On this episode of The Staffing Show, Daniel Mori, president and chair of Staffing Mastery, talks to David about the lessons he learned in growing a staffing agency from the ground up. He dives into getting honest about whether the services offered by a company truly align with what clients are looking for, and also how asking the right question at the right time made all of the difference in his staffing career. He also shares insights and tips for weathering a potential recession.
David Folwell: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. Today I am super excited to be joined by Dan Mori, who’s an entrepreneur, angel investor, and speaker from New York.
Dan, you’re one of the more insightful people I’ve met in the staffing industry, and I’m very excited to have you on the show today. To kick things off, why don’t you get a little introduction about who you are and how you got into staffing?
Dan Mori: Wow. So Dave, glad to be here. And I got to say that’s high praise from you, especially seeing the quality of people you have on these interviews. So I am grateful to be here and just be a part of that group that gets to share knowledge and wisdom on this show. And I’m a listener. I listen to this podcast all the time, so I’m grateful for what you do. But just a touch about me, I’ve been in the staffing game for a long time. I actually got into being a partner with a staffing agency 16 years ago and really learned how to grow from the ground up. I didn’t have any prior experience before getting into it, so I sort of had to figure out what worked and what didn’t work. And over that journey, I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but we scaled an agency to be a nationwide recruiting firm with a dozen offices, and it was a great operation.
But the thing that I discovered about myself along the way, is that I loved helping people. I loved coaching other people. And just a couple years ago, I actually had the opportunity to step out and launch a company called Staffing Mastery, where I work with other staffing professionals, I work with owners of agencies, staffing leaders, salespeople, and I just share with them what I’ve learned over my time in the industry. And I teach them how to sell, how to do strategic planning, how to really build and scale an agency that can be financially profitable and be valuable, whether they want to sell someday and fund their golden years, or whether they want to elevate and delegate and turn it into a cash flow vehicle, whatever, their definition of success is. I’ve been able to help on that, and that’s been amazing.
And that journey has taken me into launching Staffing Monthly, which is video-centric digital magazine where we cover all things staffing every single month, which has been an amazing opportunity to meet some great people. And then the thing I’m most excited about right now, is a software that my partner Steve and I developed that I think is going to solve the most critical automation workflow for recruiters that I’ve seen firsthand. And that’s called Visible. And that’s a little about me and what I’m doing in the staffing space.
Folwell: And I’m super excited to have you here. I mean, you really are a true serial entrepreneur and a successful one at that, having launched a coaching business, a staffing software, staffing agency, you have an industry publication, and now you’ve got Visible. And I think what’s really cool about Visible, in the conversations we’ve had, is that you are launching something that is solving a problem that you’ve had because you’ve been in staffing so long. You’ve had your own staffing agency, you’re also coaching staffing firms. So I think you have your finger on the pulse of what challenges staffing firms are solving. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about what Visible does and how it helps staffing agencies?
Mori: Sure. I think you’re right, I do try to check in and make sure I’m aware of what’s going on before we try to bring solutions to market. But first, let me just share a story of what every day was like for most of the recruiters that I’ve worked with on my journey. And anytime a recruiter would be sitting there overworked, not needing one more thing to do, they would get a job order from a client, and it could be a fork truck driver, it could be a marketing director, it doesn’t matter, but that job order would come in. And I noticed that the process that they would follow, regardless of applicant tracking system, is generally pretty similar. They would typically get the job order via email, phone call, text message, or something like that. And then they would open up their applicant tracking system, and they would actually create a new job order, attach it to the client that gave them the order, and then they might do a manual search within their database for candidates that fit the skill set, the requirements, the job description that went with that job order.
And they would typically see a long list of people that matched it, and some ATSs are better than others. And they would decide, “Okay, I’m going to click the bulk email, and I’m going to craft an email to go out to these people, letting them know the bullet points of the job,” and then fire that off. Other ones will allow for kind of large-scale SMS, and they would do that manually and then fire that off. And they would really rely on people to respond back one-to-one emails to them or one-to-one SMS messages to say, “Hey, I’m interested, could you tell me a little bit more?” But what I found, and I actually believe that your most recent State of Staffing Staffing Hub report that came out validates this, that most positions that are filled by recruiting agencies, I think it was something like 80% are filled from recent people source from job board.
And that tells me that people really weren’t using the database as often as they should for candidates that were already there. And once I started to dig into that, and I realized why, that whole process is time-consuming. To do all of those steps is time-consuming, and then to send out all those messages and then to respond, it was just time-consuming. And when you’re a production recruiter, and you have a lot of recs to fill, the last thing you have is time. So I’ve seen a number of recruiters that were just frustrated, and I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve heard a recruiter ask for what I’m about to explain, or especially during ATS implementations, like with a Bullhorn or an Avionté or JobAdder or any of the other ones out there that they would say, “Hey, this is a function that I want to build in.”
And they would say, “I just want to be able to post a job, kind of posting on a job board. And when I click the button, I just wanted to it go find all of the candidates that are in my database that match that job rec that are not actively assigned. I want to send them a message via email and text message, give them all of the information they would need to indicate that they’re interested or not, and have the candidate be able to click a button to say, “Yes, I’m interested.” And then I want all of those people automatically put on a shortlist in my ATS so I know exactly who’s a quality skill match and interested in the job, so I can start my calls there. And if I could do that, I would probably use my database more than I use the job boards.
So that’s, what we built with Visible, and that’s exactly what it does. It is a really slick extension that can be in your email, you can get that job order from your client and then just open up a sidebar right there on Google Chrome and copy and paste the information in and hit submit. It will automatically go into Bullhorn, we’re only with Bullhorn ATS right now. It will go into your Bullhorn instance. It will automatically find the client, it will automatically create the job board. It will automatically create the Boolean string of for skill tags to search, find all the candidates that are not actively assigned, automatically send them a message out via email and SMS notifying all those candidates.
