The Staffing Show - Kim Henderson

This week, Kim Henderson, managing director of Cobalt Compass Solutions, joins the podcast to talk about how she got started in the staffing industry and the lessons she’s learned during her career. She explains why companies shouldn’t wait for a potential economic downturn before assessing client loyalty and how proactively addressing weaknesses within your organization can provide useful information. Henderson also explores how creating a culture of gratitude and trust can help leave a lasting impression on your professional connections.


David Folwell: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. I am super excited today to be joined by Kim Henderson who is the managing director of Cobalt Compass Solutions. Kim, thanks for joining today. To kick things off, could you give us a little introduction to who you are and how you got into staffing?

Kim Henderson: Thank you for inviting me and great to be here. Very, very excited to talk with you today. How I got into staffing? So got into staffing in 1993, believe it or not, a little bit of a different time in staffing. I was at that time a financial analyst for the Transamerica Corporation and lo and behold got a recruiting call from a company named Kforce. Didn’t really know or understand staffing or what it was all about but actually went in for a series of interviews, many interviews and learned more about the industry and in all candor, the upside of monetary rewards and the ability to be able to help out companies and help out candidates and thought, “Well this is interesting. Let me give this a try.” And here we are 29 years later. So that was how I originally got into staffing.

Folwell: Awesome. That’s great. And I think you and I talked briefly about it, but you have quite the background in staffing. You’ve worked at a few of the major players. Could you just share a little bit about what your career path has been in staffing and some of the companies you’ve worked with throughout your career?

Henderson: Absolutely. I mentioned, started my career in staffing working for Kforce and ultimately when I left Kforce I was on their executive team, responsible for national sales and the strategic accounts strategy across multiple product lines in the firm. But in my tenure there, did everything from working at the desk level all the way through branch management, some strategic accounts, some operations type of work as well. So really got to experience many different departments and teams there.

And then ultimately went to Hays, if you’re familiar with Hays, that’s an international staffing company and was on the team of their U.S. operations. But there, really did, again, started over from the very beginning, built a government solutions practice, built a strategic accounts team and also worked on and helped build a global accounts division for North and South America. And ultimately at Hays, we were an acquisition in the U.S. so worked with a group of folks at the former Veritas corporation, we teamed up, built it to a sizable staffing company, they were acquired by Hays and then continued on with Hays. And then ultimately decided about three years ago, wanted to engage with the staffing companies from the standpoint of training and consulting to them to start Cobalt Compass Solution. So I can work with staffing companies and help them operationally as well as help them with sales and sales-leadership type training.

Folwell: Well that, that’s awesome. And it sounds like you have a really deep experience with kind of everything when it comes to staffing. And you’ve worn a lot of hats. Tell me a little bit about what is Cobalt Compass Solutions and how do you serve staffing agencies?

Henderson: Great question. When it comes to staffing agencies that may be small or mid-size, many of them don’t have training departments or don’t necessarily have the resources to put together training programs, implement those through their staff at entry level, mid-level and senior level. So that’s where I can provide benefit to them by putting together training programs for not only their new hires, but also through the full life cycle of folks as they hit mid-career and a senior level in their career in sales and sales leadership.

In addition to that, you have companies with a lot of growth and staffing and sometimes struggle to start new business units and new divisions. I’ve also helped with that, say if a company wants to stand up a strategic accounts division or stand up a government division, there’s a lot that goes in and around that to go create a new unit. So that’s where I would step in and help them with that.

And then finally as companies, they have maybe some issues and challenges when they’re 30 million. And then the issues and challenges they have when they’re 120 million are completely different. So helping them to optimize business units that they have, looking at their back office, looking at some of the issues that they’re having and determine, “Okay, what worked for us at this point may not work today? How do we optimize, how do we improve? What do we need to change to get to that next revenue mark?”

Folwell: That’s incredible. And it sounds like your background fits the consulting role quite well and I’m sure that you have a lot of insights that would help staffing agencies kind of skip some steps and maybe or skip some missteps maybe I should say. So kind of jump the line. 

