Strategies Phoenixes

Type of business: Job-fair services

In ashes: 1992

Reborn: 1993

Key to resurrection: Diversifying customer base and products

When Bill Aberman was running his job-fair business, BPI, in the late 1970s and the 1980s, he often hobnobbed with government officials--but never with a first lady. Yet in July he had the opportunity to hand a flyer about his successor company, Personnel Strategies Inc. (#307), to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton attended a job fair that Aberman was coordinating for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic lobbying organization. The fact that he bumped into her was happenstance. But the fact that his company was producing the kind of job fair that would attract a first lady points to a sea change that has taken place in Aberman's business strategy since the collapse of BPI, six years ago.

The bulk of BPI's customers, which recruited employees at job fairs that Aberman staged in cities across the country, were aerospace and defense contractors. When the federal government sharply cut back its spending in those areas during the early 1990s, BPI's market all but dried up. He dissolved the company in 1992.

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Personnel Strategies, which Aberman cofounded the following year, still puts on job fairs. But the 13-person company, based in a Minneapolis suburb, now produces the events mostly in the Midwest and posts annual revenues of $2.4 million. To insulate his company against the kind of calamity that demolished BPI, Aberman has diversified. He seeks customers of all sizes in many industries, ranging from fast-food franchises to high technology. And the business extends beyond the corporate world to job-fair partnerships with such not-for-profit groups as the NAACP and La Raza. When the next recession hits, Aberman says, he's confident that "our business will exist."