Joe Mullings

Are you interested in learning best practices from an expert who has been in the staffing field for more than 30 years? On this episode of The Staffing Show, Joe Mullings, chairman and CEO of The Mullings Group, shares how he got started in the staffing industry and lessons he has learned through his years of experience, including the importance of generosity, empathy, and accountability. He also talks about the Great Resignation and its potential influence on the future of work, as well as the potentially far-reaching impacts of WFX positions.


New call-to-action

David Folwell: Hello, everyone. And thank you again for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. Super excited to be joined by Joe Mullings today. Joe Mullings has been building companies and careers since 1989. He founded it as chairman and CEO of  The Mullings Group, the world’s leading search firm in the medical device industry. Mullings Group is responsible for more than 7,000 successful searches with more than 600 companies in the medical device industry. His clients are multi-billion dollar companies like Johnson & Johnson, Google, Medtronic, Abbott, and Siemens, as well as the emerging startup companies that are bringing futuristic technologies like surgical robotics, telerobotics, artificial intelligence, and deep learning to the market.

Joe was recently appointed chief visionary officer of MRINetwork, the third largest executive recruitment firm with 400 offices worldwide. He is also president and CEO of Dragonfly Stories, which is the production company behind the docuseries TrueFuture of which he is the host and producer. Joe is also the founder of the media platform of TMG360, a med tech news and opinion website. Joe has an engineering degree from the University of Dayton, Ohio. 

Quite an amazing background there, Joe, super excited to have you on the show today. And I think we’ve got some really interesting topics to dig into.

Today, we’re going to be talking about the Great Resignation, the digital transformation, and some specific tactics on how you can grow your staffing agency faster, and make sure you’re doing the right things. So, just kick things off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got into staffing and recruiting?

Joe Mullings: Yup. Great to be here. Thanks for the opportunity to share some thoughts with your audience. I graduated university in ’84, went out, was an engineer, got my engineering degree, spent a few years as an engineer, realized that I wasn’t set up for corporate. So, I got a couple side hustles and one of them was the fitness business. And I had purchased a couple of gyms on Long Island where I grew up, and built them up, sold them off, made a nice profit and left the engineering world and spent a little time on a boat with a dog and then realized my brains was going to mush.

I walked into a headhunter’s office who was a friend of the family saying, “I got to get back to work.” And after about two hours, he asked me if I ever thought about search. And at that point, nobody thinks about search, nobody went to school for search, nobody got a degree in search, right? Usually, everybody listening to this knows that you end up in search after a divorce or after you’re fired, right?

So, I found my way into search in the conventional way: unplanned. And I asked Sebastian…who was the gentleman who I chatted with, “What did your top salesperson make last year?” He told me, I said, “I’m in.” And so my first day was December 4th, 1989. And then I opened up my own firm January of 1992. Moved from Long Island, Woodbury, Long Island down to Coral Gables, Florida and opened up there.

Folwell: That was fantastic. And with your background, and I’m actually a little curious to know about what worked then that still works today, that’s critical. We’re going to talk about the digital transformation and what you need to be doing next and new things you need to be adopting. But I’m also interested to know what are some of the tactics that you used then that are still key to your success today?

Mullings: Oh, gosh, good question. So, without being too crunchy, this is the one that matters the most in search and anywhere else you apply it: Give, give, give without the expectation of expecting anything in return. But be damn well you’re standing in plain sight when somebody needs something. And I think that’s what search is about or staffing of any sort is you’re a connector, you’re always giving. You’re never asking for something outright because people can smell it right away. So, I still believe the philosophy is we try and facilitate decisions, we don’t try and close. You always need to be the hardest working person in the room. The phone is still the most important thing, but it’s moved a little further down the chain of execution in search today with the digital transition, I’m sure we’ll go into that. And then, establishing a subject matter expertise in whatever domain it is that you’re going to dominate in.

Folwell: That’s great advice. And with that, I imagine that’s something that you implement with all of your team at The Mullings Group. But why don’t you tell us a little bit about, what is the Mullings Group? How many employees? What’s your revenue and growth rate look like?

