The Love of Montana Meets Technology
Arrow Solutions Group President Kathy Boelter bridges the high tech gap
Kathy Boelter, President of Billings based Arrow Solutions Group found her professional niche at the fork in the road where her love of Montana met the world of technology. Kathy, an outdoor enthusiast, knows that every good hiking trail has obstacles, altitude changes and shifts of perspective. The same can be said of starting a new business. Her road from start-up to success has been paved with struggle, sacrifice and the joy of reaching goals, with more peaks to summit on the horizon.
Kathy left the intensity of New Jersey and the east coast a little over 10 years ago in search of a work/life balance. She arrived in Billings and began working with a local computer technology company. As she acclimated to the pace and culture of Montana, she began to see many local companies were using national recruiters to fill their technical staffing needs. While they were finding success at bringing in potential candidates, the challenge was helping those new hires put down roots and want to stay in the area.
Kathy had heard it all before from potential recruits. “We love Montana! We went to Glacier Park (or Yellowstone National Park) once and it was so beautiful!” Visiting here is one thing. Living here is another. Kathy saw a need in the market for “technical talent to be recruited to support local companies.” And, she felt the market needed somebody who “got Montana culture” to actively recruit for the area. “Not everyone can live here. Having lived in both a small town and in a major market I understood the challenge.”
Kathy opened Arrow Solutions Group, an Information Technology (IT) staffing and recruiting company on January 1, 2009. At the time, it was a solo operation. She met with clients, negotiated the contracts, processed the billing and did everything else that was required to make the business successful. All profit went directly back into the business.
Seven years later, Arrow Solutions has seven internal employees who specialize in recruiting, operations and sales. The company also has an external contract workforce that fluctuates up to as many as thirty employees, depending on how many projects the company is supporting. The company’s philosophy is to recruit “first local, then regional, then national”. Recruiting for the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming can be challenging. But, Kathy says “If we can be good enough to recruit into Montana and North Dakota, we can be good at recruiting anywhere”. Her company’s reputation has grown positively and Arrow currently recruits for companies across the Midwest, Northern Rockies and parts of the Pacific Northwest.
“I’m a visionary and love to be out in front of clients” Kathy says. Her entrepreneurial spirit and energy was exactly what was needed to start Arrow. However, a couple of years in, she found the company plateauing. With the help of a professional strategist they agreed she needed to streamline her business processes and work more efficiently. Together they profiled a job description for a Vice President of Operations. Kathy realized that the skill set the company needed could be found close to home, specifically in her then boyfriend, now husband, Jim Boelter.
Jim came on board as Vice President of Operations in July of 2014. He brought not only strong strategic skills to Arrow, he also brought incredible technical skills, having worked in the tele-communications industry for years. His ability to screen technologists puts them at the advantage when placing employees. Even though Arrow Solutions Group lost 40% of their employees in the process of streamlining their business, within the first 18 months of Jim’s employment they grew their business by 60% and it continues to grow.
Working together as a couple can be challenging. Kathy says “You could write a whole book about couples who work together. It is hard. You have to have clearly defined rules and have to create strong boundaries. We can’t talk about work all the time. There is an added intensity in work when you are a couple because there is a lot of emotion wrapped up with the other person.” However, this couple is determined to make it work. Their desire is that their three-year-old, Gwendolyn, will grow up in a relationally healthy home, with a front row seat to both a successful marriage and a successful business.
Jim and Kathy work around a family schedule including regular meal times at home (they love to cook together), Gwen’s bath time, story time and bedtimes before returning to work in their home office after their strawberry blond preschooler is sleeping.
The principle of supply and demand indicates that Arrow will continue to be needed. “Every industry, every business is affected by technology. Everybody needs technical people. The demand for technical hires will only increase.” But Kathy continues to look to the “right side of the board”, the next ten or twenty years of her timeline, challenging herself and her company to think forward.
Mary Hernandez, one of the family’s close friends and a business peer says, “Kathy is an inquisitive high-spirited, passionate leader who inspires others to action. She is a considerate person who is ever cognizant of what’s happening in the lives of those around her. She’s generous with her time in serving our Montana community and in encouraging women to explore and reach their dreams.”
Kathy is a quiet advocate for women in the field. “Ninety-five percent of the technological workforce are men. There are a lot of men in leadership roles in those companies.” While more women are being hired into the field, there is still a deficit. She would like to see that balance shift. However, she is quick to say to women “Don’t win based on being female. Win because you’re the best.” A natural competitor, this is what Kathy wants for herself, her business and for her daughter as she grows. She wants to be the best.
In 2011, Jim and Kathy summited Mount Rearguard, the highest point on the Hellroaring Plateau in the Beartooth Mountain Range. They were married at the top of the peak where the vistas are stunning and the horizon stretches on forever. One cannot help but feel this is symbolic of Kathy’s personal and professional future, a view of more mountains to climb and conquer with a beautiful horizon to look at and use as a backdrop to dream.