Are you looking to digitize processes, engage candidates, and improve employee retention? On this episode of The Staffing Show, Joshua Pines, co-founder of Sirenum, and currently the VP of International Alliances at Bullhorn, shares what he has learned from his experience as the co-founder and head of marketing and product development and how he has applied this knowledge to better understand the nuances of change management within companies.
David Folwell: Hello everyone, and thank you again for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. Excited to be joined today by Josh Pines of Sirenum. Josh, why don’t you go ahead and give a quick intro about yourself and how you got into the staffing industry?
Joshua Pines: Sure. Thanks so much, David. As mentioned, I’m from Sirenum. I’m the co-founder and head of marketing and product development at Sirenum. I’ve been working on this with our CEO and founder since the summer of 2014, so some time. In the past I’ve put in some time in the online agency worker marketplace world, spending some time at GLG, Gerson Lehrman Group, is the world’s largest expert network, and also kicked the clock at Korn Ferry early, early, early in my career in a year that didn’t start with a two. Benjamin and I were introduced… Benjamin was an MD, managing director of a small or mid-sized staffing agency here in London and had built a technology platform to essentially run the operations of his business and was looking to turn that into a product for the staffing industry, actually for anybody managing any employers of shift workers. But obviously coming from the staffing industry, and he’d spent nearly a decade in the space that was a key market for us right out of the gate.
Folwell: That’s great. And it’s always interesting when you have founders or staffing agencies who scratch your own itch with the product and then go to market with it down the road. Is the staffing agency itself still alive? Did this take over as the main….
Pines: Yeah, it’s still an important beta customer for us as we spin up new ideas, new features, new functionality. They’re focused on the transportation industry, so also, as we think about things that are relevant for the rail or buses, for example, placing staff in those spaces, they’re a great resource for us. So we talk a lot about staffing IQ when we hire and train, but also working with our clients to tap into their staffing IQ, and that’s a great example.
Folwell: What was the initial challenge or frustration that led to the creation of Sirenum?
Pines: Yeah, that’s a great question, David. So as I mentioned, it’s focused on the transportation industry and a bunch of adjacent stuff. So security and events that are usually in and around either train stations, bus stations, stadiums, et cetera. And Benjamin and the team were invited to pitch to provide staff for the 2012 Olympic games here in London, and that provided a great opportunity to say, “How do we revisit our technology process and how we manage workers and how we think about matching workers to open shifts and even billing our clients.” So that provided a bit of a spark to start pulling together pieces, start developing his own technology, leveraging existing technologies. That’s when the team started to tap into the Salesforce platform. And eventually, through the trial and error, the lessons learned over a decade of managing these workers in multiple shifts, multiple job sites, high complexity, high compliance type work, that turned into the platform that would become Sirenum.
And from his perspective, and from that business’s proactive perspective, it had a 10x, 8 to 10x growth impact on their business. 75% faster payroll processing. Lots of really concrete impacts and his clients started asking, “Hey, can we use that too?” So initially, before Benjamin and I got connected, he thought he would just be selling it to his clients, but very quickly it became apparent that other staffing agencies, selling to the competition actually was where the future lied for him and the team. And here we are now with a team of about 65 people dedicated on Sirenum, with people all over working on it, and it’s been a heck of a ride.
Folwell: That is pretty great. It sounds like a lot of good growth with that. I know you work across multiple verticals, you work with a lot of different staffing agencies. Are there any new trends that you’re seeing as we’re coming out of — well, depending on where you’re located, but starting to come out of lockdown in some ways, depending on location, but….
Pines: You have a global audience, right? Sorry, those of you who aren’t. But that’s a great question because one of the things that’s… One of our overarching part of our mission statement, part of our driving thought process is whatever we do, we like to try to make sure that it’s applicable. So anything from the technology we build to how we implement to how we support customer success, we drive for any shift worker in any industry in any country in the world. And it’s that flexibility that allows us to service some of the largest and most diversified staffing agencies in the world. Because if you have a dedicated solution for the hospitality agency… industry, rather, you’re not going to be able to service an entire Randstad, Manpower, et cetera, because that will only be relevant to their hospitality brand.
