Wanda Smith

GROWING EXCELLENCE IN STAFFING

Wanda Smith
Founder and CEO
Symphony Placements

This year, Symphony Placements is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and it’s been an exciting 10 years. The company has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies twice, and founder and CEO Wanda Smith has been honored for her entrepreneurship and record of philanthropic work. Symphony Placements’ future looks exciting too: The company recently expanded into the highly competitive IT staffing market.

Q: Symphony Placements is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2016. As you look back on the past decade, what are you most proud of having accomplished?

A: Most people are thinking about slowing down at the fabulous age of 58, but I was ready to start a new business. In the past 10 years, I have experienced the most expansive technology boom of my professional career. Fortunately, our team has incorporated technology with automation to serve as a foundation for our recruiting processes, which has enhanced services to our clients.

In 2014, we rebranded our logo and relocated to our new headquarters. We celebrated with our spirited team at an open house. Our team grew in size and we were named for the first time to the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America (ranked #1,958). We thought it couldn’t get much better, but in 2015, we doubled our revenues and again we made the Inc. 5000 list (ranked #913). Two very personal honors were becoming a finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in June 2015 and receiving an Outstanding Volunteer Award in November 2015 for my involvement with the Casey Cares Foundation. None of this could have been achieved without my loyal and talented staff.

Q: Symphony Placements considers itself an extension of its clients’ HR departments. Can you explain what that means in terms of the services you provide?

A: Symphony Placements is not just a vendor to our clients. We build long-lasting relationships because we take the time to understand the needs of the client, the culture, and the objectives. We are not just looking for an order today. We want to understand the aspects of clients’ businesses so we are able to take advantage of all of our experience and make recommendations to the client. Through this process, we become trusted advisors.

Q: You hired a new director of IT staffing services in January. Why did you decide it’s time to expand into IT?

A: Because of our ever-expanding business base, we are servicing clients that have an international footprint. When they find a partner they like, they want to use that partner for all of their needs. All of a sudden, I had 16 orders on my desk for IT professionals, so I could not resist increasing our services to include IT. It is amazing how things happen. I heard from an individual who was a client of ours. He came to me, and wanted to work for Symphony. Incidentally, he had 30 years of experience in IT. I hired him and the rest is history. It must have been meant for us to expand. Why else would the puzzle fall into place like that?

Q: What are your future plans for the new IT division? How will it fit into Symphony Placements’ overall offerings?

A: The IT Staffing Services division is off to a great start since January 2016. In Q1, we have made successful placements with a current international client who was the driving force to the expansion. However, our new director, Richard McClearn, deserves the recognition on driving many placements with numerous companies in the Baltimore and DC metro areas to date. Opening this new division positions Symphony to be a comprehensive flexible staffing company that can service a wide range of positions for our clients. So the future is very exciting!

Q: Symphony Placements has been experiencing rapid growth for several years. What have been some of the major drivers of that growth? 

A: During the downturn in the economy and employment (2009-2011), I was exploring a “niche” that would sustain the company. My goal was not to become a statistic — one of the many businesses that never make it beyond the third year. I realized there was a growing need for certified MBE/DBE/WBE companies to subcontract with the State of Maryland. I founded Symphony in 2006, immediately applied and was certified by the Maryland Department of Transportation. Although the process was lengthy at the time, becoming certified in Maryland has led to our certification in Virginia. We have experienced the opportunity to bid and be awarded very successful sub-contractor contracts over the past three years.

Marta Chavatel joined Symphony in 2012. Today, she is VP of Operations and Business Development. As an entrepreneur and leader, it is often hard to let go of the wheel. Marta has been a driving force for our company, both in new opportunities and in customer retention. Taking time to innovate with technology and incorporate an amazing team of individuals is a huge part of our current success and growth.

Taking pre-calculated risks and creating sales and service strategies will continue to propel our growth into 2016 and beyond. In 2016, we have expanded our services to a client in Virginia and announced a new division: IT Staffing Services. At the close of Q1, our team is on track to surpass our goals from 2015. Symphony Placements is ready to become a regional player by the year 2017.

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