Nina Vaca grew up the daughter of entrepreneurs. She learned from her parents what it takes to grow a business, and she has put those lessons to good use at Pinnacle Technical Resources, which she launched in her one-bedroom apartment in 1996. Today the company, which provides staffing, vendor management, and IT services for Fortune 500 businesses, generates more than $250 million in annual revenue. With more than 4,200 consultants in the United States and Canada, Pinnacle has experienced particularly strong growth over the past seven years—even during a challenging economy. Vaca, a director at both Comerica Inc. and Kohl’s Corp., is a founding member of Startup America and recently served as national chair of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
TITLE: Founder, Chairman and CEO
FIRST JOB: When I was 10 years old, my job in my family’s travel agency was to put stickers on bus passes.
WORST JOB: There hasn’t been one. I try to find the good in everything, and I was always happy to have a job.
MANAGEMENT STYLE: I have very high expectations, but I am the opposite of a micromanager. I like to empower people. I am all about giving people responsibilities with accountability. I trust, but verify.
WEAKNESS: It’s not being able to find a way to put 36 hours in one day. There just is not enough time.
BEST PART OF JOB: I love to work with people and to watch them grow.
CHALLENGES: I experienced my first recession as an entrepreneur in 2001. It was very difficult, but it was also a huge learning experience. I was down to a liquidation plan and I almost didn’t make payroll. That experience taught me the importance of adaptability and leveraging technology. It also taught me survival skills. Lately, the challenge has been figuring out how to stay on a growth trajectory in this environment of ever-changing regulations.
WHAT’S NEW: We just acquired Provade, a third-party labor-management software company. The company was based in California, but we took care of that right away.
COMPANY GROWTH: Pinnacle Technical Resources has had revenue growth for 15 out of 16 years and we just expanded in our building to take up the entire sixth floor!
SUCCESS STRATEGIES: Making sure I have the right people in the right place. It is very important to be selective about who you choose to surround yourself with, because no one accomplishes anything on their own. The most important things I look for when hiring are perspective and attitude. This is not a difficult business, but attitude is critical. I look for the entrepreneurial spirit. We are built on the vision that we are all entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a state of mind and a journey—these are people who are intent on beating every odd and being crazy good at what they do.
on entrepreneurism: Anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur and start a business should have a plan before they start.
FAMILY: Husband Jim Humrichouse (who serves as president of Pinnacle), four beautiful children (two girls and two boys), and a cat named Lo, who uses the toilet!
FAVORITE COLOR: Red.
FOR FUN: I love to swim, bike and run—preferably all in the same hour. I’m a tri-athlete and I also do bikram yoga to relax. I prefer it to going to a spa. It puts my body back together.
READING: I read books about business, such as Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. I’m on her “launch team” (for the “Lean In” movement).
TV: I don’t watch television. I don’t have the time. I don’t even play it in the background.
BEST ADVICE: “If you want to create change, you have to go to where the power is.” Also, from my dad: “Always know who you are.” This is very profound advice, and it has been critical to every success that I have ever had in my life.