Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Temporary Setback ATS Professional Service Regaining Foothold in Executive Recruiting Field

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Temporary Setback ATS Professional Service Regaining Foothold in Executive Recruiting Field

Article excerpt

Smiles, and dollar signs, were in abundance in 1992 when a 15-year-old Jacksonville temporary hiring outfit named ATS decided to team up with a trio of similar businesses.

Within two years, the combined company, which named itself AccuStaff, would launch an initial public offering under the leadership of Jacksonville's Delores Kesler. Soon after that, under new leaders, the company would change its name to Modis. It bought up other companies and grabbed an even larger share of the temporary staffing industry.

The mergers, though, all but killed ATS -- which still counts two of Kesler's children as its top employees. At its peak in the mid-1980s, earnings for ATS were as high as $35 million. By the time the dust settled from the AccuStaff merger, the company was taking in a paltry $3 million a year.

So what ever happened to ATS?

"It was a mere shell of its former self," said Carl Carver, now the chief operating officer of ATS Professional Service. "You basically had to start from scratch."

The company did just that, re-focusing its business on executive recruiting and helping companies find supervisors to run certain departments or, in some cases, entire operations. The executive may be a part-time fill-in for the head financial spot, or he or she may be a permanent addition as the chief executive. Carver says his team of recruiters likes to "find the perfect person for the perfect position."

Besides ATS, there are several other high-profile executive recruiting firms in the First Coast area, including the King Companies, Lee Hecht Harrison and Right Management Consultants.

Led by Carver, ATS has taken giant steps in the field. Based on rankings by Executive Recruiter News, an industry newsletter, ATS will break into the top-40 list of executive recruiting firms across the world by 2001.

"We haven't made one call to get customers," Carver said. "All of the calls that have come to us have come because of the job we are doing."

What Carver calls the company's inner focus has paid dividends, but because the new ATS operation is privately held, Carver declined to talk about specific earnings. He did say that as of this past August, company-wide earnings increased 55 percent, and revenue and earnings in the executive recruiting division climbed more than 250 percent.

Carver said in some areas, earnings are higher than before the ATS merger, but he acknowledges that most of that is because of the focus on executive recruiting, a higher-margin business.

The growth has also led to an office expansion. The company moved into an $1.8 million corporate headquarters in 1998 on Philips Highway in the Southside. And ATS has moved into other southeastern markets, such as Atlanta, Charlotte and New Orleans. It also recently opened an office in New York City.

One well-known client ATS has worked with is IBM. Carver and his team of recruiters have placed supervisors in more than 15 different IBM divisions, including its Global Services unit. …

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