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Sharon McRill

When Sharon McRill lost her job and created a new one, it originally started out as more of a stop-gap measure than a career choice.

The Ann Arbor resident spent the first years of her career as project manager in corporate America. Then she got laid off from Borders. She started Betty Brigade, a concierge service, in response.

"At first I didn't see any opportunity besides allowing me to make a living," McRill says. "I thought this was going to be a part-time lifestyle business that would keep me afloat while I looked for another job."

That was 10 years ago. Betty Brigade employs 15 people at the onset of 2014 after hiring five the previous year. McRill realized that Betty Brigade would become her full-time job in the first year. She was having wine with a friend, talking about what sort of corporate clients would best fit with Betty Brigade when the aha moment hit.

"We were sitting around brainstorming," McRill says. "That's what spurred the idea that this could be a bigger thing."

A few months later, McRill hired her first employee. Not long after that, Betty Brigade landed its first major client when it helped The Ryder Cup come to the Oakland Hills Country Club in 2004. It was easily the biggest contract the company had landed. Now that size of contract is the average size for the firm.

Among its marquee clients are Zipcar. Betty Brigade manages all of the car-sharing firm’s fleets in Michigan. Betty Brigade also handles a lot of corporate relocation work, helping local firms attract and land talent from outside of the Great Lakes State.

The firm has grown to the point where it can turn down work. McRill admits that, like most entrepreneurs, she can suffer from being tempted by shinny new opportunities. She has learned that staying focused on work her company excels at helps it grow the fastest. That means Betty Brigade might turn town 10-20 percent of the jobs its offered, but it's smart decision to stay focused.

"Sometimes things come up and you have to ask, 'Does this really fit?'" McRill says.

McRill cites one of her consistent muses for his business is reading “The E-Myth Revisited” book that helps her refine and grow her business. She reads the book once a year and gives a copy of each new employee. It has helped her lay the ground work for scaling her business. McRill plans to open franchises of Betty Brigade across Michigan in 2014 and 2015.

"We're working hard toward duplicating the business across Michigan," McRill says. "By 2015 we hope to have multiple offices across Michigan, at least three."

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