Hearing Miguel Mancebo and Monica McClure Mancebo speak about their lives and their business ventures leaves you breathless. She, quotable and passionate, finishes his sentences in her lilting Jamaican accent. The husband-and-wife team have forged a career and transition management firm that is headed nowhere but up. Taking advantage of current consolidation and layoff trends in corporate America, McClure Management Group LLC officially opened its doors in New York City in October 2004. The opening comes just more than 10 years after the Mancebos launched the award-winning Selective Staffing Inc., one of the New York metropolitan area’s most successful minority-owned temporary-employment staffing firms. It’s a strategic growth move that solidifies the Mancebos’ intent to stake a global claim in the human- capital management industry.
The Pull of Entrepreneurship
A combined family history of entrepreneurship, and experience in human resources management, proved a powerful and winning synergy. Prior to launching Selective Staffing in July 1993, Monica was a human resources manager at American Express, while Miguel was a regional director at EcoLab, a leading commercial cleaning and sanitizing company. But the pull of entrepreneurship was too strong for the couple to resist.
“Corporate America was good to us, but we wanted to go off and create our own destiny,” says Monica. And, having learned entrepreneurship from their families, the Mancebos could do no less. “My father owned a successful electrical engineering firm for many years, before becoming a full-time minister,” explains Monica.
In the same vein, Miguel’s mother was a clothing designer, his father an event planner. “My dad would throw parties and events in order to showcase my mom’s designs,” interjects Miguel.
“So we grew up with an understanding that entrepreneurship had its own set of ups and downs, but more ups than downs,” Monica chimes in. “It was ingrained in our souls.”
Their entrée into the human-capital management industry was perfectly timed. In the early 1990s the U.S. economy was at an all-time low, dragged down by high interest rates, a jump in oil prices following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a general decline in business and consumer confidence and huge national budget deficits. Unemployment grew and medical costs skyrocketed. In 1993, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 13 percent, more than double the 6 percent rate for whites.
With unemployment still disproportionately high in minority communities, it is no surprise that nearly 65 percent of Selective Staffing’s applicants are minority. “Many of our clients say how nurturing the environment is here, and how they feel taken care of,” says Miguel.
Each applicant goes through a rigorous screening process to see if their skills match the needs of Select’s corporate clients. “We send out applications and engage our clients in a dialogue about the types of duties and the personalities that [our temporary staff] would be supporting,” Monica says. The Mancebos argue this level of due diligence was lacking in other human resource staffing firms.
Thanks to their passion and professionalism, the pair landed Avon, their first corporate client, just months after hanging out their shingle at an expo sponsored by the New York/New Jersey Minority Purchasing Council. Avon sent representatives to Selective Staffing’s office, “to see what kind of set up we had,” explains Monica. Upon seeing that they only had three desks and a couple of computers, the representatives announced they would only be staying for 20 minutes. Clearly, however, they were impressed with the way the Mancebos presented themselves and the firm’s quality of work. “Their write-up was nothing less than exceptional!” declares Monica.
Avon first hired Selective Staffing as its backup temp agency, but changed its status within six months, making the firm its primary vendor for temporary and human resource services. Within a year, corporate accounts with the likes of Philip Morris, Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson and McGraw-Hill were pouring in. Within five years Selective Staffing’s revenues were $5 million. They are expected to top $10 million this year, with clients in financial services, telecommunications, technology, pharmaceuticals, health care, manufacturing, cosmetics, fashion, food services, hospitality and legal, among others.
“We’ve been able to build our company by leveraging relationships,” says Monica. Their relationship with mentor and longtime friend Harvey Butler, vice president of JP Morgan Chase & Co., proved most fruitful.
When Butler joined Chase, he made sure that Selective Staffing was a participant in the bank’s supplier development program as an approved minority- and woman-owned business enterprise (MWBE) vendor. The firm subsequently was brought on board as a backup temp agency. “When they reached out to us, they gave us those hard to find ‘diamonds in the rough’ positions to fill,” Monica says. “But we welcomed those challenges, because they gave us an opportunity to shine.”
The Chase contract proved to be a steady revenue earner for Selective. The Mancebos increased their presence in the tristate area by opening an office in Jersey City, N.J., in 1996, and a satellite office in Hempstead, N.Y., two years later. Besides the services Selective Staffing provided for its corporate clientele, the firm did a substantial business providing one-on-one training and counseling to walk-in clients. “We spared no expense on having a full cadre of platforms [on which] we can train and retool displaced employees so they can become competitive and be redeployed back into corporate America,” says Miguel.
Taking a Natural Step
Creating an outplacement firm was a natural outgrowth of those efforts. And thanks to one of their corporate clients, the groundwork would be laid for that evolution to take place. In 2002 Citigroup created a mentor-protégé program in which a limited number of MWBE suppliers are selected to be mentored by large, usually majority-owned companies. Selective Staffing went through a competitive selection process, and in 2002 was chosen out of 15 firms to be partnered with Lee Hecht Harrison, a global career management and outplacement firm.
During the 12- to 18-month period that followed, Selective Staffing worked closely with both Citigroup and Lee Hecht Harrison, which helped the Mancebos lay the groundwork for McClure Management—named after Monica’s late father. The spin-off company, hailed as the first woman- and minority-owned firm dedicated to outplacement, career transition and human-capital management consulting, resides in a 16,000-square-foot space on Madison Avenue and has 10 full-time staff members. Coaches and consultants are hired on a project basis.
The Mancebos intend to grow beyond the tristate area. Already, Selective Staffing “is strategically partnered with key global industry players and other minority businesses to identify new opportunities on a national and global scale,” an official company statement says. No less is expected of McClure Management
Ever mindful that the mantle of entrepreneurship is one that must be passed on, the couple created the Selective Corporate Internship Program (SCIP) in 1997, which provides high school juniors and seniors an entrée into corporate America through mentoring relationships with executives at Fortune 500 companies. “We thought it would only last six weeks,” says Miguel, who admits they had no idea the project would take on a life of its own. Now in its eighth year, SCIP has graduated more than 56 young adults. Those that completed college have landed corporate positions at such companies as Pfizer, PepsiCo and JP Morgan Chase.
Upholding Key Values
The market has rewarded the Mancebos with more than contracts and personal wealth. Selective Staffing has been lauded in leading regional and national business publications and has won outstanding business and community service awards every year for the past six years. In 2004, the firm received an Urban Angel Award from New York Theological Seminary and an Outstanding Community Service Award from the National Minority Business Council Inc. In previous years, awards came from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, JP Morgan Chase, the National Minority Supplier Development Council, NY/NJ Minority Purchasing Council and the New Jersey Business Industry Association.
In 1999, The Network Journal named Monica to its annual list of 25 most influential Black women in business.
The Mancebo children are also involved in the business. Daughter Sophia Palmer manages the Selective Staffing operation and son Kareame Palmer oversees the Jersey City office as well as the technology needs of the company. The youngest child, 14-year-old Mark Mancebo, deemed “the actor” in the family, presents the opening remarks at SCIP events.
In forging a personal and professional life together, the Mancebos have found a way to make it all work. “We got rid of the egos a long time ago,” says Monica. “We don’t live the I-syndrome; we’re members of a team. And we’ve tried to pass on that team mentality to all of our biological children, all our team members, and our kids in the SCIP program. We try to instill the values of dignity, respect and integrity.”
By Soroya Brantley