So we knew that for us to be most valuable to our clients, regardless of the industry… So you mentioned multiple industries, multiple sectors, it’s within staffing and without. So we service those transportation companies that I mentioned earlier that Benjamin was… direct hire transportation, direct hire care, direct hire construction, et cetera. Those are important players for us. And it also helps us build a more complete and thorough set of products because our suite of products is impacted and influenced by the input from our clients regardless of their industry, because there’s valuable lessons in how is the process of placing a worker… how do you know what’s important? And also what country information is important, right? Rules and regulations in Belgium are different from California, which are different for Rhode Island. And the only way to get that right is to be willing and able to service anybody in any of those spaces, in any sector.
It makes for a very complicated matrix of… as I lead marketing, I have to think about the matrix of location, sector. It gets very complicated. We launched a campaign just yesterday aimed at the Dutch logistics staffing market, so you start to get very winnowed down there, but we’re excited to be able to service them, just as well as we service the California healthcare market and the UK construction market.
Folwell: That’s great. And one of the other things that you and I touched on in previous conversations is you’d brought up the concept of online staffing agencies, brick and mortar versus digital agencies. And I thought you had some interesting thoughts on the higher level trends and how people are approaching the market and approaching building a staffing agency, and I was wondering if you could share a little bit about that, how you see the differences between those models.
Pines: For those of you who are listening who were on the Executive Forum, North American Executive Forum from the SIA earlier this year, I’m sure you heard that term digital agency or digitally transformed agency enough for a lifetime, but our takeaway and our suspicion and our hypothesis for years now, and it just feels like we reached a tipping point or an inflection point in the market during the pandemic is that the digitized agency is ready for its close-up. It’s time for it. That is a traditional bricks and mortar agency with the right technology and advanced and evolved processes, it’s ready for it to compete against the online agencies. For lack of a better term, the Ubers of the world, those work or marketplaces that are usually industry specific, sometimes they might be light industrial oriented. There’s been loads of them popping up. And the challenge there is that they’re able to, because they’ve been built with technology first, do things that, processes faster and cheaper than the bricks and mortar agencies typically have done that.
But they lacked the marketing clout, they lacked…without raising millions of dollars, of course. They lacked the existing relationships with clients, with workers. So they have to raise a lot of money to do that. And I think we like to wave that flag to those bricks and mortar agencies and remind them, you’ve got these great assets, you’re lacking the technology and the matching processes to compete. And that’s where we can come in and help you and Uberize your business.
Folwell: Maybe a loaded question, but who do you think’s going to win, the digitized agency or the online staffing, or do you think they’re just going to merge into one or the other and have to blend in their models? What’s your take?
Pines: So I think convergence is happening already. I think there’s going to be a lot. I think you talk to the people at the SIA, they would certainly posit that convergence is a big part of what’s going to happen in the market. And that’s why it’s important to leverage your existing strengths that have legs. So some existing strengths don’t have legs in the new model, but the existing relationships with your pools of workers, if you can engage them, keep them happy, retain them, that is a huge asset. The reason why you see Job Today ads and Uber ads and Deliveroo ads on every bus or every train station all across the world is because they need to market the heck out of their business to be able to get enough people to compete against you as a brick and mortar agency. So hey, what can we do? Let’s better engage and retain our workers. They’ve got to get them in the door. We’ve got huge pools of workers we’re not tapping into.
I’ll share an interesting stat, David. One of our clients, very large diversified agency, had a bench of already onboarded workers that was a five to one ratio with workers that are working. So think about that. They paid to recruit, onboard, sign up contracts, five times as many people as those who are actually working. So how can they very easily improve their profitability? Just give them a little work. Give them a little communication. Give them a little training. It’s not like they have to even get them 40 hours a week, by the way.
