Teresa Lawerence is the President and CEO of Delta Personnel, a full-service employment agency specializing in temporary staffing, temp-to-hire, direct hire and more. We reached out to Teresa to learn more about her, how Delta Personnel adapted during the pandemic, and advice she has for job seekers looking for work.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a Cuban-born entrepreneur who came to the United States in 1973 under President Nixon’s “Freedom Flight.” It was this pursuit of freedom, mingled with sheer uncertainty, that inspired me to dedicate my life to helping people find jobs, obtain financial stability, and support their families. Under my ownership, family-owned business, Delta Personnel has gained national recognition in the staffing industry. I currently serve on the following Board of Directors: Women Business Enterprise National Council, Chair of Jefferson Economic Development Commission, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, and Jefferson Parish Workforce Development Board, LCMC East Jefferson General Hospital Board, Catholic Charities of New Orleans.
Who is the most influential woman in your life and why?
My mother – what a magnificent creation of God!! she was gifted to me by my maker! She was a true symbol of what it means to give yourself fully. My mother had to decide in a split second and without hesitation or showing the slightest emotions, to get on plane with her mother and two teenagers and leave her husband behind in Cuba. She took a leap of faith into the unknown and committed to seeing her children embrace freedom in a country where the word “future” means something. I cannot imagine what that felt like…and then finding out that my father was found dead in 1977 from a hanging by the government…and yet not once in my entire life did, she ever felt beaten or tired, she kept smiling and making sure my brother and I focused on becoming the best we could be. Never heard her comment…” I wish I could have…” on the contrary, she was always proud of who my brother and I had become.
What was one of the biggest lessons you learned as President and CEO?
When I took over the company, it was struggling. My goal was to reinvigorate the business model, hire a strong team of recruiters, and build relationships with potential clients. It was an uphill battle, but I was lucky enough to have the right people working with me and the support of my family and the community. I took each challenge, one-by-one, and worked diligently to grow Delta over the years. My primary focus was to build a company I could be proud of. Profit margins are important, but my heart, then and now, is dedicated to helping people find work and put food on the table for their families. The biggest lesson I have learned through the years is that everything is in cycles. There will be times when you are on top of the fairest wheel, and you can see the horizon and what is ahead, and the plans are clearer. However, sometimes you may find yourself on the bottom of the fairest wheel and these are the times when the horizon is not visible and you may not see what is coming ahead, planning becomes difficult…however one thing you can do is be expectant. Expect change, in every cycle. Do prepare to work through the change and stay focus. During these times of change is when people will compromise who they are personally to become what they wish to be professionally. Just stay true to yourself and to the people who help you during the change. They are the reason the company is a company; without them we would just be a building.
Today, Delta has been in operations for over 50 years. We have placed over 40,000 workers in positions across the U.S. and worked with companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Essence Festival, Hilton, Ernest Morial Convention Center, and The Freeman Companies. We strive to be the kind of staffing agency that puts people first.
What advice do you have for women striving to be in leadership positions in their careers?
Never underestimate the power of a well-rounded network…Be present, show up, to every single zoom/in person event available that will sharpen your skills, connect with likeminded women, and broaden your network. At these events, be a farmer, not a hunter. By that I mean, create relationships with the women you are given the opportunity to meet at each event. You are potentially meeting the “ambassadors” of your business. As you are learning about them and vice versa, you are planting “relationship seeds” that will eventually grow and be harvested. The magic of your business growth lies within each of these women’s amazing hearts!
Data shows that women, and more specifically, women of color are starting businesses at a faster rate now more than at any other time in our history. Female business owners bring unique skills to the table. We are strong, smart, and persistent yet compassionate and unifying. Good businesses create opportunities for everyone. And when you have a female at the head of the table, a company is better positioned to be representative of and accountable to the world we live in.