Mullings: Sure. So, we are a permanent search firm to use the vernacular in the staffing industry. Our run rate this year is right around 12 million, we’re a single office. We did that 12 million, though with 10 recruiters. So the PDA, the per desk average in our offices, is well beyond industry standard. And we can dig into how we pull that off. But some of that has to do with super hard work, domination of an industry, medical device, health tech, med tech, really deep subject matter expertise that we teach within the organization. And then I would say that the digital transition, we have a full-time production facility, full-time production team. And we firmly believe that we have weaponized media in order to scale our efforts in the staffing industry, by using that weaponized media as a distribution channel of proof of our subject matter expertise.

Folwell: That’s amazing. And I love the per-desk average, I’ve actually talked frequently with my team about the revenue per employee. And I remember back in the day, do you remember Craigslist used to be …

Mullings: Of course. 

Folwell:… they’re like one of the absolute top.

Mullings: Of course. Yeah. Now with that, let me just say that a 10 desk or 11 desk, but we’ve got 28 employees. So, I’ve got more people not on the phone than I’ve got on the phone.

Folwell: Okay. Dig into that a little bit. Tell me how does it work? Has that been a KPI for your team? Or is that something that you personally have kind of put in place?

Mullings: So, one of the things that’s important is most staffing organizations are built as staffing firms. They’re not built as companies that happen to be staffing firms. And what that means is, if I walk into any staffing firm, do they reasonably have a true marketing department, not a recent college grad who’s really good on Instagram. Like a real marketing department, where you’ve got branding, you’ve got media short, long-form video, you’ve got short, long-form copy, you’ve got experts on how to deploy on LinkedIn and a marketing department.

And then, media department, I mean, you don’t have to overcook it like we have. But we’ve got, I think, the probably headcount on our production team is maybe eight people, nine people. At a 4,000 square foot studio, you can get a peek behind us sort of what that is.

Folwell: That wasn’t virtual.

Mullings: Yeah. No, that’s real.

Folwell: That’s great.

Mullings: Leah, go walk around back there. And then, we’ve got a business intelligence function, right? So, most people just use a database. But if you take ZoomInfo, you take LinkedIn, you take whatever it is you use, Bullhorn, and now you take that business intelligence and convert that into usable, actionable information at the hands of a search consultant, they can execute at a million-dollar-a-year billing rate in aggregate. I’ve got $2 million billers and I’ve got $700,000 billers. But the average is across, almost a million dollars a desk.

Folwell: That is pretty impressive. And have you used any, I’m going off target for where we’re going to go with the Great Resignation, but have you dug into like traction ELS? Are you using any management frameworks or just kind of stuff that you built over time?

Mullings: It’s all the stuff we built over time. We even have invested substantial, big six figures, in our own custom database, rather than using something off the shelf. Now, there’s fine products on the shelf, I don’t diss those. But historically, if you think about most staffing firms, what they do is they buy a software and then they try and have to bend their process to the software. Well, why wouldn’t you look at your process, Six Sigma your process, and then customize a software to complement and amplify your processes after they’ve been thought through in house.

The investment could be $150,000, $200,000 but that is probably the best pound for pound dollar that you can make and longitudinally pays off easily in the first year you put that to work, and everything after that is just amplifying efforts.

Folwell: That’s great advice. And so, kind of shifting gears a little bit, we’re going to jump into the Great Resignation. But I also wanted to talk something that’s probably going to come out of the conversation is about purpose and purpose-driven organizations and how that helps engagement. And I was just wondering if you could share a little bit about Mullings Group and what you see the purpose behind your organization.

Mullings: Gosh, the purpose in our organization, I think, it’s probably the philosophies we live by. It’s like who you’re in the foxhole with really matters, right? Who’s got your six? Your nine? You know that we deploy empathy, but we also have that run right up alongside accountability. I think empathy by itself is an enabling behavior that people can’t but help but take advantage of. But when you can deploy empathy at scale and align it with accountability is, “I’ll give you room to breathe. I’ll give you understanding.” Having said that, I’m also going to hold you accountable for the commitments you make to myself, yourself, and the team.

We’re also interested here, and very little to do with your comfort, more to do with your personal and professional development. And it’s hard to have those sort of live together, but over time, you learn to become fulfilled. And that is hard for some people because people chase happiness. And happiness, to me, is a weak word and it’s fleeting. But fulfillment, if you drive your purpose around personal and professional development, it will steady you during your toughest times. And it isn’t as sort of fleeting as happiness is. Happiness is sort of like, and it’s gone. So, I think, those are what set the culture here.

Folwell: With that, I know we talked briefly about how you’re hiring people differently, and making sure that you have the right people in the right seats. Can you explain a little bit more about that as well?

