April 1, 2013
Faces of Business

She took the risk and found the rewards

Photo | Pablo Robles
Photo | Pablo Robles
Linda Rowan swapped her secure corporate career for a shot at following her family's footsteps into the less-certain world of entrepreneurship. Rowan hasn't looked back. Her Bethel personnel firm places IT, finance and accounting professionals with Fortune 500 and government clients.
Stan Simpson

Almost a decade ago, Linda Rowan found herself facing a life-defining moment — one she readily admits "petrified" her.

Comfortable in a high, six-figure senior vice president's position in a company she led to substantial growth from 1994-2004, Rowan was yearning for more. Specifically, she wanted an ownership stake in Target Resources in Norwalk, a high-end information technology and data systems consultancy she had taken over at the request of her friend, who was also the owner.

But the asking price to own was steep.

I said 'this is crazy,''' recalls Rowan, who is in her early 50s. "I could start my own company. It was the scariest thing I'd ever done. I knew if I was going to grow the way I wanted to grow, I'd have to start my own business. I wanted to have something of my own. The risk was that I was going to have to start at zero."

And so Transcend Business Solutions LLC was born in 2004. The Bethel company places IT, finance and accounting professionals with Fortune 500 companies and within government.

Somewhere, the late Eleonore Schwabe — Rowan's mother — is smiling.

The German native and homemaker had always impressed upon her children the importance of entrepreneurship. Eleonore's family owned a bakery in Germany; and that's where a World War II soldier named Milton Schwabe met Eleonore, whose maiden name was Haring.

"My mother wanted to have her own business, and she always sort of regretted it," said Rowan, sitting in her spartan office on Grassy Plain Street above a flower shop. "I think she subliminally put that into my head. My mother was a housewife and homemaker her whole life, but she was brilliant — and had a keen business mind."

There were actually two women with the same first name, albeit spelled differently, who influenced Rowan. Eleanor Roosevelt was the other. Roosevelt was famous for saying that a person should do something every day that scares them.

"I love that," Rowan said. "That kind of got me through."

After a few rough recession years, business is rebounding, generating about $2 million in sales. The business solutions sector has steady fluctuations. Rowan's client base ranges from 10 to 20 companies; and around 10 to 20 consultants. Her business plans calls for expanding into the government/military sector and hiring someone on the ground in Washington, D.C. to give her company a presence there.

"Government business can be so lucrative," Rowan said. "You just have to get one good project — and it can be small. Word of mouth travels fast. … And that's where I need my break."

In the meantime, Rowan's lean operation includes an assistant a bookkeeper an accountant and a recruiter based in India. Her goal is to eventually increase revenue 10-fold and then think about selling.

The story of this Redding resident and Long Island native is that of the quintessential small businessperson with a dream to run their own business — and the drive and conviction to chase that dream, no matter the consequences.

The divorced mother of two adult children starts her day at 6 a.m. with a cup of coffee and two games of competitive online scrabble, taking on players all over the world.

"It gets my mind awake. It wakes me up," she says of the word-game ritual.

She works until around 6 p.m., gets a two-mile walk in on most days and brings her work home.

"It's still a super stressful business,'' said Rowan, a former school teacher, whose background is in sales and marketing. "I really enjoy so much what I do. I'm a people person and the business is what you make it to be. If you work hard, you get more. If you work less, you get less. It's up to me to determine how things will be. I'm the creator of my own destiny, for better or worse. And it's exhausting sometimes."

In her business, she places professionals as temporary, permanent or temporary-to-permanent workers. The commodity and product is human. So, the need to identify highly qualified people is a priority. The company is paid a fee of about 15 to 20 percent of the income slotted for the employee it places.

"I'm really, really meticulous when it comes to recruiting,'' she said. "I put them through the ringer. And it's because I know this market is so competitive. If I don't do a good job, I'm out. I have to perform."

Business is driven by word of mouth. Rowan believes her love of people has contributed to her business success. She taught foreign language in junior high school in the early 1980s. She is fluent in German and Spanish, attributes that don't hurt when hiring for a global workforce. She also is an avid reader, traveler and deep sea angler.

"I love to travel and I love to be able to communicate in the language where I'm going,'' Rowan said. "And I like to be able to talk to them in their language if I can."

Transcend Business Solutions has been recognized on several occasions, the latest being cited by DiversityBusiness.com for being an emerging and diversity-conscious small business in Connecticut and the country.

The risk Rowan took nearly a decade ago in leaving a comfy and lucrative job to form her own company, she said, has been worth it.

Eleonore Schwabe would have it no other way.

"She'd always say do it now because the older you get the more frightened you'll become,'' Rowan said, about the risk-adverse nature of entrepreneurship. "I didn't want to become old and look back on my life and have that kind of regret. I would have rather failed, than not try it."

Stan Simpson is host of "The Stan Simpson Show'' (www.ctnow.com/stan and Saturdays, 6:30 a.m., on FoxCT). His 'Faces in Business' column appears monthly. Know someone who'd make a good subject for 'Faces in Business'? Contact Simpson at stansimpson@comcast.net

Comments
ADVERTISEMENTS
Most Popular on Facebook
Copyright 2017 New England Business Media