Henderson: Exactly. I try to look at it from a project management standpoint and have a PMP, so that does help to methodically look at their business and look at their business units and be able to roll out a new initiative or new plan, really thinking through it and trying to do it quickly so they can get back to business. So it’s fun and being able to work with them and help them evolve their business, it’s actually enjoyable. And you find, David, that all staffing companies seem to have their challenges, whether they’re $10 million in revenue or $500 million, they all have challenges, they all have issues. And some of them are very similar.

Folwell: I imagine that they’re quite similar across and I think with all businesses and startups is everybody thinks that they’re completely unique. And then when you zoom out and start seeing it from a different perspective, it’s we’re all dealing with the same challenges at the same revenue marks, the same employee counts. I think there’s a lot of thresholds that go into that. So we’re going to jump in a little bit to something I think you’re a little bit passionate about. So let’s talk a little bit about client retention and kind of your approach to client retention and what your thoughts are on that.

Henderson: Great. Yeah, it is one of my favorite topics. I think right now, over the past couple years, many companies, especially in staffing, haven’t been focused on client retention. They’ve been more looking at how to retain their internal employees and candidate attraction to fulfill their client needs. Most companies have just really haven’t placed an emphasis on it over the past few years cause they felt like demand’s been so strong from the client companies that there’s going to be an endless need. And we all know that that’s not true. Economic downturns and the slow downs, they’re inevitable and they always happen.

The economy’s staying pretty resilient right now as we’ve seen, but we’re actually getting mixed signals. Hiring was a little bit, according to earlier statistics a little bit lower in August than what they had forecasted. So with mixed signals and lights flashing a little bit yellow, it’s a good time to go in and evaluate our processes and determine, “What do we need to do to engage our customers and not only retain them, but make them loyal?” Client loyalty is everything, and what are some of the things that we need to do to start to engage and some of the steps we can put in place today to make them?

It’s a good time to go in and evaluate our processes and determine, “What do we need to do to engage our customers and not only retain them, but make them loyal?”

Folwell: Yeah. And when it comes to that with client loyalty, what do you recommend? I mean, what are some things that, I mean it is possible we’re going into a downturn that maybe may not hit the staffing industry depending on what jobless claims look like. And right now it seems a little bit recession-proof. Who knows if that’s true? That said, at some point the supply and demand for candidates will shift back. It’s done it repeatedly and we’ll come back to that at some point. But when it comes to client loyalty, what are some things that agencies could be implementing or thinking about right now?

Henderson: Sure. And David, your point is great, even if we don’t go into a downturn, there’s some things that we should be doing all the time to keep our customers, retain customers, and not just become order takers, which many people become in staffing unfortunately. So recession or not, there’s some things that we should do. So I think the first one that’s probably one of the most important is, what are your turnover metrics as a staffing company? I mean it’s hard to correct a problem if you don’t even know that you have. So staffing companies really should be attempting to track and analyze a number of customers that leave and that don’t buy their services any longer. Right? And once you have that data, you can understand it and understand your churn rate and then hopefully spot some of the weaknesses and trends in your organization that you need to correct.

And then conversely, it fits hand-in-hand with that. Oftentimes in staffing, we dismiss customers and we say, “Gosh, working with customer X is not a good fit for us. They don’t match our rates, they don’t match our capabilities, they’re not good fit for our process.” And so we somewhat politely dismiss them. And I would encourage staffing companies to go back and look and go back and engage in conversations with them again because a client that may not have been a match for us three, four years ago, may very well be a good match today and we could resurrect that relationship, right? Business dynamics change, companies, people change, skills and rates change. So always understanding customers that leave us and why. And then customers that we have unfortunately not been a good match for and attempting to resurrect them if it’s a good fit, not forget about them.

Folwell: And what KPI, do you have any specific KPIs or metrics that you’ve measured throughout your career or that you recommend that the agencies that are listening to this put in place?

