That’s how Ronnie Hollis has grown Prestige Staffing between 80 percent and 105 percent per year for the last four years, with estimated 2006 revenue of $18 million and anticipated 2007 revenue of $20 million to $35 million. The company, which fills temporary, permanent and contract positions for businesses across North America, employs 55.
The average age of employees is 26, and such youth, coupled with the company’s anticipated continued growth, means that training is critical. “Our goal is to create leaders, not just manage them,” Hollis says.
Smart Business spoke with Hollis, CEO of Prestige Staffing, about how he keeps employees motivated and the importance of finding weaknesses even when things are going well.
Q: What is the most important skill for a CEO to have?
A CEO has to be humble. Nobody has all the answers, and if you’re humble, you’ll take advice from others, and you’ll need advice from others. It may be an entry-level person; it may be your right-hand man who has been with you since the beginning.
If you’re not humble, you’re going to try to call every shot without gathering the pertinent data you need to make a decision. Other people have brains, too, and you have to use them.
Hire smart people, and be smart enough to take their advice. You’ve got to have good gut instincts, because sometimes there are decisions to be made, and the data’s not there. You’ve just got to have the courage to take some leaps of faith.
Q: What is the biggest trap a CEO should avoid?
Contentment. If, as a CEO, you don’t stay focused on the big picture, the company’s not going to grow. If you become content, the company becomes content.
If you become stagnant and content, your staff is not going see opportunities. If they’re not going to have opportunities for themselves, they’re going to leave. Your people are your most valuable asset, and the best way to keep them around is to keep creating opportunities for them.
As a CEO, if you get content, you’re dead. Whatever numbers you hit this month, great. Let’s beat them next month, and every month. You’ve got to reinvest that money in your company for opportunities for your people. You can’t be too greedy. The temptation is there, especially in a successful company. You didn’t make it by yourself.
It doesn’t have to be in pay; it can be in opportunities. Create opportunities for your people. In return, they’ll make you a bigger, more successful company.
Q: How do you avoid stagnation and contentment?
You have to be able to identify weaknesses before they become problems. When a company is doing well, it’s easy to just sit back and watch it and enjoy it. But in reality, what you should be doing is identifying weaknesses before they become problems.
Where are you weak? Where can you get better? If you don’t fix it, it’s going to become a huge problem for you, and that can stunt your growth. I don’t care how good you’re doing; you have to look for weaknesses.
Yesterday in the weekly meeting, we had our best week ever, and we’re on track to have our best month ever, but the meeting was about an area I found that we need to work on. I focused more on that weakness.
You have to celebrate your successes and all that, but the clich is that there is 90 percent you’re doing right and 10 percent you do wrong. My job is to always identify the 10 percent we’re doing wrong.
Q: How do you attract and keep quality employees?
Why do you get up and go to work every day? Well, you want to be successful at what you do; you want to make as much money as you can, and you want to have a successful career. So your vision must be built around giving people those opportunities.
Our vision is built upon giving our employees everything they would want from a job so it becomes their career, not just a job. We give them a career path they can be happy about, and they feel like they are a part of creating something.
Q: How do you do that?
You have to make sure there’s no division between management and staff. So many times, leaders just try to tell people what to do. You have to get out there and show them. They have to feel like you’re in it with them.
A lot of companies use classroom training. We avoid that. We try to roll up our sleeves, get out there and show them how to do it.
HOW TO REACH: Prestige Staffing, (770) 200-3565 or www.prestigestaffing.com
When Jeff Sprecher was 23 years old, he had 26 MasterCards and Visas because they were the only means he had to fund his business. Then he realized that was a poor way to finance a company, a lesson that has impacted the way he does business today as chairman and CEO of IntercontinentalExchange, an online marketplace for global commodity trading. Last year, his company had $156 million in revenue and didn’t use credit cards to raise capital. Smart Business spoke with Sprecher about the importance of setting a good example and why you can’t dwell on mistakes.
Reflect your ethics in the organization. Have a certain ethic that says you’re honest, trustworthy and fair. In any place in life, people respect those qualities. It’s hard to operate in an environment where you don’t have a highly ethical, highly honest work environment.
