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Pueblo member acquires Spherion in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A son of both Sandia and Isleta pueblos has become the new president and CEO of Spherion's licensed operation in Albuquerque.

At 28, Derrick J. Lente has almost certainly laid claim as one of the youngest owners of the largest 100-percent Native-owned staffing businesses. Lente's purchase of Spherion in May provided ownership of the Albuquerque market and marketing rights for the counties of Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia.

Spherion is a national recruiting and staffing company that ranks sixth in the industry. The corporation's revenue in 2007 was $2 billion. Spherion has placed millions of individuals in temporary, temp-to-hire and full-time jobs since its founding in 1946. As of 2006, Spherion had 477 company-owned offices, 94 licensed locations and 87 franchised locations. In Albuquerque, Spherion has been a licensed location since 1998.

The new business venture adds one more activity to his already career-filled, high-energy life.

''I purchased the company after months of negotiation. Actually, I'm an attorney and I also teach at the University of New Mexico and between the two, you know, you always want to do something for yourself and I always wanted to own my own business, and the opportunity presented itself. So it's an exciting time especially here. The population in Albuquerque is growing like crazy,'' Lente told Indian Country Today.

Spherion has a number of national contracts with Fortune 500 companies such as Gap, UPS and Coca-Cola. But there are also many small businesses in the area where his company is able to place employees.

And now he plans to expand the business into Indian country.

''That's my focus now. For the longest time, the emphasis has been on big corporations, and right now the intent is to keep the faith, but also to extend our clientele to more tribally-owned and tribal businesses.''

He is well placed to do so.

''Being here in New Mexico and being from two of the tribes that border the biggest town in New Mexico, it could be easier for me because I have the insight and the know-how to reach the decision makers in each tribe. So that's going to be my approach to get tribes on board and tribal members on board so they can see the benefits of using the service, because, you know, we still live in poverty on the reservation and unemployment is still high. So I can be the outlet, so to speak, and help people and the tribes get good people.''

Spherion provides jobs in virtually every industry and at every level, including administrative/clerical, light industrial, accounting and finance, technology, engineering and manufacturing, legal, sales and marketing, and human resources.

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Although Lente did some legal work for Spherion prior to purchasing the company, he had no hands-on experience with the firm's actual workings.

'The learning curve for me is straight up. But this is my fourth week now and I've learned a lot. I have a great team.''

Asked if all of the employees who worked under the previous owner kept their jobs, he replied, ''Oh, of course, of course! They're my backbone. I wouldn't dare come into a company and try to shake things up or have people dismissed.''

Lente is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law, where he teaches federal Indian law. He purchased Spherion just as the spring semester was wrapping up, and plans to continue teaching in the fall.

He credits his parents, Jerry and Bertha Lente, members of Isleta and Sandia pueblos, respectively, for having instilled a strong work ethic in him.

''I try hard. That's all you can do. I'm no stranger to hard work. Coming from a reservation, we were never rich when I was growing up. I never dreamed of doing anything huge. I never even dreamed of going to college, but you live and you learn, and get blessed with what you have, and I feel very much blessed.''

The young businessman already has gained a reputation in the business community.

''It's exciting to see young Native entrepreneurs,'' said David Melton, Laguna Pueblo, owner of Sacred Power and chairman of the board for the New Mexico American Indian Chamber of Commerce, in a press release issued by Spherion. ''It takes a lot of courage, preparation and discipline to be able to start your own business. Mr. Lente has all the qualities to be a successful business owner. I'm very proud of him.''

Lente said he too is proud to be a Native business owner and hopes to be a model for others coming up. His advice to young Native people is to pursue their goals.

''Don't sell yourself short, regardless of being Native or being a woman or being a Native woman. Don't ever let anybody talk you down as to what you can't do, because, you know, you can do anything you set your mind to - all it takes is a matter of having the courage, energy and the focus to do it. And you don't even have to be, quote, 'smart'; you just have to have the drive to do it.''

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