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Vol. 13, No. 48 Week of November 30, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

AK-WA Connection 2008: Head hunter grows with winning strategy

Focus on employment candidates gives Opti Staffing Group a competitive advantage in making Alaska-Washington business connections

Rose Ragsdale

For Alaska-Washington Connection

Seldom does a company buck the trend by moving southward from Alaska to expand. That’s the case with Opti Staffing Group.

Launched nearly nine years ago by Avonly Lokan in Anchorage with partners Ron Hansen and Mike Houston, Opti Staffing now boasts offices in Tacoma and Seattle, Wash.; Lake Oswego and Northeast Portland, Ore.; and a new location opened in June in Chicago.

The company provides businesses with skilled and professional personnel on a direct-hire, temp-to-hire and temporary basis.

Opti operates using a candidate-centric approach, meaning that instead of focusing on getting job orders and trying to find candidates, the firm constantly evaluates talent and markets the individuals to its business contacts, according to company literature.

With a distinct focus on long-term placement, Opti has three divisions to best serve the needs of its clients: skilled trades, operations and executive recruiting. It handles customer service, administrative, accounting/finance, management and skilled trades positions.

Opti works with clients in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, distribution, construction and professional services.

The firm’s top priority is to make personality matches between the candidates it represents, and the clients it serves.

“Skills are teachable; being who you are, is not,” the company said.

But how did Opti come by its unusual business strategy? Lokan and co-founders Hansen and Houston actually learned the business of personnel placement in the 1980s and 1990s working for Lokan’s mother, Shirley Adams, at Seattle-based Adams and Associates.

“She inspired me to be in this business by being passionate about what she did helping people,” Lokan said in an interview.

Lokan was sent to Anchorage to oversee Adams’ Alaska office, met her husband and chose to stay. Years later when the business was sold, Lokan opted to open her own recruiting/staffing firm.

“When the company was sold, I decided to move on. My mother advised me to follow my heart.”

Houston and Hansen, who by then, were also managing offices for Adams in Portland and Seattle chose to join Lokan in the new venture.

Today, Lokan is president; Houston is vice president of sales and marketing; and Hansen is vice president of operations.

Opti Staffing employs more than 64 workers, including 14 people in Anchorage.

The firm attributes its success entirely to the candidates it places in good jobs, and notes that the philosophy has allowed the firm to continue to grow.

Adds Opti: “Many people believe the current situation with the economy can have an adverse effect on business. We believe our service is even more valuable because the investment in employees can help companies sustain their competitive advantage during downturns in the economy.”



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