Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Eddie Edwards Jr., Owner, Founder, and CEO of COCHHBHA ENTERPRISES INC also known as CEI Staffing of Sunrise Florida. CEI is a temporary Staffing Agency that provides employment solutions for local Government as well as the Private Sector.
CEI Staffing opened its doors in 2004. Initially opening as a home-based business with a revenue of approximately twenty thousand dollars its first year and developing into a small business with revenue upwards of 2 million in the last fiscal year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I had worked in various positions in the Broward County Sheriff’s office. One of those positions being an investigator for the Child Abuse Division. I also gained some supervisory experience overseeing the Commissary Department of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Central Jail.
If a company can’t meet your price to do business, then you need to move on, stick to your guns. Don’t drop your rates. You need to know exactly what it’s going to take to make money. Then go up from there, not down.
These positions were a far cry from what I was about to undertake in the opening of a staffing business. After growing weary of the bureaucracy of my early career I wanted to become an entrepreneur. I wanted to jump in with both feet and was excited and anxious to start my own business but being married and the father of four I decided to become an independent Contractor for an established Staffing Company based in Atlanta Georgia.
This business was owned by family members and allowed me to hone my business skills as a Project Manager. I enjoyed the experience so much and saw the potential to do something similar in Florida. When my contract was up in October of 2004, I decided to start my own staffing company. The Atlanta firm did a lot of business with the federal government. To not bump heads with them I initially focused on State and local government agencies in need of temporary staffing.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
CEI Staffing provides services for those seeking temporary employment. We place our employees in positions with companies seeking temporary staff. Many of these companies are government agencies, a small percentage are companies in the Private Sector.
Our staffing solutions give Companies the ability to add talent to their teams without incurring the risk and cost associated with a traditional hire. CEI incurs the cost of insurances such as Workman's Compensation and health insurance. Companies and agencies like this concept as it allows them to meet their temporary staffing needs and possibly long term staffing needs, as many employees go on to become permanent employees.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The decision to focus on city and county government contracts was simple. I was in the Air Force for five years and I know their perspective. With government contracts, you do the proposal, you get your ducks in a row and then they judge it on price and knowledge of the project.
One of the things that have helped CEI Staffing to stand out from the competition is our customer service and availability. When a client or employer contacts CEI from the first call or email our customer service is great, you don’t go through a maze of people to get an answer. My office staff is professional and knowledgeable.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since starting my company great customer service has propelled our growth more than marketing, advertising, or pricing. When customers call us they don’t have to go through a complicated phone answering system or a not so helpful gatekeeper. Customers and clients can speak directly to the people who can help them the most if it’s answering a complaint from a customer or assisting a new applicant with their job search.
We are always helpful and courteous. Although we have a robust marketing campaign through Google Business, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, the thing that keeps attracting new and former customers is our professionalism and friendly customer service. Our Marketing efforts Focus on The Companies we serve as well as potential employees. Our recruiting department utilizes employment platforms such as Indeed and Career Source. Many of our employees have found their way to us by word of mouth. Some of our best advertisement comes from satisfied employees and Companies.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Over the past 16 years, I have dealt with my fair share of challenges, as a result of industry innovation and administrative hurdles. The biggest change has been the use of technology by way of the Internet. Before Internet use became so widespread, we would advertise in the local newspaper. Oftentimes, to procure a contract a staffing company would need to be located in the same city as the prospective agency or company in need of temporary staffing.
Obviously, that’s no longer the case. We currently have clients temporarily employed in Rhode Island, New York, all over Florida, North Carolina, and many other places.
As of the time of my writing this article the world of business is facing never-before-seen challenges. I could expand on this but we all know small businesses are facing difficulties. We at CEI are still in business and are attempting to tread the uncertainty of the current times. We are keeping up with the opportunities being offered by the federal and local governments and believe when business and the economy stabilize we will still be standing.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I actually have some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. This advice came to me from a seasoned entrepreneur at a time when my company was struggling. And it was some of the best advice I’ve ever received. If a company can’t meet your price to do business, then you need to move on, stick to your guns. Don’t drop your rates. You need to know exactly what it’s going to take to make money. Then go up from there, not down.
There will be times when there is a desire to add another business deal to your portfolio but if it’s not going to be profitable it’s not worth it. I would also recommend joining the business and social networking groups such as chambers of commerce as a way to connect with other entrepreneurs.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Indeed.com to help us with our recruiting efforts, they always bring us the best candidates with the qualifications that fit our needs and satisfy our client’s requirements.
We’ve tried other sites such as Career Builder and Monster Jobs, but Indeed works best for us.
We also use StaffingPro, which is an applicant tracking program that helps us keep track and monitor the flow of talent through the hiring process. It also allows for potential applicants to go to our web page to start the application process and we can also post jobs with this program, which allows us to monitor the progress of the posting and the number of applicants applying for the job.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I really don’t have a book or books that I have read which I can qualify as the most influential, I get a little something from every publication, podcast, or feature story that I read and apply the ideas that work best for my business I’ve found over the years that there are several approaches to any situation and that you have to be flexible and be able to use whatever theory or knowledge you have learned from academics and life experiences.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
As far as hurdles are concerned, it’s been rough at times, I’ve gone years without a vacation and months without getting paid. At one point, we lost one of our major contracts and with it, 70% of our business.
Another client changed their payroll system in the middle of the year, which delayed our payments by five months. I had to take out a loan to cover payroll and worked with my landlord to allow me to delay payments. There have been some tense moments.”
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always on the lookout for high-quality candidates who can fill our client needs. Medical and IT positions are traditionally hard to fill, so when we find a quality candidate for a position that has been difficult to fill, there’s always a sense of satisfaction knowing that we meet the challenge and that we have a satisfied customer.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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