In 2008, Lindsey Haaser was working as a certified rehabilitation counselor when she saw “a business opportunity in the midst of a global financial crisis.”
“Even though jobs were vanishing, companies still had work to do, and they turned to contingent labor,” Haaser says.
To meet this need, Haaser started Advocations, one of the first disability-only staffing and recruiting firms.
In an industry where the average turnover rate is 383%, Advocations has a turnover rate of 8%. The firm now leads the employment strategy for ADVICE/National Autism Speaks, has several Fortune 500 customers, and has sourced thousands of people with disabilities nationwide.
“I started Advocations at 25. There was a lot I didn’t know,” Haaser says. “That changed in 2013 when I met my SCORE mentor Chuck Sawicki. Chuck’s tough-love approach challenged me in ways no one else ever has, and as a result, our revenue doubled in 1.5 years and continued to grow.”
Haaser encourages prospective business owners to “talk with as many people as you can about your business idea and listen to what they say.”
“You will have a lot of cheerleaders, but pay close attention to the people that tell you what you don’t want to hear. They will make you and, ultimately, your business better,” Haaser says.
Advocations was named Outstanding Job Creator at the 2017 SCORE Awards.
Between 2009 and 2013, 100 percent of Advocations’ revenue was from one client. Because the company’s revenues were growing, Haaser didn’t see any issues with this particular business model. Then, a significant problem unfolded.
“An unexpected change in their payment terms forced me to close three offices and encourage my staff to find new jobs,” Haaser says. “I didn’t know what to do next, and then I met my SCORE mentor Chuck [Saiwicki].”
Saiwicki later introduced Haaser to her second SCORE mentor, Adriana McLane. Haaser says the pair have been instrumental to her Advocations’ survival and continued growth.
“Over the past four years, Chuck and Adriana not only helped me keep my business from closing, but we now have a diverse customer base and are positioned for significant growth,” Haaser says.