Set the example at the top of the organization. Just like a parent, you can’t say, ‘Do what I say, not what I do.’ People admire good leadership and want to work in companies that have good leadership. They want to emulate the actions of good leaders, so it’s important that you live by example.
Hire and surround yourself with people that reflect your own ethics and hope that they do the same. Over time, you can change the culture of an organization through individual employees.
Trust your people. Be a person that believes in the good. Have a ‘glass is half full’ attitude, and when things are going wrong, insert yourself and make sure that people recognize where things have gone wrong, and try to learn from those mistakes.
Businesses make mistakes. A good business will figure out the mistake early, correct it and move on, and not paralyze the organization in that process.
The worst thing you can do is admonish somebody who took a calculated risk that they felt was valid and was wrong. Reward somebody who takes a calculated risk, was wrong and corrects it.
Don’t create a fear-based company, where people worry about losing their jobs because they make decisions. Create an empowerment-based company, where people feel that they are required to make decisions and required to be responsible for them and take ownership of their mistakes.
Innovate. Go into a mature market, look at things and re-innovate.
I have grown up having always been able to order a pizza and have it delivered to my home. Yet people have come up with all different ways of making pizzas and delivering them to homes and create amazing franchises in a space where one would say the market is largely served. You can find that same kind of example in any industry where someone goes in, innovates and takes the calculated risk to invest and apply that innovation.
You need smart people that can see opportunities, and those opportunities are usually presented to you by talking to your customers about what their needs are or where others are not fulfilling their needs.
Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t hire people too much ahead of the need. One way to empower people is, as the company is growing, put more responsibility on people and not let them hire that responsibility away.
By running relatively lean, you’ll find those people that are willing to take on new responsibilities. Build businesses and growth areas around them.
In a growth environment, look to the people that have leadership skills and have good decision-making, and give them that part of the business and let them run with it. It’s almost a self-policing activity.
Raise money and think bigger. It’s easy to have great ideas but lack the resources to implement them.
It takes a certain amount of salesmanship and entrepreneurship just to raise the resources that you need to operate in business. Get that balance right because you can’t spend all your time raising money, because then you’re not doing the business, and you can’t do the business unless you’re raising money.
A lot of articles say there’s a lot of capital in the world looking for opportunities to invest. Finding the neck of the funnel where your ideas and those dollars come together is incredibly difficult. It takes just as much energy for an investor to invest $5,000 as it does to invest $5 million.
Anyone who is on the investment side of the business has a certain amount of due diligence that they want to do to protect any amount of money that they want to put into a venture. Once you figure that out, you’re better off thinking big and coming up with an idea that warrants the $5 million, as opposed to the $5,000 investment.
People come to me to ask for help for ideas they have that are relatively small. Can that idea be bigger? Can it be national or global? If it has applicability in what you’re doing locally, would it have applicability around the world? If it does, think about setting up a business for that because it may be easier to raise money for a good global idea than for a small regional idea.
Be prepared for change. The world and the capital markets have trends. Recognize that whatever you’re looking at in the market today is not constant and is likely to change. Always be evaluating: Is it going to change, and is it going to change for the better or the worse? What do I need to do to position myself for that change?
I made mistakes as a young person because I didn’t realize how rapidly markets and environments can change, and it’s not forgiving. You cannot control that change, but you can benefit from it.
You’re going to jump in a river. If you try to paddle upstream, you’re not going to make it. That river is going to take you somewhere, and you don’t really know where you’re going to come out at the other end.
What you can do is paddle to the left and paddle to the right. Make sure you’re going left when you need to go left, and go right when you need to go right, and avoid the rocks as you go down the stream.
HOW TO REACH: IntercontinentalExchange, www.theice.com
Your lease expires in 12 months and it’s time to decide where you want your company to be located for the next 10 years. You have a solid work force and good cash flow. Do you stay where you are or find another building?
“When representing tenants, we tend to look at the company’s current economic situation and what other options exist in the market,” says David Todd, first vice president for CB Richard Ellis. “Maybe it’s time to see what someone else is offering.”
Smart Business spoke to Todd about how to tell if renewing a lease or relocating is the better choice for your company.
How does a business owner know if it’s better to renew or relocate?
