We are joined on the show today by Adam Sprecher, a staffing industry veteran. After learning about Adam’s professional background in staffing, our guest discusses the current industry trends that he sees playing out, his recommended strategies for growing as a staffing company, how his work with different companies influenced the rest of his career, and the talent engagement strategies that he reveres. We also explore agencies’ common mistakes during turmoil, Adam’s vision of the future of staffing, and the undeniable value of listening to and incorporating feedback.

[0:01:15] DF: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. I’m super excited to be joined today by Adam Sprecher, who is an industry veteran with both private and public staffing agencies, and a very good friend of mine. Adam, excited to have you on the show. To kick things off, for those that do not know who you are, or maybe who did not listen to your last podcast, could you just tell us a little bit about your background, how you got into staffing? Also, one of the exciting things I want to dig into a little bit is how you kind – I know you’ve spent a big part of your career with Salo, and helped grow them. So if you can maybe jump into that on the second part of this.

[0:01:42] AS: Absolutely. Well, thanks for the invitation to join you again, David. It’s good to be back. I love the program and what you’ve done with it. But yes, Adam Sprecher. Been in the industry for 20 years. Seems like a theme of people you have on the show here, with tender and experience. But I’m glad I can join the club, if you will. I spent the last almost 17 years of those 20 with a firm called Salo, based out of Minneapolis, primarily finance, accounting, and human resources firm. Did the gamut of having the opportunity to be in sales and leadership, strategy, operations, and being part of helping grow an organization.

When I joined, we were only five years old, roughly about $40 million in revenue. To grow it to in 2022 to be $150 million business across 12 different markets and growing. Growing so much that we were ultimately acquired by Korn Ferry. It was quite the ride growing that organization, being part of that over all those years. One of the things I’m really proud of, and I know we’ll have a chance to get into today is just, not only the what we achieve, importantly, the how we achieved it and what we did to get us there.

[0:02:45] DF: Yes. I think, Adam, you and I have talked for quite a few years now, about how you approach staffing, and everyone that’s listening to this. You’ve always had kind of a different angle or a more nuanced approach to it. I think a very strategic approach to building Salo, growing it, and also how you approach the people that you work with, and the culture component of this, which has been huge for you. I think we’ll dig into some of that as we go through the podcast today. I’d like to maybe just start off by jumping into, what are some of the trends that you’ve been seeing over the last few years in staffing?

[0:03:18] AS: You can’t go anywhere without seeing, of course, anything around AI. The emergence of that the last 18 months. Honestly, what it will do for our industry, as well as the entire kind of workforce in general. It’s going to be significant. Within that, though, I think the other trends of organizations continuing to figure out growth strategies. No longer is I think viable for staffing firms to do more of the same. They really need to push themselves to think both not just strategically, but operationally what is going to be required to go generate more net new placements, more net new revenue. But as they capture that, as they put all that effort and energy into it, how do we streamline things so we can maintain profitability, increase profitability?

So really, we’ve seen this trend, whether it’s public or private, equity owned, whatever the structure of the organization, this real focus on, how are we going after that growth? In some cases, surely, just throwing bodies at it, you’re seeing that take place. Technology is probably one of the leading charges, but I think you’re seeing a lot of organizations take the time to really evaluate what’s the value proposition in the marketplace. How are they differentiating themselves, and really carving up that space for them to generate that growth? That to me is something less probably four to five years, David, that you look back 10-15 years ago, there wasn’t this hyper-focus on, “What’s our growth strategy?” or “What are we doing?” Like everyone wanted it. I don’t think there was anyone that was cool playing in the plateau space, but there’s a different element now in the industry. I think that’s going to be good for everybody.

[0:04:51] DF: Yes. I mean, I just kind of observing it from sitting here in Staffing Hub and Staffing Referrals. What I’ve seen over the years is, it seems like the industry is evolving, and growing up, and adopting new tech, and becoming more strategic, and starting to look at things like more of kind of an enterprise approach of how do we have a long-term growth strategy versus how do we just throw as many butts in seats, and make as many cold calls as we can over time. So with that, the key having there be more critical than ever to have a growth strategy in place, what are some recommendations or some thoughts around how staffing agencies could approach that?