The opening, they can log into their branded candidate portal. So if you’re an agency and if you’re ABC Staffing or Vital Recruiting or whatever, it’ll be your branded candidate portal that they can log into and they can see all the jobs that they’re a match for, read the descriptions like your own personal job board in their inbox, opt into the ones they’re interested in, and it will automatically update their status in Bullhorn to say “candidate interested.” So now when your recruiter goes back in after clicking that submit button, they can start to see all the candidates that are a match and who have expressed interest, so they can start calling them first and get closer to filling that order. It’s pretty quick and easy, and I’ve seen a lot of recruiters that see it and they’re like, “Man, that’s exactly what I need.”
Folwell: That’s really incredible. And I mean, I think just conversations I have with staffing agency owners all the time is, but we’ve got this database of 500,000 candidates, and yet to your point, 80% of the placements are coming from the most recent new people that applied through Indeed or whatever job board they’re paying for applicants from. And it’s like, “Well, you probably could have filled that job with half the job board spend or maybe not even using any job board spend.” And it sounds like this is kind of helping agencies get more value out of their existing database. Would you consider this kind of a direct sourcing category, or how do you look at this in terms of what you’re leveraging from the database?
Mori: So I would consider it in the direct sourcing, because you’re really tapping into your talent pool that you’ve already curated. You’ve already recruited these people, you’ve already paid for them to go into your database, either via job board or some other source. And they’re sitting there, and they might not always be an active job seeker at that moment, but just because they’re not actively scouring job boards doesn’t mean that they’re not a good candidate for the job that you have. So I would put this under the direct placement or direct sourcing category for sure. However, the beauty of this is, you could still have your source data to say, “Hey, just because I use Visible to find this candidate in my database, they originated from Indeed, or they originated from ZipRecruiter or from Staffing Referrals,” something like that. You can still see the original source, Visible doesn’t take the place of that. So you actually still would have clean data.
Folwell: Awesome. And do you have any success stories or examples of agencies that are using this? And tell me a little bit more about what their experience has been like.
Mori: So I don’t yet, because we are brand new to market, this is something that we’ve actually been developing throughout the pandemic and seeing how the digital revolution kind of got expedited through the pandemic, and this challenge became more pressing for me. So actually, we took the first portion of this year to really refine the development, and we just launched. So I would love to have a success story for you, Dave, but the reality is it’s been through all the….
Folwell: Coming soon.
Mori: …We know it works. Coming soon, exactly right. Absolutely.
Folwell: Well, and I think that now more than ever, staffing agencies are realizing that being 100% reliant on job boards is not the right path. I hear more and more of that, looking at alternative sources, how do you get more out of your database? And also, I really think, there’s so much value in that, you spent years building this database, you paid for all of these leads, and yet you’re paying for new ones every day when you could probably find that placement within your database. So I highly recommend anybody that’s listening to this and looking for ways to source talent directly and to get more value out of their database that they take a look at Visible.
Mori: Something that you just said there, though, is so huge, that they’re not using their database to the level that they should be. There is so much passive talent in their database that they’re not tapping into. When they rely on job boards, they’re doing the same thing as every one of their competitors. So literally for less than the cost that you’re going to spend on probably a CareerBuilder job ad in a month, you could actually have Visible run and do the most essential automated workflow for you, simply. So that’s, a huge piece right there, and tap into talent that you’ve already vetted that your competitors might not have. So in that nature, you can use your database that you’ve already paid to fill up as a competitive advantage in your marketplace. And right now, if you’re trying to grow your agency, the agency that has the access to the best talent the quickest, is going to win the business. That’s just the nature of it.
And then secondly, to your point about being overly reliant on job boards, don’t have short-term memory. If you look back at this industry over the last 20 years, you can pinpoint the ebb and flow of all the different job boards that used to be the leader that are now not. One day Monster and CareerBuilder were the dominant ones, and now, when you ask staffing agencies where they go to first, they’re usually not even in the top 5, depending on niche. So that’s, always going to happen. Eventually someone’s going to knock Indeed off, eventually somebody is going to take out ZipRecruiter, eventually whatever the next one is, it’s going to ebb and flow as well. So the solid plan is to have a strong database of vetted talent that you can quickly access and deploy that talent to better serve your clients. And if you focus on that, you’re going to build a winning agency.
Folwell: And with that, I mean, I’m sure people are listening to us thinking, what does it take to launch something like this? What’s it cost? How does it cost compared to if you’re using job boards, what’s the lay of the land for that?
Mori: It’s a great question, I appreciate you asking that. I’m also not going to hide from it and say, “Go look at our pricing page, or depends on size and users.” The whole point of Visible, is we want to make people’s lives easier. So it is a single software seat. It’s $397 a month for all of Bullhorn, all of your recruiters can use it. You can launch all of your searches through, all of your automations. And I’ve seen it take five minutes to set up, but I’m going to say conservatively probably a 20-minute phone call with my tech partner, Steve, and he will have Visible up and running on your platform and have you mastered it. It’s that simple to use. And again, super simple, $397 a month, incredibly affordable, less than the average CareerBuilder post is where we try to come in at, certainly less than Indeed these days.
Folwell: And is that $397, is that for the entire organization for one seat? How does that work?
Mori: Entire organization, man.
Folwell: All right. So basically one placement and you’ve covered your cost?
Mori: Exactly right. And I wanted to make it affordable, because I know coming out, people are going to say, “Oh, well, I don’t want to be the first one on the dance floor.” I get it. We’ve tested this thing probably longer than we should have, to make sure that it completely works on an active Bullhorn database internally. So it’s solid from our internal QA. But on the flip side of it, I know that today in today’s staffing industry, everyone’s getting sold something, and it’s nickel and dime and it’s like, oh, well this is the cost, but if your revenue is this, or you have this many branches, or you’ve got this many recruiters, or it’s per seat.
