Invest in incentives

Lucy Garrighan answers her cell phone to take a call from an employee who’s having personal problems and needs time off.

“That’s fine,” she assures her employee. “That’s more important.”

Garrighan knows what it’s like to juggle work and family responsibilities. She started her own company, Business Alternatives Inc., with her partner and husband, John, to free herself from the daily 9-to-5 grind at Xerox Corp. In a day when corporations were less flexible in offering work schedules to accommodate family needs, she was trying to work full-time and raise a young family. And she knows how tough it is these days to find and retain top-notch help.

Even though Garrighan and her husband are busy with several other businesses they’ve launched relating to the original, which is sells and services business machines, she still enjoys the interaction with customers. These days, she keeps a rigorous schedule and works out of a home office.

Along the way, the Garrighans started a personnel staffing service and one copy center at their Plum Borough headquarters and a second Downtown. They have an office in Butler and a showroom Downtown They recently purchased a Mail and Copy Plus store in Monroeville. Upon finding that customers who purchase digital printers and connect them to computer networks need to make connections, they launched a networking company.

The business now posts more than $7 million in sales annually and employs approximately 50.

“The businesses we’re adding all have to do with the core business,” Garrighan says.

The keys to running the business while keeping her attention on her customers are having her husband/partner on board for the day-to-day operations and hiring and retaining qualified managers to run the business units.

The staffing business, for instance, got its start when an employee who had experience in the temporary help industry suggested that might relate to the core business. That employee is now managing the unit. And when Business Alternatives acquired the Mail and Copy Plus store, Garrighan secured the key employees.

Finding and keeping qualified employees is a task a lot of employers are struggling with, and Garrighan says her company is no exception. She says that paying her managers an adequate base salary and offering incentive plans with opportunities to earn substantially more allows her to hold onto quality managers.

Says Garrighan: “It all comes back to the people.”