BY LORI VALIGRA | MaineBiz | September 27, 2016
After nearly doubling its staff to 450 employees in May with 200 more call center positions from an unnamed insurance client, SaviLinx LLC of Brunswick Landing is seeking 130 more workers for an expanded government contract.
Company founder and CEO Heather Blease told Mainebiz that the positions, which will pay $16.50 per hour, are for customer service, quality assurance and technical positions. About 30 of the jobs will be filled by in-house workers shifting to new positions, and the remaining 100 from outside. The hires and training will occur throughout October, and are being advertised on the company’s Facebook page.
Blease would not disclose the client, but said the work is contract support for open enrollment for health care.
“The program can help customers understand changes to their policy,” she said.
Growth is doubling
The three-year-old company has been growing quickly, and expects revenue of more than $10 million this year, up from $4.3 million last year. The 30,000 square feet of space at Brunswick Landing is filling up quickly, though the company also has about 200 employees in Mississippi and some working from home.
Some 75% of the revenue is from government work, which requires the comparatively higher $16.50 per hour starting wage, she said. Within that wage, workers can either choose to get benefits or they can use spousal benefits and still have the same wage.
The remainder of the work is for commercial companies, including startups, and runs from $10 to $18 per hour plus benefits.
Maine’s minimum wage increase is up for a vote this November. It will ask voters whether they want to raise the minimum hourly wage of $7.50 to $9 in 2017, with annual $1 increases up to $12 in 2020, and annual cost-of-living increases thereafter; and whether they want to raise the direct wage for service workers who receive tips from half the minimum wage to $5 in 2017, with annual $1 increases until it reaches the adjusted minimum wage.
Responding to a question about the negative perception some people in the state have about the prevalence of call centers as opposed to more highly skilled jobs like programmers and senior managers, she said SaviLinx teaches its workers valuable communication and problem-solving skills that can be applied to other jobs or be used to advance to other positions with more responsibility within her company.
“This is a great economic development vehicle,” she said. “We can take people who graded from high school and train them, or retired people or former military.”
She likes to promote from within. One example is the new recruiting manager, who started at SaviLinx as an entry-level agent last spring.
Blease said she employs all kinds of people including musicians and skilled retirees who want to supplement their income.
The office has a relaxed atmosphere, with workers grouped in large cubicles decorated with personal effects and recently, with Halloween items like witches hats and gauze spider webs. Two office cats, Savi and Linx, roam around, entertaining workers by balancing atop cubicles and rearranging their desks, Blease said, and several people bring their dogs to work.
More than your mother’s call center
She said the company is not the typical stereotype of a call center selling vitamins or pushing other goods.
“It’s business process outsourcing,” she said. “We have lots of startups as clients and we are helping them build their customer support process strategies from soup to nuts, as well as training.” That’s something she said serial entrepreneur and AOL founder Steve Case advocates for startups so they can focus on their core business strategies.
The company also is preparing to apply to become a HUBzone, a federal program that gives companies an advantage in getting government contracts. Blease lobbied Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins to expand the HUBzone designation to include towns surrounding Brunswick Landing and Brunswick, and while that expansion was approved last year, Blease said, the Small Business Administration still has to update its HUBzone maps before SaviLinx can apply for that designation. But she has the application ready.
“We’ve done really well without the HUBzone,” she said. “But we’ll do great with it.”
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