ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN STAFFING SUCCESS MAGAZINE (JAN–FEB 2004)
By Stefani Blair
“There are many people in this industry that I am proud to call friend and colleague, and then there’s just a handful of people that are so remarkable in their personal and professional lives that they inspire me. Ladies and gentlemen, you are going to meet one of them this morning.”
ASA board member Kathie Hanratty-Masi of Jaci Carroll Staffing Services was introducing her friend and colleague Karla Hertzog, president and CEO of Innovative Employee Solutions and the recipient of the Leadership Hall of Fame Award, at Staffing World in October.
Hanratty went on to tell the audience about a book she had read titled Dash, and how it reminded her of Hertzog. She explained that “dash” refers to the line in a memorial between the date of birth and the end of life, and that author Eric Aronson says “dash” stands for determination, attitude, success, and happiness—all traits that Hertzog possesses. Aronson encourages readers to make the most of their lives and their dash. But according to Hanratty, “Long before he put his pen to paper, this year’s Hall of Fame honoree was already making the most of her dash.”
Moved by Hanratty’s introduction, Hertzog took the stage and joked, “If I were smart I’d dash right off the stage and just leave it at that.”
Most Likely to Be a Merry Homemaker
Fortunately, Hertzog stayed to tell the audience her inspiring story. She began with a little-known fact: “I doubt many of you know that in high school I was voted ‘most likely to be a merry homemaker.'”
But her father wanted her to go to college. “So I majored in social welfare and child development, thinking that would help me to be a better homemaker. Business and the staffing world were not on my radar screen at all.” To please her father, she took one typing class because he said it was necessary in life.
Her father, the late Ted Cobb, was a staffing industry leader himself. He opened TOPS, Temporary Office Personnel Service, in Denver in 1956. Hertzog worked there as a temporary employee during and after college, waiting to become the merry homemaker. Instead, she found herself moving to San Diego at the age of 22 to open another office. Eventually, she became sole owner of the company.
Looking back, she laughs, “My career as merry homemaker turned out to be not very merry, but my business career took off.”
In 1998, Hertzog sold the San Diego office and began Innovative Employee Solutions, a payrolling and benefit administration company. As Hanratty mentioned in her introduction, Hertzog is more than just a businesswoman.
An industry leader, she served on the board of directors for the National Association of Temporary Services (now the American Staffing Association). She was instrumental in adding the second “s” to NATS, which changed its name to the National Association of Temporary and Staffing Services (NATSS) in 1994 to better reflect the evolving industry.
A community leader, Hertzog became the first woman to chair the board of San Diego’s YMCA and remains involved with many other programs, receiving a long list of awards and accolades for her service. Hanratty called her “one of the most influential people in the San Diego business community.”
Honored and Grateful
After explaining how she got to this point in her life, Hertzog took some time to thank the people who have contributed to her success and happiness.
She spoke of the value of finding mentors, and told the audience about hers: “My dad taught me about integrity and ethics in business and not to take shortcuts or compromise your values,” she said.
“He was a great visionary,” she continued. “He used to drive me nuts because I was the one who would have to put all his ideas to work, but it kept us growing and expanding.”
Another mentor was JoAnn Wagner of SOS Staffing Services. “We worked together at TOPS for 15 years,” Hertzog said. “Her sales expertise and out-of-the-box thinking helped me grow.
“I chose mentors that had talents and expertise I didn’t. I am the nuts and bolts person, and I tried to surround myself with visionaries, innovators, and sales mentors,” she said.
Hertzog named many lifelong friends she has made in the industry, saying, “All of these friends and others have made me a better business person and friend by allowing me to take their ideas and energy and implement them in my business and my life. I treasure each one of you.”
She had a special message for convention attendees. “I encourage you to use the next three days here to develop advisers and mentors, take away new ideas and trends from the seminars, and learn how to give back to your industry,” she said.
Like Father, Like Daughter
The Leadership Hall of Fame Award holds special significance for Hertzog. Her father, whom she called her “role model and hero,” received the award in 1986, and she said she was especially proud to be honored in the same way.
The award, the industry’s highest honor, was established in 1985 to recognize individuals who make outstanding contributions to the staffing industry and the American Staffing Association, and it means a great deal to the recipients. Days before the awards presentation, Hertzog was forced to evacuate her family’s San Diego home because of the encroaching wildfires that swept across Southern California in October. Someone told her to place her most valuable items in the swimming pool, where they had a better chance of surviving. She sank her father’s Hall of Fame award and even as she was accepting her own, the award was submerged and presumed to be out of harm’s way.
In closing, she told the attendees, “I humbly accept this award with much gratitude to all of you, and I want to dedicate it to my dad, who passed away last year. Thank you, Daddy, for loving me and for pushing me to be the best. This is for you.”