And then it’s like, “Ugh, who’s got time for that?” And then on top of it, usually it’s a complex solution. It’s like, “Oh, you’re going to have to buy this software, and it’s going to cost you this much per person, and then you got to go in and do all of this custom configuration and build out your workflows.” And it’s like, “I don’t employ a bunch of computer scientists. I employ recruiters that are people, people. I just want to give them a tool where they can hit the easy button and let the workflow go.” So we wanted to make it as accessible and easy-to-use for recruiters as possible and so affordable for agencies that they’re at least willing to give it a look.
Folwell: That’s incredible. And it sounds like you’re really solving a problem that, I mean, anything tied to sourcing right now, the labor market is tight as it’s ever been still. So that, sounds like a great tool. Shifting gears a little bit on the conversation, what are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced with kind of building this out and kind of learning how to build the software platform?
Mori: Some great lessons learned, probably more lessons learned than we have time for today. But to dig into it, I will say the biggest lesson for anyone that’s looking to launch a software platform specifically, is know your customer intimately and figure out what they truly need and what they’re actually willing to use or do, to solve it. And here’s what I mean by it. Because, the number-one reason that businesses fail, especially in the software space, is because you build something that nobody wants. It’s very easy to get in your own head as a founder, as a creator, and think that you’re building the most amazing thing ever. But if it doesn’t really solve a significant problem, if it’s not going to be easy enough for people to adopt it that are already super busy, it’s not going to go anywhere. So for me, I had to talk to a whole lot of recruiters and figure out what did they really want.
And what I learned is they don’t really care as much about custom configuration as they would say on the onset. At the beginning people say, “Oh, I want something that’s completely customizable.” Until you actually have to be the one in there completely customizing it. And then it’s like, “Ugh, I don’t want that. I want something I can literally just install and hit a button and it works.” Because, we are in the convenience society. So that, was one of the big lessons that I learned, is that people didn’t want the grand vision that I had out of the gate. So I actually had to simplify this and kind of bring it back to the most simple essential state that was still going to perform the most essential function that a recruiter has and save on time. So that was a big one, was knowing the audience.
Another one, this was an honest misstep, and I honestly I am embarrassed to admit this, but I overlooked this, blind submissions. When I actually had this go through, there’s actually a feature set that it was originally going to make standard called the “client dashboard.” And we actually had this really cool tool that’s visible when you use it, and someone actually updates, “I’m interested in the job a candidate suggests.” And then the recruiter vets them and does the interview and they say, “Yeah, I think this is a really good candidate.” The recruiter could then just update their status in Bullhorn to “candidate submission,” and it would automatically send that candidate profile through a branded client portal, so all your clients could view all of the jobs they’ve submitted with you and all of the candidates that you’ve submitted to those jobs right in one spot. And I learned two things in this process.
I thought that was the greatest thing in the world. I was like, “This would be so cool to organize all of your jobs and all of your candidates’ missions in one place for your client. What client wouldn’t like that?” I was shocked to find out that a lot of agencies were like, “I don’t think that’s going to be that important.” And I said, “Really?” I felt like I was pioneering something. I was trailblazing here. And they were like, “No, I don’t think that’s going to be that big of a deal.” And I was like, “Okay.” And a lot of these people were still just sending resumes, one or two, they would do a very nice email kind of explaining a candidate and send over the resume, and it would be all scattered throughout their client’s inbox. And I’m like, “Okay, well if that’s what the client wants.”
So we actually took that out of the standard feature set, because that was creating a little bit of resistance or reluctance with our perspective clients. So it is a feature you can add, you can turn it on or turn it off in your admin dashboard, but it’s not a standard function. But the other one with that, was blind submissions. We originally just had the submission going through, and all of your candidate information on there. And the clients that looked at this in our beta program were like, “Hey, we don’t always share all the candidate information when we submit it.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, how did I overlook the blind submission?” So, little things like that, sometimes you can take for granted what you know, and you can overlook things. So we just had to really always be talking to the customers throughout this entire process to figure out, “What is the process that you want us to build for you? What do you want us to automate? What needs to be included? What shouldn’t be included?”
And ultimately, I would love to say that I architected an amazing software. I really didn’t. I just went and talked to a bunch of staffing people that run agencies and they told me exactly what they wanted and then I gave it to my tech partner and said, “Hey, I need you to make this happen.” So I was really just a liaison in this process, and it’s the staffing agencies that architected it, and it’s Steve that oversaw the development of it. But that’s my biggest lesson learned, is if you’re trying to launch anything like this, go talk to the customer and find out, does it solve a problem they really have and would they actually be willing to use this solution? And how do they go about their business? And I think you’ll learn a lot.
Folwell: Well, it’s interesting that that was your approach here, because I was on your LinkedIn and saw that when you started Employment Solutions, it looks like you had a similar approach where you went out and talked to 25 different businesses about what challenges they’re having. Could you share a little bit about that as well?
Mori: Absolutely man, that’s actually one of my favorite stories to share, because when I got into this business, Dave, I had no business being in this business. I didn’t come from HR, I did not come from staffing. I didn’t even know staffing was an industry. That’s how naive I was getting into this business. And when I went out there, I’m like, “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be doing.” There was no Staffing for Dummies or Staffing 101 at the time that I could find. So I literally was like, “You know what? I want to reach out to 25 companies in the area.” So I created this list of 25 companies, and I called them, or I emailed them, and all I asked was this, “Can I come in and ask you one question?” And they were like, and I truly think it was morbid curiosity, that actually let them invite me in.