Exactly. But when you start running your business more efficiently, that becomes a lot easier. We know that for decades there’s been a challenge in the temporary staffing business of people giving shifts to their friends or just whoever’s at the top of the list, and that created this whole bottom pool of untapped resources, and they get frustrated and they go to another agency. I think I heard in one of your other podcasts, the typical travel nurse is associated with three different agencies at a minimum. We see that as well, in fact. We service big name competitors where we know, because the workers downloaded the app, that they’re working for both agencies. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but that means you’re in competition to keep that worker engaged and retain that worker so that they look to you first when they want to get a shift so that they respond when you send out a shift.
Folwell: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So one of the things that you touched on there was the importance of building off the relationships you have, and the one thought that I’ve had for a while about staffing as a whole is when you look at how people approach software, one of the key metrics is customer lifetime value. You’re looking at renewals, you’re looking at retention. It’s one of the main metrics that investors are looking at when they’re valuing your business. And then you’re coming over to staffing and renewals are a thing, but most people are looking at — maybe not most anymore, I think it’s changing — but instead of looking at what is called candidate lifetime value. How many renewals can you get from this person? What is the actual value of this contract? And focusing more… I mean, I think that’s where the Herefish, the Sense, this shift towards marketing automation and really the candidate experience is happening in a pretty major way. But I think it’s an interesting concept and something that maybe more staffing firms should spend time modeling out what the candidate lifetime value is.
Pines: Yeah, we talk a lot about utilization. Utilization, you’ve got this pool of workers. Am I leveraging that pool of workers to the best of my and their ability? And there’s some simple workshops that we do with our clients to understand where are they leaking. They’ve got leaks in their operations and they’ve got leaks in the process. If you think of it, my last business was essentially an ERP for the clinical research industries, company called Metadata Solutions. And we like to think about that as well. There’s a kind of ERP across a shift or across a lifetime of a worker working for an agency. And there are leaks along that process. And just like ERP was needed in the 90s to change manufacturing and address those leakages, digital transformation workforce management is needed now for agencies to address those leaks.
Folwell: Could not agree more. I think there was some good insights on where things are going. I definitely see the traditional brick and mortar, if they’re not embracing new technology, I think is going to have a tough time in the next five to 10 years. So I think there’s going to have to be-
Pines: I would argue that it’s a lot sooner than that, David. When we talked about it on our last conversation, the pandemic and the lockdown has accelerated some trends and processes at the macro level, and one of the big ones is the fact that I think it’s more like 18 to 24 months. If you are not adopting processes and supporting technologies to digitize your business, you’re going to lose that profitability so quickly. The pressure is just too high. It’s interesting, I had a conversation with our mutual friend, Rob Mann, about this, what you were talking about, with thinking about it with a marketing hat on, with both your workers and your clients and the lifetime value mentality.
And even just adopting that. And that’s why, look, I represent a technology business, I like to talk about technology, but we always talk about the levers of people processing technology, and no adoption of technology is successful without properly adjusting, increasing investment, et cetera, in the people and process part. And you can look at something like that, just adopting the process and the mentality and the people to support it, of thinking with a more of a marketing hat on, with more of a lifetime value hat on will go a long way to changing how you compete as a historical bricks and mortar agency in the marketplace.
Folwell: With that, I always think about… I think I compare it to the staffing industry or the travel industry quite a bit, my background being from Hotel Engine, and looking at travel agencies and then the shift to online travel agencies. And I feel like we’re going through that same paradigm shift in terms of how things will operate and who will work with who. Do you see it as a winner take all market, or how do you… Do you see it continue to be fragmented? As fragmented as it is?
Pines: Look, if you think back to what I said about the matrix of how we think of the market, and then…it’ll always be fragmented. There’s too much, and it’s always a pendulum between specificity and generalists, experts in a single sector or a single process, and generalists. I think we’re going through a trend now, I hope. As an executive at a software company that’s a big believer in generalists, I think we’re going into trend where there’s a lot of value in generalists. And I think one of the big reasons why is that we can essentially solve the problem for the little 200 nurse agency as well as we can solve it for the Manpowers, and Adeccos and top fives, top tens of the world, because it’s on the same platform, it’s on the same code base. We can be confident that that’s there.
