In January of 2005, I made my job finding my next job. I was also growing and running the Los Angeles office of a court reporting business and raising my daughter, who at the time was 15 years old. The decision to change jobs was precipitated by the separation of the California offices from Spherion. The rest of Spherion was acquired by Veritext. For seven months I spent time with the then Big Three Agencies – Merrill, Esquire and Veritext. Sara McDonald’s parting words when she left just ahead of me were, “don’t sink with the ship.” The ship didn’t sink until after I left, thank goodness.
Much like Goldilocks, I had three choices, and Veritext was “just right.” I first met with Mike Sandler and then with Nancy Josephs, which included a walk on the beach. With a little push from Debra Neiderfer, and some advice from her as well, I knew I should and could do this. The opportunity at Veritext was perfect. They needed a West Coast presence, and I was jumping in to start the Western Region.
Cory and I left our last company and two weeks later opened the doors of Veritext-Los Angeles during a recession. Rebeca Gomez joined us (in lit support/production), and now almost 14 years and two more children later (for her, not me) we are still together. We had 1½ days of training from Marie Burfeind, our computers and phones were set up by Jacob, and we were up and running. We didn’t even have a kitchen or a coffeepot, which didn’t stop Mike Sandler from asking for tea every time he visited. Mike would be so proud of our current kitchen with its assortment of tea.
We opened the doors with no business – zero. On July 8 we had jobs on calendar from our other Veritext offices. Cory and I knocked on doors and had our own jobs on calendar on July 18, 2005. The reporters we worked with in Month 1 – Jan, Judy, Wendy, Ricki, Harry and Cathy Baker and videographer David West – are still working with us now, minus Harry Hansen and Cathy Baker, who have since retired. I am thankful every day for the many talented reporters I have worked with and continue to work with, many since my first court reporting job, assigning calendar, 28 years ago. I continue to enjoy getting to know the reporters on our team, many from our acquisitions of Sarnoff, Stelding, Century, H&B, PCR, Kramm, Imhoff, Epiq and YOM, and the reporters from court, since that giant change happened as well.
When Jan Schutzman brought in our first large case, I went to every deposition with her and set up the five real-time laptops. Those were the days of wires running over and under the table and attorneys who didn’t even know how to turn on their laptops. Has anything changed? Oh yes! Real-time work is wireless now.
Our next L.A. salesperson was Paulette Griffin, who was previously a top reporter but was ready to retire her hands and try something new. Although Mike Sandler had his doubts, Paulette proved him wrong and had enormous success before retiring from full-time employment. Then Sara came back to me. Sara and I had worked really well together at a previous company, and her coming on board in a selling role really put us on the map.
I would go through the whole California sales and ops team (how could I live without Elna, Janelle, Lynn and Kirk?), but it would then take until my 15th anniversary to finish reading this! All of you know who you are and how special you are to me.
One day I was in San Diego seeing a client when I got a phone call from Nancy asking if I wanted to take over OC and SD (SD was Bill Steiner with a small book of business) – so I said sure. This was similar to the phone call I got from Mike telling me it was time to start an in-house video department – which I did, hiring Ryan. I was also told when it was time to start the S.F. office, so I did that too, first hiring Denise, then Jonathan, and starting again in a market without a book of business, this time in a city many miles away. It was even harder than starting L.A.
By late 2009, the California business was getting too large for one leader, so it was suggested that it was time to add some management support. The option was to bring someone in to work for me in a leadership role in ops or sales. I knew that with no formal sales training myself the sales manager role was the position I needed to fill. Shannon’s great advice had me reaching out to Janet, but she wasn’t available, so I hired another manager who was good. When Janet called me six months later ready to come on board, I traded good for great. Janet was not the only hire I had to wait patiently for; Jonathan turned me down on my first try, and so did Mike Murray. Take note, sales team: “no” really does mean “not yet”!
The very large acquisition of Sarnoff in the fall of 2011 was life-changing in every way. Who knew it would be the first of many? The assimilation of such a large business in all of the same markets with a large sales team and large staff was certainly challenging, to say the least. Janet and I survived this and ended up with some amazingly talented reporters and staff. We are also more than a little bit thankful to have met the amazingly talented Rebekah Bryant through this acquisition.
There was a point when we grew so fast that I couldn’t even figure out how to get all of the transcripts printed each day. Marie Burfeind came out to assess and offer some ideas, which worked! In just a few years we’ve moved into a world where paper is secondary, or entirely unnecessary, thank goodness.
In L.A. we started in one-plus rooms, then moved upstairs to a larger space, then also took over the suite next door, then moved across the street to our current beautiful space. We have moved from Costa Mesa to Irvine and now back to Costa Mesa; we have moved several times in San Diego, and we have moved to S.F. I was on hand to help with every single move in California until the last one in Sacramento. A level of my success is how many moves I don’t have to help with.
There have been so many special moments in the past 14 years that it’s hard to highlight them all. They range from being part of the team that created Native Capture, now called Exhibit Capture, to being the first agency to move from a paper depository to electronic for CD cases (thank goodness for Danielle, who has since moved to Hawaii to teach third grade), to having the support and freedom to create my own business model, to hiring my very own very talented sales team, to creating a role for Mike Murray and, of course, Janet. To achieve this level of success I needed the brains and talent of Jay Goldberg, who gave me something so amazing to sell and offer our clients, and the unwavering support of the best assistant ever, Nancy Josephs.
As usual, when asked a favor in 2009, I couldn’t say no, so I took the lead on our new region, Texas. I loved my three years in Texas and still miss them, but it was time to focus solely on the ever-growing California business, so I passed the Texas team to others.
When it comes down to it, I worked really, really hard, making the tough decisions when needed and working tirelessly. My goals have always been: To create a community where people would want to belong; to be the type of leader who creates the space where people are able to do the work of innovative problem-solving; to develop future leaders; to create a path where others will follow; to listen, to always make time to listen.
A few things have changed from when I started this endeavor. We aren’t in a recession, and the crises have shifted to focusing on a solution for the reporter shortage.
My daughter is now almost 30 years old and has earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and I have accomplished my goal of allowing myself to have white hair and even like how it looks.
Thank you for following. It’s been an amazing 14 years.