[0:05:26] AS: I think the basics that everyone is trying to get their hands around right now is, how do we maximize what we’re already doing? How do we get and optimize that? Whether that’s at the enterprise level, or the small, medium account size level is how do we get more wallet share? How do we expand the work of business where we’re already doing work? What’s it going to take? What’s it going to look like? Knowing it’s going to probably require some different strategies, tactics, activities from the organization, because generating additional revenue from those accounts and those channels already.

The inertia, the investment, the resources, it isn’t quite the same, versus just this infatuation of, “Let’s go get a new logo.” Yes, you do need to get new logos. But are you getting everything you can from your existing logos? That account penetration, account management focus. Definitely, we’re seeing organizations focus in on it in a very different way. That’s leading the charge there. Looking at expanding lines of business, service offerings. We’re seeing lots of organizations historically, that were within a certain sector or a certain line of business now expand themselves to adjacent businesses, to adjacent industries, where they take what they’ve had with success of how they’ve gone to market, tweak it. Not have to completely revamp who they are or what they do and go through that space. 

Then, you’re always going to have M&A activity. It’s a little bit of a slow port, given market conditions on the M&A front. I fully expect similar to when we came out of Covid, more or less, late 2022 and ’21. We started to see the M&A stuff pick up. I fully expect that after ’24, we see a similar trend. As we go into ‘25, it really starts to heat up.

[0:07:06] DF: Yes. I mean, I think that’s what I’m hearing as well. Then, I also think it’s important and interesting. I think, from my experience sitting in the longest period of kind of a client-focused market I’ve seen in a very long time within the staffing industry. And I’ve also heard from a lot of agencies about diversification of product offering, diversification of the different healthcare staffing firms that have been historically travel, that are moving into locums. Seeing in accounting and finance, a lot more of kind of the statement of work offering, and getting in on almost more on the consulting front. 

I know you were instrumental at Salo’s growth and there for a huge part of their journey to get to 150 million. Also, you just went through a full acquisition by a publicly traded company, which is, I’m sure an experience in its own. But could you just talk a little bit about some of the strategies, tactics, things that you’ve implemented over the years?

[0:08:02] AS: I think, tying into your original question of trends or things that organizations are tying to their growth strategies. That was always one thing Salo was super clear about is, what is our growth strategy? What are we going after? That clarity and alignment to what that strategy was, and having that filter through the entire organization. So that everyone within the organizations, but also, across our consultant base knew what we were doing. As equally important, David, why we were doing it, and their role of us achieving that.

I think, oftentimes, organizations can go through the motions of, “Hey, let’s go do an offsite, or let’s bring in a firm, and let’s put a strategy together.” Then, put something on paper, or PowerPoint that looks really good. It makes a lot of sense. But there’s a lot of questions of, “Okay. What’s that mean for this area of the business?” or “What’s that going to require from this team differently?” Also, who’s going to ensure these things are happening? As we continue to grow the organization at Salo, we put extra focus on that transferring of strategic thinking and planning, to operational execution. And really, this notion of operational excellence, and turning that page, and implementing that work.

That was critical year over year. As a privately held company, we had ownership and a board that was looking to us to drive certain results, both top and bottom line. That was going to be no easy feat if we weren’t looking at kind of the entire scope of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And getting everyone in the organization rallied around it, so they knew their part, they knew their contribution, they knew their impact to whatever it was that we’re working on.

That alignment to that work, that growth strategy, along with – as equally important – alignment to who we were as an organization as far as our values, our mission, and our purpose. Having all of that kind of come together, they created a really fun, cool culture that a lot of people benefitted from. But it also made it super simple to say, “Hey, that new thing over there? We’re not going to get distracted by it, because it doesn’t align to what we said we’re going to do. That other technology, we’re not ready for it yet, because we know we have to get this done.”

But in some cases, when we started to experience some really cool things, like all of a sudden, let’s put a little bit more fuel into that, and let’s put the pedal down and let’s go after it. And we’re in position to do it, because everyone understands what it means. Ultimately, can absorb whatever that was going to require from the organization. That’s a pretty unique thing, that to have an organization that aligned, and certainly don’t want to misrepresent. There were moments where there were things that we had to kind of look in the mirror about, or there were things where people would say, “Hey, I’m not quite sure.” Absolutely.