But the only way we can do that is by building the model for implementation, change management, ongoing customer success around it. Because again, not to beat on the drum too much, it’s not just technology, it’s people and process around that as well. And moving those levers to get the most out of your business, to leverage your existing assets, is what’s key to be able to beat the clock on that 18 to 24 month timeline.
Folwell: And with that, jumping into… I mean, we’ve been talking about the digital transformation here, but you’ve specifically brought up change management a couple of different times. And I know talking with multiple staffing execs, that is… I’ve watched a lot of staffing firms where they buy the new shiny thing. I always say it’s like they’re buying the best gym membership and access to a personal trainer. Sometime nobody shows up and they’re the same…
Pines: Oh my god, that’s a great metaphor.
Folwell: And they’re the same weight six months later saying, “What happened?” And it’s like, “Well, you do actually have to use the equipment and show up to the lesson.” So I’m just curious if you have any specific tactics, things that work, best practices on change management to make sure when you are embracing new technology, that it is going to work the way you want it to?
Pines: I love the metaphor. I think it’s an excellent process that our clients and really everybody in this industry needs to go through. The first and biggest thing is actually getting the buy-in to the organization. Having an executive sponsor who’s going to make sure that it happens. Having the project lead who’s going to learn everything he or she needs to know about making it happen. The next big thing is willingness to revisit the processes that sit around it. So you joined that gym, but you also have to build in the fact that, “Okay, I got to build in an hour and a half of my day. When am I going to do it? How am I going to get to the gym? Am I going to shower there?” If you don’t think of those things, you end up doing it haphazardly and you don’t reach your goals. I think working with people you trust is really important.
We do that. As we go to market, we work with loads of partners to make sure that we can help with that change management. We bring a lot of expertise on our team. That staffing IQ is something we’re really proud of. Hundreds of years of experience in staffing industry. But the truth is our implementation partners and some of our strategic architecture partners go a long way to driving that trust with our prospects and clients so that they can take that leap of faith and say, “Yes, I’m going to revisit it.” Because if you truly adopt a technology like Sirenum or really loads of players in this market, even not specifically competing in the digitization, but lots of stuff, you mentioned Herefish, even just adopting some of the chatbots that are so popular these days in the staffing industry, you have to take that leap of faith and say, “You know what, our org chart may look different in six months. This process that I’ve grown so accustomed to in processing payroll, interpreting time, capturing time, getting the time sheets for my clients, it just may not exist anymore.”
The process now will drive something else. You need to adopt a culture of analytics. You can’t digitize your business, any business, but especially in business like an agency, without saying, “We have to listen to the numbers more now. We have to think about what’s valuable from the numbers. And we have to use that to improve.” A culture of improvement. That’s a big adoption. There’s a lot of people in this industry who’ve been in it for a lot of years who are not comfortable with that. They’re happy calling every customer on Thursday night to get physical copies of physical time sheets faxed to them so that they can process payroll, and you need a team of 10 people to do it. And that takes hours and hours.
It’s always wrong. The clients are unhappy. The workers are unhappy. There’s nothing that upsets people more than payroll inquiries or payroll queries, depending on what country. Workers hate it. Payroll team hates it. Clients hate it. Wouldn’t it be better if you could get rid of that and focus those resources on some other step in the process that needs human interaction? So there’s a willingness to adopt and adapt that’s really crucial to driving success of a project like a digital transformation project.
Folwell: Could not agree more. And actually, it just kind of… I’ve seen recently some people are like, “Oh yeah, we’re willing to adopt the product. We all agree that we want this product. But we are going to use it with the exact same process that we’ve always used and we’re not going to change any of our processes.” And it’s like the adapt part is, I think, a key component that you just mentioned there, and I think it’s something to keep in mind is that, yes, it’s good when something accelerates or improves the current process, but it also might need to change the process a little bit and probably change it for the better. So I think that’s a key component there.
