Woman of Influence: Cari Shaffer

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Cari Shaffer, Add Staff

If you’re looking for a true woman of the West, Cari Shaffer fits the description. Much of her youth was spent in Nevada and Oregon.

In the summer, her family retreated even further into cowboy/cowgirl territory, to her grandparents’ ranch outside of Baker, Ore., nestled between two eastern Oregon mountain ranges.

“Western life makes you self-reliant,” says Shaffer, founder and president of Add Staff, the employment agency. “You have to help yourself. Out West, if you’re looking for a helping hand, you’ll find it at the end of your wrist.”

She met a young First Lieutenant, Larry Shaffer, while living in Reno, and within a year they were married. During one short assignment, Cari volunteered in the local library. Her primary role became scheduling the other volunteers. It occurred to her that she was operating a staffing service.

She held that thought until at last her First Lieutenant retired in Colorado Springs in 1983. One year later, Add Staff was launched. From the start, she managed her business with extreme caution. She took out two loans to get it started, then never again borrowed money. “I think I got those financial management skills from my grandparents,” she says. “Ranching is a cash business, and it’s a tough one.”

Her guiding principles are fairly straightforward.

• Practice fiscal responsibility.

• Invest in staff.

• Build trust with your clients, which means zero tolerance for failed placements.

• Treat every client with equal respect.

• Give back to the community.

The latter she practices in many ways, from mentoring relationships to networking organizations (she’s founded several) to educational support. This she accomplishes through the Cari Shaffer Scholarship Foundation, which awards college scholarships to students who are dwarves.

Her final rule for running her business is to celebrate her successes. “In the early days, I had a hard time with that. It was like I’d score a touchdown, then instead of celebrating, I’d say, ‘Give me the ball again so I can score another one.’ Today, we celebrate success.”