Mullings: Sure. So, historically, and myself was guilty of it in the early days, the guy who brought me up as a great guy in search, well, one of them, Gary Williams. And we used to pay draw for what we call beer and cigarette money, right? When I started in ’92 it’s a $24,000 draw. Your philosophy was, never pay the person enough money to be comfortable. So, they were driven by hitting their quota. And that could be the reason why the staffing industry has had a revolving door in it for so many years.

So, a few years ago, we massively shifted our mindset, we sat down, we said, “Okay, what are the important characteristics and qualities of a good teammate?” And we know it’s IQ, because you have to have a level of intelligence in our business, because you’ve got to quickly process. You’ve got to see patterns. You’ve got to extrapolate potential solutions. And the smarter a person is, the quicker they can get to an offering of solutions on the phone. Then, you need this massive need for curiosity, like everybody who comes to work at your firm needs to be curious about what it is they’re recruiting on. Because if they’re not, they’ll get bored, they almost have to have money be the secondary driver.

And then, you have to have conscientiousness, because you want somebody who cares, who pays attention to detail, and also is incredibly well organized. You can’t get all that for beer and cigarette money. So, we decided that our draws will run anywhere in the last year between $80,000 and $120,000 that we guarantee in your first year, that’s what you’ll get. And here’s the reason why, is, first of all, you get a better shot at a better athlete right out of the gate. And for those that are listening to this show, you know how disheartening it is for your bullpen, as well as yourself and if you have a training function, that watching those people who are not smart enough, not curious enough, not driven enough, they show up because they’re at a crossroads in their life.

And you should never want to hire somebody who’s willing to take a $50,000 draw for your company, if you really care about your customers. So we hire best athlete and we guarantee them that income in the first year, because we want them to concentrate on becoming great and not going home at night staring at the ceiling, or talking to their sig other of how they’re going to make the rent, the car payment, or what it is coming down line. But with that also, our hiring process is incredibly severe.

Folwell: I want to dig into that as well, as we kind of talked about the Great Resignation, which I just came across a stat the other day that was like August, there was a record-breaking 4.3 million Americans who quit their jobs. I don’t know what the date on this was, but Gallup analysts had a stat that 48% of our current population is actively looking, searching, or watching for job opportunities right now, which is scary for any business and also valuable for search and staffing agencies right now. I know all the staffing agencies I talked to have more job orders than they know what to do with.

I’d like to talk about how, one, what’s your retention been like through this Great Resignation with what you have in place? It sounds like you’ve got a good model. And then, two, how is this impacting your business and how you can see things going forward?

Mullings: So the Great Resignation is interesting. We’ve had these different levels of employment and unemployment over the years. There’s a category going on right now. So, let’s eliminate maybe the catalyst for this, the COVID, the pandemic since February 2020, March 2020, depending when you want to work the timeline. What’s interesting about people right now, coming out of the pandemic is people used to switch jobs to be happy, right? They weren’t happy in their current job.

Right now, people think they can be happier in other jobs. That’s an interesting dynamic that’s going on. So, I’m switching jobs because I’m not happy. That’s cool. That was before the pandemic. Now, people are reevaluating certain qualities in their life and arrangements in their life and say, “I’m happy but I think I can be happier,” and they’re willing to bet on that. And I do think there’s going to be a slingshot effect on that. To what effect? I don’t know. But I sort of look at it like those old plastic rulers that we had in school, I don’t know if you remember them. But you put the plastic ruler in front of you, in front of your face and you pull it back. And you go, “Well, it’s going well right now.” But then you let go with that ruler and it comes flying back and snaps you in the head.

I think that’s what we’re going to see socially over the next 24 to 36 months with the WFX arrangement, with people being so laissez faire about looking at new jobs. I think that the recent entrants into the market, the people who are between one and four years, are going to suffer from a mentoring issue. And I think if you’re in a job that you’re not looking to rapidly step up from a promotability standpoint and it’s not driven by sales, I think, there’s going to be some headwinds in that if you choose to be in a WFX.

It’s human nature social, right? That’s not a popular thing to say. But I think there’s going to be some impacts there on individuals.

Folwell: Yeah. And you brought up WFX there and I’ve heard in a couple other podcasts that work from anywhere concept, which I don’t know if our listeners have heard, so you could just kind of dig into a little bit of what WFX is versus remote work and kind of how you see the difference there and why that’s important.