Pines: Yeah, I’ll share one quick anecdote that really gets to that point. We have two customers here in the UK that are direct competitors in a single sector. One very much took the mentality of, “We’re going to take it whole hog. We’re going to look into every possible way to revisit our processes, and we’re going to adopt all the best pieces of your technology and adapt our process to meet that.” The other one said, “We just want to digitize our business.” And by the way, this is where I think it’s really important to think about the difference between digitize your business and digitally transform your business.
Digitize just means you take your process and you put it on a computer, or you put it on an internet instead of on your own computer. So the two companies doing the same basic thing. In this case, they’re placing substitute teachers. So the head teacher, the dean, whatever, makes a call in the morning or sends an email or, if they’re using all the technology, puts a request in our customer portal. “I need a third grade math teacher.” “I need a sixth grade English teacher.” Whatever it is. And one says, “Okay, our regular process is to send a phone call. So now we’ve digitized our business. We will send emails to everybody.” The other one said, “Hey, we need a shift distribution tool because that’s much more efficient. That’s much faster.”
You can guess which one has gained in market share and which one has stayed flat. You can guess which one has grown in gross profit 24,000 pounds, of 35, $36,000 a year per recruiter, and which one is basically just on the same road and track. In this case, it’s not rocket science. Maybe it’s computer science. It’s so dramatic the difference because the challenge is, in a business like that, it’s spurts of speed. Because you need to find a replacement quickly. You need to find a substitute quickly. In general, you’re mostly just dealing with relationship with customers and with workers, but then every morning you’ve got this rush, and what’s the best way to do that? To automate, to digitize and to self-service. One thing we haven’t talked about yet is the role of self-service for clients and for workers. And if you’re willing to adopt that, you can fill a placement instead of 45 minutes, which was the median before, but now down to under 10 minutes and the fastest time of four seconds. Four seconds. We joked with them that that had to be like the equivalent of a butt dial.
Folwell: I want to know how the four second one happened. How’s that even possible?
Pines: And they use it in their marketing. So they talk about the ability to place you as a worker, when they market to teachers in under 10 seconds. And if you think about that as a value proposition to a teacher who’s looking for extra gigs, extra few hours a week to say, “Wow, I can sit on my couch, drinking my morning coffee. I get a shift. I accept it.” I mean, that’s the kind of Xanadu vision that like Uber had to drivers in 2012, whenever it was when things really picked up, that like, “Wow, that’s how I want to work.” We talk a lot about how the pandemic made working from home, working whenever you want to work become much more popular, but the vast, vast majority of the half million or so workers on Sirenum platform, they still have to go somewhere to do their work. We talked about during the pandemic, we’re powering the essential workforce.
And that essential workforce still has to be somewhere. They can’t sit behind a laptop at home. They never sit behind a laptop for work purposes. Whether it’s doctors and nurses or teachers or cleaners or picker packers and logistics facilities. And this gives them a taste of that, “Oh, I can work when and where I want to work. I can choose not to take a shift.” We were talking about it before, about the impact of unlimited PTO and holiday and kind of, “Oh, I can work here. I can take that time.” Typically a nurse doesn’t have that flexibility. They get a schedule of shifts for three months, 13 weeks, six months, whatever it is, and they have to beg to beg off it.
But giving the power to them, that self service power is huge, and if you think back to my point about how do you engage and retain the workforce? What’s the biggest thing in white collar, although we’re both wearing black collar today, what’s the biggest thing in white collar is engage your workforce. Let them know you care about them. Let them choose where and when they work. Well, why can’t we bring that… It’s going to be analogous, not going to be the same, but analogous benefit and impact to the shift workers, to what we call the dynamic workforce.
Folwell: And I think just to add to that as the candidate experience is becoming… It is paramount and also the expectations are shifting drastically. The pandemic accelerated that flexibility and I’ve seen repeatedly is people want more time. They want flexibility. They don’t want to go back to the job as they knew it before. It’s a lot of those things going on. There was a SIA article maybe about a month ago that was like 70% of people plan to leave their job in the next year. Something wild like that.