But on the whole, and in the large, the way that we created this inclusion into being part of the strategy, and being part of implementing, and driving the growth of the organization. It wasn’t just like, all of a sudden, “Hey, sales teams, go get more clients.” That was not the strategy by longshot. It was what was required, so that our sales teams could go get more. But then, that wasn’t it. We want to do that and more. What else is it going to take? What’s it going to take from marketing? What’s it’s going to take from our talent teams? What’s it going to take from our finance teams? How do we bring in, weave all that narrative together, and create, ultimately, that operational element that enabled us to say, we can be super clear about when something shows up and knocks on our door, how do we maximize it, how to benefit from it to continue to spur the growth of the organization?

[0:11:31] DF: Firsthand experience I had with Salo, everybody that I talked to on your team communicated about staffing differently than what I tend to hear. When we started working with you guys through Staffing Referrals, and everybody would say, “We’re Salo, we operate differently. Here’s how we approach things.” Everybody seemed to be so aligned around, your team talked about your values, more than I think any organization I’ve talked to. It seems to align very clearly with the strategy. One of the things I was always very impressed by with Salo is that, the whole kind of putting people first, and the very kind of intentional focus on that. I wonder if you could just share some of the aspects of that component of your strategy for our audience.

[0:12:18] AS: Yes. I got to go back to founding days of Salo. Our two previous owners and co-founders left a large publicly traded staffing firm, because it wasn’t operating that way. They saw a lot of decisions and strategy that was ultimately for just purposes of generating revenue and profitability. They believe passionately, which I believe our industry is capable of as a whole, quite honestly, but that you can have both. You can drive strong revenue results, you can drive strong profitability, and take care of and treat people really well along the way. Those things are not mutually exclusive to each other, they go hand in hand.

One of the founding principles was, when you put people first, when you think about, will this better someone’s position, will this benefit them in a way, that then, through that, the organization also will benefit? Look, our industry is pretty unique between the client, the talent, consultant, contractor, whatever you want to call them, then, the agency. If all three aren’t winning, it’s a really tough relationship. Because in the day, the client could be winning, but at the compromise, or the sake of the staffing company who’s not making money, because of their rates.

The staffing company could be winning, because it put a whole bunch of people to work. But those people, they might not be enjoying the work, they may not be getting paid when they should be getting paid. Unless all three of the key players that are part of our industry, when we do the work that we do really well, are all really in a positive relationship together, and creating a good experience for each other. There’s only so much you can do or so far you’re going to get. I think that was really key and critical as we did look at the how we operated, the what we did, but also just, to your point, living our values every day.

Lots of organizations have really well-established values and really strong cultures. That is a bedrock to then, them saying, how are those showing up in the everyday actions, the execution of the business. Ultimately, what are people saying about you? This was one of the things we took pride in, was, one of the reasons when we made the decision to put a referral program in place, and partner with Staffing Referrals was, we looked at our NPS scores. And our clients and our consultants saying rave things about us. We finally kind of said, “Why don’t we take advantage of that and put this referral program in place? And if we’re going to put a referral program in place, why don’t we make it easy for ourselves, and use a great technology partner.”

That enabled us to do some pretty cool things early on in launching our version of a referral program, that generated some awesome wins. But I don’t know that if we would have had that culture, if we wouldn’t have had those relationships, if we wouldn’t have really made people feel as if there was a value for them, and a benefit for them outside of the monetary, I don’t know that that referral program would have launched as well as it did. But because that’s how we operated and how people knew us, and worked with us, bringing a referral program in was kind of like, “Oh, yes, sure. Happy to take part of this. By the way, yes, get the benefit from it.”

[0:15:17] DF: Yes. I think, from that perspective, you guys came just like kind of a perfect setup where you’re like, “We already don’t use job boards. We already have this NPS and reputation, which was such a strong suit for kind of layering that in, and scaling, and automating it in. What are some of the things – to kind of shift gears a little bit. I know, for some of the staffing industry, we’re in a fairly significant down market. It’s been a down market for some verticals for about 18 months. I think accounting and finance, maybe a little bit insulated. There’s still quite some growth there. Education, there’s some growth. But for some of the other areas, we’re seeing kind of some course correction.

What are some of the common mistakes that you see agencies make during down markets when they’re 100% focused on trying to get new clients?

