When small, start-up technology companies were doing all they could to hire and retain employees, business was good for Intraforce. Now that companies are downsizing and looking for ways to cut costs, business is better.
The Columbia-based human resources outsourcing company had its best year in 2001, President Darren Seward said. It merged with Rockville-based ProLease, revenue grew to $142 million and it won awards from Inc. Magazine and Deloitte & Touche.
With four offices across the country, Intraforce has plans to open another in New York, but it soon will be leaving Columbia behind, moving its headquarters to Lansdowne next month, Seward said. The move will put staffers closer to home, and save money.
"The real estate market is more attractive there," Seward said. The cost for 10,000 square feet in the Beltway Business Community on Commerce Drive is about half the cost in Columbia, he said.
The new office will nearly quadruple the space for the 50 headquarters employees, with room to grow. Seward said he intends to take things slowly this year, hiring about 10 people.
Intraforce acts as a human resources department for small businesses and offers benefits most small companies cannot afford.
It handles minor details such as adjusting paychecks for garnishments and filing paperwork with the federal government for new hires and complex requirements such as creating employee handbooks and providing training workshops on company policy.
Intraforce becomes a point of contact for clients and their employees. Should a human resources issue arise, it stands as an objective third party in handling disputes. But what's important for many clients is that Intraforce ensures that they are in compliance with laws, Seward said.
"We're really providing a safety net around them," he said. "The goal is to help the [client] focus on what they do best."
A major benefit Intraforce provides is in grouping its clients to leverage buying power with insurers. It offers clients access to employee benefits such as long-term disability and retirement plans -- benefits that typically only a large company can offer.
Intraforce also provides a free intranet that allows clients' employees to access benefits as well as shared documents, calendars and company information through a Web browser.
"Small companies don't have that, and you can't buy it off the shelf," Seward said. "We built it as a marketing tool."
Intraforce has tapped into a growing market space.
A 2000 study by the Outsourcing Institute and Dun & Bradstreet showed that more than 30 percent of companies outsourced business functions, of which human resources was a part.
About 9 percent of businesses outsourced human resources functions, including payroll, and 11 percent were considering outsourcing human resources, the report said. That sector was expected to grow as more managers come to see outsourcing as a strategic advantage, the report said.
Intraforce started as HR Tech in 1995 when Seward and partners Tony Bonacuse and Scott Thompson -- all former employees of Automatic Data Processing Inc. -- saw many payroll processing clients there asking for other human resources functions.
The company generated $5 million in revenue its first year, Seward said. Within another five years, it added satellite offices in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Denver and Los Angeles -- areas with high concentrations of small businesses and technology companies. Intraforce has more than 400 clients in 45 states, he said.
Last year, Intraforce was 102nd in Inc. Magazine's 500 fastest-growing companies, and eighth-fastest-growing technology company in the mid-Atlantic region among Deloitte & Touche's Fast 50, Seward said. Its merger with ProLease will open doors to international clients, he said.
But business observers are not the only ones to be impressed with the company. Its clients are, too.
"They handled all the issues that small businesses get bogged down with," said Anthony Cunningham, president of Starflight Inc., and an early Intraforce client.
He said that with 140 employees it was difficult managing the business and human resources.
Jamie Sachs, operations administrator with Valley Pine Mortgage in Owings Mills, said she feels safer knowing Intraforce is handling her human resources.
"They are our protection," she said.