It’s one thing to know a business like the back of your hand, to go to work every day and contribute your skills to a larger movement with a team of skilled people around you also doing their part. It’s a whole other thing to start a business on your own from the ground up, even if it’s in the industry you’ve excelled in for more than a decade.
David Coryer, COO of Coryer Staffing, explained the process—quoting Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn—like this: “Being an entrepreneur is like jumping off a building, and building the plane on the way down. You don’t know what goes on first. Is it the tail, or the wing, or the engine? I don’t know, but it all needs to happen pretty quick. You figure it out, because if you don’t do something, you will crash.”
So when David and his wife Elizabeth Goerlitz-Coryer, CEO, found themselves in an unexpected situation last March, they weighed their options for the future. Encouraged by long-time friends and business associates, they ultimately decided to start Coryer Staffing.
First, they landed in Doug Hoffman’s office in Lake Placid, where they hired him as the company’s contract CFO, then at Adirondack Bank where Jay Recore and Ann Gaworecki heard their plan and met their need with the necessary business loan and line of credit. Peter & PJ Whitbeck, longtime friends and previous employers of Elizabeth, then paid it forward, offering furnished office space at the back of their Coldwell Banker office on Miller Street in Plattsburgh. Lastly, but in today’s connected world, just as importantly, Greg MacConnell and Trent Trahan of Primelink stepped up with top quality phone and Internet service.
Tails and wings fell into place just in time for the Coryer Staffing team to unveil their shiny new parts at the North Country Chamber of Commerce Business Expo in June 2016.
Less than a year later, Coryer Staffing has five full-time employees, and is ready to fill a sixth position. More than 100 people are on the payroll every week, filling a variety of jobs at numerous local businesses.
Like most industries, staffing is a relationship-based business where trust and loyalty go a long way. David’s industry connections have proved invaluable and this community has been good to him and Elizabeth.
“It took me a long time to appreciate the loyalty of this community,” David acknowledged. “This community really does have your back. And when the chips are down, if you’ve been authentic and effective in your efforts, the community will step up and support you.”
So far, David and Elizabeth have found the rare kind of success where the phone rings and someone on the other end simply says, “Remember me? Let’s do business together.”
For Elizabeth, who’s been out of the business world raising their two sons for the last six years, the experience has given her a newfound gratitude for what it means to live in a tight-knit community where often your neighbor’s success is your own.
She said,” I’ve sat with David for the last 10 years at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinners where businesses receive awards and people get up and talk about the community. You listen and agree with them to a certain degree, and think, ‘Oh that’s nice.’ But when you experience it yourself, it’s really difficult to put into words the feelings that come with the support.”
David and Elizabeth both channel that appreciation into their daily work at Coryer Staffing. For a time last year, they were faced with a scary reality that many of their candidates face every day— no income, no health care, no real plan to move forward, and two young kids to provide for.
“It brought a reality to the situation for both of us; an appreciation for how needed this service is and an understanding of how important being thoughtful in our approach is to the individuals—the people in this community who may be faced with a change of career, a job loss, a company closing, and they’re suddenly out of work, or whatever may have happened that put them in that position,” Elizabeth conveyed with deep compassion.
David still has to pinch himself when he thinks about what they’ve built in one short year, always holding true to their mission of treating people fairly and kindly, and finding the value in every human being who walks through their doors.
“But,” he said, “I can tell you, a staffing agency is not successful if you don’t have dedicated hardworking people who come to work every day and believe in the mission. We have a great team of people.”
Sara McCaffrey came on board right off the bat, first as a recruiter, meeting candidates and making placements. She has moved into a more administrative support role now working closely with Elizabeth. “At the same time she’s still recruiting if needed,” added Elizabeth. Coryer Staffing is a start-up after all, so it’s an all-hands-on-deck office.
In October, Kasie Bartley brought her human resources, inside sales, and quality assurance experience to Coryer Staffing. She will soon be transitioning from industrial recruiting to office and administrative recruitment. “That’s the lane where she’s most comfortable and I think she’ll have a lot of fun doing that,” noted David.
Peter Jackstadt, a longtime friend to David and Elizabeth, joined the team in January. They both agreed he’s been a great addition. His whimsical nature and ability to grind out a productive workday fits right in with the culture David and Elizabeth are trying to build.
“It’s been pretty fast, but we’ve brought people on as we felt it was necessary and we’re at the point again where we need to continue to expand internally,” said Elizabeth.
One year in and Coryer Staffing has hit every goal they set out to achieve, both from a temp and temp-to-hire staffing forecast and a direct hire forecast. “That’s probably the most satisfying thing for me,” noted David. “We have done what we set out to do in the face of all kinds of distractions and emotional turmoil.”
That plane David and Elizabeth are building certainly has wings, and the greater Plattsburgh business community has given them a soft place to land. As for the engine powering the whole thing forward? That’s Elizabeth.
David explained, “She went from being a stay- at-home-mom for the past six years to being the CEO of a start-up overnight—CEO of a business that she knew about only at arm’s length through being married to me.” But he said that doesn’t give credence to what he’s known since he met her.
David said Elizabeth has always been one of the hardest working people he’s known. When they first met she was a single mom teaching Spanish at AuSable Valley and working nights at Touraid Travel. “She was just working her butt off. It was the classic, ‘I’m working two jobs because that’s what it takes for me to support my son and make ends meet.’”
In the meantime, David stayed in his lane, operating in the staffing industry that he knows well, taking time to learn all aspects from insurance, to payroll, to recruiting, to getting job orders, to making placements, and negotiating salaries, while Elizabeth came in cold, but ready to work, to learn, and to build their business.
“I always knew she had that work ethic and I always knew that if we ever worked together she would be our secret recipe, the engine, the motivation,” said David.
They agreed together, “While being pushed out of the nest might have been scary, we took quickly to building a sturdy craft. And yes, while the North Country assured us we’d likely have a soft landing, we are far more interested in seeing just how high… and far, we can fly.”