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Published: Monday, 9/29/2003

Temp firm adapts, offers skilled help

Maria Claus Konoff, who has been with the firm 14 years, focuses on sales. Husband Eric Konoff handles finances. Maria Claus Konoff, who has been with the firm 14 years, focuses on sales. Husband Eric Konoff handles finances.

For Peter Claus, there was no such thing as instant success. When he started Claus Employment Service in 1959 in the Spitzer Building downtown, he was just 23 and opened the doors with just $1,400 in capital.

“The first three years I took the bus,” said Mr. Claus, now retired. “I didn't have a car.”

Over the years, Mr. Claus reinvented his business several times, adapting to the ever-changing employment industry. His employment firms have carried three different names and he has ridden out numerous recessions. He even shut down at one point to regroup.

During the military buildup in the Vietnam War, “it became very apparent there was a huge manpower shortage,” he said. So, he sold his original employment agency and started Women's Career Specialists in the mid-1970s. In the 1980s, he found another niche, temporary placement, and formed Claus Temporaries of America, Inc. Nearly three years ago, he turned over that business to his daughter, Maria Claus Konoff.

Ms. Konoff has dealt with some of the same business cycles her father did. Claus Temporaries has had annual revenue rise to $8 million, then fall to a third of that level, and now grow again to nearly half of the peak, Ms. Konoff said. She expects revenue to be $3.5 million this year. “We've been seeing a big influx of [orders],” she said. “Hopefully the signs are improving.”

The family firm was among the first to adopt a temporary-placement system to replace the recruiting-fee arrangement that employment agencies used decades ago, she said.

“We succeeded by sending men and women who understand what's needed and can move in quickly to fill the right positions in organizations,” she said. “Many firms have become our steady clients, and a large number of our temporaries have been permanently placed with clients.”

Among the firm's longtime customers is Lo-Temp Brazing Co. in Toledo.

“We're very satisfied with their service,” said Dennis Thornton, Sr., president of Lo-Temp. The business uses Claus Temporaries to get workers and for pre-employment tests. “You can reach them almost anytime, and they have a fast response time,” he said.

Claus Temporaries has had as many as 300 temporary workers on assignment in the past and currently has about 200, Ms. Konoff said. The firm handles payroll, taxes, and unemployment insurance for its customers. More than a third of the requests for temporary help come from companies wanting to evaluate potential permanent workers, she added.

Most of the placements are to factories, warehouses, and offices.

Ms. Konoff started working for her father 14 years ago. “My training was basically on the job,” she said.

Her husband, Eric Konoff, gave up plans for a law-enforcement career to join the Claus firm. Ms. Konoff said she focuses on sales, and her husband handles administration and finance.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.

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