Pines: I think they’re calling it the great resignation or something. There was some really crazy stat. There was another one that came out recently, it was in the something 40 some percent of people who said, “I’m considering in the next 12 months leaving my job,” because they’re being asked to go back to the office or work regular hours again. And they’re like, “I don’t want to do that.”
Folwell: Also, if you’re listening to this, think about that. That is your team. Your employees are part of that 70% and you might want to talk to them about what they need, because I think the thing that, what I kind of feel… I mean, it’s anecdotal, but I feel there’s a… everybody has been pushed, workloads have increased, and now we’re coming out of it, and instead of coming back with like, “Wow, we did it. Let’s all like take a moment and breathe and here’s some rewards,” I think a lot of people are just continuing that pressure. And I feel like you almost have to give back and say, “All right, like we made it through that period. What do we want to look like going forward together?” But I think that’s definitely maybe a moment to talk with your team and take that stat to heart.
Pines: You bring up something interesting embedded in that comment, David, and that is that a lot of this stuff that I’m talking about applies to the recruiters in your agencies as well. They want to be working from home when it’s easy to work from home, they want to be able to work with cool technology and feel like that they’re… I saw it the first week of the pandemic. My wife happens to work as a recruiter as well. She works as a permanent placement recruiter in the legal industry. So she’s placing law partners here in the UK. And that first week they didn’t have any real technology. Nothing in the cloud. So nothing worked. Everybody had to get Citrix or some kind of VPN access. The first three, four weeks she got nothing done because they didn’t have the technology or the process to support them. And thankfully it’s gotten better.
And it was funny because we as a business and I mentioned to you in our last chat, I’ve been in the technology business for the most part for 20 plus years, I’ve been working from home and using video conferencing for most of that time. We had no real change from March 18th, March 19th or whatever that day was that everybody stopped going to the office. And that’s not to toot our own horn, but really to talk about the challenge of technology adoption, getting back to the change management point, for an industry like staffing that for so long was very much of the mentality of you had to be in the office, you owned your contacts in the database. There’s got to be a change in that mentality. Part of it is because we’re a Salesforce-platform oriented business, and it’s very much about openness and integration and sharing, but we’ve seen it with loads and loads and loads of businesses realizing it just doesn’t make sense to let people hoard their contacts, for example, or only look at their pool of workers.
They belong to the business, right? And cloud technology is a big part of that, and more flexible and open orientation is a big part of that. So all these things have bubbled up in the last year. Things that we’ve been shouting from the rooftops, perhaps not loud enough. I let the head of marketing know about that for years now, but it’s definitely… Like I said, it’s having its close-up, or its ready for its close-up. It’s time.
Folwell: It is time. It is time. For sure. And with that, we’re going to shift gears a little bit as well. You had mentioned… We were talking about VMSes as earlier, and I know every time I talk with an executive in the staffing industry, they’re always… can be quite the sore topic. We did a survey about it a few a year ago, and I don’t think people always love their VMS platform. That said, they do help with efficiency, and there’s a lot of benefits that people see by using VMSes and anticipating with them. But where do you think… What shift do you see happening where the vendor management system market is going?
Pines: It’s a great question, because I think, to your point, you mentioned the survey before. There’s a bit of a necessary evil mentality around the traditional VMS market and solution for a lot of players out there, whether you’re an MSP or just an agency trying to diversify, or you’re on the other side of the equation with the VMS. It’s like, “Well, this is what we have.” Some are pretty good. I think we’ve seen in the last two to three years of people saying there has to be something else and you’ve seen some new ones pop up. It starts with just being cloud centric. It starts with a little bit better user experience. I talked about it already, that workers want to work with latest technology. So you go and look at some of these and they look like a DOS prompt.
