- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2000

McKinley Marketing Partners is one company that does not live to promote itself. The Alexandria-based specialized staffing company, instead, thrives on promoting Fortune 500 companies and local Internet start-ups.

McKinley founder and president Michelle Boggs decided five years ago to capitalize on the tight labor market and rising demand among the nation's largest companies for short-term marketing help.

"As the technology world has taken off, we've seen a lot of demand," Ms. Boggs said.

Companies across industries and throughout the nation solicit interim marketing managers from McKinley for short-term projects. McKinley provides companies nationwide like Celestial Seasonings, Qwest Communications, U.S. West and Bell Atlantic, with substitute managers.

Hiring temporary marketing staff is a profitable trend that is taking off across a variety of industries, according Sallie Mitchell, director of brand development for the Public Relations Society of America.

Interim marketing managers can offer a fresh perspective and do not get paid benefits by the company, she noted.

"You're not incurring the payroll investment, so you can hire a public relations or marketing mercenary with the advantage of outside eyes," she said. "It's a wonderful partnership."

Bell Atlantic Communications Inc., the long-distance subsidiary or Bell Atlantic, has been working with McKinley for the past five years.

"We were looking for short-term help, but the right help," said Mark Adams, director of consumer mass markets at Bell Atlantic Communications.

"They (McKinley managers) can really hit the ground running with very little training," he added.

"It's four o'clock and they want somebody on the project by noon on Monday," said Marcia Call, the director of business development at McKinley.

When a client calls, Ms. Call logs on to McKinley's proprietary database to find the right interim manager for the client, one with some knowledge of the industry in which they'll be placed.

"We're looking for [marketing] experts who can then translate across industries," Ms. Call said.

The database contains thousands of expert marketers, so if one must leave an assignment prematurely, he or she can be replaced without burdening the client. But the company has about 200 to 300 active contractors at any given time. "That allows us to get to know everyone," Ms. Boggs said.

Ms. Boggs said handling thousands of managers like other staffing firms, would be too complicated and could hurt customer service.

McKinley's supplies managers to about 50 and 100 client organizations. But, within one client organization, McKinley could have several contracts. Bell Atlantic, for example, has 30 different contracts within the company.

Bell Atlantic used McKinley managers to help with developing strategies for sales, product development, promotions and customer service.

"Basically, we never have as much head count as we want so we're always going to be using McKinley to augment our staff," Mr. Adams said. "The corporation is always going to say 'Could you do this with two or three less people?' "

The demand for McKinley's services is evident in the company's revenues, which increased 84 percent for its first quarter ended March 31 compared with the like quarter last year. The company reported 1999 annual revenues at about $9 million and projects its 2000 revenues to grow to about $13 million.

"It's a tight labor market, but that doesn't mean people aren't coming our way," Ms. Boggs said.

Mrs. Mitchell of PRSA said the staffing industry is booming because these days specialized public relations and marketing companies are having to turn clients away for lack of staff.

Ms. Boggs said one of the main reasons her interim managers decide to work as independent contractors, is the flexibility involved. Some want to work only a few days a week or want time to work at another job.

Rebecca Jackson, a former MCI marketing manager joined McKinley in 1997 so she could work part time and spend more time with her family.

Another manager, Jodi McGuire, who works in the Denver office, said working with McKinley allows her to remain in the marketing world with a flexible schedule so she too can be with her children.

"They give us their parameters and we match that with the client requests," Ms. Boggs said. McKinley is located in the heart of Old Town Alexandria where Ms. Boggs has lived for 14 years. The townhouse office houses only 16 employees and her chief morale officer, "Mac," a 100-pound golden retriever, named after the company.

The company also has an office in Los Angeles and Denver, and the company plans to open two more offices this year in San Francisco and Dallas.

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