President/CEO shares her recipe for entrepreneurial success
You are recognized by Inc. Magazine’s 50 fastest-growing women-run businesses among the 5,000 rankings of revenue growth and One of 25 Most Influential Women Entrepreneurs in the United States. How did you find out about the awards?
You are so busy going through life that you don’t look around to see where you are. My PR team was throwing our business model around and it just happened. They were running around the office trying to find me and I was working. They were like, “You will never believe what just happened.” It was such an honor and it came so out of the blue. You can only bask in it for a second. That’s what I told everybody. I said, “Oh, my gosh! All right, now I’ve got to get back to work,” because I had so much to do. I can only enjoy it for a very small amount of time.
So let’s start at the beginning. When you were in your formative years, were you a girly girl or a tomboy?
I was kind of in the middle. I’m the youngest of four and I have three older brothers. So I was exposed to all the tomboy stuff by these big great older brothers who wouldn’t let anything touch me. So I kind of looked ahead. I had a great perspective really. I got to hear all the things boys talk about and I got to see all the things boys do but I still got to be kind of a girlie girl. So I had the best of all worlds.
You left college a little bit early to take care of a parent.
I actually went to Ohio State, and then my dad got sick. I was the youngest, the only one able to move my life around, so I came back home and finished out college at Cleveland State University.
Was there a person who had a significant impact in your formative years?
Well, it was probably my dad. My dad was this great guy who just worked hard and always instilled in us a work ethic. My parents are first-generation immigrants. All my grandparents came from Poland. They all had these great stories. Like my grandmother changed her birth certificate and came over here at 16 to meet her older brother and then stayed here …. So my dad always instilled guiding principles like, “Your grandparents risked so much to come here and they had a hard life. Their dream was to make my life easier than theirs and your life easier than mine.” So it was almost like you shouldered this legacy of like generations behind you. You have to have integrity and your word has to mean something and you have to work hard. Nobody is going to give you anything. I think that’s what made us who we are. It’s like we almost couldn’t let all those people down that took all these risks before us. He was just this great, loving, caring guy, but really stern. He had incredible ethics and he just worked hard. My whole life he worked hard.
And what did he do?
He was a tool and die maker.
Do you think that your children have that same sense of work and ethics that you have?
I think they do. I mean, I try to use all those same guiding principles that I think worked on me. It’s such a different society, though, because you try not to give your kids too much.
How old were you when you were married?
I was 25 when I got married.
And then you were a single mother for a period of time?
Yes. It was tough. I mean I made the choice to get divorced when my daughter — my son was a year and a half old. My daughter was 3½ or 4, and it wasn’t a horrible thing. I don’t have a terrible story. My ex-husband wanted to be a pilot and fly the world, and I was more home-based. I had these two little kids, and I just didn’t want to live that way, but we were okay. My father had passed away before my daughter was born. I had my mother, and when I was pregnant with my daughter, I kind of got into this industry that I’m in now. I learned from the founder, they called him the father of the PEO (professional employer organization) industry, T. Joe Willey. He was out of California, and I had gotten active in our national organization and met him. One day out of the blue he called me at home and said, “I would love to have an accountant on staff because I think, in our industry, that’s what’s lacking.” Nobody really knows how to do the accounting in the PEO world. You can come work for us. He owned a software company, and that’s the company I was going to be working for. He said, “And you can work from home and help people from home. You can make your own schedule. You can travel where you need to.” I went wow, where’s the downside to this? So I started working for him and traveled. My mom was able to take care of my daughter. They would fly with me a lot of places. If I was going to be gone three or four days, I would just buy my mom a ticket and my daughter flew for free. They came because my parents were typical middle-class people. My mother had never traveled. So it was a great thing. I was traveling to work, and she would travel with me and see new places. I had my daughter with me and so that, for me, was huge. So I was very blessed that I did not have to make a lot of the sacrifices that a lot of women have to, where they have to hire a nanny and they can’t have their kids with them. Well, my son came, Joey was two and a half years behind my daughter Amanda. By that time, it was harder to travel with two kids.
How many years did you carry that schedule?
For four or five years I did that.
Did you feel like, during that period of time, you were tired or were you just running wide open?
I was running too fast to realize I was tired, I think. You know, I had two little kids, and it was a big responsibility. So, that’s how I actually got so entrenched in the industry that I’m in.
And you learned it from that.
Oh yeah. At that point I was in most of the major players in our industry. I was actually in there helping them, cleaning up their systems, telling them what they could do, and then figuring out what they were doing wrong, and then what they were doing right. So I had this great perspective. Then I met my husband now. He was in our industry and we just kidded around for years and said “Oh, if we ever want to open up our own PEO we’ll have to do that together,” and we did.
So how did that come about?