[0:16:03] AS: Yes. There are some I think, and we’re going to feel it more in the next six to 12 months, David, than we are even in the moment right now, of things that have been either lacking or not getting the attention of the last six to 12 months. Two that come to mind that we’re seeing right now today, one, are continuing to invest in talent. When it is tough and tight like this, and both internal, working inside the four walls of an agency, but also the talent that we’re deploying. When it is tight, and the revenue isn’t as healthy as it was, the profits aren’t there to reinvest into the business, cut back on development. Cutting back on growth for individuals. Those are what we often see as some of the first things that go. It’s the same in corporate life, corporate America as it is in staffing world.

At a time where, coming off of two or three of the highest growth years our industry has ever seen. So many individuals, having reached new heights in their careers, in their income, but also having been afforded the opportunities to be involved with things with that growth. Whether that was implementing new technologies, stepping up, and being promoted into senior roles. Those same opportunities aren’t as plentiful right now. Understandably, because the results aren’t there to drive them. But the potential lack of investment yet, and the development of people is going to create when this thing does start to turn, likely similar, but different than what we saw in ’21. Where there was just this boom, and kind of changeover, and ultimate kind of revolving door of talent from one place to another. Because they’re going to look back now and say, “Hey, when things were really good, you took care of me.” But when things were tight, you kind of didn’t.”

How loyal someone is to a firm when this thing turns, we’re recording this the day after, right the Federal Trade Committee came off and said, “Noncompetes no longer, except for maybe a very tiny portion of the market.” It’s a whole new world for us, it’s going to be the wild. For organizations, their desire to retain talent, or to keep that talent, that development, that engagement, honestly. Certainly, seeing a lot of that slack, and you’re hearing that now, the term “quiet quitting” that was rambunctiously used two, three years ago.

Now, you hearing the quiet firing. The quiet firing that’s happening. That’s going to promote more of this angst amongst employees and talent, saying, “You’re not taking care of me, you’re not investing in me, you’re not providing opportunities for me.” You don’t have to be in a growth period to have people take on side projects and say, “Hey, how do we get just a little bit better at this every day? Hey, how do we take a look at this so that when it does turn, we then aren’t reacting at that point and trying to take care of things, we’re bettering ourselves today? Because, guess what, we got a little capacity on our hands. There aren’t as many job orders to fill, there aren’t as many calls to make, so let’s work on ourselves and get better. So that when it does turn, we can take off.” That I think is one of the biggest mistakes and unfortunate trends you’re seeing in the industry right now, from that standpoint.

[0:19:07] DF: Yes. I think that some of the top, or I guess, largest staffing agencies I’ve talked to, the owners are talking about how they’re using this time to double down on reinvestment, and either, their tech stack, their people, the training, and the culture, and they’re saying, “All right. We know those are going to come back, and this is our opportunity to grab market share when it comes back.” Obviously, the opportunity to do that can sometimes depend on the size of your organization. But I think, it’s critical regardless of your size, that you are doing your best to engage in, and focus on helping to grow the people on your team as well.

One of the other categories that you and I have discussed quite a bit, and I think is something you’re passionate about, is this, the talent engagement side of things. I know you’ve always been unbelievably intentional and strategic on that front. Could you just share a little bit about some of the things you’ve done throughout your career, related to kind of enhancing the talent engagement strategy?

[0:20:05] AS: On the whole, our industry has the opportunity to literally impact lives every day, by putting people to work, putting them in roles. To not only generate income to take care of themselves and their families, but to really flourish, to do the things that they either they want to do or they were meant to. I believe we have a responsibility to do the work to make sure that that’s happening. The phrase used earlier, just butts in seats, that’s often how we’re looked at as an industry. We’re not looked at as an industry that propels people, that makes people better necessarily. But I certainly believe that that is how we should be referred to, that’s how we should be sought after is, the sector of the economy that actually not only cares about people, but makes a really big difference in their lives.

We took that very seriously with the work that we did at Salo. For our internal teams, but as equally important, for our consultants, and ensuring that it wasn’t just, “Hey, client has a need, great. This person has this, these keywords on their resume.” Boom, get it done, deal’s closed, and move on to the next. That was not it. While that may work for certain organizations that operate that way. It’s going to have limitations into what ultimately they can achieve more growth for profitability and sustainability.