They were like, “Well, what’s this one question?” I’m like, “Well, I can’t tell you. You got to invite me in.” And they’re like, “Okay.” So I would show up, and I’d be like, “Okay. Thanks for having me. Here’s my question, ‘What is it that you need from a staffing partner?’” Because, I didn’t know how to be one, and I didn’t want to look at my competitors in the marketplace, because if I just did what they did, I probably wouldn’t get any further than they’ve gotten. And I always wanted to go further, and I just felt like there was a better way. So I just reached out to those 25 employers and asked that one question, and they were like, Dave, you’re not going to…and you’re a professional interviewer, you do this all the time. You would not believe the responses I got.
The most common one was, “Wow, we’ve never been asked that.” And I was like, “Huh?” But then there’s that self-doubt. And I was like, “Am I doing it wrong? Am I not supposed to ask this question, do I look ignorant here?” But we had great dialogue around that specific question, and then we, my partner and I, we went back to the office and we literally wrote down everything on those yellow legal pads. And what we realized, is we had 25 different answers and we’re like, “Oh, how do we be 25 different things to 25 different people? That’s just not going to work.” So what we did, is we literally started doing the Post-It note games. So we basically started categorizing everything together, and we realized there was some pretty common themes amongst the 25 different answers. And the big ones that we learned were they wanted to be part of the process. They did not want to be told to, they didn’t want to be told that their process doesn’t work, that they’re not good at it, and that’s why they need a staffing agency to come in and rescue them.
They didn’t want to be told that the staffing agency’s way was the best way, the only way, and any insight they had was not going to be counted. They wanted to be a partner in the process, they wanted to have some influence over the process and be included in it. It’s the kind of overarching theme that we saw. Another one was, they wanted the process to be their way that fit their hiring model. So they didn’t want the one-size-fits-all, because there was a lot of agencies that said, “This is just the way we do things.” And then the customer would have to change how they were hiring people just to fit that model. So they wanted flexibility within the process to be able to fit within their hiring model.
So what we did based on these kind of overarching themes, they wanted to be included, they wanted to be in the process, they wanted to be able to have different parts of the process happen at different times, is we built a very modular process, a very modular workflow. So if a client was like, “Hey, when I place a job order, I want to see three candidates, and those three candidates need to already have been drug screened and background checked.” That was their process. And then if someone’s like, “Hey, when I want three candidates, I want you to send them to me, I’m going to interview them and then I’m going to get it down to one person, and then I want you to background check or drug test or do an assessment test.” That was their process. So in order to be a lot of different things to different people, we had to create a process that was very malleable, very modulated.
So we could say, “Okay, here’s all of the background check options we have. Here’s all of the drug test options we have. Here’s all the assessment test options we had.” And we could just move it around, change the workflow around to fit the client process and create these mini SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures for each one of our clients. So our recruiters could be masters of every single step. So they would just have to quick refresh on, “Okay, this client follows this process.” So they were masters of how to do each individual component, they would just have to know which order to do them in. So mind you, we did all this, we’ve created this all together and then I called all 25 people back. I’m like, “Hey, out of curiosity, it’s been a few weeks, would you invite me back in, and I could tell you what I’ve heard from all 25 people that I interviewed?”
And they were like, “Yeah.” And every one of them invited me back in to hear. And again, I truly think it was morbid curiosity and we laid it all out and we’re like, “This is what we decided to be and who we’re going to be in this industry and in this market, and who we’re going to be as a staffing partner. And we don’t have a lot of success stories to lean on. I can’t look at any other major employer in this area and say, ‘Look at what we’re doing with them.’ So if you’re willing to take a bet on me, we would be grateful.” And that’s what we did. And we started getting customers, and if I’ve got a few more minutes, I got to lead this right into probably my all-time favorite story from the trenches back in the day.
Folwell: Absolutely. 100%.
Mori: Buddy, I don’t even think you’ve heard this story from me yet, but this is probably the absolute favorite story from the trenches. So during that process, we’re starting to get some clients to bet on us. They’re like, “Okay, we like this. This is interesting. We know that you’re sort of the new one, and you don’t really have a track record yet, but I need people, so I’ll give you a go.” So at this same time, we’re bootstrapping and there’s six people that work in our office at this point in time, and we only have five office chairs, true story. So literally, if everyone was in the office at the same time, we would have to take turns and one person would have to stand an hour or two hours and then we would rotate. That’s how grassroots bootstrap we were at this time, and we’re always basically responsible.
We didn’t ever want to go out and borrow money and bite off more than we could chew. We always wanted be financially prudent. So we literally had a fund, a chair fund, and we would just put a little bit of money in each week, and once we had enough money to go up to Staples and buy a chair, we were going to buy that sixth chair, and we were going to celebrate. Now, this is what we did this particular week, we hit it. We actually saved up $100, and my partner and I, we were going up to Staples. It was Friday afternoon, it was like 4 o’clock in the afternoon. So we knew the business week is wrapped up, nothing else was going to happen. So we get in my truck and we head up to Staples. Now mind you, there’s only one chair that you can buy at Staples for $100.
It’s that dusty one, doesn’t even really move or swivel very well, but it’s in the corner that nobody buys or even tried. But we don’t care. It’s a big moment for us, and we are testing out every single chair like we’re going on test drives for Ferrari and Lamborghini. We’re testing out the swivel and the lean and the articulation and the arm height and all of this stuff. And we know there’s only one chair we can buy. We get a phone call and it’s from the woman in our office and she goes, “Hey, we got an order.” I was like, “Oh, that’s great. Who is it?” She’s like, “It’s that new company. They just gave us a try. You just got that contract. He called back and he put an order in.” I was like, “Oh, what does he need?” “Fixed machinists.” And mind you, fixed machinists at that time was a massive order for us, that was groundbreaking.
This was a life-changing order for us. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, when does he need him by?” And she’s like, “I don’t know, I didn’t ask.” “And what do they pay?” And she’s like, “I don’t know.” I was like, “What do we know about the job?” She’s like, “I don’t know. I was just so excited to get such a big order. I just got off the phone, and I wanted to call you guys and tell you about this.” And I’m like, “Oh man, I got to call this guy back and actually get the details of the job.” So there I am at 4:30 on a Friday trying to call an HR person. No luck. I’m like, I don’t even know what to do here. So we literally threw a pizza party, didn’t buy the chair, ironically, we actually just raced back to the office.
