Q: What was the path like that led you to become the Executive Director of employU?
The path that led me to start and lead employU was not one that was typical for most people in our industry. My college degree is in business management. I worked for my father for 3 years after college as a carpenter. It wasn’t what I wanted to do for a career, but he taught me my work ethic and what it was like to be a business owner. In 2001, I moved to Florida to work with my best friend from high school at his marketing firm as the Director of Operations. I hired, trained, and built out all our processes for multiple campaigns. In 2010, we opened an office next door to a Vocational Rehabilitation office in Casselberry, Florida. I befriended some of the counselors, learned about their programs and I signed our company up as a vendor with VR. We hired several people referred to us and I quickly realized they had an appreciation for the opportunity to learn and work at our company. They would ask what they could do for the company when most people we hired from the industry asked what we are going to do for them. Once I learned of the opportunity to work with VR participants all the time and help them find employment, I filed the paperwork for the nonprofit and the VR Vendor contract. Once approved I just started working with one client at a time. It didn’t take long before I realized this is what I was put on this earth for, and I have loved every minute of it.
Q: What do you feel employU does really, really well when it comes to disability employment?
If I had to state what employU does really, really well it is ensuring the people we serve have an excellent experience. We understand the value of consistent communication with our customers and stakeholders. We teach our team to do things the right way and never take short cuts. We provide supports and processes so that our team can provide vocational services of the highest quality and we consistently work to improve upon everything we do.
Q: What is employU’s biggest success you want to shout and sing for all to hear?
In 2022, our company reached our 10th anniversary. I think hitting that 10-year milestone is one that says that we have a business that is providing a service people are benefiting from, we have a strong structure, and our employees are happy. We made the Nonprofit Times Best Nonprofits to Work For and Orlando Sentinel Top Workplaces list for the 3rd consecutive year and we are very proud of that accomplishment.
Q: If there is one piece of advice that you would share with your colleagues in the disability employment industry, what would it be?
If I were to provide one piece of advice to my colleagues in the disability employment industry, I would say one of the most important parts of growing the business is hiring smart and treating your employees well. A mistake management often makes is that they hire people to cover an immediate need and rush the process, especially in this market where it is difficult to find new employees. It typically only makes the situation worse. Take your time to hire, and hire the right person. Once you have the right people, if you treat them well, they will stay. Be loyal and honest to your team and they will be loyal and honest with you.
Q: When it comes to employment and people with disabilities, what is the one thing that you wish you could tell an employer about hiring a person with a disability?
When we speak to employers about hiring a person with a disability, we let them know that our job is to bring them someone that is going to be a great fit for their business. When working with an employment service, the Employment Specialist is skilled at learning what the needs of the business are, what the working environment is like, what the atmosphere and personality of the company is, and match them with someone that is the right fit. Our customers work hard at their job, they appreciate the opportunity, and they typically are some of the most loyal employees. In a world where workers are hard to come by, an open mind will lead to the ability to access a workforce that you will be grateful you explored.