ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN STAFFING SUCCESS MAGAZINE (JAN–FEB 2006)
By Luanne Crayton
What’s it like to do business in a city where boutiques require customers to make reservations to shop? Where the post office offers valet parking? Where stretch limos, Mercedes, and Ferraris occupy more space per square mile than any other place on earth?
For the scoop on Beverly Hills, ask Claudette Cunitz. She started her career in the staffing industry as a branch manager for Talent Tree in the California city known for its over-the-top opulence.
“Many of our candidates had dreams of making it big in Hollywood,” Cunitz says. “In the meantime, they took temporary clerical positions with our customers—conservative banks and law firms.”
It wasn’t always a perfect match. The employees “had a dramatic approach to life,” Cunitz explains, whereas the buttoned-down customers generally preferred a different approach. The most common customer complaint: “Your employee is wearing pink high-tops in our law office. Could you send him home to change his shoes?”
And the most common reason employees gave for not coming to work: “I got a bit part on ‘Friends’ and we’re filming today.”
Although working in Southern California was certainly an adventure, Cunitz decided that the Los Angeles area was not the family-oriented place she wanted her children to call home. So she set upon the biggest sales job of her life—persuading her husband, a native Californian, to pack up the family and move to Michigan, where many other members of her family reside.
“There was no argument,” says husband Gary Cunitz. “This lady had everything down. She was prepared. All the points were covered. She convinced me that our kids shouldn’t grow up to be surf bums like me and my friends.”
Does he have any regrets? “I regret it every day—I’m driving in the snow!” he exclaims, laughing. “But the sacrifice was worth it. The kids turned out to be great people.”
After the move, Claudette’s cousins invited her to join their staffing firm, G-TECH Professional Staffing. She had no idea they had a staffing firm and decided to check it out.
“It had absolutely everything I was looking for in a staffing firm,” she says. The firm exemplified “everything that’s good about the staffing industry—ethics, integrity, professional standards.” Even better, the firm was in a sector she wanted to break into—technical staffing. “I wasn’t familiar with technical staffing, but I’m always looking to expand my knowledge and skills, and I thought it would be a challenge.”
Cunitz, a member of the ASA board of directors, has been with G-TECH for 12 years and is now a partner. Many of the company’s customers are automakers, and most of its contract employees are engineers and designers. The firm also places others in the automotive industry—buyers, cost estimators, information technology specialists, and financial professionals. The assignments are long-term, an average of 24 months.
Working in the technical sector has been the challenge Cunitz was looking for. And she has learned “just enough to be dangerous about what it takes to make a car.”
Outsmart the Competition
Cunitz is responsible for G-TECH’s overall sales and business development, and under her leadership, the company has realized steady growth and earned numerous client satisfaction awards. Her secrets? One is education.
“I’ve always thought the only way to separate yourself from the competition is education,” says Cunitz, who maintains her professional edge through continuing education as a Technical Services Certified™ staffing professional. “We have 1,000 competitors in technical staffing in Detroit. You’ve got to know more about industry best practices and employment law than the competition.”
G-TECH president Theresa Ghafari agrees. “As a former teacher, I greatly value education,” she says. “Most of our staff members hold the TSC™ designation.”
G-TECH relies on the educational opportunities offered by the American Staffing Association to provide its staff with continuing education. “We take a look at the emails from ASA about upcoming InterAction Webinars and decide who on our staff should take each one,” Cunitz says. “They participate together in the conference room. Afterward, they take 10 minutes to discuss how we can use the information in our business.”
Cunitz seeks to make sure that G-TECH’s customers are well-educated too. Two years ago, she developed a three-hour seminar on co-employment. So far she has trained more than 1,000 managers at G-TECH’s customer companies about the relationship between staffing firms and their customers, and their respective legal obligations to the temporary and contract employees that staffing firms assign to perform services for customers.
The seminar covers the basics of co-employment, including prescreening, interviewing do’s and don’ts, day-to-day management, and offboarding.
For the seminar content, Cunitz relies on ASA resources: Webinars, Staffing World workshops, and Co-Employment and other books. When a customer asks a question she doesn’t know how to answer, she calls ASA and talks to a member of the legal and public affairs team.
The seminar starts off with a mind-bending exercise to help attendees “forget about the 100 things on their desks.” And it ends with a game: “Who Wants to Save Your Company Millions?” The game is a spinoff of the popular TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Cunitz even does her best to dress like the show’s original host, Regis Philbin—in a loud, flashy tie.
Feedback on the seminar has been tremendous, Cunitz says. Customers remark, “Wow! I wish I had known that years ago. I had no idea.”
Ghafari says, “Many clients view G-TECH as an expert, a source to go to, on co-employment matters. So many times we get calls from clients who say, ‘Share your expertise with us.’”
Cunitz was born in the Middle East, in Lebanon. When she was a small child, her father left the war-torn country, seeking a better life for his family. A few months later, Cunitz’s mother and the family’s five children joined him in Detroit. “We lived in a two-bedroom flat the size of an average living room,” Cunitz says.
Cunitz, nearly seven years old, was promptly enrolled in the first grade. She spoke Arabic, and knew only one word of English: hello.
“I couldn’t understand a word the teacher was saying,” she recalls. “She sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher” on the Peanuts’ TV shows—the “mwa-mwa-mwa” sound of a trombone. “The other kids would drop their heads and begin to write, and I would think, ‘What did she say?’”
But children are fast learners, and there’s no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in it. Within six months, Cunitz and her siblings were fluent in English.
She would like to return to Lebanon for a visit with her husband and teenage son and daughter, although traveling there is still a little dangerous, she says. Still, her mother returns every other year, and her father every four years. Her grandmother, now age 101, still lives there.
“I’d love to show my kids the little house in the village where I was born—into the hands of a midwife who traveled from house to house to help deliver babies,” Cunitz says. It would be an education they’d never forget.