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Published April 12 2012

Brothers turn $13 into $2.3 billion

FARGO – Jerome Shaw and his brother needed some capital to start their business.

“We got all our money that we personally had between us,” Shaw recalled.

It was $13.

Today, the company he and his brother started in 1950 has annual sales of about $2.3 billion, according to the company.

The Fargo branch of Volt Workforce Solutions is part of that company, which offers staffing services, telecommunications and information solutions.

Shaw was here this week to visit the Fargo office, which is the No. 1 Volt staffing outfit in its region, despite being in the smallest market Volt covers.

The Fargo branch started in 2003 as a one-person office with one major customer, Microsoft. Today, it’s a 12-person office and provides staff for many customers in the Fargo-Moorhead area, as well as the Jamestown and Valley City areas of North Dakota.

Volt is a Premier vendor for Microsoft and also staffs another, separate Volt technology consulting company that provides support to Microsoft.

So what’s made the Fargo branch so successful?

“I think it’s the people and the way they approach people,” Shaw said. “And I think it’s also the respect they have for the company.”

“These people are just as important as customers,” Shaw said, gesturing to the workers in the office. “They bring you business. They fill the orders.”

Despite being 85 years old, the World War II veteran and winner of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor doesn’t tire of telling the Volt story.

“When I talk about Volt, I talk about the American story,” Shaw said in his New York City accent. “I think this is a story about the United States, that people can go from no place and work hard and (be) dedicated and break out of poverty.”

He knew poverty firsthand. There were medical issues in the family and not much money. They lost their home.

The company that he and his brother started in their family’s Brooklyn apartment got a huge break when General Dynamics gave them the chance to do six of 198 technical books needed for the Atlas Missile project in California. One day, after the work was completed, a crowd of General Dynamics executives came to the office.

One of them said, “A hundred and ninety-two books were rejected by the government as being poor.”

Only six books passed – the Volt books. They gave the whole job to Volt. Within three months, they had 375 people working on the Atlas Missile project.

“The money was coming in like a dam burst or something,” Shaw said.

Volt, which has since moved away from technical writing, is now a publicly traded Fortune 1,000 company.

Shaw visited Fargo at the invitation of client delivery manager Amanda Maslowski and senior technical recruiter Bjorn Heide.

“He’s down-to-earth. He remembers his roots,” said Maslowski. And, she said, he’s taken the wealth he’s made, and he’s given back.

As part of his philanthropic efforts, he supports college and pre-college students and donates money for genetics research. Volt also works to help veterans find work, landing jobs for about 14,000 vets a year on average.

“As a result of making a lot of money,” Shaw said, “I give a lot of money away.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

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