Mullings: Sure. So, the WFX concept came up because I’m not working in an office. So, why should you care where I am? So, work from home is what originally everybody came out with. And as I’ve mentioned before, this pandemic came on us in a matter of a couple of days. We went from full in-office for those that were in-office, to out-of-office. And to me, it was a throat punch. And so, if you think that our immediate response to a WFX setup was the best one we could have conjured up in a three-day period, you don’t have any sense about human nature nor business principles. So, not much has changed. And corporations themselves don’t quite know what to do right now. And they’re sort of circling the boats.

And there’s going to start to be the in-office and out-of-office caste system emerging. And then with that, the WFX is I’m waiting for the courts to be filled with discrimination cases by individuals who are WFXing and not getting promoted or missing out because they are WFX. And then the people who are in the office every day who choose to take a two-hour lunch and get the hairy eyeball when they walk back in. Yet Bob, who’s WFX is out playing pickleball for three hours and nobody knows. Right? And then, when does Bob’s PTO come in? When Sally, who’s in the office, crunching it for 50 hours a week has to go and ask for an afternoon off and she get dinged for PTO.

So, HR has got their hands filled coming up over the next 24 months. Legal especially has their hands filled. The court systems are going to be ripe and just wait for the attorney commercials for, have you been discriminated against because you’re a WFX and the others are not? So, I think we’ve got a cauldron ahead of us in that area.

Folwell: That’s some great insights there. It’s also kind of funny, a personal story about my fiancé’s first day on her first job was the day that they shut all of the offices down in Denver as a data analyst. And she just had her first day in the office ever last week. And they’re talking about, “All right, well, are we going to come back?” And they’re saying, “Maybe once a week, maybe Wednesdays,” but everybody’s still trying to figure it out. I don’t think there is a formula. How do you see or what best practices do you … What do you think is going to work the long run for HR in these situations?

Mullings: So, first of all, it’s great news for the staffing industry because HR, and I love HR don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t brought up as headhunters or staffing experts, right? Really good staffing experts are invasive apex predators and go after people who are currently in an employment situation. There’s nobody in HR, in the history of HR, who is competent, who has that as a default mechanism, because that doesn’t make you a caretaker for employees, right?

So, there are two types of people. There’s apex predators and then there’s those who are taking care of the family members. And so, while HR was under-resourced, never really appropriate for invasive recruiting, some of them are good at facilitation and overworked. Now, we’re going to be working into taking care of the internal team, the internal family, environment and health and safety, the WFX principles, it’s all going to fall on their lap.

They’re going to have zero time to build staff. And so, staffing firms right now should be doubling, tripling down on their internal headcount, building businesses around that, looking at contract term RPO and be building entire portfolios, and that’s why you’re seeing a lot of M&A work right now in the staffing industry, because the smart PE firms are rolling that up and staying ahead of where the industry is going. So, you’re going to look for full-service, one vendor, and they’re going to come in and address all those needs in an organization.

Folwell: Yeah. And that kind of leads me to the next question which …. Great insights, again, is like, how are you doing things differently right now? Has your operations changed significantly? And are there things that you kind of see as the future of work or future search going forward?

Mullings: Sure. And we’ll talk about that. But we made the big digital transition about five years ago in a major project we have with Johnson & Johnson and Google. And we can go into that. And we’ve doubled and tripled down on scaling out our subject matter expertise to the marketplace, because the really great candidates are not answering want ads, they’re not even looking at want ads, what they’re doing is they’re working in their current job, their head is down, but they’re aware that you’re a voice of a category, whatever your specialty is, whether it’s nursing, whether it’s medical device, whether it’s contract, or construction equipment, supply chain, whatever your expertise in your office or desk is, you’re already a subject matter expert, right?

Only though to the 400 people you generally talk to all the time. Those 400 people constitute 80% of your desk. And you’ve spent five years, 10 years, 30 years in search. So you’re an SME in your area of expertise. But only those 400 people see it. When you do a digital transition, you now, via LinkedIn and other platforms, can be speaking to 50 to 100,000 people a day with your knowledge of the industry. And now, what you’re doing is building your subject matter expertise up to a voice of a category where you’re not even putting job postings up. But you’re putting out, if you have a career in this industry, where’s the industry going? What should you be keeping your eyes on? Here’s what we’re seeing in the market. Here’s the disruptive and dislocating technologies going on due to everybody’s digital transition, no matter what industry you’re in.

