Tracy Balazs, the president and CEO of an Annapolis-based staffing firm, was named Entrepreneurial Success of the Year last month by the Baltimore district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
She founded the company, Federal Staffing Resources LLC, in 2004. It now employs more than 300 people, has eight offices across the country and generates more than $30 million in revenue annually.
The company mainly provides health professionals to government outfits, including the Army, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Aviation Administration, though FSR recently expanded its operations to the staffing of private companies.
Balazs, whose professional training is in nursing, got the idea to launch FSR while treating wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Before that, she worked at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
She said she started the company, which touts its selective hiring process, because she wanted to be able to help more soldiers recover. Health care staffing is a competitive industry, she said, but FSR has been able to set itself apart.
The firm is one of five companies recently awarded an Army "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" contract. Through the contract, FSR has the opportunity to provide health care staffing in every state.
"I take great pride in the fact that I've grown this business to be a successful enterprise, serving our nation's service members, federal agencies and our commercial clients," Balazs told the SBA. "However, in the end, it's the fact that we are putting citizens, some of which are veterans, to work in this struggling economy and ultimately providing the best possible care for America's war heroes, that, above all things motivates and inspires us."
How did your experiences nursing at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center influence your decision to start a staffing business?
As a contract RN working at Walter Reed, I learned many aspects of government contracting and I wanted to be able to give back in more ways than taking care of one injured soldier at a time. It took a lot of work to get the business off the ground. However, we were successful in hiring the right people and winning the contracts in which we could support our nation's heroes.
While working at Walter Reed, I learned best practices from the leaders in the industry about working together as a team, military decorum and protocol, as well as gained a deep appreciation of what the soldiers I took care of had to sacrifice for our freedoms. I was able to draw upon that as I laid the groundwork for my business. I wanted to make sure we honored those men and women by providing for our customer the best personnel who worked for FSR in all capacities.
What skills and attributes are you looking for in potential employees?
We want to hire employees that are a good cultural fit to FSR as well as for those working in the field for our Department of Defense customers, to have a passion for working within the military health care environment. They must not only have the skills that meet the requirements, but the willingness to be part of the team they are working with so there is a seamless integration. The culture and skills match applies as well to anyone we place for our commercial partnerships.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting out in such a competitive business?
Breaking into the marketplace as an unknown entity. There was a lot of aggressive marketing and relationship building, and once we got the work, we needed to prove ourselves as a competent, reliable company that fulfilled our promises with integrity and honor.
How has your nursing background helped, or hampered, your progress as an entrepreneur?
As a trauma nurse, I learned to triage what was important and what I need to get done first to save lives, which has helped me to prioritize. I learned to be quick but accurate in my assessments of the situation. I knew that I needed to build a team and we all had our particular job to do. I learned from my patients that we all have the fight and the will within ourselves to improve, recover and excel.
Though painful and oftentimes difficult, it gave me the understanding that I had it within myself to get to the next level. As with most nurses, we nurture and take care of problems, issues and try to make things better.
With FSR's rapid growth, I have surrounded myself with a trusted, highly skilled team of professionals that has allowed me to confidently relinquish some of my duties so we can get to the next level. This was not easy for me, to "let go," but with the right people in place, we are a truly responsive team.
What advice do you have for young people just starting out in the health care field?
Follow your passion, set personal goals, learn and be open for growth. Remember, what you do today may not be what you will be doing 10 years from now, although you can build upon your knowledge and apply it in a different way. With a nursing degree, you can do more in your career than you can imagine.
Title: Founder, president and CEO of Federal Staffing Resources LLC
Education: Nursing degree from Nassau Community College in New York.
Family: Married to Michael Balazs for 29 years. The couple has two children, James, 22, and Samantha, 19. All reside in Annapolis.