Saturday, November 22, 2008

OPIS Reunion at Chez Breton






So...we finally got together! Unfortunately Rick couldn't make it at the last minute BUT we had sooo much fun regardless! We enjoyed some apps and cocktails (John was the only one who partook in my martinis- they were supposed to be Pop Rock Martinis and ended up being VERY strong NERD Martinis) and Donna's WONDERFUL pumpkin muffins.

It was so fun reminiscing and then hearing John tell us about his "crazy days" in West Palm Beach....too flippin funny.

The most special part of the night was Caitlin's news....she and Pete are expecting in May..she is 14 weeks right now! We are so excited for them. She finds out what it is on 12/19...can't wait!

So for those of you who don't know OPIS....I will "educate" you.

OPIS is the substitute teacher staffing division of Vedior North America. It was a stand alone brand under the parent company for a few years in the mid 90's and it was struggling. The team knew how to sell but they did not know how to manage the business, recruit and staff the classrooms.

To give it one last chance, the powers that be at Vedior (then Select Appointments)went to our President of New Boston Select Staffing, Karen DeMichelle and asked her to take it over and turn it around. They thought if anyone could do that, it would be her and her group.

It was then that she and our VP, Earl Callender, decided to take me to lunch one summer afternoon. I had no idea why or what was coming....I actually thought I did something wrong and was racking my brain thinking about all of the possibilities.

I was hoping I wasn't in too much trouble as I loved my job. At that time, I was running our Wellesley branch of New Boston and had the best team (Missy, Jason and Jodi).

At lunch, Karen turned to me and told me how much trouble OPIS was in and that she was given one last chance to save it. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, I knew what was coming next.

She said that she had talked to her sr. management team and with feedback from Earl, they thought I was the best person for the job. So, she asked me if I would take it and turn it around.

Most people would be thrilled...thrilled at the prospect of a new business venture...thrilled to be chosen by a sr. management team of a reputable staffing company and thrilled for the promotion and money, etc etc. Well how did I feel? Crushed...scared and skeptical.

Something, however, in my gut told me that I needed to accept this challenge. I knew that if there was another chance for a promotion down the road, I would most likely be passed over if I didn't accept this one. So I did.

For the first two months I was miserable and thought I made the biggest mistake of my life.

The existing team there was rude...would not share important information and someone even drew all over my handbag- CRAZY!

Well...I hung in there. I recommended to the powers that be that we wipe the slate clean...clear out the troops...the dead wait...the attitudes and start fresh. Hey! I needed to learn this business from scratch...I wasn't going to learn from anyone else so it was going to be hard anyway. I thought it would be better to all learn together and start a team fresh and new so I got busy recruiting.

I knew, unlike other staffing models, I would need to run two shifts of staff. We only had the money to hire one on each shift and we had to make sure that we kept our only clients happy, that we had left. At that time, it was only Chelmsford Public Schools. Over the next few months, I convinced North Andover Public Schools to give us one more chance and then at the 11th hour, Danvers agreed to try one more time too. I was begging for trust and faith when I didn't even know what I was doing and I knew I would kill myself making them happy if it was the last thing I did.

To make a long story short, I found two terrific people. My first conversation was with Donna. She had just had a baby girl and was looking for a job with a different schedule- something 2nd shift or part time would work very well. Donna had really solid administrative and operational skills and we just clicked right away. I loved her calm demeanor and personality and I trusted her instantly.

I then found Rick who had some fantastic customer service experience. He seemed really low maintenance and someone I could depend on to open up the office and run the morning shift.

As I was recruiting out of the Chelmsford office, this man approached me ( I thought he was a security guard and he was driving this beat up convertible that's top wouldn't go up- hysterical). He asked me, "Do you have any more openings? Can I come work for you?" So we hired him too. John is his name. He started out as our Office Coordinator and supported us by answering the phones and sending confirmation reports to the schools, etc.

As time went on and we needed more help, John was promoted and helped Donna on the 2nd shift.

It was a tough beginning but I have to say our clients were never the wiser. We worked out our kinks internally AND at the same time, every classroom was filled.

We grew quickly and needed to hire another person on the 1st shift. Missy who worked for me in the Wellesley branch approached me and begged us to hire her so we did. It was fun while it lasted but Missy, the restless soul, got bored and decided to part ways.

That is when we found adorable little Caitlin. Caitlin was actually one of our substitute teachers and decided to give the recruiting thing a try. Well she was a natural.

Over the next few years, this group bonded like no other. We all respected each other so much because we had learned together and survived through the most stressful times internally with the changes going on at Select Appointments and we also basked in the glory of success.

We won turn around awards...we gained more business with private schools and then later won the contract with Reading Public Schools. Together we designed substitute teacher summer workshops...we held weekly recruiting fairs in the towns we serviced and we filled hundreds of classrooms from 5:30am to 10:00pm 6 days/week. We were a phenomenal and successful group and it only took us a year to turn a profit. No one can ever take that away from us.

More importantly, we met each other and the bond was so special that we have kept in touch over the last seven years. There is nothing like this group. It really chokes me up. We could go years without seeing each other and as soon as we sit down it is like no time has passed. We remember specific phone calls with certain subs...subs that gave us a hard time and would only teach certain grades in certain schools...the complaint calls from school principals and superintendents....ahhhhh the priceless moments.

To my OPIS family...I am so grateful for the time with all of you. You are the most talented people I know. I would give anything to go back and just all work one more day together...I know the belly laughs would never end and I am sure we could still fill those classrooms like no one's business. Hey if it was a profitable business, you know we would still be doing that somewhere...maybe some day New England will get a clue and put more money aside for subs and sub staffing...until then enjoy the memories of "Get him out of here...he was fixing a boy's tie...from behind"...."Good Morning Do Me?" "We called the police...he was bathing in the janitor's bathroom"...."ding ding ding"..."Don't call here again we can't place you"..."don't worry if you don't speak Spanish it's not necessary"...."you don't need to worry about running in gym either"....

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