And so we always looked at it saying, people are having a truly, what we always refer to at Salo, a meaningful experience. People having a meaningful experience working with us, engaging with us, the odds that they’re going to want another one? Pretty high. As we looked at the consultant we deployed, that was key and critical to us. We looked at our redeployment rate as one of the key factors of success for the organization. My 16, almost 17 years before we sold, our redeployment rate was always in the seventies. We grew and we had a consultant base that was pushing north of 700 when we were acquired. 

To say 70-75% of those consultants were all redeployed. We had a base of those when I left. I could still probably count 20, at least, probably close to 30 consultants that have worked for us for almost 20 years. That’s unheard of in our business.

[0:22:13] DF: That’s insane.

[0:22:14] AS: Right. Not just that they’ve been consulting for 20 years. They have consulted for the one single firm for 20 years. And it is because of this notion of when you do good work and take care of people, and they experience that, they see what you’re doing for them. They see the investments, the intentionality of how you’re operating, and making choices that better their lives, and make it easier for them to do the things they want to do. Again, there’s not a lot of reasons to go anywhere else or do anything else. Getting fed and nurtured, and all of the aspects of what they’re looking for, of yes, financially by a paycheck. But also, if I had to make a call, someone would get back to me and take care of me? Yes. Am I getting my family taken care of? Yes. Do I feel when I show up at a client site, the client’s excited for me to be there, and they know they need me there to help solve their problems? They really look at me as that expert. 

You could say, well, that works in certain verticals. I don’t know that I would say that it’s only limited to certain verticals. Because when you’ve got a client who’s in need, and whether they don’t have enough capacity, whether it’s a backfilling, you name the situation. Their business doesn’t move forward if our industry doesn’t exist. If they don’t have the talent, something stalls, something fails, something doesn’t happen.

Our industry has the ability to make sure every other industry continues to move forward, that they stay on pace for that project, they meet that deadline, they launch that new product, whatever it is. That’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of. If you’re doing it well and right, and taking care of people, creating that engagement, and driving it. I think it’s later this year, so David, Thrive XM is set to set up their second dataset. Their first data set that came out in 2020, across the Fortune 500 was the first empirical data set that was put together. Of the Fortune 500, those that they separated, that had really good kind of people-first strategies versus those that kind of didn’t.

There was a clear delineation of their results and their profitability. Whether that you do it around EBITDA, you do it around stock price, you do it also that are on employee engagement scores, you pick a metric. Everyone that was part of that peer group that said, “Yes, we’re going to focus on doing really good things for our people, and putting more people-friendly policies, programs, and resources in place” versus those that didn’t, they outperform them. That’s across every industry sector. Their new dataset, I think it’s later this year, it’s going to come out or early ’25, I’m expecting to see the same. 

[0:24:46] DF: What was that report? I’m not familiar with that. I want to make everybody gets the chance to download that.

[0:24:50] AS: Yes, for sure. It’s Thrive XM, Arianna Huffington, and a whole bunch of hosts of people that she’s closely connected to, collaborated on this. It came out, which was super fascinating. It came out right during the pandemic. That was not their intention, that was just when it launched. During the type of time when people were doing everything they can to take care of people, make sure people were safe, to then have this report come out to say, “Oh, by the way, the business practices, and approaches, and strategies, and policies that do put people first and take care of them, they also do provide a better growth route, and strategy, and profitability. It was kind of like a, ding, ding, ding moment, I think, for a lot of businesses. I’m sure we’ll see more of the same later this year.

[0:25:31] DF: That’s really great. One of the things that you’ve kind of alluded to a little bit, as you’re talking there about the talent engagement, and focus on putting the people first. How do you guys use your Net Promoter Score with clients, and how you kind of approach that with the talent when you’re working with them? You had an interesting story from my perspective, that might be something that a lot of other firms do. But it was one that I hadn’t heard of people doing it quite like you guys did.

[0:25:55] AS: Yes. Well, the one you were referring to is, we really made an intentional decision of who we worked with, and who we didn’t work with. To ensure that stayed true, to ensure that organizations, the clients that we partnered with, for all intents and purposes had similar enough aligned kind of values in how they treated people, how they took care of people. We, over the years actually fired many clients where that didn’t happen. That ultimately, the experience, that even though they needed the resource, they needed the experience, and we had someone to be able to go in there and do it. The experience that person had working within that organization, the culture, the team, and a couple of cases, directly the leadership of that organization, it just didn’t create a really strong, not only just putting people first, but honestly, a healthy work environment. 