First, you analyze the market. You look at vacancy rates in your current building as well as areas that may offer your company a strategic advantage by relocating, such as proximity to clients, vendors or amenities.
Next, a broker can determine incentives for each of the different locations including the building you currently occupy. Your landlord won’t always want to offer you as aggressive a deal as he would offer a new tenant because he knows that moving costs money.
You also need to look at sublease options versus direct-lease options. There may be a great sublease available from a large company downsizing, merging or relocating to a more suitable building.
Finally, you compare proposals from the relocation options to what you pay at your current location.
Another option is looking at the economics and affordability of purchasing a building or a build-to-suit (building not owned by you but built specifically to accommodate your company’s needs, whereby you lease the majority of the building). Over 10 years, you may see great appreciation and the tax benefits of ownership.
Signals that it may be time to purchase a building:
You’re a growing business and cash flow is great
You know that you’re going to be around for at least 10 years and that your employee base isn’t going to shift too much in either direction
The current owner of the company is in a position to purchase a building and lease it back to the company.
Does it make sense to upgrade or downgrade a space?
You have to ask yourself several questions before you make this decision, questions that are based on the needs of the business. Are clients coming to your office, or do you mainly go to your clients’ offices? Is the company office-driven, cube-driven or an open atmosphere? Has your corporate culture changed as the result of a merger or acquisition? Is your work force getting younger and more trendy, or is it mostly suit-and-tie?
Other factors include whether you need to expand or contract your office space based on the current financial situation of your company. Does technology drive your company, and does the current building have the technological capabilities it needs? Is there a strategic need to be in a higher profile building? Are you now a public company? If the company’s been around for a while, do you want your name on the building? Do you need to be close to certain clients, such as the largest law firm in the area or the headquarters of a certain company? And, finally, what are the demographics of your work force? Are your people having traffic issues and do you need to be close to public transportation or the airport?
If a company is growing rapidly, when does
it become apparent that it needs to move to
a new building?
If the company has expansion rights or expansion options, then it may not need to move at all. Expansion rights part of the original contract give the company the right to expand into an adjoining suite or onto adjoining floors. If a company has 10 floors and expansion rights for two more, those floors must be made available when the company states that it wants to exercise its expansion rights. With expansion options, a company has the right of first refusal on adjoining space as it becomes available.
Strategically, if a company feels the need to re-brand itself and raise its profile, a new location can provide somewhat of a catapult for accomplishing that initiative.
To get you to stay in your current building, your landlord may offer you the option to relocate your growing company to a larger or more prestigious space in the building or move a smaller company to another floor in order to keep you from leaving. This creates a ‘winwin’ for both parties.
DAVID TODD is first vice president at CB Richard Ellis in Brokerage Services. Reach him at (404) 504-7916 or email@example.com.
“Keeping the lines of communication open with as many different sources as you can is going to be vital to the success of your company,” says Erik Balkan, district director of Spherion Staffing Services. “And if you do it well, you will gain a reputation as someone to go to for information, as well.”
Smart Business spoke to Balkan about the importance of effective networking.
Overall, how important is networking?
It’s extremely important, and most of the time it’s vital. If done successfully, it will give you access to information you wouldn’t otherwise have. It will put you one step ahead of the competition. It warrants being done well.
What is networking?
In its most basic form, networking is just an exchange of information. But I believe it’s important for people to understand what networking is not, because there’s a lot of confusion.
Networking is not selling. It’s not using people for your own purposes without them getting something out of the relationship. It’s not coercing someone into doing something for you that they don’t want to do, and it’s not about making someone feel obligated to help out because they feel guilty.
What are the components of successful networking?
Certainly a powerful introduction is one of the most important. It needs to be concise, distinctive and engaging.
Another is how you ask for the information. You should be open and coachable and you need to listen. The person who’s giving you the information needs to feel like he or she is coaching you a bit.
Whatever information you are requesting needs to be clear and concise, as well. There can’t be any kind of hidden agenda. You can’t come across as, ‘If you do this for me, then I’ll do that for you.’
You also need to offer yourself as a resource so that the person you’re requesting the information from will feel that he or she can come to you.
What should people consider about themselves in order to become better networkers?
