The days following a natural disaster are fraught with emotion as people assess the damage to their community and their homes. As that takes place, a different sort of assessment is conducted—a review of critical pieces of infrastructure and buildings that must be operational as soon as possible—hospitals, schools, grocery stores, municipal buildings, housing complexes and others.
After that review is completed, large numbers of people are needed to staff restoration projects. That is where Jerry Ainsworth, B.B.A.’94, and Matt Ricksgers, B.B.A.’95, co-founders of LGS Staffing, enter the scene.
LGS Staffing is a full-service staffing, recruiting and human resources firm focused on priority service and technology-driven innovation. Offering flexible workforce solutions, regardless of the size of the project or organization, the company provides staffing solutions to several different industries, with specialization in the industrial warehouse sector and disaster recovery projects.
Ainsworth and Ricksgers both moved to Atlanta post-graduation because they liked the vibe of the city and the opportunities in the region, and they began working their first jobs—Ainsworth in staffing and Ricksgers in commercial real estate.
Though they were both paying off their student loans and sometimes working side gigs to make ends meet, they began talking about taking the leap to start their own business. “After a few successful years in the staffing business, I knew that opportunities to expand the business model and improve the service platform were an industry niche that I wanted to focus on,” says Ainsworth.
The company began with staffing projects that required just-in-time quality technicians and then moved into other areas. “We had to scrape and claw at the beginning,” says Ricksgers. “And it has never gotten ‘easy,’ but we have figured out how to do the right things for the company and keep growing.” And grow it has.
“We operate in a highly competitive, cut-throat industry,” notes Ainsworth. “We must deliver on execution strategies and innovative solutions in order to differentiate our company from our competitors. That has been the secret to our success.”
In 2008, a call came from a premier, national restoration firm with the opportunity to staff recovery projects following a massive tornado. After successfully completing those projects, the calls kept coming: flooding in Iowa, the BP oil spill, fires in Alberta, Canada—and most recently the post-hurricane projects in Houston and Puerto Rico and restoration projects following the California wildfires. The company has become a leader in disaster staffing, and it has become a profitable part of the business.
Ainsworth and Ricksgers find it rewarding to staff projects that get communities up and running, and there is a unique facet of these projects. “Whenever possible, we try to staff these projects with local workers, many of whom have been displaced by the disaster,” says Ricksgers. “Restaurants, retailers and offices are closed in the days and sometimes weeks after a disaster. We are able to put a lot of those people to work on projects, which gives them an occupation and income and also helps the area to recover so more permanent job opportunities can come back online.”
What does managing a disaster recovery project involve?
- Overseeing anything from small technical environmental projects to catastrophes requiring thousands of employees across multiple worksites.
- Organizing data to ensure projects run smoothly.
- Managing the necessary documents and certifications to help keep projects in compliance with regulations.
- Administering an electronic pay system that ensures employees are paid accurately and on time, preventing work stoppages.
LGS Staffing offers many different positions in staffing projects, including site safety managers, equipment operators, environmental technicians, project administrators, travel crews, skilled trades, accounting support, debris management, housing and logistics, insurance adjusters and several others.
“I think that the secret to our success in this area has been that we have been very careful about working with the right companies and building our reputation,” says Ainsworth. “The contractors we work with are the best in the business and can get things done better, faster and cheaper, which is a win for everyone involved.”
LGS Staffing will soon be celebrating its 20-year anniversary—quite an accomplishment for any business. The fact that Ainsworth and Ricksgers have maintained a healthy partnership the entire time is a testament to their collaboration and respect for each other. “We have switched up our roles over the years, agreed that we personally don’t need or want a lot of lengthy meetings, and helped each other establish priorities for the business or our personal lives by leaning on each other,” says Ricksgers. “A business partnership is like a marriage in many ways, and we have been very fortunate to have agreed on the major points in running a successful business that has been relevant for two decades and counting.