Signs of an improving economy are prompting Inc. 500 CEOs to hire now.
With the national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, it's clear that many businesses don't feel confident enough about the economy to begin hiring again. Fortunately, there are exceptions. In a recent poll of Inc. 500 CEOs, the vast majority of respondents said they have been hiring and will continue to do so throughout 2010.
Inc. 500 companies, of course, are the best possible places to look for optimism, because by definition they are growing quickly. Still, the trend is clear. More than 93 percent of the 90 companies that responded to the survey expect to hire in the next six months. Three companies with 70 or fewer employees say they plan to hire at least 50 people.
Nor are Inc. 500 CEOs alone in feeling good about the future. There are signs that other business leaders are also starting to look on the bright side. A recent survey of private companies by global accounting firm Grant Thornton International found that 51 percent of 250 U.S. respondents felt optimistic about the economy. Nearly a third said they plan to increase their work force in 2010.
For many Inc. 500 CEOs, the need to hire is already crystal clear. Arnette Heintze, co-founder of Hillard Heintze, a Chicago company that specializes in helping companies protect themselves from workplace violence and financial fraud, says he has seen demand boom in the wake of the banking crisis. Heintze, a retired U.S. Secret Service agent, expects to hire about 50 employees in the coming six months on top of the 55 he hired last year; that would more than triple his work force since the beginning of 2009. "Some of the issues related to the economic troubles in late 2008 and 2009 are now driving our growth and hiring," says Heintze.
Similarly, John Amato, the co-founder and president of New York City -- based Show Media, which places advertising on taxicabs and billboards for film festivals, concerts, and other events around the country, hired 20 employees last year. That brings his total team to 46. Now he plans to add 10 employees to staff a new venture -- marketing products in limousines and town cars. "You can't blink right now," says Amato. "Bigger companies are still in the mindset of licking their wounds. But we're not thinking; we're doing."
Adam Fried, CEO of Simply Canvas in Akron, Ohio, says his company, which prints photographs on canvas, grew a modest 7 percent in 2009. Still, he is adding 10 to 20 jobs this year. "When the economy turns, we will be positioned for quick growth," he says. "I don't want to sit back and blame the economy for tough times."
Namasté Solar, based in Denver, expanded its staff 20 percent to 65 workers in 2009 and will hire another dozen workers in the first half of this year, says CEO Blake Jones. "We're seeing a huge increase in demand," says Jones of his company, which installs and services residential and commercial solar power systems. "We are very bullish on our prospects in 2010."
Even recruiting and staffing companies, part of an industry hit particularly hard by the recession, foresee an upturn. Bryan Zaslow, CEO of New York City -- based JBCStyle, which does job placement for the fashion and retail sectors, says his firm can't keep up with demand. Does that show that retail, a much-battered sector of the economy, is finally on the mend? "People were so conservative for so long," says Zaslow. "Now, all of a sudden, it's been wonderful. There really is a different vibe out there."
DARREN DAHL is a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, NC.