Brian Fischbein is a guy who likes to take risks. He started an IT staffing company six years out of college and has since watched Crescent Solutions grow at a 171.2% rate from 2005-2008. Now a 30 million dollar company, Crescent’s staffing services focus on the areas of Software Development Lifecycle; Infrastructure and Network; Interactive, Web, and Creative; and Communications.
Crescent Solutions has been named the Best Place to Work in Orange County, been an INC500 Fastest Growing Company in America, and recognized as the Most Dependable Staffing Agency in California…while Brian has showcased his entrepreneurialism as the 2006 & 2007 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist and the Entrepreneur Magazine 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist.
Brian took a little time with Alister & Paine to discuss his business acumen, how a growing IT industry is the predictor of a better economy, and his solution for unemployment in America.
Alister & Paine: What made you want to start your own business?
Brian Fischbein: I started in the business right out of college…I figured the only way I’d really be able to make decisions the way I wanted to was to start my own company.
Alister & Paine: Why the staffing industry?
Brian Fischbein: I graduated with a Psychology degree and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I took my first and only job offer out of college, worked there for six years and then started Crescent.
Alister & Paine: How did you raise capital?
Brian Fischbein: I took out a home equity loan for about $50,000 in 2002. That was going to hopefully last me the next year paying my bills and getting married —then my wife got pregnant on our wedding night.
The fifty grand probably lasted me six months. We were close to running out and then we had a fantastic month. We’re doing pretty well now.
Alister & Paine: What was your marketing strategy?
Brian Fischbein: We went after companies that understood that we would come in on weekends, we would work till midnight, we would do whatever we could—it wasn’t the dollars that were important to us.
Alister & Paine: What influence have you had in your surrounding community?
Brian Fischbein: We’ve helped a lot of people on the street go back to work. We’re very focused on intimate relationships, not just with the clients that hire our people but also the candidates we put to work.
Alister & Paine: Do you feel like by making it sound better (i.e. only reporting unemployment rates of people actively looking for jobs within the past twelve months) than it is we’re worsening the economy, rather than boosting America’s morale?
Brian Fischbein: Positivity is always better than negativity. The more you hear the good stories the more hope there is that there’s signs of life.
As an IT company we’re a typical indicator of what’s going to happen. Back in ’96 when I first started in this business it was horrific—but it got really busy towards ’97, ’98, ’99. Of course you had the Y2K and dot.com boom. We saw that before it all started.
Alister & Paine: Do you think it’s a matter of not telling the truth?
Brian Fischbein: I don’t know if I’m a conspiracy theorist or not. We need to hear more about the companies that are doing well and give people a little hope that we’re going to go back to 70,000 in the stock market again.
You’re still hearing that it’s still not great out there but we’re starting to see that it is. We’re already starting to see companies get a little looser on their hiring. I’m being optimistic by nature.
Alister & Paine: What is your personal solution to unemployment in America?
Brian Fischbein: That’s a big question. We need to get better at helping people get back to work. Providing opportunities from different organizations, trying to figure out how to do what we do on a grander scale.
The fear of working in these economic conditions causes companies to be very cautious, which creates terminations or layoffs or riffs and no one’s spending money.
Alister & Paine: Is the government over or under involved?
Brian Fischbein: There could be a better way to establish an avenue or output for the unemployed. I don’t think there’s an effective program for that today.
Companies like ours are putting people back to work, but we can’t touch a fraction of it.
Alister & Paine: What made you jump into an industry during a down market?
Brian Fischbein: My old company was one of those typical corporate America companies where the guys at the top are making all the money and the guys that are doing all the work are screaming for a $5,000 raise.
Even with the down market I figured if I could make most of the money from what I was bringing in, it’d be better than the small percentage I was getting at the time.
Alister & Paine: That’s pretty ballsy.
Brian Fischbein: Haha. It was. My wife was on board if we sold the house. I knew the people that were with us could make it successful. And worst case I’d sell my house.
As much as I love the luxury, it doesn’t define you.
If you’re willing to lose the material things you’re okay. At the end of the day you have your family and your friends and that’s what makes you who you are.
Alister & Paine: What’s different about Crescent Solutions?
Brian Fischbein: We love what we do and we love trying to be different. Not only are we good at what we do, we’re a fun company. That’s given us our own identity.
We’ve had six people quit in eight years. Nobody ever leaves. It’s a different atmosphere. Lots of friends, lots of cousins, a lot of loyalty. Work hard, play hard. Be a part of something that’s a little different from the norm.
Alister & Paine: What is on the horizon for Crescent Solutions?
Brian Fischbein: We’ve been focusing on partnerships, relationships and driving business from a long term perspective versus a transactional focus. A partnership mentality versus a ‘How do I get paid today?’ mentality.
Alister & Paine: What’s the next challenge?
Brian Fischbein: Now its ‘How do I get to be a hundred million dollar company?’ That’s the challenge. We’re at 30 million right now—which I always knew we could do. In our industry there are about 8,000 staffing companies, and about 100 of them are 100 million.
Once you get into that 100 million dollar barrier you really become one of the elite. That’s the goal here. To become one of the elite.