Henderson: I think it goes, ties hand in hand, with collecting customer feedback, have a process in place to go and obtain client feedback. And there’s a lot of tools out there today. I think there’s Net Promoter Score, there’s Google Forms, whatever it is. Be collecting that feedback so you can analyze it and get the feedback loop going. Be able to distribute that to different teams within your company and again, spot the problems or spot actually opportunities that we may be missing. Customers could be not dissatisfied with your service, but it could be clamoring for something that you’re not offering and you didn’t even know about it because you’re not actually doing a survey and asking for their feedback.

So continually getting that feedback and then sharing it and then putting in an action plan to correct the issues and correct the problems. And that’s where a lot of companies, staffing companies do fall short. Hey, we know we have a problem and they don’t typically act on it to try to bill and correct it, but that’s a key part of it. Otherwise the data is not helpful.

Folwell: What’s interesting is you see the candidate experience surveys with ClearlyRated, Great Recruiters. There’s all these tools out there to get the candidate experience to make sure that you’re getting that feedback. Cause the candidate right now owns all the power or has all the power. But I think when it comes to the software industry or other industries, you’re always, any time a client or customer churns, you’re getting feedback, learning why, trying to understand it, trying to make it better. I’ve worked with quite a few different staffing firms over the years to help hire engineers and I have yet to have a survey asking how my experience is or what could be done better. So I think it’s just great. It’s very insightful to think about that and to think about doing that on the client side so that you’re making sure that you retain them and build loyalty over time. One kind of taking it the next step there. When it comes to client communication, what best practices could you share with our audience about communicating effectively with a client?

Henderson: I think today, and we’re probably all guilty as charged, but especially in the staffing industry, people have become heavily reliant on texting, email, LinkedIn. And it isn’t a way to facilitate business and we all have to use it, but what’s often become overlooked is the value of that communication with clients and one-on-one. You have videos, great. Telephone is great, but there’s nothing that can replace reaching out and having a face-to-face conversation with the customer. And I think it’s kind of going, unfortunately, by the wayside. We’re not advocating putting folks on an airplane every day of the week to go visit customers, but as much as it makes sense in a local market or with key customers, we definitely need to be engaging with them face-to-face, talking to them, then building that relationship whether it’s after hours, events, lunches, you know, you get them to open up and really build that trust factor and that rapport so much better than we do over the phone.

And I’ve actually had customers tell me, “Gosh, I wouldn’t even take cold email from somebody because it lines up in my email bin with all the other emails when I hit delete. But if someone’s emailing me and sending me notices on LinkedIn and calling me and leaving messages and attempting to kind of put a face with the name that I’m much more apt to go call that individual back and engage with them.” So we can’t lose that face-to-face component because that’s really truly, I think how great staffing companies have been built and the folks that have been the most successful in this industry, how they get successful. It’s that one-on-one interaction. And I will say it truly helped me.

Unfortunately, I was never fortunate enough to sit at my desk and have the phone ring and people come in, throw job requisitions at me. It just never happened that way. I actively had to be in front of them and the amount of information I could get from them while I was face-to-face was so much greater than via email or a phone. And it also helps you take the process and move it forward much more quickly as far as being able to get people placed. So can’t speak enough about that and how it has become a lost art.

Folwell: I also couldn’t agree more. I, it’s nice having conferences back. I mean we’re over a year of doing conferences again, but getting face-to-face time has been, it’s just such a wonderful, wonderful thing, especially in this industry.

Henderson: And David, I’d like to, yeah, I apologize. I’d like to add one thing to that. And when we reach out to our customers, I often go through this in training. Many folks ask me, “Well gosh, what do I say if it’s now my second, third, or fourth interaction?” That’s true. We can’t just call and provide no value. We need to be, when we reach out to them or meet them, have value. And that can be in the form of are you understanding their industry? Are you sending them press releases? Are you sending them articles? Are you following up on legislation or regulation within their industry?