We had a specific Fortune 500 client, who repeatedly, we got the feedback from our consultant saying, “I would never go back there again.” I mean, I think the goal of any of the projects, or any of the placements we have is at the end of it, the client, and the talent says, “I would do that again. Put me back there.” Or, “Hey, we would have them back anytime to help us out with it.” If that’s the response and the answer you’re getting at the end of an engagement, you did your job well. But when the response is like, “Don’t ever call me again.” If this is a company that has a need, I don’t care what you’re going to pay me. You got to pause and go, “What’s going on here? What’s that?”

There was an organization, a Fortune 500 here in March, where we just finally had to sit down, have a conversation with the CEO and said, “Until something changes here, and notably, until one of your key senior leaders likely leaves, were no longer going to be a key partner and resource for you to obtain talent from.” They were a little astonished that we would walk away from that amount of business. We said, look, that amount of business is nothing compared to the potential loss that we’re going to have. Because the talent that keeps coming out here when they say, “We would never go work there again.” If we could keep placing people in here again, they’re going to start to question us. Like, “Why, after we’ve told you, it’s not a good experience, they don’t take care of people, they don’t treat people well. Why would you put more of your people in there?” Then you start to question like, “Well, are you walking the walk or you just talking the talk?”

For us, to stay true to who we were and truly walk that walk, we had to say, “No, that’s not what we’re going to do.” Was it a revenue hit? Absolutely. Did we have to work harder to go get those people redeployed, to replace that revenue? Sure did. That was work I think you would ask anyone that was involved with it. We would much rather have done that, than had to try to figure out how to save face or explain ourselves for why we kept working for a company that wasn’t treating people good.

[0:28:31] DF: Yes. I mean, I think that just ties back to that 70%. I’m sure people listening to this are like, “Seventy percent redeployment rate? How do I do that?” This would be one of the ways as if you start working with somebody that sucks. Don’t send another person there, and let people know that. What are some of the other elements that kind of got you to that 70% redeployment rate? I think I don’t know the benchmark in accounting and finance. Do you happen to know what that is or what the average is?

[0:29:00] AS: The last SIA data I saw in ’22, it did increase. It was hovering in the upper 30s at one point. I think it might have broke 40. But historically, it’s in the low 20s, is where we always saw those numbers. Being significantly ahead of that, these are not things that other organizations probably aren’t already doing today. What we did differently, I believe, that drove this was, just the unrelenting focus and commitment to these things. Everyone hopefully is, “Okay. Who are your ends in the next 30 days? Are you already remarketing? Are you getting their next job?”

I mean, we had on a given week, let’s say, 30 consultants were ending on a Friday. Fifteen of those already had a job they were starting on Monday. Our first call to action when a new job order hit the board, our first call to action was, “Who’s ending that can do this job? And let’s keep them going.” Certainly, there were all those moments, and everyone out there like, “Yes, anybody. You got to search the database, you got to go out to LinkedIn, you got to start asking for referrals.” Absolutely, that happens.

But if your first action that you don’t drill into your organization is, who’s ending that is doing this, who’s ending that can take this work on. If that’s not the first phone call, their first activity you take, you’re going to have a hard time achieving some of those redeployments, because you’re going to be looking at other talent. But likely could do it, quite honestly, and then they’re going to close the deal. Now, it’s dependent upon, obviously, having that next job order where the person that’s ending can do it. Just this commitment to, “Who do we have?” That’s first and foremost.

Secondly, it is taking the time to continuously, again, invest in this talent. Talent is always picking up new skills, new systems, new experiences through the life of the work that they’re doing. Are you taking that new newly acquired skill, or experience, or system to market? Are you actively calling on clients telling them this person that’s just wrapping this other similar project? Again, these are activities that have been going on in our industry for years. But we just drilled into our teams, the significance, importance.

Honestly, when you start to see at work, you start to question, “Why would you do it any other way? Why would you spend your time doing other activities when this works? When you can make a couple of quick calls and you’re done?” Okay, right. Part of the self where, we were kind of a full desk-ish model. But even in a slit desk as a recruiter, how much easier is it to call someone who already knows your firm? I mean, probably already knows you, and sell them on a next gig, versus calling someone brand new, who’s never heard of you, who doesn’t know if you’re a good firm or not. There’s just a lot of hurdles that you have to overcome. Really good recruiters, they overcome those hurdles pretty quick, that’s why they’re so good. 