And look, there’s still value in this behind the scenes stuff that the process is helped by VMS, in terms of processing time sheets when you don’t really own the process. That’s a big value. You can see why in certain industries like IT, where you’re placing 50 DBAs at a single client, or nursing, where you’re placing these huge requests for across an entire hospital system. It certainly saves a lot of process there. And then you’ve got other players in the industry like job robotics that play that role of layering in to connect it to the ATS. But what we feel is that there’s still a big gap in the market. User experience is improving. Access is improving. User interface is improving. But I mentioned nursing and what we’re hearing from the market and why we’re excited to launch our newest product Sirenum Source is there’s still nothing addressing the shift-based worker.
So when you think of VMS, you think about things like tiering. How do I get it to my next potential provider and next potential vendor? You also think about, “How do I get the requests in?” But if those requests are just the job level, I need a nurse rather than I need a nurse for these 70 shifts, because at the end of the day, they still work shifts. You’re still doing a ton of manual work. And you add that into the equation with this idea that the MSP market is entering this new zone of growth and enthusiasm, and we’re certainly hearing it here in the UK, I think it’s the same in the US. We’re excited to try to learn more about that market, but also address it.
I think like you talk to the people at the SIA, you talk to people at TechLabs, VMS is such a big part of the market, but it’s been pretty much stagnant for 15 years with a little blips of stuff happening. I think there’s going to be a lot of disruption in the market. The shift stuff is just one area. And we’re starting to see it with a couple of players entering the space. And this is not to besmirch the Fieldglasses of the world, but they’ve been basically the same product for 15 years. And customers, I think, want more. On both sides of the equation. The interesting thing about VMS is it’s kind of by definition a platform, because it’s about connecting these two parts or multiple parts of an equation, one to many, many to many, et cetera. And I think we’re hearing from our customers a demand for something better, something more.
Folwell: And with that, you mentioned the shift-based component of it. How does that… I mean, what specific things are changing or do you want it to give a little preview to what’s coming up for Sirenum in terms of new product release?
Pines: I think the use case is pretty clear, David. It’s one of these… It’s almost like, “Wow, how come nobody ever thought of that before? But use a VMS as a hospital to say I need 50 nurses. And nursing is just one example, but I think it’s the best. Actually logistics is a great example, too, because when you’re staffing a 3LP facility or 3PL facility or you’re staffing… Amazon is staffing, they know they’re going to need 200 people for the next six months or for the next… let’s say it’s Christmas time. For the six weeks before Christmas, you know… and two weeks after. So an eight-week period. You know you’re going to need an extra 500 people in your logistics facility that you’re covering.
But at the end of the day those people still work shifts, and if someone doesn’t show up, or if someone has a reason that they can’t come, you need to find a replacement for that worker. But you need to do it in the context of that whole value and supply chain, so that the right vendor is notified, so that the other potential vendors are reached out to. You tier and you say, “Our first-tier providers can replace these shifts and our second-tier providers….” Then you pay a premium for second-tier providers. Agency-to-agency work happens at a shift level and it all happens on paper today. So it’s very interesting. It’s like driving the fastest, most wonderful Ferrari, but driving it in the mud. You’re held back by the slowest part of the process. And if you look at the MSP relationship, the biggest hurdle is the whole time sheet, who actually worked when. That happens at the shift level. That doesn’t happen at the job-order level.
Folwell: That’s pretty amazing, and it does seem like, “Why doesn’t this exist? How has this been missed?” That’s exciting that you guys are coming out with that. So to wrap things up, we’re going to jump into the personal set of questions. If you’ve listened before, you’ve probably heard a few of them. So first question, in the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Pines: Wow. I probably should’ve thought about this before. I remember hearing this and one of the other ones. “Oh, that’s a good question.” I didn’t think about my answer well enough. So I try to really adopt… It’s probably a little bit more than five years, probably maybe seven, eight, but I try to avoid the word “regret.” I try not to think that there was something I did wrong, but rather something I learned from. And I think that’s an important reframing, sometimes out of your control and that I can say it’s a regret. But if it’s something that I chose to do, see, say, and I realized it wasn’t optimal, what I want to focus on is the learning, rather than the, “I regret I did this,” but rather, “I learned that I did that.”
