Marc Albin's main reason for starting a business is similar to that of many entrepreneurs-he believed he could do something better than those already in the industry.
In this case, the industry is staffing services. And it's an industry in which he has firsthand experience.
After graduating from Eastern Kentucky University in 1984 with a degree in applied physics and minors in mathematics, computer science and computer electronics, Mr. Albin spent 11 years in California working as a contract engineer through various staffing firms.
He enjoyed the fast-paced world of contract employment because "it gives you a unique opportunity to use your skills and demonstrate your abilities in a flexible environment," he said.
"That's generally not the case with traditional employment. And because contract positions are often short term, you can experience fantastic opportunities without letting new opportunities pass you by"
But while work as a contract engineer was good, Mr. Albin was less than impressed with the way staffing firms did business.
"I was bothered by their tendency to go for the numbers rather than trying to make a good match between contract engineer and customer," he said. "I didn't like their inadequate and inconsistent support for their clients."
What bothered Mr. Albin most, though, was what he called a lack of technical knowledge on the part of the staffing companies and their inability to interface between the client and contractor.
"I simply couldn't see how a staffing firm could supply a customer with the right kind of contract engineer when the staffing firm didn't have the technical expertise to understand what the customer actually needed and what various contract engineers could offer," he said.
Mr. Albin said the placements were carried out by matching resumes to requirements and using the proper buzzwords at the right time.
Frustrated and anxious to improve what he considered a deplorable situation, Mr. Albin invested $5,000 in a computer, cellular phone, some stationery and founded Albin Engineering Services Inc. in 1994.
"My objective was to create a company founded by engineers for engineers," he said. "I was trying to make my staffing firm a safe haven for serious engineers who were tired of dealing with the staffing industry's used-car salesman mentality. I wanted to bring professionalism to the business of staffing."
The company's first office was a spare room in Mr. Albin's Silicon Valley home.
After he had placed his first few contractors, while still working as a contractor himself, Mr. Albin and his wife would sit and talk, dreaming about the company's potential.
"Wouldn't it be great if we could grow big enough so you could quit contracting yourself and run the business full time?" he remembers his wife saying.
"Back then the dream seemed a hundred years away," he said.
But just a short year later, in 1995, Mr. Albin billed his last hours as a contractor and ran Albin Engineering full time.
He was convinced that a only a technical approach would serve the interests of both clients and contractors during the hiring process.
He wanted everyone to speak the "same language," he said.
"I made sure I hired recruiters ... and account executives with the necessary technical experience," he said. "As a result, when our team met with clients, they clearly understood what the clients needed. And when clients were presented with candidates, the clients knew they were meeting those most qualified for the job."
During its short history, Albin Engineering has made itself an integral part of planning operations of many of its clients by offering complete staffing solutions, including hiring, payroll services and benefits administration.
"We make sure that our recruiters know the missions and goals of our clients and contractors," Mr. Albin said. "We not only want to meet their needs, but anticipate them when we can."
He insists that all contractor candidates be rigorously screened for the right position.
"We're looking for individuals with superb technical proficiency whose personality matches the client's company culture," he said.
To help its clients select the most appropriate candidate, Albin Engineering provides background screening of all contract engineers, including education verification, criminal history check, Social Security Number trace and identification verification. The staffing company also provides drug screening if required.
'I was bothered by their tendency to go for the numbers rather than trying to make a good match between contract engineer and customer I didn't like their inadequate and inconsistent support for their clients.'
"During the hiring process and for the duration of the contract, we handle all the paperwork, including payroll and benefits administration," Mr. Albin said.
"This means less hassle for both clients and contractors. In addition, all business discussed among client, contractor and Albin Engineering Services is always kept strictly confidential."
A partial list of Albin Engineering's clients includes Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, Hewlett-Packard Co., Motorola Inc., GTE, Incyte, Chicago Stock Exchange and Forte.
Attracting and retaining quality candidates is difficult, acknowledges Mr. Albin. To remain competitive, Albin Engineering offers an exceptional compensation package to its employees.
"We are, continually evaluating and expanding existing benefits," he said.
Albin Engineering's benefits include health and dental care, a 401(k) plan, life and long-term disability insurance, personal time off, holiday pay, a flexible compensation cafeteria plan, direct deposit and a free Internet and e-mail account.
The firm is also pursuing strategic alliances with other Silicon Valley businesses to help individuals find housing, secure work for their spouses and select schools for their children.
"The idea is to demonstrate that consultants working through us can enjoy the flexibility of contract employment without giving up the security of working for a more traditional and successful company," Mr. Albin said.
By the end of 1995, Albin Engineering had 20 employees and net annual sales of $1.2 million. Two years later, in 1997, there were 75 employees (including contract workers) and sales of $6 million. The company's profit range is a steady 6 to 10 percent.
"Studies show that the staffing industry is growing rapidly," Mr. Albin said. "Some estimates are that 40 to 50 percent of the work force will go through staffing firms by the year 2000."
"It is my intention that Albin Engineering Services be at the forefront of this growth. I plan to have 400 contractors working through Albin Engineering Services within the next two years."
To meet that goal, Mr. Albin is considering opening offices in many of the major tech centers that are springing up around the country.
"The need for exceptional high-tech personnel is not confined to Silicon Valley," he said.
Frank Stagnero is a free-lance writer based in Los Gatos.