But you don’t even have to worry about the hurdles, and you can just kind of get down to brass tacks of, “Hey, here’s another one. Yes, sure, let’s do it.” You close deals faster too. I think that’s the other side of this, David, is our redeployment helped us drive closing deals faster. When you’re closing deals faster, obviously, you’re going to get more of that. Those will be things, and again, not rocket science, not new, not that others aren’t even doing them. But it was certainly the intentionality, the constant review, the constant conversation. When we had long-tenured consultants, you don’t get to having 20 or 30 consultants work for you for 19, almost 20 years if you don’t have a team dedicated to taking care of them. We have a team dedicated to keeping them working. 

When one of those consultants rolled off, you know, everyone on the sales team was making 20 calls to clients saying, “We’ve got someone like nobody else.” That’s what helped getting them placed. Again, it was the commitment to doing that versus other activities that also generate revenue, or generate other closes, but it was that commitment.

[0:32:48] DF: Yes. Did you have a set of – I mean, redeployment rate is, I guess, the leading indicator, or the core metric there. But were there other metrics that you had, the team looking at to make sure there was alignment? Was it consistent? Like every week, were you just talking about, it was a part of the daily routine, or the weekly recruiter, or sales huddles? 

[0:33:06] AS: Oh, for sure. That was where you get to blend technology in with operational pieces. Still, like most firms doing at least three times a week, board meeting stand-ups, reviewing open job orders, kind of going through it, making sure that for most of our sales teams, if someone was coming available, and you didn’t communicate that somebody was coming available, and we lost them to a competitor. Man, if you had lunch that day with a client, you probably didn’t want to come back to the office. Because the rest of team is going to be furious that we lost that talent, that we didn’t get a chance to redeploy them.

Yes, those daily standups, constant review, what’s changing, who’s changing roles, our end dates getting extended, all that activity. Again, we talked way back earlier, that shift from having strategy, shift into operational excellence. This is part of it. We had a strategy that said, we want to take really good care of people. One of the ways we want to take really good care of people is helping them see a career in this industry, that they can have continuous employment. Move from project, to project, to project. That was the strategy that we invested heavily into, both dollars, but also just focus and tactics. When you transfer it over then to the operational side of it, you’ve got to have those things in place.

[0:34:19] DF: I remember when we first started talking, and I was like, “How much do you spend on job boards?” You’re like, “Oh, we don’t really use job boards.” I was like, “How are you doing that?” It turns out, it’s redeployment, a focus on the talent. It’s really, really incredible. Shifting gears a little bit, just kind of to round things out. We’ve talked a lot about kind of what you’ve done at Salo, and kind of where the industry is at today. Where do you see staffing going in the next three to five years? What do you think the future of the industry looks like?

[0:34:46] AS: I think it’s super bright. I’m excited for it. We’ve been on this kind of cusp the last 10,15 years, coming out of the ’08, ’09 recession. It was leading into it of gig economy, and control your career, and all these notions. But I think, you know, certainly out of the pandemic, and what we’re seeing now, as much as talent is drawn toward working that way, working differently, wanting to have more choice, having more flexibility for personal and professional reasons. I think, organizations continue to mature around how do we leverage it and you’re seeing it being leveraged differently. Whether that is truly in project basis, interim basis, you name it, whether it’s at a startup phase or an enterprise level, you’re seeing more organizations plan, and strategically think about the type of talent they need, and the different ways they can engage, or leverage that talent.

It’s going to put our industry in a real unique position, again, to be a partner. So, we may not be next in line that, hey, after you discuss with your outside legal counsel, and as your banker, and your insurance, and things of that nature. Your staffing partner is going to be short in line right after that group to say, “How are we going to grow this business? What do we need to surround ourselves?” Depending upon the industry, the size of the organization, they’re going to start to look and select certain key partners within the staffing space that they can really rely on. Both certainly for talent, but also as talent advisors. What’s going on? What do we need to see and do differently? They’re going to be that confidant to say, “What do we need to think about to be able to attract not just the best talent to hire full-time into our organization, but to get talent to want to come work with us on a on a contingent basis? And how do we stagger all that together?”

