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A labour of love in the labour market

Published: 
Sunday, January 7, 2018

The head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick once said, “On a team, it’s not the strength of the individual players but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”

Playing off each other’s energy, best friends and business partners Ave Hull (pronounced “Ah-Vay”) and Ayanna Miguel-Rennie are determined to continue carving out a path of success locally, with the hope of expanding regionally in the coming year.

Since establishing Sperisio Limited, a labour supply company which provides permanent, semi-permanent and contract workers to small, medium and large companies, the two have found themselves inundated with calls from clients ranging from the private to public sector.

Employee placement includes that of warehouse attendants, packers, porters, cleaners, data entry clerks, customer service representatives, store attendants and secretarial/administrative officers.

Miguel-Rennie said the name of the business, when translated meant “successful vision.”

She revealed, “In 2014, an opportunity fell into my lap to provide labour and I took it.”

“After taking Ave’s advice to contact random companies to conduct training for them, I was given a chance by a large company to provide labour for them and I called her and urged her to come in with me to do it.”

With an academic background in Human Resource Management, Miguel-Rennie continued, “Since then, we have just been sailing through.”

Hull chimed in, “We have been so swamped with our current clients that this year will be our first attempt to venture out into the market.”

They both agreed that aggressive social media advertising and word-of-mouth referrals had contributed to the success they had enjoyed thus far.

A mother of a seven-year-old, Miguel-Rennie revealed, “We have always had the dream of owning a business together.”

Hull parroted their respective fathers as she laughed, “They like to say we have been friends since we were in pampers.”

Hull who is herself mother to a ten and two-year old, added, “We actually wanted a bar and restaurant, then we wanted to do containers but it never materialised the way we thought.”

Coming from families with strong entrepreneurial backgrounds, the two also worked together for a short time before Hull left to pursue other professional opportunities.

Specialising in the provision of entry-level labour, Miguel-Rennie and Hull said their desire to ensure their clients received the best level of service had led to them not expanding as quickly.

Hull noted, “I think that this is what has kept us back from expanding to the point where we can handle everybody.”

With an average of 50 persons listed on their data-base at any point in time, they said peak seasons can see this number get up to as much as 180.

In the process of training a selected handful of persons to assist them, Miguel-Rennie stressed, “When you think of Sperisio Limited, we want you to think of a superior labour supply in the sense that you always see me or Ave, to make sure we have a one-on-one connection with our clients so they know we are here and they can depend on us.”

Admitting they are recipients of calls at all hours of the day and night from prospective employers and potential employees, Hull explained the process, “When you call, we carefully assess your needs as a client before we go into our database to find someone who fits the criteria you listed.”

Miguel-Rennie added, “As the person handling the HR side of it, I ask persons for seven to ten working days to recruit and if it’s a larger number of persons, I will require more time to get the persons.”

They said all applicants are required to provide a police certificate of character and also undergo an interview before a panel of officials before they are placed with an employer.

This they claimed helped to maintain a certain level of transparency and security.

Encouraged to extend their services to the companies they serve by training their employees, Miguel-Rennie said, “Persons will tell us they just need a porter but the person has to understand the basics of what he is being hired to do.”

“Also, there is HSE and First Aid, customer interaction, how to lift heavy equipment properly, how to drive a forklift and lift cargo and so on.”

She continued, “We are also offering this kind of training to our clients so when we go to them, we can train their employees who may not be aware of all the various aspects their job entails.”

Determined to provide more than just an “employment opportunity” for their recruits, Miguel-Rennie and Hull have also started sending persons back to school to learn to read and write by providing grants so persons can improve themselves academically and personally.

Miguel-Rennie stated, “We don’t just want to be employers, we want to be able to ensure our employees know we care.”

Hull echoed, “We want that attitude to be communicated to our clients as well, because it is all about getting employees to feel comfortable at work.”

Pressed to say how they preserved the rights of workers they have placed at external organisations, Miguel-Rennie revealed, “We are advocates for all our employees. We make it clear to our clients, these are Sperisio guys and they come from our culture so you need to show our guys respect.”

“Not because you think they are manual labourer means they can be disrespected.”

Hull and Miguel-Rennie said there have been times they have both had to visit a work-site to address situations involving their employees.

Hull, who is pursuing tertiary level studies in the field of Psychology explained, “We know the persons we are dealing with at the companies. I would analyse the person and advise our workers accordingly. I caution them to take a breather and call us if you have an issue but don’t retaliate.”

She admitted that while they have had to defuse tense situations that have arisen before, they are not about abandoning anyone under their care.

Miguel-Rennie laughed, “I think that’s our maternal instincts kicking in.”

Asked how they were able to balance work and home, they looked at one another sheepishly before Hull piped up, “Not very well.”

Hull said, “We have to actually tell ourselves, it is time to take a break.”

“I am constantly getting blown-out at home about it,” while Miguel-Rennie admitted, “We need to make time for our significant others and ourselves as well.”

Claiming they were both hard on themselves in the beginning, Miguel-Rennie said, “I think we have now started to find that balance.”

Working on their long-term goal to expand Sperisio Limited, Hull said, “Two years from now, because of the way the economy is, we want to see ourselves more involved in a lot of other companies as the middle person supplying employment and contracted employees as and when needed.”

“Many companies right now cannot afford to take on permanent employees, but we want to fill the gaps that exist and still be able to treat the employees the way they deserve and ensure everybody has a fair chance.”

Miguel-Rennie added, “We are pioneers in what we are doing and in two years time, I want us to revolutionise the labour force not only in T&T, but throughout the region.”

Focusing on the current state of the economic climate and what was happening in the job market daily with lay-offs and retrenchment, Hull advised, “We have all kinds and types of people coming to us for jobs right now, begging to do something as they just want to be able to have a little money to do something and there are companies who are not certain themselves about where they are going, but they need to continue for now and we want to be able to fill the gaps.”

Claiming many of the youths today appeared angry and seemed to believe “the world owed them”, Hull said while they genuinely want to help persons, it was virtually impossible to help everyone who crossed their path.

Although their personalities complement each other, the two said while they don’t always agree professionally, it has never led to any major divisions in their friendship or working relationship which they have vowed will only grow from strength to strength.

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