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Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

Office Romance

In the lives of married couples workplace discussions are a commonplace topic in the breakfast nook or dinner table. But make both partners owners of their own respective businesses and the dynamics can change to where it may seem they can never get away from office talk. That’s just the situation for Calabasas residents Michael Crump and Karenjo Goodwin. Crump, 56, is chief executive of McBain Systems, a Simi Valley company that distributes industrial microscopes made by Leica Microsystems AG and manufactures its own microscopes used for quality control by semiconductor makers. Goodwin, 49, is founder and chief executive of Exact Staff, a temporary placement firm for administrative, accounting, legal and medical positions; executive search firm The Goodwin Group; and childcare assistance firm Classic Nannies. Exact Staff is the No. 27 company on the Business Journal’s Fastest Growing Private Companies list, while McBain last placed on the list in 2012. The couple, who married in 1998 and have a 13-year-old son, Weston, insist there is no competition between them. They support what each is doing, are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, and offer advice, even if it’s not always heeded. “She loves finding people jobs and I know that’s one of the things that makes Exact Staff tick,” Crump said. While Crump took over an existing business, Goodwin started hers from the ground up in 1996 and still remembers the first person she placed in a job. Goodwin and Crump took time to talk with the Business Journal at Goodwin’s Woodland Hills office about mixing their professional and personal lives, their love of sports and the importance of Costco to their relationship. Question: You are married and each of you has your own respective business. So how do you make that work? Answers: Michael Crump: We’ve always joked that we both need wives but we make it work. We work hard. We work long hours. We care; we love what we do. How do we make it work? Scheduling. Karenjo Goodwin: Scheduling. Exactly. We have a family dinner once a week where we sit down and figure out everything in the coming week, next month, next year. We really push forward to figure out where we are going to be two holidays from now. We have an understanding that not one of our businesses is more important than the other one. If Michael needs time to spend with his group, I know almost all the players at his company and he knows almost every one of my employees as well. In a way it’s not two companies but one fit together. It’s equal footing on both sides. So there is no competition between the two of you? Goodwin: It’s funny you say that because I think a lot of people expect that. I look at it that I have enough competition as it is out there within my own industry. If anything, he is my best resource for ideas. Likewise I am talking about human resources-related and people issues and he takes those. Crump: Whatever awards Karenjo has won and the things she’s being recognized at, I am always there. We are not competitive on the business front. Both businesses are for the family. It’s more propping each other up than competing on who’s doing this and who’s doing that. Goodwin: Although you can’t win the top woman owned business award. Crump: No, no I can’t. You do talk about business while at home? Crump: Karenjo is laughing but we start our days that way, we end our days that way. Our master bathroom has these steps going up to the tub and we often have these conversations where she’s at her vanity and I’m sitting on the stairs of the tub and we are going through scenarios and talking about things. When we are at dinner, when looking at the credit card, sometimes I wonder “I think I can probably expense that, we talked about business a lot.” Does your son pick up on all this talk about your businesses? Crump: Our son knows details about both of our businesses that are scary. It’s good in a way because he’s getting a solid business background. Can you separate your family life from the business life? Crump: It is difficult to separate business from family when it is family business, and on top of it, two family businesses. But we do. We come home from our offices at the end of the day and there is our life with our son. After we put him to bed we go to our respective offices. Karenjo has an office downstairs and I have one upstairs. We then continue working for a little bit and then we reconvene a little bit later. Do you ever try to not talk business? Crump: Absolutely. Unplugging your cell phone, not having your iPad is difficult but we do. Every now and then we are unplugged. Goodwin: We’ll do a couples dinner. If we say we’re going on a vacation unless it is mandatory we will try to get away. But it is really hard to not include it in everything we do. Could you ever do Karenjo’s job? Crump: She is so good at sales. That is where she excels, in selling her company and concepts and what her employees do