People should consider their own personal values, such as adventure, diversity, honor, caring and fun. Once people are aware of their real values or value-based goals, they’re really going to be motivated into action and that will strengthen their networking focus. That’s something that’s overlooked quite a bit.
Is there ever a time you would network when you’re not looking for a specific piece of information?
It’s important to keep avenues of communication and your relationships open, even if you don’t currently need any information. Keeping that relationship solid is going to make it much easier to gain information when you need it in the future. It also gives you a good opportunity to pass information on to somebody else. Obviously, the most successful networkers pass on information that’s valuable to other people.
How has technology changed the methods of networking?
In the age of technology, phone and e-mail electronic communication does become a big part of it. But successful networkers are still the ones who do it the old-fashioned way; they’re face-to-face and hand-to-hand. Those networkers will make the biggest impressions, and in a positive way.
If I have two people that I need the same information from and they both have it, and I e-mail one of them and the other one I take out to lunch and personally shake his hand and say, ‘How are you doing?’ it’s much more likely I’m going to be successful with the one I met with in person.
Is networking more important for small companies?
It can actually be more important for employees at small companies because they don’t have the reputation of the big, well-known companies to fall back on. They need networking to gain access to information that somebody in a large company might be able to get, simply due to their association with that company.
Is networking more important to certain industries?
Certainly it’s vital in any sales organization. However, I can’t think of any industry where it’s not beneficial. The bottom line is that anytime you can get additional information you wouldn’t otherwise have, you’re going to be one step ahead.
ERIK BALKAN is district director of Spherion Staffing Services. Reach him at (404) 250-0009 or erikbalkan.spherion.com.
There are now more than 2,000 corporate universities in the country. They provide a mix of programs and delivery methods. Companies and individuals are looking at the opportunities and making choices that will affect their growth potential throughout their life span.
“Today, particularly, new entrants in the work force are becoming portfolio workers,” says Dr. Timothy Mescon, Dean Dinos Eminent Scholar chair of Entrepreneurial Management, Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University. “They are interested in building their own resume or portfolio. At the same time, companies are recognizing the need for more knowledgeable leaders. These intersecting interests are driving the creation of more opportunities and the need to carefully consider the options.”
Smart Business talked with Mescon for more information on executive education and some of the things that employees and employers should consider.
What is driving the interest in executive education?
The world of business is moving at an incredibly fast pace. Companies are looking for better leaders who are equipped with the most up-to-date information and skills. Employees are looking at adding skill sets to be better able to compete in the changing marketplace. Education becomes a team retention tool that is very important to the employee and a plus for the organization. We like to say, ‘learn today, lead tomorrow.’
What are some of the things that companies need to consider?
There are three main areas of education available. They are specific skill development, leadership development, and special tracks for high potential (HiPot) candidates. The special tracks for the HiPot managers are accelerated programs.
Companies need to determine what skills and qualities will best serve them and seek out the programs that will meet those needs. The key is the applicability of the knowledge.
How are these programs being delivered?
What we see evolving is a mix of the traditionally delivered onsite and the emerging online programs. There is still a place for, and many benefits of, an interactive person-to-person education.
Twenty-four-hour access is an expectation of the younger generation. They are looking for programs that are convenient to them and not necessarily the organization. Location and variety of programs are also factors. Both forms of delivery have their benefits, and we are seeing them used effectively in tandem.
Who is paying the costs of these programs?
It is a combination of both the company and the employee. Pro-active companies are providing many opportunities. Smart employees will augment whatever is available from their company with things that complement and help build their own portfolio.
Employees need to control their own destiny. Most of the costs of many of the captive in-house MBA programs are paid for by the companies. Some companies pay only for credit courses and others pay for credit or noncredit. It may depend on their goals.
How important is credit over noncredit?
The individual needs to decide for themselves and in conversation with their employer the importance of degrees. Credit may be very important in some cases and in others not so important. It is up to the individuals to give the proper assessment and due diligence in determining what is best for them. Some programs have the option of credit or not. There is usually no difference in cost or content. A person may not be eligible for credit because he or she already has an MBA or may not have the prerequisite courses to obtain credit. Thus, more choice is available.
What do you see in the future for executive education?