Folwell: That’s fantastic. I second that one as well. What is the book or books you’ve given most as a gift and why?
Pines: I don’t know if I’ve given this more over history, but certainly in the last few years, the one I’ve been giving a lot and actually we give to all of our people managers here at Sirenum is a book by Adam Grant called Give and Take. And basically he did an analysis of all different kinds of organizations, nonprofits, corporations, et cetera, and divided up members of those organizations into givers and takers, and then I can’t remember the term for the people who are neutral. And givers are basically people who will always answer your phone call, who will always respond to your email with a question, who will happily introduce you to their network. Takers are people who will only ask for things. And basically he demonstrated that organizations that encourage and train for being a giver are more successful in the bottom line and more successful in terms of employee satisfaction and happiness and customer satisfaction and happiness. It was one of these books where I was reading, I was like, “Hey, I’m one of those guys.”
And I have to say, I gave a speech at our synagogue a few months ago honoring a member of the community, very dear friends of ours. And I said, “You guys remind me of givers because it’s just so important, from Give and Take.” And they stood up in the middle of the speech, and said, “That’s our favorite book.” It was very touching. The subtitle is A Revolutionary Approach to Success. And for me, it was very revolutionary to put on paper something that I probably hypothesized about, but hadn’t articulated well. And we really do encourage it in our management team. I think it’s a struggle for any scale up. You get big enough, you’ve got to start taking down your team below you, you’ve got mid-layers, finally. What do you do with that? It’s not free time, but what do you do with that ability to look up and down for the first time. And being a giver was something that I really took from that book that really is a big part of my happiness in the workplace and our success.
Folwell: I love that. And it also is funny, as you said, it’s one of those things you’d already probably hypothesized about. I feel like that’s always the best ideas are the simplest idea that you read it and like, “Oh, of course I knew that.” That’s great. How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Pines: Oh, how hasn’t it? Failure is the most important thing to long-term success. But we talk a lot… It’s not just the failure. This is back to my point about regret. We talk a lot here at Sirenum, startups, the big thing, and the lean mentality is fail fast. And we love lean. We love lean, but it’s not fail fast, it’s learn fast. Because it only matters if you learn from that failure. Now Benjamin is a trained biologist, and I think that very scientific, almost lab-oriented mentality where it’s like, “I got to test 70 things before I figure out the thing that’s actually true. And then even still, I’m not a hundred percent confident it’s true, so I got to keep testing it.
I feel the same way about my career, about how Sirenum has grown, that it’s so much about these little failures and these little learnings. It’s cliche to say, but it’s the difference between waterfall and agile, which I think is also an important transition that most staffing agencies have to do. Not just in their IT department, but in the way they run their business. It’s okay to try and not quite hit the mark and learn from it and move on. So for me, that’s just a huge part of my personal and professional ethos. It’s very hard to inculcate it into teenage daughters, but I try.
Folwell: That’s great. And with that, that wraps up the questions. Are there any final comments that you’d like to share with the audience?
Pines: No, I really appreciated the opportunity to chat, David, and I think you probably could hear it in my voice. There’s so much that we could do, so much more we could chat about. There’s so much interesting stuff happening in our market. And not even just the technology. Sometimes it’s impacted by technology, but not just the technology. And there’s so much potential. And at the end of the day, our clients give people work, and that’s a fundamental component of happiness in life, of getting where you want to be in life. And I think it’s important not to lose sight of that, in all the things that we do. Maybe the pandemic, maybe the lockdown will help remind people of the importance of the employment sector and of HR technology and supporting that, because so much has changed, and like you said, as we readjust to normal life, what does that look like? What can we take away from that? So, for me, it’s such an exciting time to be in this market and love talking about it. So thanks again for the opportunity.
Folwell: Absolutely. I really enjoyed the conversation. I enjoyed having you on. Josh Pines with Sirenum. Thanks so much and have a good one.