Here’s what’s going to be irrelevant in three years. So if you’re in this, get the heck away from it. Here’s where the venture money is going in, the private equity money is going in, the public money’s going in. That’s fuel for growth. And so, you need to be talking about that on the LinkedIn platform. That’s the platform for today. It may or may not be around. I don’t think it’s a Meta going from Facebook, but it should be around for a number of years. And you should be doing that. And then, the market will come to you.

I will tell you, we have not made an outbound marketing call for JO in years. And I will say that most of our candidates are call-ins on JOs posted online because of our subject matter expertise and our domination from a voice-of-the-industry perspective.

Folwell: That’s amazing. And so, I’m a big HubSpot guy and inbound marketer, and you’re doing inbound recruiting, which I love. Do you have a content team that does that? Do you expect each of the recruiters or the search specialist to be learning and doing it themselves? How do you kind of facilitate that to make sure it’s actually working?

Mullings: Yeah. In our firm, I pen every single thing that I write. Our KPIs in our organization are the production board, obviously. And then right behind that is number of followers on LinkedIn. And then each of our AEs, search consultants, in their first 90 days to 365 days, one of their primary KPIs is how many connections and followers do they have on LinkedIn. Yup, we don’t check phone time. We don’t check number of calls. We don’t check any of that. We haven’t for years.

Our production is we’ve got a marketing team that consults for the AEs. We’ve got a production team that sets up the podcasts in our facilities for our AEs. But our AEs develop all of their own content themselves. They get insight and guidance from our VP of marketing, but they need to be the voice of who they are because that’s the only way you can sustain that. And the only way that if I wake you up at 2:00 in the morning, you’re the same person that if you write something at 5:00 p.m.

And your market knows when it’s not you speaking. And for all those firms that are hiring people to write for your big hitters, there are other ways to facilitate your big hitter communicating with the market.

Folwell: That’s some great advice and pretty awesome to see that you’re holding your team to that KPI. That’s the first time I’ve heard that and I absolutely love it. So, you kind of talked a little bit about the digital transition. And also, you built some of your own software. But are there any other tools or things within your tech stack that you’d be open to sharing with our audience?

Mullings: Sure. If you look at our tech stack, at the base of our tech stack, you’ve got ZoomInfo, you got Sales Navigator, you got the database. I think Sales Navigator is an unbelievable tool. I came up with this strategy about two years ago called the 10-4-2 Strategy. You can go online on YouTube and look up 10-4-2 Mullings. But using your database using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can get in the inner circle of any A candidate or hiring manager that is on LinkedIn within less than 30 days and have them corresponding back and forth with you.

So, I won’t go through that on here, but you could look it up on YouTube. So, that’s the base on our tech stack. The other side of our tech as you move up on the tech stack, so that’s your base, right? That’s your back end. Your-mid end is your content development. If you’re a subject matter expert in your industry, we believe that reading five to seven articles that are specifically in your industry, and then unwinding those headlines from a headhunters’ perspective and sharing your insights with the market, not on the article itself, but what the article means to careers relative to your specialization and your search desk or office.

And then, extrapolate that out as to, “Hey, if you’re going to be around for three years or four years, you may want to be mindful of this trend in the industry” Right? So that’s where you move up on your stack, where you’re pushing out content without asking for anything in return. And you’re actually teaching people how to unwind headlines and look at them from a career perspective, not a consumer perspective. So, does that make sense?

Folwell: It makes sense. I’m impressed by your insight on this. And I’m wondering, where did you learn all of that? How did you come up with all of these strategies? I think that’s brilliant.

Mullings: Psychedelics.

Folwell: Fair.

Mullings: No. I’m a nerd, I think deeply about this industry. I love this industry. Look, it mixes science. It mixes human nature. It mixes communication at scale. And it’s all about influencing people and helping people to be better. The byline on my LinkedIn on my webpage,, is build, teach and inspire. And so, that’s at the basis of everything I do. And I think if you do that, that people will realize that you’re there for the game, not for yourself, and then will start to trust you.

And then once you have that trust, you’ve got to take care of it. And you’ve constantly got to be pushing the envelope doing what nobody else does, because that’s the only way that you get noticed.

Folwell: Yeah. You’re hands down the only search firm that I’ve ever talked to that has a full PR. I’m just looking at your background right now. You’re doing something unique compared to most search firms that I talked with, which is pretty amazing.

