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Kathie Hanratty-Masi: On Bananas, Books, and Better Business

Originally published in Staffing Success Magazine (May-June 2003)

By Luanne Crayton

Kathie Hanratty-Masi has been part of the staffing industry nearly all her life—from the time she and her sisters played Kelly Girl, with Hanratty taking orders over her Barbie phone. They were inspired by their mother, Jaci Carroll, a branch manager for a national staffing company.

Before long, Hanratty was ready for the real workforce, and when her mother had orders that were particularly tough to fill, she called on Kathie. One of her first assignments: to serve as Miss Chiquita Banana. Sounds glamorous, but according to Hanratty, it wasn’t.

“I wore a paper crown and sash, and checked the banana displays in supermarkets,” she says. Not her favorite assignment, “but I had no choice in the matter.

“I also had several mystery shopping assignments,” she says. “During one experience, I was followed by security all afternoon. They thought I was a shoplifter.”

When her mother decided to open her own staffing company, Hanratty signed on to help.

“After the banana assignment, one would think I would have chosen another career,” she says. “Maybe I thought I would get better assignments if I helped run the business.”

Expanding Vision

Carroll and Hanratty opened Jaci Carroll Staffing Services Inc. in 1976 in a small office over a coffee shop in Waterbury, CT.

“When we started the business, banks didn’t lend to women, so we borrowed $10,000 from a friend,” says Hanratty, who serves as the company’s president and corporate secretary. “We furnished the office with two used desks and one used typewriter.”

Across those desks one day came a brochure announcing a staffing industry convention, hosted in New York City by the National Association of Temporary Services (now the American Staffing Association).

The brochure piqued her interest, so Hanratty drove down to attend a few sessions. She found them worthwhile and started to take advantage of other educational opportunities offered by the association.

Her involvement in the industry grew. In 1985, she served as president of ASA’s Connecticut chapter. She joined the ASA board of directors in 1991, has served on a number of committees, and was chairman of the board in 1999.

“Every single day, an ASA product or service benefits our company,” Hanratty says. “The biggest benefit is that we are able to run our companies without being singled out for undue regulation. Because of ASA, not one federal bill has passed that would hurt our industry.

“I have learned so much about the industry and made contacts here and in other countries,” she says. “I have a global perspective of the staffing industry because of ASA.

“And the opportunity to serve on the board of directors has been extraordinary,” she says. “It proves that it’s easy for a firm of any size to get involved. The board is made up of representatives from large and small firms, and we all contribute, regardless of our size.”

Hanratty spent her year as ASA chairman traveling across the country to deliver the messages of the industry—jobs, flexibility, bridge, choice, training—through scores of speeches and interviews.

“Kathie has a great command of the English language, and she’s able to put her point across logically,” says ASA immediate past chairman Judy Zacha of Beacon Services. “I don’t think anyone has done a better job representing our industry in the public eye.”

Hanratty says, “Our ASA membership dues are carved in stone in the company’s budget—it’s a good business decision.”

Lessons From Big Business

“From the time I was little and just learning to read,” Hanratty says, “I’ve been a voracious reader. I love to get lost in a book.”

She reads everything—from business books to novels to biographies.

A recent favorite, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, relays the story of how a new chairman and CEO, Lou Gerstner, resuscitated corporate giant IBM.

“This is a commonsense book about cutting through the nonsense, getting to the heart of the matter, and focusing on key goals, which entrepreneurs do all the time,” Hanratty says. “I thought, ‘If he could accomplish that, what could I learn for our small organization?'”

Next on the reading list: Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, by Queen Noor of Jordan.

“I think her perspective of the Middle East during these times should be fascinating, considering her American upbringing,” Hanratty says.

If Dubya Can Do It …

“We work in a fast-paced industry and need to make time to relax,” Hanratty says. So she hits the gym across the street from her company’s headquarters.

“I find working out cathartic. It elevates my mood, takes the monkey off my back, and I can start anew,” she says. “And if President Bush can find time to exercise every day, there are no excuses for me.”

When it comes to alpine racing, though, she sticks to the sidelines—and to hauling the gear. From December through March, she accompanies her 18-year-old nephew—and his racing suit, several helmets, various pairs of skis and poles, and sundry trappings—to competitions in the mountains of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.

The stuff fills her SUV. “It’s like I move every Saturday,” she says. “But it has opened up a whole new world to me, and it’s very exciting to see someone, especially someone you love, become so accomplished.”

Rich Rewards

It’s been 27 years since Jaci Carroll Staffing Services opened for business. Today, four offices throughout Connecticut make it one of the state’s largest independent providers of temporary and permanent staffing services, as well as of computer training services.

For Hanratty, one of the most gratifying aspects of the staffing business is “repeat business” from employees.

“The college-age children of people who have worked for us in the past are now coming in for summer jobs,” she says. “I love to hear the sound of excitement in a recruiter’s voice when he or she recognizes the family name of a previous employee and learns that the candidate is a son or daughter.”

Another reward: “Many of our largest customers have trusted us to staff their firms for over two decades,” Hanratty says. “Long-term relationships with both customers and employees, as well as our management team, are the key to our success.”

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