It’s A Friends World

This is the story of how Contemporaries employees all came to be working together, as told by the employees themselves, written by an outside source.

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I think it was in college when most of us learned that living with friends is actually pretty complicated. So the idea that friends can work together effectively seemed unlikely. It’s true that work is a whole lot different than it used to be. Our parents and grandparents were probably with the same company for most of their work life. Today, many any of us work remotely. And it’s not unusual for young and old alike to take the entrepreneurial path. Instead of using conference rooms, business meetings sometimes take place in coffee shops and restaurants! And most recently, on Zoom.

So let’s consider again that whole friends-as-colleagues thing. Contemporaries is a great example. Here, being at work with friends actually improves the chances for success. Here, friends who have shared experiences, trust each other and have mutual goals, are outperforming the competition!

In an interview with, the author describes Erin Allen, the president of Contemporaries, as follows. 

It makes sense that someone running a company whose business is to supply employees to employers would become highly attuned to the best and most welcoming opportunities for all.

Contemporaries Staff
Our Story

And so it is that Erin has welcomed this unique opportunity. In 2000, Erin interviewed Erin “Brooke” Bruch. Perhaps the fact that Erin Allen and Erin Bruch shared the same first name was some kind of sign that synergy would develop. There were three people at the employment agency at that time, so when Erin Bruch was hired, she decided to go by “Brooke” – her middle name – to avoid confusion. The business grew and shortly afterwards, it was time to hire an intern.

Having graduated from Frostburg, Brooke reached out to her communications professor and asked her to look for an intern – someone they could hire and learn the staffing industry from the ground up. Though Vince DiCarlo had just graduated from Frostburg, he was entering the MBA program and needed a job. Vince, as it turns out, was a fraternity brother of Brooke’s husband. And as you might have guessed, Vince did indeed get the intern job that summer. When winter break hit, Vince was back again, helping Contemporaries wherever he was needed. The next summer Vince came on full time while he completed his master’s degree online.
As is the case for most employees of small companies, Brooke and Vince learned nearly every aspect of the business. From the very beginning, they took their work seriously. They valued their friendship with each other and made sure that their business and personal lives would not conflict.
A couple of years later, Maddie Bohrer came on board. Maddie began her career at Contemporaries as an intern. Also a student at Frostburg, Maddie was a drama major with an opportunity to audition for a show in Annapolis. When she won the part, she needed a day job – the evenings were reserved for the show. Maddie’s boyfriend was Vince’s roommate in college, so when Vince learned that Maddie was looking for a job, he told her about the opportunity with Contemporaries. Maddie started as an intern the day after her interview, and after returning for the winter break, she was offered a permanent position with Contemporaries following her graduation. While it had nothing to do with her hiring, the fact that Maddie and Brooke share birthdays is another sign of the synergy at Contemporaries.
The last of the four friends arrived later. Alonzo “Zo” Williams was also a Frostburg graduate who worked with Vince at one time. Even in college they worked together in their fraternity – Zo as president, Vince as VP. When Contemporaries needed a recruiter, Vince spoke with Erin about Zo and a week later, he joined the team.
So the beginnings of the team was now in place – Brooke in Sales, Vince in Operations, Maddie in HR and Zo as Recruiter. Now it was time to look at the organization from the ground up. Employing Traction Leadership, the team looked at every aspect of the business and realigned the organization. Because the entire team was involved, everyone understands the business better. They can communicate, support and provide guidance to each other in unique ways.

Asked about what it’s like to have friends working for you, Erin commented:

Most businesses owners will tell you that you get your best employees from referrals. That’s what happened here. Instead of conflict, Brooke, Vince, Maddie and Zo have found that it’s easier to give feedback since they are friends. We communicate well. If there is a problem, we have a conversation. We don’t have the petty arguments and back-stabbing that you might find in other businesses.

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Erin’s leadership style is about giving people direction but letting them do their job in the way they know best. She believes that if you hire the right person, you shouldn’t have to micro-manage. She understands that there are always ways to improve and she expects her staff to find better ways to do things. Her door is always open.

Does it ever get too close? According to Brooke, there are times when everyone needs the same day off – for weddings, for example. When that happens, Erin jumps in, usually with the help of an intern, and they adapt.

Our situation is different. We recognize that, and we relish it. It’s our job to keep things running smoothly. We are not afraid to speak up when needed. We can be completely honest with each other because we are best friends. And if there is a problem, we clear the air and move forward. Accountability is a big part of who we are.

Since this story was originally written, and as the company continued to grow, more people joined the team. In 2019 Craig Barger was hired. Craig was no stranger to Contemporaries, having worked as a contractor since 2013. As a contractor, he was visited often by Erin, who is “hands-on” when it comes to the employees she’s placed in various agencies. Erin knew Craig’s personality and felt that he would fit nicely into the role of recruiter. And she thought he would work with everyone else at Contemporaries. As Erin said to Craig earlier, “think of the employees at Contemporaries on a bus traveling somewhere. The person we hire must WANT to be on the bus with us!” Yep, Craig was all in. He wanted that atmosphere in his career. And not once has he regretted his decision!
In the end, everyone at Contemporaries says that working with friends makes coming to work even more enjoyable. Everyone is more relaxed and it’s easier to be honest. Here, all employees consider themselves essential to the whole. And because their work environment is gratifying, they work hard to make sure that their clients also have a congenial environment.
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