Altres: More Than Just HR
It’s 50 years and counting for the flexible workforce company known as ALTRES, which continues to make things easier for clients by offering everything from HR and staff assistance for businesses, to home care and medical services.
Great ideas start with a need and, often, a very forward-thinking entrepreneur. Such is the case for ALTRES and its humble beginnings as Labor Services Inc. 50 years ago.
In the days before automation and mechanization, companies relied on manpower to unload containers and stock freezers when ships would come into port. New York transplant Bill Guss saw a niche market for a different type of supplemental work, and the just-in-time industry was born in the islands in the form of Labor Services.
“People used to show up at our office waiting room at 6 a.m.,” recalls Bill’s son Barron, ALTRES’ CEO. “We’d get calls from our customers saying, ‘Send me two guys,’ and we’d put them in our vans or pickups and drive them to businesses.”
Following a day’s work, temps would go home and return to Labor Services the next morning ready to do it all over again.
Though the need for that type of manual labor has since decreased over the years, the work ethic behind Labor Services remains the same. Over the years, ALTRES — short for ALTernative RESources for Business — has added much to its labor divisions, which now include simplicityHR by ALTRES and its HR Symphony (see additional story below); ALTRES Staffing (medical, technical, office and industrial); Home Care by ALTRES Medical; and Real Jobs Hawai‘i.
These supplemental facets are a direct response to needs within the community. Home Care by ALTRES Medical, for example, was birthed from ALTRES’ original nursing services division. It offers a higher level of private-duty home care services to seniors, the recovering ill and disabled, and pairs caregivers with case managers to best assist clients.
“Hospitals and medical facilities have trusted us to provide them with nurses for years, and they were always asking if we did home care,” recalls president Kerry Kopp.
In response, ALTRES launched its home care division to much fanfare, addressing the growing desire of the elderly to age in place.
“What you’re seeing is an evolution, not necessarily a revolution,” says Guss of ALTRES’ journey through its five decades. “We see a need and we grow to fill it.”
Basically, he adds, ALTRES is always thinking of ways to make business simpler for its clients. Whether it’s creating a voicemail service for its temp hires, helping businesses with bookkeeping and taxes, or investing in the creation of a software to make payroll easier (back in the day, they used to pay their workers daily), ALTRES’ goal is to continue pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box.
“It’s fun reminiscing about some of the various things we’ve done over the years, trying to figure out what our niches were,” says Kopp.
The ability to think on their feet and come up with innovative ventures stems from hard work and great mentor-ship — and the fact that Kopp and Guss work well together (they’ve been colleagues for nearly four decades). Much of that guidance, says Guss, comes from his dad.
“My dad was a Depression child. He never let a scrap of paper go to waste,” he recalls. “Two days before he died, he handed me an envelope where he had written: ‘Small business is the engine of society. Making business simple is our goal.’ Since then we’ve used it as a guiding compass for all of our companies.”
For Kopp, Bill’s leadership was unparalleled.
“He was like a second father to me,” Kopp explains. “He made you feel that you can achieve and do anything, and we’ve built upon those roots.”
The mentality of community and ‘ohana permeates ALTRES’ employee culture, as well — both Guss’ and Kopp’s kids work for the company.
“We’ve always embraced the whole family and our employees’ families,” says Guss. “People have children and they have significant others, and their responsibility to their families doesn’t stop when they come to work.
“Uncle Kerry and Uncle Barron have a lot of nieces and nephews out there,” he adds with a laugh.
For more information on ALTRES and its divisions, call 591-4940 or visit altres.com for more information.
THE DAYS OF DAWN PATROL
Back in the early 1970s, Labor Services Inc. (the predecessor for ALTRES) had its main offices in Waikiki along Kalakaua Avenue. “There was phenomenal surf,” recalls ALTRES CEO Barron Guss, whose father Bill started the company in 1969. Guss remembers there being mornings where the temp office for flex laborers would be empty. “We’d get calls for workers, but we’d run out of people in the waiting room,” he adds. “We had a blue triangle ag, and my dad would raise it signaling to the dawn patrol guys that there was work available that day. They’d come in, rinse off and go to work.”
GRANTING HR WISHES
Some businesses celebrate milestones with big parties and lavish affairs, but at ALTRES, giving back has been a foundational principle for decades. To ring in its 50th anniversary, the company is launching its simplicityHR Services Grant program to benefit small businesses.
If selected, owners (of startups with fewer than 20 employees) will benefit from ALTRES’ wealth of knowledge, steeped in decades of experience doing business in the islands.
“We’ve learned so much,” acknowledges CEO Barron Guss. “It’s our way of giving back. We know that the majority of small businesses will fail within the first two to five years, and those first two years are so crucial.
“We want to help mentor businesses and business owners.”
The one-year grant includes services such as payroll administration, HR support and compliance, benefits administration, workers’ compensation, safety and risk management, and full access to ALTRES’ HR Symphony.
“Small businesses are the root of the economy,” says president Kerry Kopp. “Having individual small businesses makes the fabric of our society colorful.”
The application period for the simplicityHR Services Grant program runs until Dec. 31, 2019, online at simplicityhr.com.