for their customers. I am very technical, from an MBA standpoint when you look at businesses there is a core on how you are making money and the cost structure. I could do her job, I couldn’t do it as well as her, and I know that. Have there been times when one spouse has given advice that was not taken? Crump: On a daily basis, I’m sure. We play scenarios off each other and I will give her advice. Behind the scenes I am the IT guy for her. I help her out there quite a bit. Definitely there are times when I have given her advice and it has not been heeded. Goodwin: How many times do I breathe in a day? Yeah, most of the time. He’s smart enough to act like he is listening. I don’t think he takes most of my advice. We’ve learned over the years if one little kernel of it works, then it works. Have you ever posted someone at Michael’s company? Goodwin: That is how he got his first date. Crump: Some of my best employees are former Exact Staff associates that I have now hired. Goodwin: That’s the best pickup line ever. So how did the two of you meet? Crump: I had just moved here from New York (to start at McBain). It was a Sunday afternoon and I had been working so I had a suit on. I was going to Costco in Westlake Village. I remember thinking that I was overdressed to go to Costco. Then I looked all the way to the entrance to the store there was this tall, good looking blonde in a red dress. So I thought I wasn’t the only one who was overdressed. So 30, 45 minutes later I come out and my car was parked next to this car and it had a license plate “GETAJOB.” That tall, beautiful blonde in the red dress was coming out to her car at the same time. I made some smart line like, “You’re either in the staffing industry or a really strict Republican.” We started talking and one thing led to the next. I said we could use some staff at my company, let’s exchange cards. I called her a week or so later and said we didn’t need any people but could we have lunch. Goodwin: He did. There were a couple of calls before that. I was like we are going to have a new client and it’s going to be in microscopes. I was telling my whole staff and they are looking at me, “Really? Okay, sure.” But that is how it happened. Crump: Our first dog is named Costco, so the Costco theme is prevalent. Karenjo, tell us how you started Exact Staff. Goodwin: I worked at CBS after college. I was in the censorship area but wanted to get into sports. I lost out on a very exciting sports job to a basketball player who knew nothing about sports broadcasting. I went over to the human resources department and asked what else could I do. They said we don’t have anything at CBS but there is this gal that comes by and she has a staffing agency. I talked with her and ended up meeting the president of the company and getting a job. I did a lot of work in the industry working for an international company and at a small boutique. Then one day I thought that I wanted to do this myself, and do it the right way. What year was that? Goodwin: I started in 1996. I literally ate tater tots and oatmeal for the first six months of Exact Staff. I panicked that I wasn’t going to be able to make payroll. Every week I have to pay my temps whether or not the client pays me. It was really scary and I was on my own doing it. I never borrowed a dime from anybody. I have no debt. The right way, what does that mean to you? Goodwin: In the staffing industry most everybody calls the client, the company (you provide the temp worker to) because those are the people paying the bills. But in my business I look at the (temporary) associates, they are most important people we have, because if they go out to a client and are not happy or are not being treated well or don’t feel good about the agency they are working for, that is going to (affect) the business they are working with. I decided to put complete emphasis on the associates. We pay hefty referral bonuses. I want you so happy you’re going to go back to (your friends) and say, “Oh my gosh, there’s this great agency and they are wonderful.” I want your friends. That is very different focus than most staffing services. What is exciting about the staffing industry? Goodwin: (laughs) Every day is like a field trip. You get to deal with all these companies. I get to learn about the inner workings of a company that makes the gold medals for the Olympics, a company that is putting together a new movie for kids, a company that is doing an insurance product for Obamacare, a company that is manufacturing jewelry. Everybody has their own way of doing business and their own thing of what makes them special. And Michael, what is the story behind your involvement with McBain Systems? Crump: It was founded in 1965 and I bought in as a partner in 1997. I had been an executive with Olympus America, vice president for marketing and general manager for Latin American operations for the scientific equipment division. I had success at the corporate level for 10 years and wanted to do something similar but for myself. I knew the owners of McBain and