I see our industry having a chance to really elevate itself. I worked on the HR side of our business for years, and HR still oftentimes says, “Hey we want a seat at the executive table.” I’m a firm believer of, you just go sit down. From our industry, it’s time to sit down at the table and be a key partner, a key player with organizations, with executive leadership for how they think about growing their businesses and the talent they’re going to need.

[0:36:59] DF: That’s great. I think that trend is starting to take shape, and the firms that are picking up on it, and working as strategic solution providers are – they’re growing through these periods. They’re like, “Hey, we’re here as a partner to help you, not to just provide, put the butts in seats,” going back to that. It’s like getting away from the transactional, and more of the strategic partner, and that’s what’s really great. With that, we’re going to go and jump into the speed round of questions. I just have two last ones for before closing thoughts.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

[0:37:34] AS: Yes. For me, it is incorporating feedback. I think we all get a lot of feedback through the course of life, personal, professional, things of that nature. I can certainly attest to, for a long time, I took the feedback, was like, “Okay, yes. That’s great.” But I didn’t necessarily, I wasn’t the best at incorporating that feedback, or really applying that feedback to who I was as a person, or how I handled myself professionally. I would say, it was certainly something pre-pandemic. But now, post-pandemic, as I’ve received feedback through different channels, and in different ways, really taking the time to absorb that feedback of like, “Okay, this person took time to share something with me, why did they do that? With what they said, what was our experience like, or what was I like that prompted them to be able to give that feedback?” It’s not always constructive in a, “Hey, you need to do better at this?” or “Hey, you need to work on that.” Some of it, “Okay. Don’t stop doing this.” You get positive feedback too.

How do you really absorb that feedback into who you are, who you want to be? If there’s a difference, how do you close that gap with that feedback? That’s something for me. I’ve tried to be way more intentional on the last few years. It’s not easy, because sometimes feedback is hard to hear, or it’s challenging how you’ve always operated. But I can attest to, there’s some things that I know I’ve shifted about how I approach certain situations, how I handle certain situations, that I’ve gotten additional feedback of like, “Hey, you wouldn’t have responded that way three years ago.” That was a positive comment. I think that for a lot of people, being able to not just be open to getting feedback, but actually taking time to do something with it. Certainly, highly encourage it.

[0:39:04] DF: Love that. What book or books have you given most as a gift, and why?

[0:39:10] AS: I’m a huge Simon Sinek fan. Start With Why is always going to be one of those books that I will forever probably lean on and give to people. Good to Great is one of those that is out there for lots people. For me, it’s Start With Why. Because if you don’t start with why, you don’t know why you’re doing something, I don’t know why you would ask a second question or why even keep doing it quite honestly. That one is there. I don’t know if I mentioned this one on the first podcast or not, but I continue to go back to, Greg McKeown in Essentialism. Big fan of that book, a big fan of him. I love your podcast, David but his podcast is great too. Just trying to keep things simple is really the theme of it in a world, and in a business where we can make things more complicated than they need to be for no reason at all. Keeping things simple, focusing on what really matters, what’s really true versus what’s the story in our head, it can be a healthy reminder.

[0:40:01] DF: I love that as well. I think you might have mentioned that one at the last podcast as well. You got that answered here twice. With that, any closing thoughts, comments for the listeners today?

[0:40:16] AS: I can encourage everyone that, as a part of our industry, to make sure they’re taking time, one, to take care of ourselves. It’s hard to take care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself. For those that know me, have had a chance to work with me, that is something I struggled with for a long time. I always focused on taking care of others, make sure everyone had what they needed. But that old analogy from when you’re sitting on the seat in the airplane, to put your own air mask on first before you help others, that couldn’t be more true. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, or where you’re trying to go next with your career, your life. Certainly, in this industry, taking care of yourself, so that then, you can turn around and take care of others. Which is again, is what I think our industry is about. It is about helping others, and it’s about making a positive impact, making a really meaningful experience for others. Do it for yourself first, and then go do it for a whole lot more people.

[0:41:03] DF: Yes, I will second that one as well. I think in this moment in our industry, everybody should take note on that. Because I know a lot of those, kind of a lot of staffing agencies are having some challenging moments. Adam, thank you so much for joining today. I enjoyed the conversation, the insights, and really had a great conversation. Thanks.

[0:41:21] AS: Yes. Thanks, David.