We had a pizza party, everybody dialed in, and we got to work to fill in this order. And Monday morning I get a call at 7 o’clock in the morning from the HR director at this company on my cell phone, and he’s like, “Is this Dan?” “Yeah, yes sir, it is.” He goes, “This is so-and-so director of HR over at this company.” I’m like, “Oh, good morning, sir. How are you?” He goes, “I have six people here that say they’re from your agency sitting in my lobby.” I go, “Yeah.” “What are they doing here?” My first thought is this guy called the wrong agency on Friday. He thought he was putting the order in. That was my first thought. And I was like, “Did you call our office on Friday?” He goes, “I did.” I was like, “Did you mean to call our office on Friday?”
He goes, “I did.” He’s not giving me anything. And I was like, “Did you place an order for six machinists when you called our office on Friday?” And he goes, “Yeah, I did.” I go, “I’m sorry, you got to help me. I tried calling you back. I’m really sorry we didn’t have a lot to work on, but do you need six machinists?” And he goes, “I do.” And I go, “I’m really sorry.” I was like, “Is there something wrong?” And he goes, “How did you get me six machinists?” He’s like, “I called you at 4 o’clock on Friday. How are there six machinists sitting in my lobby at 7 o’clock Monday morning?” And I’m like, “Did you not need them to start today?” He goes, “No, I’ll put them all to work today.” And I was like, “I’m so confused right now.” And he goes, “How did this happen?”
He goes, “Usually, the other agency that I work with, the incumbent, I would have to put an order in two weeks prior before I even got any resume. And then I would have to go through this whole process of filtering people down, because they felt like they were just sending me bodies, and it was just a lot of work. So I kind of assumed that if I called you on Friday that I wouldn’t hear from you for a week or two and you might send me one or two people.” And I was like, “That sounds awful.” And he goes, “It is awful.” And I was like, “That’s not what we talked about during the whole 25 people in question. That’s not what you said you wanted, you said that you wanted to put an order in and you wanted to have those people delivered to meet the criteria.”
He goes, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I told you.” And I was like, “That’s what we did, and you put the order, we got to work, and we did the thing.” And he was just like, “You’ve got all my business from now on. That’s it.” And that moment, right there, was the absolute inflection point for success for Employment Solutions. And it also became the core value of who we are as a company that when the client puts the order in, you get to work to fill the order, and you don’t stop until the work is done. And that right there is really some of the early lessons from the early days, which is a very long way to answer your question, but you reminded me of two of my favorite stories, and I wanted to share. So I appreciate the time.
Folwell: Yeah, no, that’s an incredible story and super impactful as well. I can’t imagine putting an order in today with a staffing agency and having people show up on Monday. And that seems like an incredible delivery method. And I think it’s great that you’ve shared kind of your approach to using the voice of the customer to make sure you’re solving the right problems. And it seems like such a basic thing, but also something that I think so many business founders miss, as they get an idea in their head, they think they have the answers, and they’re not running it by the customer to make sure it aligns with what they need. And I know you’re a wealth of knowledge when it comes to business strategy as a whole. What are some additional secrets, tips, things that have helped make you successful over the years?
Mori: That’s a good question. Things that have helped make me successful over the years…surrounding myself with good people. Realizing that I don’t know everything. Realizing that I’m going to make mistakes and to be very careful about who I compare myself against and what goals or aspirations I compare my own progress against and how I define my own success and just staying rooted in that. And where a lot of that came from, just another story back in my day when I was going through the Great Recession and the wheels were falling off, we’d barely had gotten off the ground and we felt like everything was crashing around us, and I knew I needed to do something different, but I didn’t know what it was. And I actually received a marketing email from a sales coach, and it was offering, actually, I was going to say a free workshop, but it wasn’t free.
It was actually $50. And this guy legitimately, I never heard of him, but he was right across the street from my headquarters office that I worked out of. And I was so broke at the time and so financially strapped, going through the Great Recession thinking that everything was just going to fall apart. But I literally tried negotiating the $50 fee. And today I’m kind of embarrassed to say, but I’ve learned through humility to just accept it. It’s part of my story. And I went there and he told me, “No.” And he goes, “I’m not going to waive the fee. And it’s not about $50, it’s about the fact that people who pay, pay attention, and if you’re going to show up here and listen to anything that I’m going to say, I need you to pay attention. And if anything you pay attention to is going to work for you, it needs to matter to you. And if you think that this is just free information, that’s what you’re going to value it as.”
And I was just like, “Okay, lesson learned.” Know your value, know what you stand for and understand that if people aren’t willing to pay you for something, they’re probably not going to take it seriously and they’re not going to be a good customer. So that, was kind of lesson one, but I sat through this entire 90-minute briefing in disbelief. It was all about processes and systems and how the big companies are successful and all of this stuff that was so foreign to me at the time way back then. And I literally stayed late to tell this guy who was incredibly successful, why he was wrong and, embarrassing to say, I sat there and I probably vented to him out of, because I was coming from a place of fear and scarcity and anxiety when I didn’t want to believe that anything could work.
I was kind of stuck in my own head. And I ranted at him for about 30 minutes nonstop. And he just sat there, and he listened to everything I was saying, and I finally ran out of breath, and I just took a step back in the chair, and he just looks at me, and he goes, “Are you finished?” I said, “Yeah, I am.” And he was like, “I’m going to tell you right now.” And this is the biggest professional gut punch I’ve ever had in my entire life. And it was the check that I needed in my life at the time. He goes, “I’m going to tell you the reason that none of this will work for you, is because of you. It’s the six inches between your ears.”
