Someone once gave Imprimis Group CEO Valerie Freeman advice that has served her well as an entrepreneur: “If you don’t know it can’t be done, you can usually do it.” Freeman was teaching at El Centro College in Dallas when she formed her staffing company in 1982. “I had no knowledge of the industry and no experience in business ownership,” she says. “I’ve since started a variety of companies, never with full knowledge of what or how to do things. I mean, how hard can it be?” Imprimis is now one of the largest independently owned staffing companies in Texas.

FIRST JOB:
Commission sales in a woman’s apparel store in Houston. Whoever got to the customer first got the commission on anything sold. So I perfected the art of sneakily dashing to the front to grab anyone coming in the door.

WORST JOB:
Working the graveyard shift behind the intake desk at an emergency medical clinic. Strippers and prostitutes were our main clients.

IN THE BEGINNING:
The business was seriously bootstrapped. I took my retirement money from El Centro, rented an office in an executive center, and hired one employee. I didn’t want to have to go back to the college and beg to get my job back; that was my motivation to succeed.

COMPANY CULTURE:
Communication, honesty, humility, recognition, dignity, respect, support, and care are important, as is not keeping dysfunctional employees who destroy the morale of productive and committed employees.

GROWTH TRACK:
All of our divisions are growing: BravoTech, due to the rapid development and deployment of new technologies; FreemanLeonard marketing/creative talent group, due to the changing nature of advertising and marketing; Imprimis Staffing group, in our banking/financial, accounting, and healthcare lines; our Human Capital Solutions group, which is seeing more consulting and outsourcing opportunities for specialized skills in compensation/benefits, compliance, recruiting/retention, and training; and our national staffing group, Anserteam, which serves companies looking for talent and technology solutions in food service and manufacturing.

MANAGEMENT STYLE:
It ranges from democratic—I want our staff to be engaged in decision making, solving their own problems and setting their own goals—to autocratic, when business is down and when it comes to spending money.

STRENGTHS:
Resiliency, determination, perseverance, common sense, empathy, and a positive, can-do attitude.

WEAKNESSES:
Never giving up on anybody, even when I should.

LESSONS LEARNED:
After the tech bust in 2000-2001 and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, our business was cut almost in half. I tried to keep our employees focused on bringing in business, but I learned that hope is not a strategy. Finally, but not soon enough, I had to face the reality of layoffs to keep the company going.

FAMILY:
I am married to my college sweetheart, and we have three rescue cats.

STRESS RELIEF:
A run on the treadmill, followed by a beer and a great dinner prepared by my husband, who is a fabulous cook.

JUST FOR FUN:
This year I took up shooting clays and I joined a horse racing group, Mojo Racing Partners. Also, my husband loves NASCAR, and he has piqued my interest in it, especially when I can follow Danica Patrick.

READING:
A friend just gave me The Duck Commander Family, the Duck Dynasty book written by Willie and Korie Robertson. It’s very entertaining, although not beautifully written.