once students see how professional and friendly we are, they are our advocates,” Carchidi says. “And you never know where they will end up-possibly as politicians or business leaders who could influence our industry.”
‘Digging in the Dirt’
An avid gardener, Carchidi has five acres of perennials, which she planted and cultivates herself. “I spend hours digging in the dirt,” she says. When her work is done, she curls up on a bench in her garden and reads mysteries by Robin Cook.
And now that her children are grown, she has taken up golf lessons, making the divots fly. Her creativity is evident in the kitchen as well as the garden. “I love to cook,” she says, “and I love to be surrounded by lots of food, lots of people, and lots of fun.” She has taken classes in Japanese cooking, grilling, and gourmet French. “I like to keep my guests guessing ‘What’s Linda going to cook tonight?'”
A Career in Helping People Takes a Turn
Carchidi has made a career out of helping people. But it’s not the career that she thought it was going to be. Trained as a nurse, she planned to help people through health care, not staffing.
Two weeks before their wedding, her fiancé lost his job. He was then offered a job as a recruiter at an employment agency. “After a couple of years,” Carchidi says, “he said to me, ‘We can do this on our own.’ So I answered phones and he recruited.” “Linda has little formal training in business,” says husband Jim Carchidi, “but she has a sharp business acumen and an amazing ability to solve problems. I could not have asked for a better partner.”
Their business initially focused on direct hire. A few years later, a friend recommended that they enter the temporary help sector. So Jim started a franchise. Down the road, because of a lawsuit, the Carchidis found themselves in a position of starting from scratch. “I was at home with a baby,” Linda says, “and Jim came in and said, ‘I need your help.’ We had to redesign every form.” She began with the intention of just getting the business started again, but she never left.
“Back then,” Linda recalls, “you had to sell the concept of temporary help before you could sell your services. People would ask, ‘What do you mean, you’ll send your employees to work for me?'”
Carchidi relies on the strong support of her family and faith. In the early 1980s, during difficult economic times, the business was on the verge of not meeting payroll, and she discovered that an employee had been embezzling from the business. She called on her faith and spent time in prayer. Her prayers were answered when a large payment arrived from a client.
She has persevered, and with persistence comes success. “‘Never’ and ‘no’ are not in my vocabulary,” she says. “My parents taught me that the downs make you a stronger person to soar higher in the ups.”
This year, Carchidi was named one of the top 50 women in business in her state by the Department of Community and Economic Development and the business journals of Pennsylvania, and her firm was recognized for the second year in a row as one of the 50 fastest growing companies in central Pennsylvania.
Carchidi describes her career in staffing as challenging and rewarding. “Sometimes I think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ And then I hear the success story of an employee whom we have helped. I often tell my in-house employees, ‘Think about the good you do every day in helping people.’ That’s what’s so rewarding about our industry. If we could ask every single employee how we have affected their lives, I think we would be amazed by the response.”