He goes, “You don’t want to believe that there’s a better way. You don’t want to believe that you don’t have all the answers. You’re not willing to admit that somebody that’s been there before you and accomplished what you want to accomplish could actually offer any insight to you at all, that can be valuable on your journey, because you have some romantic delusion that you want to be a self-made person and you want to get to the mountaintop by yourself, so you can look back and say, I did this all on my own.”
And he goes, “I’m going to tell you, nobody does it all on themselves. If you want to hear the people say it’s lonely at the top, it’s because they tried and they failed.” He goes, “And that’s why this will never work for you, until you actually get past those realities within yourself and you open your mind that there is a better way and there’s people around you that can actually help you by sharing the lessons from their own values in their own lives.” He’s like, “You will never succeed anything in your own life.” And I was gut-checked in that moment. I was like, “Wow.”
And I hired that guy as my coach, and from a coach, he became one of the best sales mentors I’ve ever had in my entire life and a very good friend to this day. And he helped me create everything that helped my company be successful. He helped me create all of the systems and processes that I use to help other staffing agencies be successful today. And my big lesson that helped me along the way is, think you know everything. There’s other people out there that have tried things, have failed, have learned lessons, and they’re willing to share and don’t discount anybody based on where they might be on their journey. And that was a big moment for me, that kind of shaped who I am, and I think it served me pretty well to this day.
Folwell: That sounds like a major paradigm shift and a very meaningful one. It sounds like that also potentially helped you kind of get into a spot where you’re ready to launch your sales coaching and your staffing coaching and mentoring business as well, just working with them?
Mori: It really did. And just really quickly, it’s about giving back. It’s because I realized how important that was for me, and I realized how that shaped my life and how much value that brought to me. If I can just give a percentage of that back to anybody else, my life will be fulfilled. So that paradigm shift is what fuels me and my motivation to coach others.
Folwell: That’s really an incredible story. And I think just my own personal experience with it, is I’ve spent so many years on the entrepreneur front running it solo and then started getting advisors hired a business coach, and it’s just a game-changer when you have somebody who has been there before, done it and can just help you avoid the missteps. And so, I’m a firm believer in coaching along with you. One thing you touched on at the beginning of that, and I think it’s relevant for our audience right now as well.
You were talking about, I think the recession of 2008, 2009 we’re currently on what some people that have been on the podcast say, “We’re currently already probably in a recession, even though they haven’t called it.” The news outlets are saying that we might be on the precipice of one. You and I have had conversations where you’ve talked about how you think about these times and how you approach it. Could you share a little bit about that in terms of what you’re hearing in terms of, if there is a recession and then how you would approach things going forward as a business owner?
Mori: Absolutely. Growing through the Great Recession is one of the greatest gifts that I was given, because I learned some amazing lessons that have served us well during the COVID times, and I know it’s going to serve us incredibly well through the impending recession. I believe it’s going to happen. And the main reason that I believe that a recession is going to happen is it’s really two reasons put together. One, human nature drives everything in the world, and the more and more people talk about a recession, there’s going to be more and more people that believe a recession is going to happen. So people will start to live in a recessionary mindset. They will start to not spend as much, they will start to save more. They will start to be a little bit more frugal. They will start acting like they’re in a recession, because they are preparing to be in a recession, and sometimes that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And the other reason is because we’re in a super-hot inflationary period. I mean, the entire commercial society of the United States is built on a certain level of growth, and that certain level of growth is about an average of 3%. I mean, that’s kind of what they try to average. And when you start to inflate, and the economy gets too hot like it has been, and it grows too fast, the government has to put the brakes on, you have to bring it down, you actually have to cool things down or the machine will start to fall apart. If the economy grows too fast and companies grow too fast and there’s a shortage of labor, that’s going to be bad. And we’re seeing that. It’s very good for the staffing industry as far as the sales side of it, but overall it’s generally bad.
So they are going to have to cool things down, but here’s what I learned. So that’s, going to happen. We are going to go through a recession. I’m not a prognosticator. I’m not going to tell you if it’s going to be shallow or deep, if it’s going to be a V or a U-Shape recovery, I don’t know that. I’m not smart enough to know how all that’s going to play out, but I believe we are going to go through something and people need to be prepared. Now, when it comes to being prepared, this is the number-one lesson that I learned during the Great Recession. I put it to test to grow out of it. I put it to test going through the pandemic. I coached a number of agencies through it, using this same exact lesson, and they all benefited from it. And this is the lesson. It doesn’t matter how turbulent the time is, there’s always two sides.
There’s always the part of the economy that benefits from the recession, and there’s the part of the economy that gets hurt by the recession. So just like when COVID hit and we were going through all of those turbulent times and most staffing agencies took a beating in Q2 2020, there was a lot of companies that did really, really well. I mean outside of pharmaceuticals, but paper companies, anyone producing mask products, anyone producing anything, producing glass for the vials that the vaccines were delivered, all of that stuff. There were so many companies that grew so big, and then there was a lot of other companies that got crushed, like the hospitality industry.
So just you have to understand that no matter the situation that we go through, especially in a recession, there’s the part of the market that’s going to thrive because of the impact. And you have to find those companies that are going to thrive from it. You have to always be on the lookout for the ones that are benefiting and prospect them and align yourself with them and partner with them as a staffing partner and help them find the talent. And you can grow through a recession. I’m living proof of it, multiple times. I’ve coached other companies to grow through it, but just be aware, just because something bad is happening doesn’t mean that bad is everywhere. There’s bad and there’s good. Go find the good and go get what’s yours.
Folwell: I love that advice. And I think it’s, as we move into this, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. It looks like, I mean, I think it came out today that the labor market still as tight as it’s been and job shortages, it looks like it might be okay for staffing, but there’ll probably be industries that get hit, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. One other question before we jump into kind of the personal side of this, but how do you see staffing changing over the next few years?
