Looking to blow off steam after a bad day at the office, Myla Ramos (B.A., ’94), then a recruiter for a temp agency, headed out for drinks with two coworkers one evening in 2004. Paychecks for about 50 temps were late just days before Christmas, so the threesome had busted out their personal checkbooks and issued small loans to tide everyone over during the holidays. The women ordered up a round, and that’s when their entrepreneurial wheels started turning.
“We were just kind of talking, and we thought, ‘This isn’t working out. Why don’t we try to do it on our own?’” recalls Ramos.
“So we quit our jobs and rented an office in downtown Sacramento, 120 square feet with a $19.99 folding table from Walgreen’s. We’d open the phone book, and [say], ‘Hello, Mr. Client, would you like a temp?’ Every single day, we made a commitment: We are not going home until each of us makes 300 calls.” Today, SearchPros Solutions, founded 11 years ago by Ramos with partners Heather Kocina and Rayna Pearson, is one of the fastest-growing staffing and workforce management agencies nationwide and winner of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2016 Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award.
With Ramos at the helm as CEO and president, SearchPros represents 1,800 contract workers in 40 states and nine countries. The company’s contractors are IT analysts, front-office receptionists, call center representatives, space shuttle engineers and most every- thing in between. The federal government and the Army and Air Force are big clients; so are aerospace heavyweights like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
In 2015, SearchPros notched its best year to date, chalking up $32 million in revenue, double that of the previous year. The company headquarters is a 5,400-square-foot, corporate-owned office in leafy Citrus Heights — a far cry from the cubbyhole where the company got started.
“Isn’t it crazy? Coming from where I come from, someone who could barely speak English and had no financial support [for college]? It just shows you what dedication and perseverance can do,” says Ramos, who came to the United States from the Philippines with her family at age 7 and paid her own way through SF State working an overnight shift at a hotel.
A little serendipity, courtesy of the University, also helped. Ramos was flipping through an SF State bulletin when she stumbled across a degree program called industrial/organizational psychology, or IOP. It sounded perfect for someone who, like her, was looking for a major that would bridge the fields of psychology and business in an interesting way.
“IOP is really just applying the science of psychology to the work- place,” explains Chris Wright, professor of psychology and director of SF State’s IOP concentration. “It doesn’t just help organizations on the staffing and recruitment end, but with performance management, employee engagement, and leadership and organizational development — everything from what is traditionally thought of as human resources to more management-consulting areas.”
Ramos says she applies the principles of IOP in her work daily. For example, SearchPros requires that applicants take personality tests such as the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Such tests help the company make the best possible match between employer and contractor.
“A happy place of employment, an effective place of employment, is only 20 percent technical ability. Eighty percent is personality, how well people match,” Ramos says. “That’s our extra secret sauce.”