Latina women bring with them a cultural foundation that is heavily influenced by our family structure. My mother and grandmother were a huge inspiration to me and my brother. They risked their lives to bring us here after leaving Cuba and they instilled in us the drive to want the best for ourselves and our families. Women are at our best when we are faced with a challenge or forced to protect the people we care about. That courageous yet nurturing spirit is an asset in the business environment.
How has Delta Personnel adapted to the current times?
We implemented several changes to our onboarding process. The technology coupled with a great team of super humans allowed us to continue to serve both clients: the ones that paid us for our service and the ones we compensate for the great work they perform for and with our clients. For our clients and employees, we formed a COVID-19 Task Force to help guide them through the issues brought on by this public health challenge. We continue to reach out to customers and employees, so we can work together to ensure safe workspaces and employee compliance & safety. In addition, we want to be in close communication with our customers and employees to keep them informed on the latest updates related to COVID-19 and the workplace. We had one person per office on the COVID-19 safety committee responsible to oversee and ensure compliance with all Social Distancing Plan elements for the office. We make sure everyone understands the seriousness of the situation, and we asked everyone to please cooperate and report to management any unsafe work practices that violate the plan. We also make sure to notify management immediately if we do not have enough cleaning supplies or PPE.
In striving to accomplish our vision of moving people forward, we are sincerely thankful for the dedication and commitment of our internal team and the support of our external employees’ efforts to reopen our locations. We are looking forward to the day when we can “return to normal,” and in the meantime, we will continually assess and reassess how to best keep our team safe while keeping business flowing.
What advice do you have for job seekers looking for work during this time?
Do not lose focus, stay on path. Many times, we tend to walk away from good opportunities that turn out to be great opportunities down the line, but we do not have the patience or understand the time investment that it takes to progress and grow with an organization. In other words, do not overlook a diamond while looking for gold. Sometimes you have to trust the process. Some pointers we like to give our applicants are… Be ready for the hiring process to take longer than usual. Automation is great, however remember you are not the only one applying for that position, and there may only be one hiring manager. Embrace the concept that you will apply for five to ten times the number of jobs that you had planned to before the COVID-19 pandemic. Be strategic on your process but understand there is power in numbers, the more you apply the greater the chances. Set aside time each day to search and apply for jobs. The best times of the days are early in the morning, or late in the evening so yours in the first message in their inbox. Work on updating your profile, make sure it is readable and precise. Skip the adjects, speak on skills. Check out your social media…you will be surprised how many potential hires get knocked off because the hiring manager checked out the Facebook page and it did not reflect the candidate it its best light. I know is your personal page, but…protect your brand.
Can you share the importance of fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Fostering diversity and inclusion has to be a part of you, your company and your busines model. If you are not holistic about it, it will not mean anything, and they will just be words written or spoken. I would like to share with you a good example of how we push for more minority opportunities. We took a different approach in acquiring the convention center contract. Not only did we want the business, but we wanted to make a statement. We reached out to the Black Chamber and partnered with Cleaning Concierge, a disadvantage business, African American owned company, whom we had dealings with in the past. The concept was to bring two diverse minority-owned businesses -Latina and African American- to bid on one contract. My goal at the beginning was not that we were going to win the bid, but that we would send a message to the boards that there is synergy in our businesses and there is an opportunity for us to work together should it be awarded to us.
Winning the contract was only the beginning…We had to mobilize an entire diverse workforce. We immediately reached out into the community to make sure everyone knew we wanted to bring them together. We recruited from our Vietnamese, Hispanic, African American, and Croatian communities. In other words, we wanted to send a very clear message that we are a business driven by multi-cultural, multi-racial goals greater than ourselves. We want to be that flagship the City of New Orleans needed to open and continue to open doors to partnership opportunities between minority-own businesses. Our drive to succeed with this contract is beyond profit margins; it is about people coming together to work together and share their multicultural, multiracial community. Now when people come from all over the world and the US, they can identify with the people servicing them. We do not just want people to come to New Orleans and be impressed, we want them to take the impression they received and duplicate it in their communities as well.