Mori: A lot. I think the digital transformation that happened during the pandemic, that sort of accelerated that whole process. I think that showed a lot of companies how they need to adopt technology. And what I’ve seen are two situations that have occurred. I’ve seen the companies that went all in and they try to automate everything, and they just kind of like if it’s shiny object technology, they want it all, and they basically spend on all of it and they’re having integration and implementation nightmares right now, and they don’t really know. And then there’s those other people that they don’t even know where to start, but they know it’s going to happen. So what I think is going to happen is there’s two major, I guess impactors, if you will, or catalysts that are going to impact our industry more than ever before. One, is technology. That is the one that we know, and the other one is marketing.
Right now, recruitment marketing is starting to shape this industry more than at any time ever in the history. And the people need to be aware that the consumer is starting to drive the behaviors. And this is not something that was our fault. This happened based on how marketers have basically conditioned people for a long time, since the advent of social media and Amazon and all of these consumer-focused services out there, that will shape buying behaviors. Well, there’s no such thing as B2B, it’s all human to human. So if you are selling to a company, you’re selling to a human. If you’re trying to recruit somebody, you’re trying to recruit a human. And those humans behave based on how they act in life. So right now, because of all of that marketing shift that’s happened, we need to be more cognizant of that and say, “How are people’s behaviors going to change in a way that’s going to affect, how do we recruit them? And then how do I leverage technology to give them the experience that they’re going to want?”
So if you want to come out on the top side or the successful side of this impending recession, I would say don’t over-automate. Make sure that you are focusing on the human person that you’re going to have to move through your process and get them placed at your client on a job working for you, and be cognizant of that. And the best piece of advice I can have to tackle that, is map the journey. Literally start by a person out there that has never heard of your agency before and how would they even come to know that you exist? Is it social media? Is it a job ad? Is it a referral? Whatever it is, think about all those different touch points they can have and what interaction are they going to have, and then what is the next step that you would want them to take and how would they take it?
And literally map that all the way through the entire process, getting onboarded through you and getting put into your ATS and interacting with human beings and getting placed on a client assignment and all of that stuff. Once you map it out, go through it yourself and see how much unnecessary stuff is there and see what the process is like to see what you’re subjecting your candidates to, to see how you can optimize the process. The next step, go look for technology. Look for all of the parts of that entire process that do not improve the human contact with the process and automate that part of it. If you need to email out some documents for people to start to fill out before they get started, that can be automated. That doesn’t add any incremental value to the relationship you’re building with your candidate or the client.
So automate that part of it and how you’re going to know which parts to automate and which parts to not. You’re going to line those two processes up. You’re going to build out your technological process, your workflow, and then the human process, the journey that the candidate takes. And every single time that a recruiter or someone from your company is physically in contact with the candidate and has a chance to be talking to them, communicating with them, corresponding to them in any way, you circle that part and you do not automate through that.
You lean into that and you make that the experience where they get to know who your company is and they get to come to appreciate the recruiters you have for the humans they are. And then if you actually map that process out and then put all the pieces in place, you’ll have a much more fulfilling process. You’ll be able to optimize how many people you can move through that process, and ultimately you’ll better serve your client. That’s kind of the two things I see shaping our industry more than ever before. And how I would approach addressing those to come out on top.
Folwell: That is just excellent advice. And having run a marketing agency and worked with different staffing agencies over the years, I was always amazed to see how few agencies, the owners had not applied to a job on their website and had not gone through the process to actually experience it. And I think when people do that, the lessons they learn are pretty astounding. I think it’s where you’ve kind of come up with, “Oh wow, this is really kind of broken and this isn’t a great experience, and you can help identify that.” Just fantastic advice. And also second, the component of leaning into the human relationship, automate everything that’s not a value add, chew that away. So just great insights there as well. With that, we’re going to jump into the final section of the interview, the personal questions I’ve got for you, just a few, and then we’ll close it out. What advice do you wish you were given before entering the staffing industry?
Mori: You mean other than don’t do it, right? I kid. Man, what advice do I wish I was given before entering the staffing industry? I feel like I’ve listened to your show and I’ve heard you ask this question and you’d think I’d be more prepared off the cuff. Honestly, I’m going to stick with what I just said. Focus on the people. Don’t forget who you serve in this industry. I think so many times we get caught up getting into production is trying to fill the order, trying to fill the order, and we forget that there’s a human being that we’re filling the order with and that our clients are human beings that we’re serving.
And in reality, we’re not in business for them, we’re in business because of them. And if we don’t show up for the people we serve every single day, they will go somewhere else. And that’s candidates and clients. So I wish someone would’ve just sat down and just made me figure out right on day one, how important the human being is to a staffing agency, because it should be inherent, but it’s often overlooked. So I think that’s the one for me.
Folwell: Awesome. And in the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Mori: I would say in the last five years, if I had to look at the thing that’s most changed my life as far as the behavior, is if you want to change your behavior or beliefs, you need to start with the input. I think a lot of times as human beings, we try to, either we find fault, we find something that we don’t like a situation, a characteristic about our self. And we try to change that thing. And obviously the easy analogy is weight loss or fitness. We wake up one morning in our mid-forties and we’re like, “Man, I’m just not bringing it like I used to, I got to get in the gym.” And then you start to try to weave the gym into some process kind of ad hoc, and then you try to stick with it and it sticks with you for a little while, but eventually the motivation wanes and you just fall right back into the patterns, because the reality is the input wasn’t going to the gym.
The input was most likely some other trigger that you have in your life that maybe leads to a sedentary lifestyle. Maybe you sit at a desk and an input would be getting a standing desk. And that little bit of input change will lead to a different behavior. And I think that if you focus on the inputs that you’re subjecting yourself to, I think that will actually have the biggest chance for successful transformation for whatever you’re trying to achieve. So instead of saying, “Hey, I want to lose 10 pounds, or I want to lose 20 pounds, or I want to add 5 pounds of muscle.” Think about the inputs. When is the most convenient time, when I’m going to feel the most motivated to actually go to the gym, how to bundle that. And then how do I focus on the inputs, the repetitions I need to do the exercise and I focus on that piece of it and then let the behavior, the belief transformation be the result that I’m hoping for. I think that’s probably something that I’ve paid more attention to over the last five years.