Mullings: It’s business development. So, just so the listeners understand is, I’ll give you an example. Somebody comes out with a new product. In my industry, we do medical device. They come out with a really innovative product. I mean, just go look at my post this morning. Yeah, a video. So, a great company from the UK has a technology that’s very interesting. He was coming over to the U.S. He said, “Come into our studio, let’s do an interview.” Did an interview. He’s a brilliant guy. He’s a doctor and also an entrepreneur. And we sit and we talk about his product. It’s very innovative. It’s somewhat dislocating to the market. I get content, he gets to spread the word on his company, he gets a lot of attention.

He’s got to hire. He calls me to hire because he knows what I’m talking about. I did him a solid. And we create a relationship. It’s the best business development tool ever. That’s why people started podcasting. That’s the way people smuggled this in, right? Podcasting was nothing more than a smuggle on, “Hey, let me feature your company and let’s talk about it.” And you do a decent podcast, the person gets excited, you now have this relationship. And now, they give you job orders. I mean, that was the original intention of podcasting and staffing.

Folwell: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great point. And with that and looking at where things are now, good business development strategy now, where do you see …. And we’ve talked a little bit about this in different forms. But five years from now, 10 years from now, how do you see search changing?

Mullings: Well, I think, you’re going to start to see a bifurcation. I think there are people who are in search who do it for lifestyle. It’s a really cool business. If you want to make $200,000, $300,000 a year, be a single desk office, have flexibility, work from your home, and knock out 15 searches a year, one and a half a month, keep the fee yourself and have a nice little cottage business. It is beautiful there and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

And then, there’s going to be the organizations that are coming in. And they are putting together a full-stack solution. And this is where we’re going. We are building, the Ernst Young, Pricewaterhouse model for talent access. Everything we’re building right now is indexing towards those Big Four started out as purely accounting companies. And then, they become world-class consultants in areas in strategy. That’s where you’re going to see certain organizations leveling up to. And they’re going to offer strategies to the big companies and say, “Your HR person should take care of the people in-house. And if I hire the right people, your retention is going to be higher. And the only way I can hire people is to make sure I get a hiring brand out there. I’m able to scale it. I’m able to deploy it to the entire community and the adjacent communities who don’t even know they want a career in this area. And then what I’m going to do is I’m going to ongoing engage with them and nurture relationships. And then, I’m going to create a secure backend where they can go ahead and load their profiles in. It’s password protected. And they can keep us up to date as to what’s going on what’s not going on. And they can out loud show everything about us. Or they own that and then they can decide who they give the passkey to for a very short time.”

And then that’s where staffing is going. It’s going to be branding, hiring brands, nurturing relationships, getting the best person in the market, not the person who’s available in the 30-day search window. And then that’s going to, by an order of magnitude, bring in higher competitors, better players that are going to move certain brands way ahead of competitors. That’s where search is going.

Folwell: Yeah. I’ve actually just, on an IT staffing space to second that. I’ve seen some of the early adopters and first movers that are really looking at like they’re not talking about, “Who do you need?” They’re talking about, “What problem are you trying to solve? And we’ll take care of it from there.”

Mullings: And more than that. You know what the number one question is for the firms that are going to get it? Is, “Who will I become when I go to work for you?” Every single hiring strategy and every single message that goes out on behalf of our clients or the client himself should be, “Who will I become when I go to work in your firm?”

Folwell: That’s amazing. I love that. I’m going to kind of jump over to the next set of questions here. I love that piece of advice. I just wrote a note down to use that for my own personal hiring. So, I think that’s great. What advice do you wish you were given before entering the staffing and recruiting industry?

Mullings: Open up your firm in a major metropolitan area if you really want to grow it to scale. Because we started down in Miami, Coral Gables and it’s a reasonable city. And then, as we continue to move up north in Florida, I didn’t have the population. I believe I’ve got a dozen of the most amazing search consultants on the phone and the balance of our organization are absolutely amazing high performers. If we had the ability, we could put 100 people in our organization within 12 months without even breathing heavy.

Now, the WFX environment has given us that capability. We opened up in the UK. We’ve got an office in the UK. We’ve got a location in Cleveland blowing out. We’ve got one in Canada, we’re in the middle of opening. But there is something about the energy and a critical mass all in the same building. So, I think I would have said, “Take advantage of a geographic arbitrage as you build the firm if you want to build something that’s going to change the world of staffing.” Personally, that’s what I wish I would have got.