There are unique alliances developing that reflect the changing expectations of corporate America. We are starting to see ‘pay-for-performance’ models. If XYZ Corporation doesn’t receive what it expects from a contracted program, it doesn’t pay for it. This puts the onus on the university to provide the program the company wants in a way that the participants fully grasp.
There is a profound amount of research that supports the fact that corporate entities that provide more education do better.
TIMOTHY MESCON, Ph.D., is Dean Dinos Eminent Scholar chair of Entrepreneurial Management, Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State University. Reach him at (770) 423-6425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
University of Texas - Austin, finance
I worked at Macy’s for a couple years in their management training program. That’s where I learned the basics of retail management.
What has been your biggest business challenge?
The biggest business challenge we faced was after Sept. 11. Of all the industries in this country, there’s not another industry which suffered as badly as the airline industry.
We learned a lot about ourselves during that period. Traffic was down. Nobody knew what was going to happen to airports. That was a real gut-check for our company.
It’s amazing what great people can accomplish, and we accomplished a great deal after Sept. 11. Our business was back to flat with the previous year by December, even though there were 20 percent fewer passengers. We were doing a much better job.
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
People like doing business with those individuals they enjoy working with. The reality is with our company I learned this from our founders years ago if they like you, you’re going to have a much greater chance of being successful. People like to do business with people they enjoy being with.
The other big lesson is quality must come first. Don’t do anything halfway. Quality needs to be done first. Everything needs to be first-class.
Whom do admire most in business and why?
My father and my uncle. They obviously established the foundation for our company, and, really, I learned how they handled the good times, but most importantly, how they handled the challenging times.
They always did it in a way in which I respected and knew that’s the way I had to do it as well.
“When you look at emergent workers, they’re always looking at different opportunities,” says Kevin White, director of operations at Spherion Staffing Services. “You want to create an environment where they can apply for jobs on their time, when they want to do it.”
Smart Business talked to White about candidate centers and what they can do to help potential job candidates. This is the first of a two-part series.
What does a good candidate resource center offer?
You want to give people things such as access to libraries, job search tips and career advice so that you’re not just providing a place to apply but also tips such as how to write a good resume. All of this has to be offered to the candidate when he or she is able to access the information.
Has technology helped make such centers possible?
Yes, it has. It’s important that the center works on the candidate’s time frame. Typically in the old world, a candidate had to come in between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and fill out an application. In these new days, that candidate can go online whenever it’s a good time for them; all day, every day. It’s really most beneficial to the potential employee.
Unbeknownst to us, when we developed this concept a couple of years ago we didn’t know how much gas prices would skyrocket. People don’t have to drive across town just to fill out an application; they can look at all of the information online without the commitment of having to drive somewhere. They don’t need to get a bunch of kids ready or try or find a babysitter if they can’t take them along. The convenience factor is huge.
Can candidates update the information on their profiles?
The Web portal is password-protected. When you go into the resource center you fill out an application, which becomes your profile, and you can attach a resume. As information changes, you can go in via your password and alter your resume, update your contacts and access the information that’s in the system as you continue to look at different openings. You can apply directly to a posted position that matches your skills and background. The inquiry is sent directly to the employer.
Are services available to help candidates better present themselves?
There is access to an online library that offers help in areas such as resume writing and effective correspondence along with tips and strategies to help candidates negotiate for the jobs that they really want. There is also a network of contacts to help with future career opportunities. This is not just a one-time hit; there are many areas you can go with this program.
Who is most likely to use a candidate resource center?
We look for the best candidate to fill the position. The traditional worker wants to stay where he is and have a career with the company, believing it will take care of him. The emergent worker takes care of himself and looks for opportunities to increase his viability in the market.
Traditional workers believe their success will be with the company, while emergent workers believe the more they know, the more opportunities they will have for financial gain and the better lifestyle they can have as a result. They want to be in charge of their employment, not the company.
How are candidates matched to job openings?
Candidates that enter the resource center can apply to open positions using assigned job codes. We can see who has applied for a job and what qualifications they have. An assessment is sent through e-mail that the candidate can complete at home. After we evaluate the candidate’s viability for the job we can set up a phone interview and if that works, bring them in for an interview. By the time the candidate comes in for a face-to-face interview they are a legitimate candidate and are ready for a behavioral interview. Candidate time in the office is reduced from two-and-a-half hours to 45 minutes.
