At Top Echelon, we believe that we can all learn from each other. Sharing our successes is a huge part of that. In this spirit, we will be profiling Ohio recruiters who belong to Top Echelon Network throughout 2016.


“Live warm, live large, and have it like you want it.”

Thus is the mantra of Karen Akbal-Sturgeon, CPC, president of KLA Industries and long-time member of the Ohio Recruiters Association. Karen is certainly carrying out both the letter and the spirt of her mantra as her recruiting business continues to grow.

As far as living warm, Karen and her husband Paul are in the process of moving to Florida. She started KLA Industries in 1999, opening an office in Cincinnati. That main office still exists and is still thriving. However, Karen and Paul have just opened another office in their new city of residence—Largo, Florida.

“We now have two offices, one in Cincinnati—the original office—and now we have four people working down here in this office,” said Karen. “We bought a house down here, as well, a beach house. We’re going to make this our permanent residence.”

When Karen and Paul put their house on the market, it sold within 24 hours. They took that as a sign they were heading in the right direction. In addition to their house in Florida, they still have a condo in Cincinnati and they plan to travel back to the Buckeye state every five or six weeks.

In terms of living large, Karen and Paul began pondering expansion about four years ago. As any Ohio resident can understand, their thoughts drifted down south, where warmer climates beckoned.

“We started thinking about [expansion] when all of our kids graduated from high school,” said Karen. “We wanted to set big goals for the company, and we also wanted to live someplace warm. We’re still too young to retire, so we thought why not just do everything we want to do, have our goals as big as we want them to be, and not compromise on anything?

“We thought, why not live warm, live large, and have it like we want it?”

Speaking of having it like you want it, Karen and Paul eventually decided the best way to accomplish that was to open another office in Florida. They considered working from home, but they decided that setup wouldn’t allow them to reach their long-term goals.

“We have such a great group in Cincinnati,” said Karen. “That’s the mothership. We have a physical office here in Florida, space enough for 10 people, but we’ve also signed a letter-of-intent with a bigger office. We’ll be able to expand up to 20 people once that office is done being built in two years. As the first tenants, we’ll be able to design it like we want it.”

KLA Industries currently has 11 employees, including Karen and Paul. Seven of those employees are located in the Cincinnati office, and four are in the Largo office.

KLA Industries primarily places Engineering, R&D, and Sales professionals within the Polymer Technology industry, specifically in three main areas:

  1. Machinery and Materials
  2. Injection Molding & Extrusion
  3. Plastics Packaging

As part of its expansion plans, KLA Industries is also starting a new division that focuses on what is known as CASE. That acronym stands for:

  • Coatings
  • Adhesives
  • Sealants
  • Elastomers

Karen indicated that Zach Burns is heading up the CASE expansion. “Z” is headed to Florida after exhibiting at The American Coatings Show in Indianapolis on April 12-14.

Zach Ernest, who has been with KLA for eight year while running his own team for the Packaging division, also manages the Cincinnati office when Karen and Paul are not there. He and other members of that office also attend ORA events.

KLA Industries is expanding at an opportune time. Hiring demand is high, which means that job orders are abundant. In fact, they’re so abundant that Karen is able to pick and choose the ones on which she’d like to work.

“We’re trying to be selective,” she said. “We could have more job orders, but we want to be cautious. We want to take good job orders, we want to work exclusive orders, and we like to work on retainer with an engagement fee. If we can’t get the engagement fee, then we only work exclusive on jobs with a base salary of $85,000 or more. That keeps our quality higher, our ratios tighter, and makes it easier to predict our revenues.”

Karen started KLA Industries in 1999, and her firm became a member of Top Echelon Network in 2005. Since that time, KLA Industries has made a total of 59 Network placements, and Karen has accounted for 45 of those placements.

KLA Industries has grown quite a bit since joining Top Echelon 11 years ago, and although the firm’s business model has changed during that time, Karen still shares her job orders with the Network freely. She believes in the value that the Network offers to its member firms, and she plans to keep leveraging the resources of the Network during her firm’s expansion.

Karen also still plans to continue with her membership in the Ohio Recruiters Association. While she and her husband have moved to Florida and opened another office there, she’s still an Ohioan at heart. She, in essence, is enjoying the “best of both worlds.”

“We figured, ‘Why not have the good life?’” Karen said. “Why not keep doing what we love to do, set big goals for the future, and do it all from the beach?”

That is definitely living warm, living large, and having it like you want it.

(Deutsch, M. (2016, May 19). Karen Akbal-Sturgeon: Enjoying the “Best of Both Worlds”. Retrieved from http://ohiorecruiters.org/karen-akbal-sturgeon-enjoying-best-worlds/)