Success Stories

Current Affairs

Outsourced HR Frees Business to Throw Parties

Current Affairs crew

Philip Richardson and his team know how to throw a party. Their careful planning and expertise ensure a smooth start-to-finish. Richardson’s premier event production company, Current Affairs, produces elaborate events—managing invitations, food, decorations, venue, entertainment, set up and clean up for as many as 10,000 Guests.

Since 1984, Current Affairs has grown to a core of 12 employees—with another 80 on call—orchestrating showcase events throughout Hawaii and the mainland. Richardson grew his business rapidly, juggling bookkeeping and human resources functions on his own.

“We realized that our company would be stuck if we didn’t change the way we were doing business,” recalls Richardson.

After more than a decade of “doing it all” in house, Current Affairs began outsourcing key components of its business, including human resources administration. And so, beginning in 1998, Current Affairs handed over the transactions and complexities of employment administration to the experts at ALTRES. This freed up Richardson and his team to focus more on event planning and customer care.

Having ALTRES handle the “back office” function of human resources allowed Richardson to expand his customer base without worrying about payroll processing, employee benefit plans or compliance issues.

“Outsourcing these time-consumers—managing records and paperwork—is something we should have done sooner,” says Richardson. “Though vital, these distract from our real work. Partnering with ALTRES is a no-brainer.”

"Partnering with ALTRES is a no-brainer."

Current Affairs, previously known as International Catering Concepts, was born out of Richardson’s unemployment. He was going from interview to interview and faced a major crossroads. Reading Thomas Peters’ book In Search of Excellence, Richardson made a commitment to assess his assets and move forward. He turned down a job with a large hotel chain to pursue a business of his own. Assets, Richardson explains, are a person’s talents. “Assess your assets and weaknesses. Because once you realize what they are, you can build from there,” notes Richardson.

Today, Current Affairs boasts a long and impressive Client list with names such as Coca-Cola, American Express, Louis Vuitton and United Airlines. Yet, like many small businesses, Richardson experienced growing pains.

“No one knew me or my business. We had to build our reputation up,” he says. Event planning is labor intensive, so the last thing on Richardson’s agenda was to worry about the business of running his business. He knew that while vital, the demands of HR administration would slow growth if he continued to handle them on his own. He returned to the philosophy learned from the book on which he based many of his business principles. “I decided to partner with people who already had strengths where I had weaknesses—money, technical equipment, culinary talents, and ALTRES, which handled payroll and other administration tasks much better than I,” says Richardson.

Setting upBy partnering with ALTRES Richardson can provide employees the same benefits of a large company. “It was always ‘we’ as a company, even if it was just me. But how do you give that illusion of being larger than life? It’s by surrounding yourself with the talent that can handle this type of thing. As a new business, we tried to do things like payroll our way but soon realized it was so much stress. So, we got into the outsourcing program with [ALTRES founder] Bill Guss,” remembers Richardson. “That helped us focus on getting the job done, generating new business and satisfying existing clients.”

He speaks from experience. Before teaming up with ALTRES, Richardson and his crew had experienced a tedious workers’ compensation case and tax issues. In those days, he and his team had to compile and sift through the data necessary for government reports. “If ALTRES had done it for us, it would have been a lot easier. They’re experienced at it, so once they began with us we could let go and relax and do what we did best,” says Richardson.

Would Richardson recommend ALTRES to business owners? “I already have,” he says. “I say focus on fun and profitability. ALTRES outsourcing fits the business philosophy, ‘why do something you’re not good at?’”