Grafton company has encountered success in all employment climates
During her more than 40 years in the staffing business, Carol Schneider has seen virtually every job climate.
“Right now, there are a lot of job orders and not enough people to fill them,” said Schneider, founder and CEO of the Grafton-based SEEK Careers/Staffing.
“It has to do with the decline in the birth rate. We see needs go unfilled every day. That’s when companies call us for help.”
However, Schneider said she has seen the employment pendulum swing the other direction, too.
“In the 1990s and into the early 2000s, there were more people looking for work than there were jobs,” she said.
“The market never seems to be perfectly balanced. That is the fun of this business. You have to roll with it and make it work.”
SEEK provides temporary office, accounting, skilled and light industrial help. Another branch of the business, SEEK Professionals, includes the placement of direct-hire manufacturing professionals and retirees looking to reconnect with the job scene.
Schneider said the key to running a successful job placement business — and no one could dispute that is exactly what SEEK is as it marks its 45th anniversary in business this month — is keeping close tabs on the marketplace.
The company contacts its job placements at least every other week and client employers even more frequently to make sure the fit is still working for everyone.
“I tell people the staffing business is a game we are playing. To succeed you have to do it better,” Schneider said.
“You either love this business or you hate it. There is no in between.”
Although Schneider said, “I think everyone knows I will be turning 80 in October,” she remains passionate about the business.
“I still love it. We have a talented leadership team in place and I am comfortable I could walk away and the company would be in great position … but I have no intention of doing that, yet,” she said.
Schneider’s son Joel is SEEK’s president, Debbie Fedel is vice president of business development, Randy Matter is vice president of finance, Sara Luchsinger is vice president of operations and Laurie Stueber is vice president of human resources.
Looking at the company’s 20,000-square-foot corporate headquarters at 1160 Opportunity Dr., it is hard to remember SEEK’s modest beginnings.
“When I started the company in my neighbor’s home in 1971, I couldn’t have dreamed we would be where we are today,” Schneider said.
Since that time, the company has called several locations home, including a house on Highway 60, the former Grafton State Bank building and the all-but-forgotten Manchester Mall.
Continued growth led to the decision to build a new headquarters on the east side of Port Washington Road 18 years ago.
Schneider said she wanted a building along I-43 so the company could gain exposure with commuters through a large electronic message sign that notes what positions are available.
“You could never put up anything like that now,” she said.
Since opening in the building, Grafton’s I-43 business corridor has seen phenomenal growth.
“We were the first shoe to drop,” Schneider said, noting there has been an appreciable increase in traffic near the office since the Meijer store opened just to the south last year.
Aside from a spacious office building, the company has grown in employees, too. SEEK has about 35 people working out of its corporate headquarters, and 110 at its 15 locations in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Not only does the company have a solid record of placing skilled and unskilled workers, it has been great at retaining its own employees.
Part of that may be due to the high value Schneider places on company loyalty.
“When someone on our staff works here for 10 years, they are given a six-week paid sabbatical … and they are ‘forced’ to take least three of those weeks consecutively,” she said.
“It gives our people a chance to walk away for a while and gain a new lease on life.”
The innovative incentive seems to be working. More than a half dozen of the company’s employees have reached or are approaching their second sabbatical, when another six weeks of paid leave is granted.
Schneider said she has no problem figuring out what makes her stay involved with the placement company.
“I like helping people realize their potential, seeing people who have no clue what their talents are and watching them find the perfect place for them,” she said.
“I am a very positive thinker. I believe if you want to do it, you just need to do it. I have always been a goal setter. Each time I reach one, I set a new one.”
Beyond her business duties, Schneider has embodied the concept of community involvement. She was one of the founders of Ozaukee Economic Development and the Ozaukee County Workforce 2020 initiative, serves on the council of the Milwaukee 7 and is chairing an ad hoc committee to improve transportation in the county.
Schneider has also been greatly involved with St. Joseph Parish in Grafton and the Grafton library. In recognition of those and many other efforts, she was named Outstanding Citizen by the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce in 1989.
More than a few of such success stories are certain to be shared when SEEK holds a 45th anniversary open house and reunion from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at its Grafton headquarters.
Schneider will give a presentation on the evolution of the company at 1 p.m.
Details are available at https://www.facebook.com/SEEKProfessionals.
THE CORPORATE OFFICE building of SEEK Careers/Staffing is nestled in the woods along the I-43 corridor in Grafton. Photos by Mark Jaeger