So when you call them, you actually have or meet with them something meaningful, content to discuss with them that they’re going to find value in, right? Because there’s no value in saying, “Hey Bob, how are you doing today?” It’s more, “Hey Bob, have you read that latest legislation that’s going on related to government FAR that’s going to impact you as you’re engineering and manufacturing, working with the DOD?” So that’s one thing I really wanted to point out. And emphasize.

Folwell: Yeah, I feel like the sales side as a whole, too many salespeople still go for the ask, ask, ask. And I think the approach is to give, give, give and then ask and try to provide insight, providing information, and then ask for whatever it is that you might want. With that, one of the areas that you and I also talked about briefly was specialization. And I thought, I know you had some thoughts on the importance of specialization for staffing agencies. Could you share a little bit about that?

Henderson: Thank you. I think the days of being a staffing generalist are gone. They’re dead. If you’re nothing but a staffing generalist, what it does is opens you up to commoditization, right? Why do they need you when they have 15 other generalized staffing firms out there? When I found that customers derive value out of that makes you indispensable is when you become a student of their industry and an expert in their industry, really understanding again the challenges that they have, right? Again, regulation, legislation, specific nuances that their industry has. And as an example of that, like healthcare, they have quite a bit of regulation, things like revenue cycle management staffing is very, very specific and there’s a lot of features to it that you need to understand.

I mentioned federal defense contracting. It’s very, very powerful if you can go and explain to a defense contractor, “You want to work with us as a staffing company because we can hold clearances, right? We can help you. We have a process in place to handle the government FAR that you know has to be upheld.” And then giving specific examples of how you’ve done that in the past for other customers. So again, being able to show them and articulate and provide examples that we’ve been in your industry, we’ve serviced your industry and we know the specific challenges that you have every day. And when I think once you’re able to do that successfully, not only, not only are you going to become a valuable provider, you’re going to become that trusted advisor, but they’re going to turn to you and you’re going to have longevity with that client.

Folwell: It’s interesting that you bring that up. Every year in the State of Staffing Report that we do, every single year, one of the top recommendations is to specialize, find your niche, focus on your niche, become the expert in the niche that always ties and correlates to the fastest-growing staffing firms usually are focused on a specific niche. And then one area that I would just broaden even outside of just being the expert to the client, is thinking about segmenting and specializing on the candidate side as well. And the example that I think about this is with healthcare travel, a lot of health, they’re like, “Oh we do travel nursing.” Hut within travel nursing there are segments of candidates, there’s candidates that want on-demand, low-touch, ease of finding an assignment. There’s candidates that want the highest pay. And then there’s a segment that wants the most travel locations.

And each of those segments has different needs. And I think it’s something that as the staffing industry matures and kind of becomes the consumerization of staffing, I think that that’s going to be something that we see more of. And we’re already starting to see a lot of the on-demand products that are coming out there, but I think that’s something that’s interesting and if you’re new to the staffing industry, something to think about as well with when it comes to your overall strategy.

With that, I wanted to go a little bit deeper on this. Do you have any recommendations on the client side? I know you talked about giving and becoming an expert in that specific field, but in terms of picking the niche that you go into or identifying what niche you should focus on and how you go with that route, is there any advice that you would have on that front?

Henderson: I like your story. Actually, it was impeccably timed that I was talking to a healthcare staffing company today and they do revenue cycle management. And one of the things they led in with as a specialist is we know that travel nursing can be tricky, how to handle the per diem and handle the travel, handle the billing. And they’ve actually figured it out. They have a system for it, they have a software for it, and they do it better than others. And they were saying, “Yeah, well it sounds like a very simple thing.” It’s something that can really turn the client off if you can’t go and build that properly and you can’t manage it properly. And they said that, “Hey, we found this niche within a niche, which is just something that our competition’s doing a very poor job of.”

But to get more in depth, to answer your question, I think it’s where does your, understanding where your capabilities in your strong suit lies. I think a lot of staffing companies will sign up for things that they know they can’t do, they know they’re not good at, they think, “Gosh, we’ll figure it out as we go along.” Cause they don’t want to say no to the business. But ultimately they flounder and oftentimes fail and disappoint the customer. So I think that, David, it resides around understanding the talent that you have, you know what they’re good at, what they’re able to do, and then focus in on that vein of gold, of capability, and develop that out.