KEVIN WHITE is director of operations at Spherion Staffing Services. Reach him at (904) 358-7864 or email@example.com.
The move met with resistance from employees used to the old way of doing business, and the company’s customers also had not changed their perception of the business. Informing employees about the company’s new direction was the first step to changing their mindset.
“If we can change our thinking internally, we can change the perception of our people, which will, in turn, change the perception of our customers,” Ellsworth says.
Although the process is ongoing, World Micro has had steady revenue growth of about 30 percent each year, with 2005 revenue of $11.7 million.
Smart Business spoke with Ellsworth, president and CEO of World Micro Components, about the importance of clearly communicating to employees, and why you shouldn’t keep secrets.
How do you keep employees involved in the workplace?
We tend to be transparent in our management style. We’re open for employees to see; we don’t keep any secrets. There’s no managers’ meeting. We keep it real clear.
We set real objectives, let them know where they stand and where they’ve got to be. Just keep an open-door policy. Being candid, honest and open-minded with our employees is very important. If we can employ those three characteristics, we’re all on the same page.
We tend to hammer in our mission statement over and over to our employees. We also let them know on a daily, weekly and monthly basis what our goals are as a company. When they know that, we can give them our annual goal and say, ‘This is what we’re trying to do in sales for the year.’
Then we break it down for them. This is what we have to do per month, per week. This is what you, the salesperson, has to do per day, and if you achieve these daily goals, we’ll be able to achieve that annual goal.
Make that clear to them in a consistent and straightforward manner.
How does having an open-door policy benefit both employees and the company?
They know where we stand, we know where they stand, and they’re clearly understanding what management’s goals are. They know our objectives, and we can let them know what they’ve got to do.
Letting everybody play on the same field allows us to keep a real open environment.
People know where they stand. There’s not a lot of guesswork. An employee doesn’t have to say, ‘What do I have to do today?’ Those objectives are in his mind; he knows exactly what he has to do.
The main advantage is there’s no ambiguity, there’s no questions about what a person is supposed to be doing. They know their job, and they do it.
How have you managed growth?
We started with a 100-square-foot office 12 years ago, and we’ve added one person at a time. We’ve done all that and remained debt-free, and now we’re at about 40 people total. I encourage slow and steady growth.
Don’t try to hit the ball out of the park. Be happy with doubles and triples, and even singles. That type of growth doesn’t break your infrastructure, it doesn’t throw you in all this debt, and it keeps everybody sane.
Also, keep the money the company has made in the business. I’m 50 percent owner, and my partner, Chris, is a 50 percent owner. We’ve kept a lot of the capital inside the company. Having an excellent credit history from a personal and business standpoint also helps, because we are debt-free.
When people look at our credit scores, like other businesses, they realize we are a very low credit risk. That helps us to purchase goods at lower prices, because the person we are purchasing from realizes they are going to get paid.
What skills does a successful CEO need?
You have to have the ability to attract people, to lead by example and gather the respect of your employees and your people. If they don’t respect you, you really have nothing. Just give them the ability to look up to you.
Hire people who are smarter than you are. Try to build the company like a manager builds a baseball team. We want to find the best person for the position, and we expect performance out of that person.
One of the pitfalls some managers fall into is they want to keep everybody in the dark. If that person is too smart, they say ‘I don’t want someone smarter than me.’
We’re completely the opposite, we want to hire people who are smarter than we are and who are experts in their particular position so we can have a real solid team and win.
HOW TO REACH: World Micro Components Inc., (770) 698-1900 or www.worldmicro.com
With that in mind, Lisa Kyle, district director for Spherion, a recruitment and staffing agency headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, says the key thing that companies need to focus on is employee retention and come up with more ways than just raising one’s pay to keep employees around.
Smart Business spoke with Kyle about the characteristics of the emerging work force and how companies might best tap into it.
How does the work force in the modern era differ than any in the past?
For 10 years, we tracked and benchmarked what motivates workers as well as what steps employers were taking to attract and leverage talent. We found that, by the end of the decade, there will be 10 million more jobs available than workers to fill them. We also found that there were a lot of serious misconceptions about retention among employers and their current as well as future employees. There were a lot of areas of disconnect between what employees need and want and what employers were providing.
