Mary Chism-Ferguson began her staffing business with $10,000 in her pocket and 50 clients in her rolodex—and a disaster around the corner.
If there’s anything Mary knows, it’s the apartment business. Leasing, management, staffing, parking, wrangling conflict… you name it, she’s done it. She’d even tried going out on her own before.
I figured, hey, I can do this, but I really didn’t know what I was doing— Mary says now, laughing.
She went back to work for a traditional agency and tried running her own business again in 2003. That agency, which she ran with a friend, lasted just two years. But Mary wasn’t deterred. It was time to try it again.
I had a meeting with my husband one night and said, ‘Now I really know what I’m doing. Trust me on this.’ So we opened Texas Apartment Services up in 2005 and we’ve been going ever since!
Today, Texas Apartment Services is truly a family affair. Mary’s husband, Darrell Ferguson, does HR and accounts payable; their daughter, Lauren Nutting, takes care of the collections and legal aspects of the business; and Mary and their son, Marshall, share the placement duties.
And the family’s values shine through in the way they do business, in the integrity and pride they take in their operations. Mary knows well that the perfect candidate takes time.
Our hiring ratio is around 80% because we don’t rush people out. We’d rather wait a day, get that right candidate, and then we have a match. Our clients appreciate us for that.
A good start, then a serendipitous reversal
This time, when she began again, she knew what she was doing – or at least, she knew what not to do. And she knew that with 50 clients in her pocket, they were going to quadruple her $50,000 in the first week. But she already knew the first pitfall of staffing companies: payroll taxes.
“I couldn’t afford to pay payroll taxes and wait for my customers to pay me after 30 or 60 days,” Mary says.
So Mary and Darrell approached their bank about setting up receivable financing.
We needed to have money floating. For a small-time businesses, it’s a huge benefit.
Once they had the cash they needed at their disposal, business began to flourish. This arrangement worked until their bank announced they would no longer do receivable financing.
“I thought, ‘Oh no!’ Unless something’s broken, I don’t move companies. It’s hard to switch.” So Mary set out to find a bank Texas Apartment Services could work with. “They wanted to call my clients and verify invoices and basically run the business,” Mary explains. “I said, ‘No. You don’t understand. If you do that I will lose business because my clients don’t talk to anybody but me.’”
Discouraged, Mary had a thought. Why not look for the person she’d originally set up the receivable financing with at her original bank? Mary remembered how good he was to work with. That person was Sam Tork, now Far West Capital’s senior vice president in Dallas.
“I basically stalked Sam,” Mary laughs. As she checked out Far West Capital’s site, Mary was surprised to find another familiar face: Brian Center, Far West Capital’s president and chief credit officer. “Brian Center used to be with the bank that funded my first business,” Mary explains. “It was just like fate to me. Brian and Sam know how I do my business, so it was a done deal. I stopped looking.”
They said, ‘You’ve obviously been doing this for a long time. We’re going to let you run your business and call us if you need help.’ That’s huge to me.
Far West Capital has proven to be the perfect partners for Texas Apartment Services. “Our relationship is built on trust,” Mary explains. “They said, ‘You’ve obviously been doing this for a long time. We’re going to let you run your business and call us if you need help.’ That’s huge to me.”
But, says Mary, she knows the team at Far West Capital is always there when they need help. “They check in on a quarterly basis, ask how we’re doing and how they can help us grow. But they help me grow in the way I want to. They give us the ability to do what we need to do, but they’re our support team that allows us to be able to do it.”
With other factoring companies, says Mary, it’s about bottom line. “But that’s not Far West. They’ve got my back no matter what.” That’s why Mary says she’s not going anywhere.
Lots of businesses tend to stay with factoring companies until they’re able to get a line of credit. We’re able to, but we don’t want to. When you have a relationship with people you trust, I see no need to go anywhere else.
Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.