I think I was getting tired. I mean the traveling all around and I wasn’t just traveling consulting cause I was putting on training sessions four times a year, putting on big conferences, and I was just getting tired. I think I would have gotten tired if I didn’t have two little kids at home. I met my husband, David, training him on the software that I was working for and we just got to be good friends. He wanted to break out and do his own business and called me one day and just said, “Hey, do you want to do this?” I really worked for a great group of people at PayPlus Software. I went to them and said, “Listen, I think I want to break off on my own.” It was funny because all the people who had wanted me to come in and train, none of them cared that I was opening up basically a competitive business on the other side of the country. So I think that’s a great testament that they truly believed that just because I knew their client base, I wasn’t going to go after it. We started Quality Business Solutions.
And when did you move to South Carolina?
I moved here — it will be 11 years in South Carolina.
What was your first job?
I worked at Dairy Queen. I loved that job.
And how old were you?
I was 14.
Why accounting? What was it that drew you to numbers?
My husband would tell you I’m a little OCD and I like to have a place. That’s probably what it was. I think some of it goes back to my dad. He was one of these very common-sense-driven men who said, “What do you want to do and how can you make money at it?” He said, “You love numbers, very organized, and everybody needs an accountant,” and I went okay.
What brings you the most joy?
What is the secret to succeeding in blending traditional and nontraditional roles of motherhood and working women?
Well, for me, it was not over thinking it. I used to say if I put all the things I had to do that day on a piece of paper I would probably be afraid to get out of bed. And so I didn’t. I got out of bed and I knew the main things I had to get done that day and I did it. What didn’t get done got put on the top of the list for tomorrow. I didn’t over think it. I think so many times, especially now when I hear young people talking, they overthink everything. Like sometimes you’ve just got to take the jump. You’ve just got to take the leap and figure it out as you’re going. The worst thing you can have is a dream that you didn’t try to follow.
What is the secret to Quality Business Solutions’ success?
I think we work like a team. I tell my entire group, no one person in this office is more important than any other. I think my employees are really the secret to Quality Business’s success.
You hire a lot of retirees. What’s the philosophy of that business model?
We do. I think they have such an enormous amount of wealth. They have the best stories to tell and they have a phenomenal work ethic. I think they still have so much to give. I think society, as a whole, takes older retired people and kind of pushes them onto the side, and I think that’s such a waste of talent. We have, in our accounting department, our oldest employee, 80 years old. He comes in three days a week and he can tie out a line on our balance sheet like nobody else, and he does it longhand.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
I’m an extrovert.
What’s your favorite part of the day?
I love nighttime.
What’s your favorite book?
Wow. I love romance novels because, at work, I read IRS Code and I read legal and legislative things, and so I come home and I read cheesy romance novels.
What is your favorite movie?
I think “Pretty Woman.”
If you could be any age for a week, what would that age be and why?
I think I’d be 21 because you can do whatever you want and everybody gives you a pass. You don’t have to say all the right answers. At 21, everybody expects you to be growing and learning. So I think it’s an easy age to say, “Wow, I didn’t know.”
Who do you go to for advice?
And if you could spend the day with one person, lots of people have answered celebrity but it can be anyone, one day, you can select who the person is and it can be anyone alive or dead, who would it be?
That’s very sweet. What’s your favorite thing to spend money on?
Shoes and purses.
If there is one thing that you could point to as a pivotal component to your wellbeing, what is that?
I think it’s that little bit of time I take out for myself every day whether I’m just going for a walk or walking on the treadmill or going to the gym. It’s just that, 30 to 45 minutes a day where you can kind of decompress and let stress go.
How many hours do you work per week at work?
I definitely am in my office at least 45 hours a week.
And when you say in your office, you also work from home. Is that tabulated in that 45 hours?
No, that’s just in my office.
How many hours are dedicated daily to family?
I would say three or four hours a day. It sounds really old fashioned, but we eat dinner together. We make sure we have Sunday dinner together. We go to church as a family. I mean so I try to make sure we do all that that binds us. My dad told us all that in this world all you really have is your family to count on. I want my kids to be close and I want them to have empathy for each other. So I really try to make sure that we do spend good family time together.
If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
I would ask him why he took my dad from me so early. It’s a thought I have a lot. If he was sitting here today, what would he think? When the person you look up to the most is taken so quickly, you wonder how you would be like stacking up in their eyes.
What lesson would you want others to know that came easily for you?
To always be honest. Even when it’s not what somebody wants to hear and always tell the truth.
And what do you want to be remembered for?
For really caring about people. I genuinely care about the people that work for me. I care about my kids. I really care about my family, but genuinely, not just write-a-check care. It’s pick-up-a-phone care. It’s go to the hospital and rock babies that people have left, you know. It’s that kind of caring. I just hope that will be the one thing people will say, “She really did care deeply.”
What’s your favorite word?
And what’s your least favorite word?
No. And what inspires you?
My kids. They’re very inspiring. You see them every day, and they are changing and growing. You actually hear the things you say coming out of a little child’s mouth. They are really picking up everything I said.
What turns you off?
And what profession, other than your own, would you have liked to have done?
I’d love to be a pediatrician.
Pamela, thank you so very much for joining us today, and I cannot wait to see what’s in the many next chapters of your life. So thank you.
Well, thank you. I’m excited too.