At Ronin Staffing, founder and Chief Executive Vivian Rutherford looks after the commercial side of the staffing industry.“We basically focus on automotive, aerospace and research and development, working with clients in universities,” Rutherford said.
A native of Okinawa, Japan, Rutherford founded the Glendale firm in 2008. She has 20 full-time employees working for her in the main San Fernando Valley office, plus offices in San Diego, Irvine, Berkeley and Huntsville, Ala. There are also about 175 independent contractors.The name of the company reflects Rutherford’s Japanese heritage. Ronin means “lordless samurai” and so it is used as an analogy for the company in looking for job seekers, she said.“We really represent that culture because Japanese culture is about respect and customer service,” Rutherford added. “We really represent the Ronin internally and to our customers.” In the firm, account managers handle clients, with recruiters working under them. Rutherford brings in accounts as well as the lead salesperson. The company has streamlined its recruiting process and customer service with technology to quickly be able to place people in jobs, she said.
“We really believe in excellent customer service. I do think it’s all about relationships,” Rutherford added. “It is more about being a boutique recruitment company rather than, say, a franchise.” Rutherford describes her management style as being very hands on and customer service oriented within the company yet is not micromanaging.
“We do have different chains of command,” she said. “We are very strict if you are not meeting your quota or performing and doing efficient work within the organization.”The firm gets paid by the companies at which it places employees.
“It varies,” Rutherford said of the amounts the company receives. “There is payrolling, recruited and direct hire. But mostly we go for long-term gigs.”Ronin Staffing is No. 7 on the Business Journal’s Women-Owned Businesses list as ranked by total employees. Last year the company was in the same spot.There were a total of four staffing or recruitment firms on the list last year, which backs up Rutherford’s assessment that the staffing industry is geared toward females.
“It is a very woman-run industry, so being a woman entrepreneur helps in marketing yourself,” she said, adding that Ronin gets credit for being a women-owned business.
Recovery modeLike most businesses, Ronin Staffing suffered impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. It has made the company and its employees realize that working from home is very efficient, Rutherford said.
There are plans to downsize the Glendale office so that the company does not pay so much in rent, she added.
“We will invest that (savings) in the company and training and tools,” she said.
The pandemic also taught a lesson in having broad client coverage in different industries because one never knows how an industry is going to be affected by a crisis.
In the case of manufacturing, and automotive and biotech were not “teleworkable” positions, Rutherford said.
“Realizing we are more efficient teleworking and having a broader range of clientele in different industries is the biggest knowledge that we gained,” she explained.As for growing the company, Rutherford said it has to be done by focusing on the core commercial side of the business while also branching out into technical projects and going after a more mid to high skill set of contractors.
“We are branching out to other areas like IT projects or engineering or professional service projects and doing more technical recruitment,” she added. “That is the key. Doing high turnover in short-term staffing is a lot of work but if you are used to that kind of climate, it makes all the other projects easier.” Her best advice for other entrepreneurs is to always make sure to have a signed contract before making any kind of investment, either in people or property.“Being an entrepreneur sometimes you take a lot of risks and I think it is a positive, but I have been burned where we verbally we received a contract,” she noted. “I would not completely invest yourself financially in, say, a new facility unless you have a signed contract.”