KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE—Lisa Raymond of First Choice Telephone Answering Service and First Choice Temporary Staffing Service has worked in the 37 year old family business for 22 years. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)

Long established business still helping people

In March of 1977 Richard and his wife Cherry Raymond started their business because they wanted to make a difference in the Black community. Not realizing that she has been accomplishing their goal and in business that long, Mrs. Raymond admits that at times it has been a struggle, but First Choice has survived 37 years.

Today First Choice Temporary Services, Inc. and First Choice Telephone Answering Services, Inc. is operated by her and her daughter Lisa, the business continues to make a difference and has helped a lot of people. The staffing component is operated by Lisa and the telephone answering service by Cherry.

Involved with First Choice since 1992, Lisa said they continue to offer the same comprehensive line of office support services as when the business was initiated. With a clientele that consist of all size businesses, she pointed out that throughout the years they have serviced companies and institutions as large as UPMC, the Pittsburgh Public School System and banks to businesses as small as professionals like attorneys, doctors and consultants. “No business is too large or to small,” she said, their motto is that First Choice is big enough to handle any business, yet small enough to give personalized attention to every client.

Lisa identified First Choice Telephone Answering Services tasks as providing a humanistic touch. In the age of mechanical answering services and voice mail she said, “This part of our business is very strong. Most people would rather talk to a live person than to a computer.”  Operating 365 days a year and 24 hours a day she explained that their services entail relaying messages, making appointments as well as, making wake up and reminder calls. Through time they have also extended their services to respond to faxes, emails and text messaging. Clients are local as well as from other states.

With a shifting economy causing fluctuating unemployment rates which according to the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance in December was 6.9 in Pittsburgh and 7.3 nationally. And as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 5.7 in Pennsylvania and 6.1 nationally in June, Lisa said it has been rough but First Choice Temporary Staffing Services has kept up with the times by continuously building bridges between employers in need of staffing and employees seeking full or part time work.

Viewing their services as a way to assist in keeping a company’s productivity up during illnesses, maternity leaves, vacations or seasonal workload peaks, and helping in reducing the cost of overtime First Choice provides temporary assistance to companies in the areas of administrative assistance, data entry, reception, mail room, general office duties or light labor.

In her 22-year affiliation with the company, she says work standards have been consistent. “Employers are looking for the best possible candidates in temporary or permanent positions.”

What she has noticed as her company test, select and prepare people to enter the workplace is a difference in people looking for work.

“Times have changed. People are looking for temporary positions that have Master Degrees. People are moving into the area looking for work, companies are downsizing so those people are in the market.  Competition is stiff.”

Lisa has also noticed a difference in first timers and young people entering the job market. “There seems to be a different value system. Attitudes have changed in this generation of job seekers,” she said. She indicated that how you dress and look, how you present and carry yourself is still important. “First impressions are important.” She also stressed the significance of being able to sell one self. “Everyone needs an elevator pitch and should realize that they are a brand. The question to address is why a company should invite you in.”

While making presentations and during speaking engagements, Lisa said she outlines to her audience the significance of being able to speak several languages and being well versed with computers and in technology. “We are in a time where we are competing for jobs globally not just domestically, proper preparation is a must.”

The parent of a teenage daughter and adult son, Lisa said she often stressed to them that habits formed while young follow you for a lifetime. “Trends are often repeated. If you are late for school chances are you’re late for other things. We have to teach young people that learning is a lifelong process, to make plans and to be prepared,” she said.

Appreciative of her work experiences Lisa said she is grateful to her parents for the privilege to work in the family business.  A Certified Life Coach and Anger Management Specialist, she obtained a communications degree from Clarion University, a degree in Behavior Science and Masters in Leadership from Duquesne University. Like her mother who worked at channel 11 and the original WAMO radio, Lisa also worked in the communications field before joining First Choice. Starting as a temp, she worked for the former Westinghouse Broadcasting Company and enjoyed serving as co-host for the United Negro College Fund Lou Rawls Parade of Stars. She said back in the day she did some modeling and played in a Rock Band. “My philosophy is that you can only be limited by self. That you can do what you want to do if you put your mind to it.”

Aiming to continue the legacy of her parents and making a difference in the Black community, Lisa uses her second business, Ethics2talk, LLC to work within the community. “My company has collectively helped thousands of people get to the next level, rebuild their futures and develop skills for themselves, their children, families, friends and businesses,” she said.

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