Florida’s Panhandle is poised for substantial growth – but will there be enough trained workers to make it happen? Helping solve that problem is H. Britt Landrum Jr. By Sheryl Grace Grimes
People HunterH. Britt Landrum has made a career of matching workers with jobs.By Sheryl Grace Grimes
Florida’s Panhandle is poised for substantial growth – but will there be enough trained workers to make it happen? And where will they come from?
Helping solve that problem is H. Britt Landrum Jr., president and CEO of Landrum Human Resource Companies Inc. of Pensacola. Landrum opened his first job placement office in 1970 with one employee. Today, the Landrum Companies are among the largest companies in Northwest Florida and operate in 21 states, with 126 employees. The total company revenue increased 79 percent over the past five years.
The Pensacola-based business includes three divisions: Landrum Staffing Services Inc., Landrum Professional Employment Services Inc. (PEO) and Landrum Consulting. Last year, Landrum Staffing placed more than 3,000 employees and helped 1,200 companies find employees, while Landrum Professional administered human resources for more than 600 businesses.
Landrum is well aware of the challenges facing employers in our region both now and in the next five to 10 years.
“Our economy is suffering as is most of the country’s,” he says. “Through Landrum PEO, we track 300 Northwest Florida business clients and find that companies are continuing to grow, though not as quickly as they used to. Salaries are up. Bonuses have slowed down, and commissions are less.
“More jobs are needed,” Landrum says. “Since I’ve been in the ‘jobs’ business for 40 years, you might expect me to say that. Opportunities are needed, not only for our graduating young people, but also for those who visit our beaches as tourists, recognize what I call our quality of life, and want to move here to raise their families. And, we need meaningful work for those of us who want to continue working into our 60s and 70s.”
Along with the challenges are the opportunities. Landrum sees the importance of attracting and keeping so-called “clean” industry, such as high-tech businesses.
“Local entrepreneurial programs are courting high-tech companies who sell their products outside the area, bringing dollars into our community,” he says. “Headquartering their company here is even better because they buy locally and keep their money in local banks.
“For example, Santa Rosa County has done a good job of attracting new businesses such as the Andrews Institute, an orthopedics and sports medicine facility, and The Studer Group, a knowledge-based industry. Due to the military’s presence here and our outstanding educational facilities, we have a strong technical work force available for these higher-paying jobs.”
Part of the success of a business, and Landrum Companies in particular, has been community involvement.
“We’ve built our company on reaching out,” Landrum says. “After Hurricanes Ivan, Dennis and Katrina hit, we put up temporary roof tarps and found jobs for more than 500 displaced workers.”
This commitment has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, Landrum Companies received the Children’s Champion Award from the Children’s Champions of Pensacola, a group of 14 nonprofit organizations benefiting children. In 2007, the Landrum Companies received the Florida Governor’s Sterling Award for organizational excellence. For four years running, the Landrum Companies have been included in Florida Trend magazine’s “Top 200 Private Companies” and has been named one of the “25 Best Small and Medium Companies to Work for in America” by the Society for Human Resource Management.
For those entrepreneurs in our region who are thinking of starting their own business, Landrum has some words of advice and caution.
“Establishing relationships is the key to success,” he says. “Also, study carefully. Spend time with someone who owns their own business. I investigated job placement services locally, regionally and nationally for more than two years before I left my state job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. I thoroughly understood the business before I borrowed money and opened my own.
“Prepare for survival during startup period,” Landrum says. “It may be longer than you first anticipate. My wife and I lived off savings and borrowed money for a few years before the business began to pay off.”
Landrum’s approach to management is straightforward.
“It’s pretty simple,” he says. “Hire the right person. Agree on what they are to accomplish and give them the tools they need to succeed. Ask their advice and opinion. Celebrate their successes. Forgive their failures. Appreciate them. Encourage them. Thank them. Reward them. Other than that, stay out of their way.”
Britt Landrum III, vice president and chief technology officer of the Landrum Companies, says of his father, “More than anything, he has taught me that the world is not black and white, but made up of lots of gray. Often smart decision-making is flexible rather than absolute.”
Landrum Jr. says his business philosophy has three points: “First, it’s my goal to make Landrum the No. 1 best place our employees ever worked. Secondly, provide the very best services to make our clients more successful. And lastly, make a reasonable profit.”
He said a new business owner once asked him, “When did you feel you had it made?”
“My answer was the same then as now – ‘Never,’” Landrum says.