Control Your Destiny
Career opportunities boost employee performance

Many people believe that a company’s perks elevate it to being a best company to work for — the stocked beverage fridge, the game rooms, the trips, the in-house masseuse. Lighthouse Management Group CEO Song Woo strongly disagrees. While Lighthouse — which provides staffing in healthcare, accounting, finance and business support — does offer some of those amenities, Woo counters that it’s the career opportunities his company provides that are what his employees appreciate most.


When Woo started the San Jose, Calif.-based firm in 2005, he wanted to ensure politics or bureaucracy did not play a role in terms of advancement and growth. In fact, it would all be dependent on the individual. “I know if I perform at a high level, come to the office with the best attitude, committed, dedicated, being a great team player, that I will do well — it motivates me. So, we definitely try to facilitate and promote it throughout the company,” he says. “Our employees know they control their own destiny.”

Woo says the proof is in the pudding. The employee’s tenure or background doesn’t matter. “What matters is what they give of themselves. That leads to individual growth and advancement, which can’t be dismissed, because that leads to a feeling of empowerment to make a stronger impact toward the company. They want more responsibility, a feeling of being trusted.”

His employees agree, but also credit the company’s leadership. While perks are a welcome benefit, that’s not what makes them happy. For Nirav Shah, senior managing director, being able to approach management and brainstorm problems without fear of retribution is a big draw.

Shah, who has been with Lighthouse since its inception, says creating an open, transparent and motivating environment is the key to success.

He relates an experience with a particular client. The company had lost that client at one point, and Shah later learned what the issue was that caused the rift. He took the issue to Woo, who sat down with him to lay out a game plan to get the client back. What struck Shah most was that Woo didn’t express anger — just a willingness to help him learn how to work with the client to resolve the situation.

“I’m able to have that open conversation with him. Rather than looking at the situation with a narrow lens, he drew a picture,” Shah says. With his boss’ support and the philosophy of taking accountability, listening and delivering on your word, Shah was able to turn that relationship around; now that company is one of Lighthouse’s biggest clients.

A Helping Hand

What Regina Chau appreciates is that the Lighthouse staff is all about helping one another grow. Chau, who has been with Lighthouse for a year and a half, notes the company’s policy of having staff meetings at the beginning and end of each day where team members can solicit or offer advice on any issue.

Chau was a pre-med student when she was recruited by Lighthouse via LinkedIn. She found the opportunity attractive because of the people in the company and its core values. She credits Woo’s ability to “seek out good people, certain qualities that can’t be trained or taught.”

The Perks

While Woo doesn’t credit perks as a top reason the company is a Best Staffing Firm to Work For, the company uses them to make sure its staff has the chance to unwind and have fun as a team.

Lighthouse has hosted events, such as taking employees to an Oakland A’s game, bocce ball games and has even taken a trip to Las Vegas. Another recent event was at an “escape room.” They also gather for coworkers’ birthdays and other special events.

While they maintain a professional environment, they also manage to maintain a family feel, all of which work toward building the bottom line.

“We can work together in the office but are also friends outside the office,” Chau says.

The Draw

Woo says being a Best Company to Work For has clearly helped. “Last year, being honored as one of the winners definitely gave us more exposure as the type of firm we are and we actually had our best year ever from a business standpoint,” he says.

For starters, being honored helps the company attract top talent, he says. In fact, it’s encouraged the company to expand its footprint. Traditionally, Lighthouse would not hire or recruit outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, but since becoming a Best Staffing Firm to Work For winner last year, Woo says the company has had candidates from out of state. After growing internal headcount by 20% last year, Lighthouse is looking to double it this year — as well as expand its services nationally.

“I believe having that honor helps to attract top talent, and having that top talent affects the bottom line,” Woo says. Shah concurs, saying being listed helps the company gain more traction and “has helped us get in the door with some new clients.”

Clients and temp workers alike respect this designation. As Woo sees it, “If this is how we treat our internal employees, I think they feel that spills over to them as well because we don’t treat anyone differently. We treat them the same, in a positive, professional manner — internal employee, temporary worker or client.”