Tierra Kavanaugh Wayne

TKT & Associates lost some big contracts in late 2013 and early 2014, and revenue plunged 90 percent, putting the future of the business in jeopardy.

Owner Tierra Kavanaugh Wayne said she had to take the difficult step of letting go all of her seven employees, and she worried about staying afloat.

“It was scary. It was painful,” she told Insider recently.

But thanks to diversification, hard work and good timing, Kavanaugh Wayne effected a remarkable turnaround for her business: TKT, based at 9200 Shelbyville Road, has seen its revenue spike to $14 million last year from about $800,000 in 2014. That’s a jump of 1,750 percent.

This month, Kavanaugh Wayne was recognized by American Express and the national nonprofit Women Presidents’ Organization for owning one of the 50 fastest-growing women-owned companies in the nation.

Marsha Firestone, president and founder of the WPO, said in a press release that the organization’s partnership with the credit card company “has been crucial in acknowledging the influence women-owned and led companies have in job creation and growing the global economy.”

The 50 fastest-growing companies on the list last year generated combined revenue of $7.2 billion and employed 46,000.

TKT’s three divisions provide entrepreneurial training and staffing services and help companies attain and monitor federally required and/or self-imposed workforce and supplier diversity goals.

Kavanaugh Wayne said that TKT lost about 50 percent of its revenue in December 2013 when the state of Kentucky notified her that it would perform in-house the work that TKT had been contracted to do for the Ohio River Bridges project. A month later, TKT lost another big contract.

“Definitely very scary times,” she recalled.

Kavanaugh Wayne lives in Louisville with her husband, Fredrick, and two daughters. She came to Louisville from Danville, Kentucky, more than 20 years ago to study economics at the University of Louisville.

Kavanaugh Wayne said that after downsizing, she put more effort into landing clients for TKT’s staffing subsidiary, TKT-nectir, and she leveraged her partnership with Toyota, which predates the creation of TKT, to diversify her business and client base.

As luck would have it, Toyota needed help — a lot of help — finding diverse and qualified contract workers as it restructured its business, expanded and moved its North American headquarters to Plano, Texas. TKT in early 2015 won a significant contract from Toyota in a competitive bidding process.

“Thank the Lord,” Kavanaugh Wayne recalled her reaction. “Elated is not even a term to really summarize that.”

But she didn’t really have time to celebrate, she said. The new contract with Toyota called for TKT to handle essentially all of the hiring of the corporate giant’s North American contract labor, ranging from human resources to manufacturing and engineering.

TKT had to ramp up quickly, understand Toyota’s processes and procedures, hire IT and engineering staff, big data analysts, managers and support personnel, Kavanaugh Wayne said.

“It was a challenge,” she said.

Chuck Hendrix

Chuck Hendrix, senior manager of purchasing and supplier diversity for Toyota Motor North America, told Insider that TKT has proved immensely helpful during a period in which the automotive giant has undergone significant change.

Until this year, TMNA’s three divisions — automotive, manufacturing, financial services — had functioned as separate entities but decided in 2014 to begin coming together, Hendrix said. During that process, the company also revised upward its supplier diversity goals: It wants 10 percent of its procurement spending to come from minority-owned business, and 2 percent from women-owned businesses.

The diversity goals originate in one of the two pillars of the Toyota Way: respect for people. Hendrix said that the company’s diversity goals also reflect the company’s diverse customer base: Lots of ethnic minorities and women buy Toyota vehicles, he said, and the company wants to reciprocate, in part because it wants those businesses to be successful so they can turn around and buy more Camrys.

“It does make good business sense (and) it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Kavanaugh Wayne’s experience in staffing and minority- and women-owned businesses has helped Toyota remain on track toward those goals, Hendrix said. As did the hiring of Kavanaugh Wayne, herself, because she runs a minority- and woman-owned business.

TKT essentially serves as a liaison between TMNA and staffing agencies that supply contract labor. Whether Toyota needs 25 engineers for its Corolla plant in Mississippi or 50 assembly line workers for its Camry plant in Georgetown, TKT identifies suppliers that can meet Toyota’s capability and diversity goals.

TKT handles all of the hiring of contract labor for Toyota, except for IT , Hendrix said, though the company plans to ultimately have the Louisville-based consulting company handle the IT portion as well.

Through the work with Toyota, TKT also has landed work from other automotive companies and has even expanded into Mexico, Kavanaugh Wayne said, though the Toyota business represents about 58 percent of revenue.

TKT’s growth is continuing: The company now employs 68, has operations in four states, and is on track to generate revenue near $40 million this year, up 5,000 percent from 2014.

Update: This story has been updated to correct revenue data and to clarify the nature of TKT’s work for Toyota.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.