For Lesley Delgado, founder and president of StaffPro America, the staffing industry is about people.
It may seem like an obvious statement, but before she founded her own firm, Delgado worked for a large national staffing company and a small regional operation, and she saw that workers were often treated as commodities. So she decided to put the human element back into the staffing business, and went into business herself. “When you think about it, the product we supply is human capital,” Delgado explains. “Having a love for people and a heart of service are essential keys to success.”
And it is Delgado’s passion for people, and her keen insight into finding the right people, that has led her and her 75-employee, $2-million-per-year company to success.
Smart Business spoke with Delgado about what she looks for in her work force, how she ensures they have the right skills and the role leadership plays within her organization.
How do you find the right employees?
One of the most important things we can do to secure a loyal customer base is to hire the right people. Integrity is a non-negotiable trait that we expect from our employees. It’s black and white you either have it or you don’t.
We also need employees who buy into our vision, which is to be a unique staffing provider. They need to be excited about what we offer our clients. We find the right employees through a rigorous behavioral-based interviewing process.
How do you train your staff?
Training is a hot topic in the staffing industry right now. We used to be able to hire for generic positions file clerks and data entry operators, for instance. Today, the market demands employees who can multitask and perform many functions. One-dimensional skill sets are like putting square pegs in round holes - they do not fit. This means we have to put more effort into providing opportunities for employees to expand their skill sets. That’s where training comes into play.
I engage staff when we make decisions on formal training. This should be a collaborative effort if you want maximum commitment from staff. Otherwise, you are wasting your training budget.
The requirement is that the training must be related to the business, however, we can get creative. Let’s say someone wants to be a polished public speaker. We will send him or her to classes to perfect this skill, because this could certainly benefit the business. An accomplished speaker would be a valuable asset to recruit candidates at schools and network at social events.
How does leadership influence an organization?
It is about respect, which trickles down from the top. The manner in which management treats customers, vendors and employees sets the tone for the organizational culture. Management’s actions tell the staff ‘this is how we act,’ and the example cannot be underestimated. Senior leaders should be constantly aware that their actions are being watched and evaluated by staff.
What advice would you pass on to a first-time entrepreneur?
StaffPro enjoyed good fortune from the day we opened our doors. In fact, it was almost too easy. This ended up being a double-edged sword, however, with the events of Sept. 11 and the subsequent recession. The staffing industry as a whole was affected very negatively. We felt the impact at StaffPro beginning in 2002.
Thankfully, we were never in the situation where we had to lay off employees but we did reduce in size significantly due to natural attrition. At our peak, we employed 135 people and we are building back up to that level now.
To use a clich, this experience taught me to save for a rainy day, live within a budget and persevere through difficult times. I read at a deeper level during this time to fortify myself. I drew on my inner resources and spent time focusing on my attitude in order to maintain a positive example to staff.
HOW TO REACH: StaffPro America, (248) 355-1900), www.staffpro-america.com