started talks in 1996 and in 1997 I decided to leave Olympus and bought into the company. Your respective companies have placed on the Fast Growing Private Companies list. What do you attribute the growth of your respective businesses? Goodwin: I credit it to long hours and hard work. I don’t go to bed most nights until one or two in the morning and I am up the next morning at six, six-thirty. Most importantly, this team I have in all my branches, 23 across the country, I trust them with my son. I have employees that I believe in and give me everything. I have had people drive to (an associate’s) home and bring them chicken soup to get them well faster so they can get back to work, because they are afraid they will lose the job the (Exact Staff employee) found for them. And at McBain? Crump: It’s some the same things Karenjo said. You can grow by raising your prices, making new product or going after different market segments with the same products, or can expand geographically. We have done a little bit of all of that. We expanded geographically our microscope distribution, we’ve offered new product in our engineering group, and we’ve offered new service in the service group. I have great employees. I have hired everybody who works for me. We have a tremendous staff; very, very talented. There are a lot of engineers dealing with proprietary information and with a field of expertise that is kind of narrow but it works and fits together. Karenjo, you mentioned being a big sport fan. Is that something you share with Michael? Goodwin: I love UCLA and some people here don’t. Some people like Cal. Crump: I’ll go on record as saying I love UCLA just not when they are playing Cal. We are huge sports fans. In our lives we play sports, we love watching sporting events. We’ve had Clippers tickets for years and we had UCLA Bruins basketball tickets. Our son is an athlete so we spend a lot of time watching him play basketball, run track meets or play tennis matches. How does that love of sports carry over into the workplace? Crump: When I am looking to hire people I love people who have an athletic background or play sports. To me that means they are competitive. In business, depending on what role you are trying to fill, if you’re a competitive person you want to win. You want to win that order; you want to win that sale. Goodwin: I agree with that, but I’m seeing issues that I should bring up. There is a generation coming into the working world that were on teams and would get trophies for participating. That is the only part of sports that worries me sometimes. There is a level of that going on of rewarding people for showing up. It is hard sometimes to interview someone whose parents have spent or they have spent tens of thousands dollars on an education and you have to give them a reality check because their professors have been telling them they are going to make six figures. You explain that you have to put some time in and earn it and work for it. Has that influenced how you raise your son? Goodwin: He is big basketball player. What is the one shot in basketball that you can completely control? A free throw, right? So I have this thing – he should be able to make every single free throw because no one is bothering you. Every time he doesn’t the evil, competitive mom in me comes up and asks how he could have missed it. I am trying to instill that if you are going to walk away from a game it was up to you to put everything you have out there. The only person you can blame is yourself in a free-throw situation. Crump: We like to think as parents and with the experiences that we have we like to think we are exposing him to as many situations and opportunities as possible just so we give him the experiences and the tools to make the right decisions. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and space reasons. Michael Crump Title: Chief executive Company: McBain Systems, Simi Valley Born: Albany, N.Y.; 1957 Education: B.S., genetics, UC Berkeley; MBA, marketing, St. John’s University, New York Career Turning Point: Promoted to general manager of Latin American operations at Olympus America Inc. and launching the office and operations in 1992. Most Influential People: High school physics teacher Alex Donkowski; uncle, who was a former superintendent of schools in the Albany area; wife Personal: Married to Karenjo Goodwin; couple has 13-year-old son Weston Crump. Hobbies: Hiking and jogging on trails, tennis, biking, traveling, music, attending sporting events. Karenjo Goodwin Title: Founder and chief executive Companies: Exact Staff, Goodwin Group and Classic Nannies Born: Torrance, Calif.; 1964 Education: B.A., fine arts, UCLA. Career Turning Point: Moving back to California from New York City and opening a staffing organization in 1996. Most Influential People: Parents, husband and members of Young Presidents’ Organization Hobbies: Sports, both doing and watching; fitness and nutrition; music.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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