We also found that employers on average believe that 14 percent of the work force will leave their current job within the next year. But through our survey, we found that over 40 percent were planning on leaving their current jobs within the next year.
Nearly 45 percent of companies believe that work force planning is a minor initiative. But because of the recruiting crunch, this will have to increase as the baby boomers exit the work force. In addition to providing a contingent work force for our clients, our main goal right now is to try to help our clients focused on the retention of their current employees so they have fewer turnovers.
What are some retention strategies that companies can use?
One of the most important is offering employees solid training and development. The desire for more training and career development has been driven by the digital and computer age where people are trying to gain the skills they need in this new age of business.
Compensation and benefits are always important. We’ve entered a new age of compensation deflation where little or no pay increases are taking place but benefit costs are rising.
Being sensitive to the work/life balance by offering employees flexible hours and vacation time is paramount, too.
How has the increasing number of immigrants affected the work force?
It’s a good thing, in that all companies are focused on diversity. We work with some local organizations that assist immigrants by placing them in jobs comparable to what they did in their native country. Many clients are looking to become more diverse and are thus asking to tap into this work force.
Do you believe outsourcing labor to foreign countries has been good or bad for the labor pool?
I believe it has a positive side and a down side. For example, we never like to see a 500-seat call center moved out of the country because it eliminates jobs for Americans. If you look at it exponentially across the country, that could be thousands of jobs lost. However, when those jobs are moved overseas, suddenly 500 qualified people are looking for work.
With the recruiting crunch employers are facing today, that’s a virtual gold mine of good, experienced people who can be placed. It’s rewarding to help people that way.
How can a company be assured it is receiving quality people?
Companies should set up a list of criteria, including educational background, references, skill sets. Do managers want background screening and drug screening completed in addition to past work experience?
The candidate should not only be qualified for the job but also fit the company’s culture. We funnel candidates through several steps in order to make sure that happens.
Prior to a face-to-face interview, candidates must pass an automated three-tier questionnaire via the phone. If all three tiers are passed, they are then directed to the Candidate Resource Center where they can apply to work with Spherion. That, in turn, allows the pre-screened candidate to become an applicant. A face-to-face interview takes place next, followed by intensive screening, testing, referencing, employment eligibility and any other criteria requested by the client.
LISA KYLE is a district director for Spherion in Atlanta, Ga. Reach her at (770) 960-0607.
Education: Ithaca College, bachelor of arts degree
I sold financial products to banks on behalf of Citigoup.
What is the biggest business challenge you have faced, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has been this job. We have more than tripled in revenues. Our market capitalization has gone from a little over $400 million to we’ve been over $4 billion recently. In five years, that’s a lot of change, and going from 1,200 employees to 4,200 living in 20 countries.
The biggest challenge has been to make sure that we do keep our values and our vision intact and communicated. It’s dealing with 12 different time zones.
Imagine you are talking to someone at 8 at night and it’s 8 in the morning there. You’re both at very different places. You’re either tired after a long day, or you’re rearing and ready to go in the morning. Those are tough things to overcome. The challenge of dealing with so many different time zones, so many different cultures and so many different countries is daunting.
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
If you can’t understand it pretty quickly, then it’s probably not worth pursuing. If something is so complicated that you really have to focus on it and you can’t explain it, then it’s probably something that is ... not worth pursuing.
The other one is people fundamentally understand the truth. You can spin things any way you want, but the most important thing to be is just honest and factual. Even if it’s bad news, people like it, even customers. Just tell them the truth as honestly as you can.
It’s easier, No. 1, and No. 2, it’s amazing how well that works. So don’t spin things. Just tell it the way it is.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I’m an admirer of Sandy Weill for some of the things he’s done. What I admire about Sandy Weill was, this was a guy and his career was basically over, and he bought a little company in Baltimore called Commercial Credit and morphed it into Citigroup. That’s pretty impressive.
And while I don’t flatter ourselves to think that we’re going to become Citigroup, I do, in a small way, try to model Global Payments [after Citigroup]. We took a company that had some very core good things but was relatively small, and we have grown it enormously and morphed it into a much bigger company.
And my aspirations are to keep morphing it into a bigger company.