Folwell: Great answer. And for the last section of the podcast, I’m going to have some questions that are more related to you personally, kind of a fun set of questions. Are you ready to jump into this?

Mullings: Sounds dangerous. Let’s do it.

Folwell: All right. So, this first one is, I was doing research today, I saw your martial arts. I actually came across a few videos of you doing martial arts. I mean, my first thought as I was looking at you on the podcast then martial arts, it’s like the next Joe Rogan here. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you do with martial arts? How that’s helped you with your career? Just kind of any thoughts around that.

Mullings: Sure. By the way, I’ve grappled with Joe at UFC.

Folwell: Really?

Mullings: Oh, yeah, yeah. So, I had a pretty big fight team called the Armory, still fighting today. Marlon Moraes, Edson Barboza, Kurt Pellegrino, Hermes França, Louis Kane, Matt Wiman. These were all guys who pretty much, other than Louis, were in the 155, 145 range. Joe, obviously, he still is announcing, but back when we show up on a Tuesday in Vegas and stayed for Saturday night fights, because you needed to keep the fighters in a controlled environment. They’re interesting characters. We would have training rooms and people would show up and roll. Meaning, grapple with each other.

So, I’ve got my black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve got a third-degree black belt in Aikido. And I also trained in Taekwondo. When I first got it, I just love combat sports. They teach you who you are. And all combat sports are great, don’t get me wrong. But I would say the truest combat sports are wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There’s no way to hide in the truth in any of those when it comes to real combat.

So they cause you to be introspective. They teach you that the experience is most important, winning is not. They teach you humility, but also you can balance out a huge ego as long as you can balance it with humility. And they’re real-time problem solving, at the expense of taking a beating. So, there’s a consequence. Things never matter unless there’s a consequence. If you ever think about that through life, when I see people do all kinds of training, I’m like, “Well, there’s no consequence if you don’t get it right.” And so, that’s the best teacher is consequence.

So, I think, the martial arts in particular, the true combat sport martial arts, every single human being would be required to go through those in school for grades 1 through 12, the world would be a nicer, more generous, safer place, because if you have confidence that you can defend yourself, you never need to be insecure, therefore, start a fight.

Folwell: I love that and also the Jiu-Jitsu part of it is pretty incredible. I didn’t realize you had gone that deep. I just saw a couple videos and you had a whole team, that’s amazing.

Mullings: Yeah.

Folwell: So in the last five years, what new beliefs, behavior or habit has most improved your life?

Mullings: I would probably say, let go when others do it better than you.

Folwell: I’m learning that one daily. That’s a good one, if you ever want to scale. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? Sounds like Jiu-Jitsu might make that list. It could be an investment of money, time, energy, et cetera.

Mullings: I would say, gosh, that’s a good one. There are so many things that come to mind. It’s just a broad category. But the investment in fitness. Whitepaper, after whitepaper is coming about showing that hard-level resistance training fights off dementia. It also dramatically increases blood flow to the brain. I think I would be lost if I ever had a degradation in brain function. I’m 60 in a couple months. Our bodies are the thing that carries around our brain. So, I would say, the investment in fitness and nutrition are the best investment longitudinally anybody can make.

Folwell: Absolutely. Absolutely. And what are the bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Mullings: Social media should never replace the phone; phone, phone, phone. And as I mentioned earlier, the phone is still the most important thing. But it’s moved further down the activity chain, but it’s still the thing that closes the deal. I just want to put that out there. But I think the objection to social media, because people think of Instagram and duck lips and little puppy videos on Facebook. But LinkedIn is a learning platform. And so, developing your brand and demonstrating your subject matter expertise at scale gets more effective phone calls with you. So, I think, the biggest resistance is the fear of social as the emerging tool in search or staffing.

Folwell: Just to dig in. Have you done anything with TikTok yet? Are you ….

Mullings: I have not. My team has brought it up to me a bunch of times. I’m sure there’s something there. But I’ve got a limited number of ticks in the tock, minutes in the day. And it might be something eventually I may play around with. But right now, I’ve not jumped into TikTok, so we’re still trying to figure it out.

