Climbing the Company Ladder

LC Staffing owner Kristen Heck certifies company as a woman-owned small business after starting as the receptionist 26 years ago

By Molly Priddy
Kristen Heck, president of LC Staffing, outside her office in Kalispell on July 27, 2018. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

When she first started working at LC Staffing, Kristen Heck was a receptionist looking for a job to help support her family while her husband Dennis Heck’s business took root.

It was 1992, and Heck’s paycheck amounted to $5.50 an hour. She likes to tell this story now, sitting in her office as the sole owner of one of the largest independently owned staffing companies in Montana. At the behest of many of its clients, LC Staffing was recently certified as a Woman Owned Small Business, solidifying Heck’s rise to the top.

“I’m a microcosm of what LC Staffing has done for 33 years,” she said.

When it started in 1985, LC Staffing was called Labor Contractors, and owner Ralph Brown’s business was helping to staff the bustling timber industry in the Flathead Valley. It changed and evolved with the economy in the Flathead, eventually changing its name to LC Staffing in 1997 to show it provided employers with employee options beyond timber labor.

When Heck joined the crew as a receptionist in 1992, she was ambitious, but she didn’t realize her drive would serve her well to climb the ladder at the staffing company itself. She understood it was the place for her once she truly understood the work they did there, which is finding someone’s talents and passions, and lining them up with an employer seeking those same qualities. It’s like an ongoing puzzle, a riddle that starts over each time someone new comes in looking for work.

Having a job means having more freedom for so many people, Heck said, and being able to help them find that is what keeps her thrilled about her job.

“I think mastery is important,” Heck said. “If people can find something that gets them excited and they can stay and grow, there is a tremendous amount of opportunity.”

After she’d been in the job for seven years, Heck approached Brown about becoming an equity partner in the business and bought in. He was her mentor, and she said their relationship was formative in her professional life.

“People do need mentors,” she said, “and there are so many mentors here in this valley. We need to seek them out.”

Last year, Heck became the sole owner of LC Staffing, which was recently certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business, a distinction that comes from the National Women’s Business Council.

Her clients asked her to consider the certification, she said, because of the benefits that come from such a partnership. For example, businesses that partner with a certified woman-owned or can access certain federal tax incentives for doing so.

Heck said the certification is great, and that she focuses on LC Staffing’s culture to ensure her employees are happy and fulfilled. This makes for productive offices, she said. Her staff finds jobs of all kinds for candidates with wide varieties of qualifications, from entry-level positions to executive jobs.

Heck said the Baby Boomer generation is transitioning out of work and into retirement, and more than a few legacy businesses in the Flathead are without succession plans and searching for that perfect fit.

But there are jobs of all kinds looking for the right person, from manufacturing to administrative assistance to health care, Heck said.

“We provide those pathways to opportunities for people,” she said.

LC Staffing is headquartered in Kalispell, with offices in Missoula and Bozeman. The company works with more than 700 Montana businesses. They also advise businesses about ways to better attract and keep workers, including discussions about wages.

It’s a job she didn’t imagine for herself, Heck said, but one that she’s thankful she found.

“I was probably always an ambitious, driven person,” she said. “But it wasn’t until I started as the receptionist here and learned what they did that I thought, ‘This is interesting to me. It’s a challenge.’”

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