Working in Staffing
I still work in the first job I ever had. That’s how it goes with a family-owned staffing company: the business and everything in it is dear to me and to my family, who took over Active Staffing from my grandfather several decades ago. It’s where I spent time as a child, coming into the office after school to help assemble sales folders, and where I worked in the summers during high school.
Today, as chief operating officer, I still love being in the office and the fast pace of the staffing industry. Nothing beats the rush that comes from taking care of a client and hearing their appreciation when a problem is resolved, or a challenging order is filled without a hitch.
Doing Good, Every Day
As I reflect on what it was like to grow up in this industry, I’m grateful to come to work every day and do something inherently good. We’re not just selling “stuff;” we’re doing something meaningful every time we place someone in a job or help a client get their work done.
I watched my high-school and college friends take jobs where they did well and checked-out at the end of the day. For me, it was different. Every action, every phone call was personal. Working in and now operating a family-owned business takes a different mindset. It’s a job you never leave. If the phone rings in the night, you take the call. I watched my father run the company that way and understood that’s the way it had to be.
Our attitude is always, “The client needs something, so we need to get to it right away.”
What I Learned from my Father
There are other valuable lessons I learned from my father, which became central features for how Active operates today.
First and foremost is the importance of nurturing relationships, especially with internal staff. I am close to our team, many of whom have known me since I was a teenager. They know I believe in them, that I always have their back. The strength of those relationships allows me to make tough decisions and changes in the direction of the company, some of which can create discomfort. But because of our relationship, the staff trusts the strategy and knows we’re going and growing in a positive way. They are with me and Active, just like I am with them.
Client relationships are equally important; that’s the way my father ran the company and it’s our culture today. Yes, we take clients to lunch and visit them regularly. But maintaining high-touch relationships goes beyond entertaining. Staying current on each client’s business, what’s changing and what challenges they are facing, is what keeps us ingrained and make us good partners. If things are going well, there’s no reason for a client to ever leave.
Everyone has value. As a manager and owner, I need to look for that value in others, maximize their strengths and minimize or overcome any weaknesses. Everyone experiences stress. Everyone wants to share their ideas. Everyone is good and nobody is perfect. The job is to keep the team and the company moving forward.
Finally, I learned to create a culture of kindness. It sounds a little corny, but kindness comes back to you from clients, associates and employees.
Misperceptions About Staffing
For me, staffing is second nature. For others, it can be misunderstood.
Our clients may think of us in a transactional way. They would be better off thinking of us as partners, tapping into our 70 years of HR experience and knowledge of their industry to become more efficient. The clients who include us in their meetings or bring us in to strategize solutions to problems not just to fill orders…those are the clients we can help save costs and grow.
Here’s a good example. Three years ago, we made a proposal to a client to have Active payroll their internal staff. Doing so would have reduced their unemployment and workers’ comp exposure and costs significantly. In the end, they chose to work with us only on a transactional basis for their lower-level team members. Fast forward three years to today and with the company now in financial trouble, they asked us to implement the same plan we proposed years ago. Had they worked with us as a partner instead of a vendor back then, brought us to the table and worked through a payrolling plan, it might have prevented their current problems, protected them, and provided a big impact.
The Future for Active Staffing
Having grown up at Active Staffing, people sometimes ask if I would I ever work somewhere else. I wouldn’t want to. Getting the company to run properly, creating a place where people do good work and know what’s expected of them, and making a positive difference for our employees and clients is rewarding and exciting.
This is a job I never leave; it never ends. I know where we are headed and the moves to get us there. I’ll continue to grow in staffing, right along with Active’s staff, employees and clients.