Folwell: Yeah. I mean, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was thinking, TikTok is just for teenagers. And it’s a bunch of junk and a bunch of crap. And like most social media platforms, as it’s evolved, I now have a great feat of business tips and psychology and life best practices. I’m like, “There’s probably something there.” But it’s a whole another platform. And I know that that takes time and work.

Mullings: I agree. I mean, we got the resources to do it. Marco, who leads my marketing production team, he’s like, “We got to do TikTok.” And then, all I do is think about those silly challenges. But then see, I fall back into that old dude persona of, “Wow, that’s duck lips and challenges.” I’m like, “No, it’s not.” So, you got to ….

Folwell: The funny part is I was talking about this with somebody the other day. I’m like, “TikTok is really whatever you train the algorithm to be for you.”

Mullings: That’s right. 

Folwell: You can be an absolute pile of crap, but it can also be pretty good if you get it right. What is the book or books you’ve given most as a gift and why?

Mullings: I love Bob Cialdini’s Influence. It’s a must read book. He’s out in Arizona. He’s close to you. I think everybody needs to read Yuval Harari, his three books, 21 Lessons For The 21st Century, Homo Deus, and what’s the third one? I forget what it is.

Folwell: Sapiens.

Mullings: Yeah, Sapiens, right. So, if you want to really get some really deep, cool thoughts, I would read those three books. All three have been gifts, and then Cialdini’s Influence, in the business world and personal, I think Bob does an unbelievable job in there.

Folwell: Those are literally my top two recommendations. I’ve read Yuval’s books, all of them, twice. And Influence is a required reading for the team.

Mullings: There you go. There you go.

Folwell: I’ve not had anybody nail it that tightly. Those are great recommendations. So, I love those.

Mullings: I do like Jordan Peterson’s latest book, 12 Lessons for Life.

Folwell: Okay. That’s a good one. I haven’t checked that out yet. How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?

Mullings: The best lessons appear there. Right? So, I’ve trained myself to think of optimal and less optimal outcomes. I usually don’t say pass or fail. And that’s a really important thing. A really good friend of mine, Tony Blauer, taught that to me. So, I just have optimal or less than optimal outcomes. And I also keep in mind, there’s only one worst day and one best day in your life and everything else is in between. And I think it’s really important to keep that in context because is this going to be important 36 hours from now? And if you can manage around that, and I don’t mean apathetic and not pay attention to it.

But it’s important that we weight our wins and losses appropriately. We’re never quite as good as we think we are and we’re never quite as bad as we think we are. And so, I try not to, without being cute, say something was a failure. I’m just like, “Okay, that didn’t work out how I thought. Why?” And then, “Is it worth learning from that? Yes. Is it worth trying it again? Maybe in a different way.” So, that’s how I process those less than optimal outcomes.

Folwell: I love that. Last question. What is an unusual habit or absurd thing that you love?

Mullings: Oh God.

Folwell: That you want to share on the podcast.

Mullings: Yeah, that I can share on the podcast. The first one, you must have seen the tape rolling in my head, “I can’t say that out loud.” But the weirdest thing that I like…there’s so many of them, one doesn’t stand out.

You’re stumping me here. And I don’t want to just throw something out carelessly. But what is it that is really weird that I like that I can talk? Oh, yeah. And it came up this weekend or this past week when I was traveling, and it goes back to Jiu-Jitsu. There was this very comfortable feeling that I used to get on the Jiu-Jitsu mat. That when you grapple in Jiu-Jitsu and you have a gi on, your face is constantly being smushed. Like really, if you’ve ever wrestled, it’s a pacifying lovely feeling to get my face smushed.

Folwell: I think that takes the cake. That’s perfect. Awesome. Is there anything else that you would like to share with our audience today?

Mullings: No. Listen, we’re in a very noble profession. So many people, when they ask what we do, some people try and make it sexy and wrap it up in a really fancy package. The staffing industry, no matter what part you play in, RPO, perm, contract. I mean, we really change lives, and you got to take it that serious. And what we’re doing deserves us to really look at it and make it like the most amazing industry in the world. So, I would just say, look, continue to rep our industry really well. I’m greatly appreciative of podcasts like this and you sharing what we do with everybody. So, I just want to leave it with that. I’m very proud of and privileged to be able to work in this industry.

Folwell: Thank you so much, Joe. It’s really a pleasure to have you on the podcast. I really enjoyed the conversation. I hope our audience did as well. Thank you so much.

Mullings: Appreciate it. Thanks for the opportunity and be well.