Written by The Business Journal Staff
Phil Owens, Area Manager
BBSI in Fresno
What we do: BBSI (Barrett Business Services, Inc.) works with over 3,000 companies daily helping small and mid-sized businesses achieve their goals. We do this by providing management solutions that bring predictability and stability to small businesses, providing resources most small companies do not have in-house.
Education: Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif.
Son: Ryan, a student at Fresno State
What is BBSI’s history in Fresno?
BBSI opened the Branch in 2004.
How did your career path bring you to BBSI, Phil?
In 2001, following the down turn of the dotcom era, I was the operations manager of a telecom startup, executed six rounds of downsizing and all that had been built, vanished. Choosing to move on and explore other opportunities, we relocated our family back to Fresno where I grew up. My biggest challenge moving back to the Fresno area was finding a career that would provide similar types of challenges and rewards that I had found in the world of technology. After being exposed to the world of finance through the IPO process, I shifted my career path from engineering and technology to the insurance and investment planning industry. I spent nine years building a practice working with professionals and small business owners over a 9-year span. My career has prepared me well for my role at BBSI. As an area manager, I’m engaging with business owners every day. I need to be able to understand their perspective and their challenges and the diversity of my background allows me to do that.
What are some of the popular services you offer from the Fresno office, Phil?
BBSI partners with business owners to help them achieve their business goals. Our services include human resource consulting, organizational design and development and consultation on workplace risk and safety. We also provide payroll processing and workers’ compensation coverage. As a company, we work with more than 3,000 businesses and we see many similarities in companies as they grow. We have found that by addressing some of the employment-related challenges in a business, we can help the owner to achieve their objectives.
Was BBSI impacted by the economic downtown, Phil?
While the economic downturn had an impact on the company overall, we focused on continuing to add new clients wherever possible.
How is business these days, Phil?
Our business has experienced a steady 30-percent growth year after year for several years and we don’t see that trend stopping anytime soon. That’s not to say we won’t have our challenges, as we aren’t immune to the same economic challenges our clients experience. We just tend to be more diversified.
What’s the most important piece of advice you can offer to business owners, Phil?
Simple, there isn’t a single most important piece of advice you can get. Being a small business owner is one of the most challenging enterprises one can take on, and why so many fail. However, it is also one of the most rewarding. I’ve found those business owners that have built, grown and sustained businesses know that the real power comes from “and,” not “or.” That’s why they wear so many hats. They also know their success comes from their ability to identify and leverage talent within their organization. Sometimes it is “insourced” and sometimes it is “outsourced”.
What is the most challenging part of your job, Phil?
Knowing when I need to get out of my own way. Recognizing when you are the constraint is a very difficult prospect for a leader. It’s like seeing the forest through the trees. Sometimes you need an objective party to pull you out so you can see what’s inside.
The most rewarding, Phil?
Making a positive impact, internally and externally, is what drives me. Watching a team come together and grow is extremely gratifying. Positively impacting small business owners and helping them achieve their goals is just as rewarding. Personally, it is how I find my feeling of significance.
What are your roots in the Central Valley, Phil?
I’m a Valley guy! My great grandparents came here during the “Okie and Arkie” migration, and our family settled between Fresno and Visalia. In my early years I felt the need to get out of Fresno and did so for 20 plus years; however, Fresno’s tether is only so long and eventually brought me back to raise a family. In all my travels, I can think of no better place to raise a family. I love it here!
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Phil?
After studying math and physics at Ohlone College, I worked in research and development in the photonics industry, working for a company in Santa Clara, Ca. that manufactures lasers for science, medicine and industrial applications. I worked on multiple high profile product launches and was exposed to many facets of business, from product development and R&D to manufacturing, from marketing and sales to customer applications. Shortly after the product launches, market success of these products exposed the company to the need for stronger manufacturing, and I was provided an opportunity to move into manufacturing as a process engineer.
After 10 years in R&D and Manufacturing, supporting multiple product lines and launches, I moved on to help build a start-up company in Columbia, MD, built Ultra Long Haul Data Transmission Systems. These are systems that Tel Com carriers use to move data across the country. Our greatest challenge was to develop a manufacturing facility capable of producing a critical component to our systems success, in volumes no other company had ever achieved. Finding the skilled labor to accomplish this required national searches and a major recruiting effort. This company was one of the highest profile startups for its time, raising more than $1.4B in its initial public offering, exposing me to the world of finance and financial planning.
What do you like to do on your downtime, Phil?
I don’t do downtime well, so I suppose sleep; however, other interests include, playing golf and family travel.