By Brigitta Shouppe
Terry Terhark started and sold two successful recruiting businesses, and served as president of ADP’s Talent Acquisition Solutions leading 1,000 ADP associates around the world. Yet, when he stepped back to look at his 30-year career, Terhark felt his industry had not evolved.
“The job board may have evolved from the newspaper to LinkedIn. It may provide a better user experience, but at the end of the day, it is still a job board,” said Terhark. “Businesses post positions and potential employees express an interest. Then, their resume falls into a black hole. Recruiting just has not kept pace with technology.”
Terhark, a self-described businessman and entrepreneur, plunged into the world of big data to build a new model for recruiting. The result: a successful new company called randrr (reinventing and revolutionizing recruiting), which uses data to better match employees and employers.
While tax incentives offered to new companies often make headlines, the ongoing support from local economic development organizations, like JAXUSA, is key to bridging the gap from startup to major company.
From introductions to nearby businesses and real estate selection to training local talent and recruitment, JAXUSA played an important role in randrr’s launch and growth. It showed how economic development efforts at the local level pay off.
“You know, it is new and exciting, yet, similar to running any other business,” said Terhark. To be successful, he looked for a location with top-notch science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent; related businesses nearby that could serve as complementary vendors; and, an atmosphere where people were free to be creative and produce their best work.
Terhark first honed in on Silicon Valley as a possible location for the business. “I believed Silicon Valley was where technology companies were based. I assumed the talent was there and that was where we needed to be,” said Terhark.
Fortunately for Floridians, JAXUSA got Terhark thinking about Jacksonville. JAXUSA, a nonprofit division of the JAX Chamber, works to help retain and expand local businesses as well as recruit new businesses to the area. JAXUSA’s economic development professionals help companies in areas including real estate selection, permitting, workforce development, export assistance and marketing.
With higher-wage jobs in the technology field, randrr is exactly the type of company JAXUSA wants to attract to Jacksonville. The JAXUSA team jumped in to get Terhark excited about relocating and smoothed the transition to make a Jacksonville home a reality for the company.
After nine months of operation in Jacksonville, randrr grew to 50 employees and has had great success employing graduates from the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and Flagler College with degrees in STEM fields.
“Realizing the talent pool was here, I felt like we could be a big fish in a medium-sized pond instead of one of hundreds of thousands,” said Terhark.
“JAXUSA and the Chamber’s Entrepreneurial Growth Division are focused on creating an environment where startup companies can thrive,” said Tim Cost, chair of JAXUSA and president of Jacksonville University. “To have a company like randrr decide to build a revolutionary new jobs platform in Jacksonville is a big win for our region. We are committed to producing and retaining top talent in our market to fill high-tech positions similar to the ones Terry is creating.”
randrr, which calls itself a technology company instead of a recruiting company, uses data referring to job descriptions, salaries and resumes from actual employees to build career paths and profiles for people seeking new job opportunities. Users can see and better understand their personal market value, what different jobs entail, and what jobs and skills might be needed before they can land their dream job. Currently, the platform is free for job seekers, companies and recruiters.
From Terhark’s vantage point, the challenges are steep but exciting because the company’s mission encompasses innovation in an industry that has remained stagnant for decades.
For example, job titles and descriptions are incredibly varied making it difficult to draw comparisons to one another. However, Terhark believes randrr’s proprietary technology has advanced to the point that it can reclassify positions with unique titles based on what its data has uncovered about the positions. For example, one user reported they were a “coffee maestro,” but randrr’s algorithms correctly reclassified the job title as a barista.
Some of these improvements and discoveries originated from randrr employees. Additionally, contractors played an important role in figuring out new approaches. To find this help, randrr again turned to JAXUSA.
“The team at JAXUSA is knowledgeable about area resources and businesses. Whether we were looking for universities with STEM programs or local tech businesses to work with, JAXUSA has helped build connections for us throughout the city,” said Terhark. “They really are a well-oiled machine and bent over backwards to help us start our operation.”
The growing network of tech small businesses in Jacksonville played a key role in the development of a bigger fish like randrr.
Just how big can randrr be? Terhark has set a goal of hiring 200 technical employees in the first two to three years. With 50 employees, randrr continues its journey to Terhark’s goal.
While randrr launched without economic incentive assistance, Terhark attributes much of the company’s success to the myriad of other resources from JAXUSA. The value of JAXUSA for the company was helping find and keep top talent, and introducing randrr to potential business partners throughout the city. The result: growth of one company that in turn will expand Jacksonville’s pool of high-wage tech jobs for years to come.