Steve Emerson: from Alaska to New Jersey, for family

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in Friday’s edition.

Steve Emerson came back from Alaska almost a decade ago, and things are just starting to thaw now.emerson-steve.jpg

Emerson Personnel Group, the staffing and recruiting firm that Emerson’s parents started in Cherry Hill, N.J. 38 years ago, has had a slow transition of power, from father to son to brother in the time since his return in 2000.

“Almost glacier-like,” Emerson, 51, said.

Emerson had co-owned the business with his brother and served as vice president, but has recently finished the process of buying out his brother, who wanted to venture out on his own.

“Now I’m even in charge of things I don’t want to be in charge of.” the oldest brother of four joked.

It has been a family business since Emerson’s mother and father launched a Dunhill Staffing franchise in 1971.

“It has been advantage, to be able to say we’ve done this for 38 years,” he said.

In 2000, they bought out the franchise and put the Emerson in the name.

“There’s the pride and the passion of having your name on the door. Not that we wouldn’t always work hard and do the right thing, but it means something more,” he said. “I’m Steve Emerson, and this is Emerson Personnel Group.”

His youngest brother Bill had been at it for 18 years, but now is a one-man recruiting firm in Moorestown, N.J.

While Bill took increasingly took over control from their aging father, Emerson lived in Alaska for more than two decades, working as a mental health therapist mostly in Fairbanks.

“My wife and I were planning to fish for three months and stayed for twenty years,” he said. “Once you get passed the cold and the darkness, it is the most spectacular place on earth.”

He returned, though, and spent eight years with the family business, before finally taking over complete ownership.

The company does most of its work placing temporary administrative personnel, but increasingly does a portion of its work directing executive searches and direct hire for companies throughout the region. But he has plans. He’s leading the company into staffing positions in the allied health fields, hoping to grow the business even more.

“In recruiting, you’re always looking for a niche that won’t go away,” he said. “Oh, and I’m looking for a sales person. It’s tough to find a good sales person.”

Emerson has two sons who might someday want to carry the business further.

His mother is a shareholder; his brother still consults for the company, and his father comes into the office regularly. Emerson’s wife Mary is the office manager. It is still a family affair, indeed.

“We love each other because we see a ton of each other,” he said, noting the advantage a family business has. “When you’re home, you’re still thinking about the business, about how to fulfill our mission of becoming the best and the most excellent staffing agency in the region.”

See other reporting by Christopher Wink here.

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Helping kids out of the closet, into the Attic

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in yesterday’s editionthe_attic_drawing.jpg.

Dr. Carrie Jacobs works with kids who happen to be gay, and it seems to affect her fundraising.

“In 1993, no one was serving these kids,” said Jacobs, the executive director and co-founder of the Attic Youth Center. “We had trouble finding funders. Nobody wanted to be a ‘gay agency.”

The Attic, a home for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, is celebrating its 15th year of operation.

For it, the non profit is hosting its Crystal Gala celebration on Nov. 15. Next week, on March 29, they’re having a preview party.

Though the Attic has solid funding from the William Penn Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust, in additon to city money and private donors, the group hopes to expand but has been met with challenges, Jacobs said.

“The category that we get the least funding from is corporate,” she said. “Maybe I’m not reaching enough, but I think that means something.”

The organization started as just an eight week pilot program out of a spare room in a now-defunct Center City nonprofit.

More than 40 kids came for support during those first eight weeks, on the fourth floor. Practically the building’s attic, they thought.

“We couldn’t stop the project after that,” she said. The Attic Youth Center was born, though stigmas persisted.

The stereotype that AIDS was a gay epidemic lingered, charitable groups hesitated and corporate donors fled.

“Even the LGBT adult community in 1993, they were fighting the image that gay adults were recruiting young kids, so they wouldn’t help,” Jacobs said.

In time, as the group became further established and gay culture was more open, the Attic, too, found more support.

In 2000, the group got its own building, on 16th Street south of Locust. In that time, what started as a support group has morphed into a full service community center and social services agency, full of social activities and health and education programs, serving young people up to the age of 23.

“We’ve been so fortunate, it has been an amazing experience,” she said, “There are kids who I still know from the first day of the Attic. We are a home and family to them.”

They serve 100 kids a week and more than 10,000 in the past decade and a half. Likely more will come.

“Where kids suffer the most is the institutions that are charged with caring for them,” Jacobs said. “Like welfare and schools. without trianing, they’re really battered and abused. We’re here to help.”

See other reporting by Christopher Wink here.

Number of Views:2659

Barack Obama: the baller


Seen CBS News taking on Barack Obama the former basketball player? (hat tip to Alex Irwin for spotting this for me)

Check out video of Obama’s basketball days below, or check out his NCAA tournament bracket here. CBS News has further analysis of his picks and their political connotations, here.

This is all about humanizing the guy, but still, it’s interesting to see it. It shows how Obama, 46, is young enough that film was readily available to film high school basketball.

Oh, and I am thoroughly disgusted that he picked against my own Temple University in his bracket, even if he was correct.

Number of Views:4956

James Buysee: the Philadelphia office

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in today’s edition.

James T. Buysee is a one man regional office.

Last year when he was being courted to head up North American operations for BMS, a reinsurance intermediary based in London, the subject of his moving was never discussed. Not to company offices in Chicago, Minneapolis or Connecticut. Not even to Dallas, the center of the firm’s U.S. operations.

“I didn’t bring it up,” the Paoli resident said. “I like it here.”

So for now, Buysee, who started on Feb. 1, is charged with better uniting those disparate locations from an altogether separate one. He is splitting the leading role with Anne Marie Roberts, president and chief operating officer, who is based in Dallas, one of those offices Buysee isn’t in.

“Those folks in London decided they needed another person on the ground,” he said. “More arms and legs.”

He is meant to focus on fostering relationships, finding new people, resources and business productions. The company has seen rapid growth in recent years, but to do more, there needs to be a better united strategy among U.S. offices, he said. In the next 18 months or less, he hopes to do that.

“Recently our growth has outpaced our internal systems,” he said. “So now it’s about tying the teams together into a single cohesive company with a single culture.”

BMS was born as a correspondent broker based across the Atlanic Ocean but is increasingly looking to have a larger presence in the United States.

“I hope to be a big part of that transition,” he said. With nearly 30 years in the reinsurance brokerage business, he could be the right man for the job.

But he’ll be doing it here.

Soon Buysee might be asked to develop a small staff and perhaps develop a presence in Philadelphia, he said.

“I don’t have any intentions of leaving.”

See other reporting by Christopher Wink here.

Number of Views:3469