Folwell: That’s great advice. And last question I’ve got for you here is, what is the book or books you’ve given most as a gift and why?
Mori: Oh man, there’s two. There’s two. In fact, I just was on a coaching call with one of my clients and I just shared one via Audible. So the two books that I give or recommend the most. One, is Essentialism, and the author is Greg McKeown. And I’m an Audible guy. I actually tend to listen to books first, and if I like it or if it has incredibly visual content, then I will buy it and get it, to read visually. But the book Essentialism is so important. It’s not a business book, it’s not a staffing book, it’s a human being book. We as human beings have such a bad habit of cluttering our lives with stuff, with bad habits, with all sorts of stuff that we think that we need or need to do. And the real truth of it is, a lot of it’s just non-essential.
And if we can just declutter our lives and learn the inputs to declutter our lives and start to strip a lot of that away, we get more freedom in our every single day. And this is a book that I will honestly go through probably two or three times a year just to recenter myself. And one quick thing was, and there’s a lot of takeaways, we could fill up probably 10 more podcasts based on my takeaways from this book alone. But one that has a tangible impact was, he teaches you in this book how to say, “No,” more often. And that, “No,” is a complete sentence. And there’s a lot of times that we will get invited to meetings and there’re meetings that we have no contribution to, there’s nothing in that meeting that contributes meaningfully to us, but we’re invited to it and we feel obligated to attend.
And I was actually working at a, I took a hiatus, sort of a sabbatical from my staffing company years ago to help a local university open up a business incubator. And it was one of the greatest experiences of my entire life. However, it was higher ed, it was with a university, and they loved their meetings and they had all these different staff meetings, and they would just invite everybody to these meetings. And I learned through this book, this technique, and one meeting I didn’t show up for, and they called me from the meeting on speaker phone with everybody else in the department sitting around in this meeting and they’re like, “Hey, did you not get the invite?” I’m like, “Yeah, I got it.” And they’re like, “Why aren’t you here? Are you okay? Were you in a car accident?” I’m like, “No, I’m fine. I’m just down at the incubator doing work, why?”
They’re like, “Oh, we got the meeting.” I’m like, “Yeah, I saw that.” They like, “Well, why aren’t you here?” I was like, “I looked at the agenda, I wasn’t on it. There was nothing that I needed to contribute. I looked at the rest of the agenda, and there was really nothing specific to me that was actually impactful for my specific deliverables to the organization. So I didn’t really think it was the best use of my time.” And they’re like, “Yeah, but you were invited.” And then I used the technique that I learned in this book. I just looked at them, actually on the phone and I said, “Just because I was invited, I didn’t think that was a good enough reason to attend.” And it was silent.
And then after the fact I talked to the leaders of the team and I’m like, “Hey, listen, people have busy lives here. You can’t expect everyone to show up to every single meeting and make a meaningful contribution towards your mission.” Meetings should be short, they should be direct, they should get done what needs to be done. And then people should be free to go. And the only people that should be there are the ones that are making a contribution or being contributed to from the content of the meeting. But there was another woman in that meeting that heard my answer on speakerphone and she’s like, “That just liberated me.” She’s like, “I’m not going to go to a meeting just because I’m invited to it anymore.” And I was like, “Good for you.” So that’s, one out of Essentialism. I love that book. A lot of meaningful, actionable insights that you can take to just declutter your life and have less but better, is the concept of it.
And he actually reads his own book on Audible and he’s great. Good personality, good book to listen to. The other one is by Bob Burg. It’s called The Go-Giver. This one is parable style. I tend to story parable-style books. I love Patrick Lencioni, anything of his is great. But The Go-Giver is just so good. It really hits the key tenants of how you need to be in this world kind of open-handed, open-minded, and giving and taking that mindset to have stratospheric success. And that is an amazing book, it’s a short read. But I’ve given those or recommended those most to business and personal contacts.
Folwell: I love both of those books and great recommendations and insights from them as well. With that, do you have any closing comments for the audience?
Mori: I’m just grateful to be on the show. I know you and I have just connected more recently. I’m grateful for the relationship that we’re building and how much that you’re serving this community and helping the staffing industry out. I love what you’re doing at Staffing Referrals and helping agencies get access to talent that they might not otherwise get through job boards. I love the fact that you’re serving this community with great content on The Staffing Show and what you’re doing at Staffing Hub. I mean, I’m grateful for that. So if someone’s listening, they already know that. But I’ll say, lean in to Dave. He’s doing amazing things in this industry and the journey that you’re watching him on, is going to be a special one.
And I’m grateful for that and certainly grateful to be a part of it. My own last parting shot, I will just say that if you like staffing-related content, go check out staffingmonthly.com. It’s something I have a lot of fun with, I interview people just like Dave and other industry experts that share their wisdom and knowledge in a video format. If you like training, sales content, strategic planning, that kind of stuff, go check out staffingmastery.com. There’s some great training and content out there that I share based on my own lessons in life. And if you are a Bullhorn user and you want to have the most essential recruiting workflow automated in a very simple, easy-to-use, affordable, accessible way, go check out visible.app and let me know what you think. And again, I’m grateful to be here.
Folwell: Yeah, Dan, really great having you on. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and just great insights today. And I’d second that, go check out staffingmonthly.com. You’re doing some really great work with some awesome video content. Really digging in deep and asking great questions. And then also, if any of our listeners that are here today that are trying to find talent and want to get more out of their database, I think Visible is a great tool for you to check out as well. But thanks so much for joining today.