Executive Suite: Renée Nielsen

Reneé Nielsen, didn’t last long as an administrative assistant.

“I realized I wasn’t a good secretary,”

 she recalls,“so I went back to school.”

Her former supervisor helped her when she later began working at an employment agency. “Everybody that I worked for started giving me an opportunity to fill positions in their company.” She launched her own staffing firm,  Nielsen Associates, in 1988.

Nielsen, who is Puerto Rican and has her business certified as minority-owned, is married and has three children. She belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and is involved with the National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

You say you try to understand the culture and personality of a client’s organization — how do you go about doing that? “Some companies have a company culture, and they’ll have it well defined.” For instance, a company may want someone from a “cross-functional environment [with a] tremendous amount of energy. So that’s their company culture, and what we try to do is match it up. Nine out of 10 times the determining factor usually comes down to the cultural fit, the chemistry.”

How would you describe the culture at your company? “We’re very team-oriented. There’s no internal competitiveness. It’s like we’re all rowing together. Also, what’s nice about our organization is that we really have a work-life balance. We all telecommute on Fridays. We still work, but we’re not physically in the office.”

How has the recession impacted business? Referring to the company’s human resources and marketing consultants placed at clients’ firms, she says, “In 2008 we had all of our contractors’ assignments ended. So our revenue stream came to a screeching halt. What we decided to do was expand our HR practice nationally” beyond New York for the first time. “We were successful in making placements in Texas, in Florida, and Chicago, New Jersey. That really helped us get through 2009 and the first quarter of 2010.”

What qualities do you look for in hiring? “We look for someone that’s a self-starter, someone that’s motivated, has strong moral business ethics, has common sense, a team player that can share, a very good memory. Someone that’s positive and can figure things out.”

What’s your approach to dealing with the competition? “I don’t really pay attention to the competition. I just really try to keep focused on doing what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s enough business for everyone. I have to say that the competitors that are left [after the recession] — they’re good.”

How would you describe your leadership style? “I’m very supportive. I’m the person that comes up with a lot of ideas.”

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business? “Don’t give yourself an option to not succeed.”