VincentBenjamin capitalizes on recession, nabs top team
– As the recession was becoming the demise for many businesses and their employees, Vince Dorazio viewed it as an indication the timing was ideal for him to leave the safety net of his employer and launch his own company.
Despite a non-compete agreement that triggered a rocky start, the growth of VincentBenjamin, the Phoenix recruiting and staffing firm Dorazio co-founded with business partner Ben Howard in 2009, suggests the hunch was accurate.
Dorazio and Howard worked together at one of the world’s largest international finance recruiting and staffing firms. They experienced success there but also had entrepreneurial ambitions.
In 2008, Dorazio said, the economic downturn meant the landscape was changing and the industry would undergo a shakeup. Many talented professionals would be unemployed – if they weren’t already – or unhappy due to a shift in their working environment.
It was the opening Dorazio and Howard needed. They decided to move forward and start their own recruiting firm dedicated to finance, the field they knew best.
“Whenever there’s a change, there’s always significant opportunity. We started VincentBenjamin when the economy was in a scary free fall. It seems counterintuitive, but it gave us the opportunity to assemble an all-star team that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Dorazio said.
A non-compete agreement with their former employer was an obstacle. Dorazio and Howard opened VincentBenjamin’s first office in Orange County and ran it from there for the duration of the one-year non-compete. Both were married with young children at the time. They commuted between California and their homes in Arizona and supported the business, two families and separate residences without taking a paycheck that initial year. A small investment from an angel investor helped, but it wasn’t easy.
“It was very much an act of faith. (But) for the first 12 months, you would’ve called our faith into question,” Dorazio recalled as he laughed.
They were able to build their young venture into stability by capitalizing on the rebound and hiring top talent quickly.
“If we could do it there, where we had no contacts, then we could do it here, where we had strong contacts,” Dorazio said.
When the non-compete expired in 2010, Dorazio and Howard kept their Orange County office but moved the firm back home and made Phoenix its headquarters. With a business model and operation plan in place, and access to the contacts they had previously developed, VincentBenjamin continued to pick up speed.
What started as a staff of two has now ballooned to 70. This year, the firm expanded its 4,000-square-foot space to 12,000 square feet. In addition to the Phoenix and Orange County offices, VincentBenjamin has locations in Los Angeles and Denver.
In its first year, VincentBenjamin generated about a half-million dollars in revenue, Dorazio said. This year, it’s on track to generate $25 million.
It has also broadened its services. A staffing, or temporary, division was added in 2010. In 2011, Dorazio and Howard expanded into technology field. Currently, the information technology component generates more than half of the firm’s revenue, Dorazio said.
Phoenix software company Ipro Tech LLC, uses the firm’s permanent and temporary staffing services. Chief financial officer Bret Lawson has hired at least 10 full-time and temporary employees from VincentBenjamin and said he has been extremely pleased with the process and the results.
“I prefer working with them over other firms in town because they interview candidates, screen candidates … they’re not just a resume forwarding service,” Lawson said.
He said every candidate VincentBenjamin has sent his way has been a quality one.
“They have a good understanding of my needs and what candidates I’m looking for. It pretty much almost always ends up being a really good match and my time is not being wasted,” Lawson said.
Born in New Orleans and raised in New Mexico and the Southwest, Dorazio moved to Phoenix in 1998 to take a position with Ernst & Young. Subsequent experiences with a tech startup and starting an online retail business with his wife showed him what it took to build a business from the ground up and sparked his entrepreneurial spirit.
In 2003, he met Howard, who had started his career with Goldman Sachs in London and had a couple of startups under his belt in the Bay Area.
They each had a blend of large corporate finance experience and entrepreneurial exposure.
Identifying talent has been a crucial asset. Creating a nurturing company culture has resulted in continuity and low turnover. Investing in a comfortable space with amenities that include a 10th floor patio with stunning mountain views, pool table and other creature comforts has paid dividends in retention, Dorazio said, with the top core producers remaining with the firm.
“It all starts with putting together great people, and great people want to work with other great people,” he said. “The first and second generations of hires have a sense of ownership within the company, and that permeates the organization.”
It may appear that every step of the journey to a sprawling office with a lofty view was mapped out. Dorazio admitted it was anything but. Faith and perseverance compensated for gaps or bumps on that road.
“We knew where we wanted to go from the beginning, although we didn’t know all the steps along the way,” Dorazio said. “This was our vision. We held that vision through everything that came our way and had an unshakable belief that we will get there.”