Lexicon Consulting, in El Cajon, California, got its start by providing extras for big-screen military battles. Now CEO Jamie Arundell-Latshaw's company creates mock Afghan and Iraqi villages to help train troops who are headed overseas. She spoke with Inc.'s Jason Del Rey about Lexicon (No. 4), the top woman-run company.
What are the most radical circumstances your employees replicate?
At Fort Irwin, in California, as troops and medics drive up to a village, a rocket-propelled grenade goes off, a car explodes, and we have role players screaming and chanting. We hire amputees who fall out of vehicles. The wounds look realistic, and they're set up in a way that the medics have to put pressure on the wounds and stop the bleeding. Our goal is to make the simulation as real as possible.
Where do you find your role players?
One of the reasons we have our office down in El Cajon is that there's a big Iraqi population there. Our recruiters know what we're looking for.
So, what do you look for in a role player?
We want people who can speak the language and understand the culture. And we also want people who have a passion for training troops the right way. Without that, you're not going to be motivated to go above and beyond to provide a better service.
What is your biggest challenge going forward?
We're growing so fast, so our challenges are hiring people who share our goals and having liquid cash. We don't always get paid by the government within 30 to 60 days, so we have to balance trying to get new work with making sure we have money to perform the work.
And the most rewarding part of the job for you?
When troops return from multiple deployments overseas, the role players and managers who worked with them often get feedback like, "Learning what to do in each scenario made a difference in how I performed over there."
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