By Tim Leeds
Mark Hardy, president of Advantage Line, Inc., said he will decide the location of the company's new telecommunications center by the end of June.
Hardy said if he locates in Havre, he plans to have a center with 100 workstations and about 300 employees within three years.
He said he is currently considering another location in South Dakota as well as Havre.
The operations for the Williston, N.D., based company are inbound call centers, taking toll-free calls for various companies. Hardy said he wanted to stress that the company does not make any outbound calls for general telephone solicitations.
He said their main business is in accepting catalog orders. He said they accept calls for several companies, enter data for orders, and periodically transmit the data to the companies for processing.
He said other work the company does includes accepting reservations for campgrounds. Hardy said Advantage Line takes all calls for reservations for the North Dakota State Park system, as well as selling hunting and fishing licenses for the state. He said other work includes taking calls for information on insurance companies, such as from magazine advertisements, and choice of the month services, such as chocolate- or wine-of-the-month clubs.
Hardy said his operations run 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. He said this leads to the need of about three employees for every workstation. He said if he opens a center in Havre, he would probably start with about 50 stations, building to 100 stations and about 300 employees within about three years.
Hardy said the company's mission statement doesn't even mention customers or the job of employees or the company. He said the mission of his company is to provide personal and professional opportunities for the employees. Hardy said when they wrote the mission statement for the company, he and his wife were the only employees. Since then, the company has grown to three centers, in Williston, Billings and Glendive, and about 600 employees. He said the mission has remained the same.
Hardy said they work extensively with flex schedules. He said they generally take requests for what days and shifts the employees wish to work on a weekly basis. He said while this makes scheduling difficult, it does help with employee satisfaction. Hardy said after employees finish a 90 day training period, his company averages only about a 10 percent turnover.
Hardy said the company continues to grow. He said they have expanded from an average of 1,000 calls taken a day to about 6,000 calls a day now. He said this expansion is why they need a new center.
Hardy, who moved from Wolf Point to Williston with his wife to start Advantage Line in 1989, said he prefers locating his centers in smaller towns. He said his general criteria are that the town has a population of at least 10,000, to provide enough employees; has at least a community college, and is a county seat.
Hardy said the town in South Dakota he is considering already has employees available, from a telecommunications center which is closing. He said the center is smaller than his usual operations, and would only provide 40-50 employees for Advantage Line.
Advantage Line would locate the new center in the Holiday Village Shopping Center and lease equipment and receive services from the Triangle Telephone Cooperative if it locates in Havre.
Hardy said he wants the center operating by Sept. 1 of this year. He said he was pleased with the meetings he had with Kraig Erickson of Westfield Properties, Inc., the property management company for Ocwen, the owners of the Holiday Village; and with representatives of TTC. He said one of his most pressing concerns is finding management employees from the area fast enough.
Hardy said he wants to hire his employees, including management, locally. He said he needs to fill two positions, site manager and shift manager fairly quickly.
Hardy said the site manager would handle employee issues, such as training and performance issues, call-ins, and so on. He said people skills are crucial for this position. He said the shift manager would essentially be an assistant to this position.
Hardy said the position would start between $20,000-$30,000 a year, depending on qualifications. He said there would be about a 60-day training period before the applicants could return to the Havre center, so he needs the applications as soon as possible.
Pam Harada of the Havre Job Service said they would take applications of interested people and refer them to Advantage Line.