So if you’re great at developing and finding a full stack of developers and IT architects, then lead into that with your customers. If that’s a niche that you have and a pipeline that you have that you’ve built that you’re good at, that’s a great way. And so I think it stems from your capabilities, right? And what you’re good at, understanding it, and really being honest and what you’re not good at, moving on. Don’t take that business, don’t sign up for it, don’t promise it and don’t attempt it until you’re ready.

Folwell: That is very sound advice and it actually follows along with, for my marketing background. So I’ve implemented NPS when I had the marketing agency, we’ve done the NPS for, I don’t know, probably 50 different companies over the years and looked at who’s a good fit and who’s not. The one thing that most people, from my perspective, get wrong about Net Promoter Scores is they all look at who’s a detractor and how do we fix the detractors?

And a few of the things I’ve read, I’m not even sure what book it came from, but it’s that focus on, you want to fix the problems as much as you can, but figure out who are the tens, why are they tens? And then how do you identify more customers or candidates that are tens. So it’s basically exactly what you said, but you can even use the Net Promoter Score’s way to kind of identify that strong suit of like, “Hey, these are the people that think we’re doing great, let’s figure out why they think we’re great, and go after more customers like them and kind of define that ideal customer profile.” But really, really great advice there.

Henderson: And David, I didn’t mention this before, but you made a great segue into it. When it comes to the whole feedback loop, when we talk about Net Promoter Score, oftentimes today our customers are giving us their own scorecard if they happen to be a larger buyer of staffing services. And that is incredibly valuable information to be able to go and look at your metrics, look at your KPIs, look at the data, how you perform quarter over quarter, and really take an honest look at, “Hey, here’s where we’re doing well and here’s where we need to improve.” And having an honest conversation with the customer about that. And to your point, understanding in the client’s eyes, who are their top three, top four suppliers, why are they the top three or top four? And how do you become a staffing company that is top one, top two, top three in terms of how the client defines it. So again, if a customer goes and gives you their own scorecard, that’s like platinum, it’s like gold. And it really opens up a dialogue on a monthly or quarterly basis to figure out what it is that we need to improve upon. In some cases they need to improve their processes and that’s where we get to be honest and say, “Hey, help us help you. Here’s some things that you know could do as well that would help us do our job better.” So it’s a two-way dialogue of information on scorecards that can really help them and help us.

Folwell: Absolutely, absolutely. That is great insight. With that and kind of digging deeper into the client side of things, what tactics or tips would you suggest if, for people looking to expand with their existing clients, which is probably one of the biggest opportunities for any staffing agency right now is, the clients that you have that love you, how do you get more job orders? How do you go further with them? What suggestions do you have on that front?

Henderson: This is probably one of my favorite areas to dig into, client expansion and becoming relevant to your client. I think we all, as staffers, get caught up in this, we compare ourselves to ourselves and think we’re doing a great job. We’ll have 15 contractors onsite at a customer. We think we’re A+ and then we start to ask the questions and we find out that our competition has 110 there and we’re going, “Gosh, how did we miss that?” And I think we all have to fill job orders every day, of course, to keep our seat and for revenue, but oftentimes we don’t do the best job of, and we could improve upon really asking those questions. We want to service them and become relevant and significant to the client in all the areas where we’re able to. We want to penetrate every department, every business unit, every area, every subsidiary that can potentially buy our services.

We want to understand who else is a potential buyer, meet those individuals, and perform that client account penetration and start to go and gain client share. Banks call it a share wallet. They want your mortgage, they want a car payment, they want a credit card, it’s client share and we want to be able to sell IT, finance and accounting, engineering, whatever it is, we’re able to, to the customer. But if we’re not asking those questions and we’re just digging into application development and IT, we could be missing 500 other IT areas, 500 other IT people that could be buyers of our services across the country if we’re not asking the questions.

So ultimately when we do that, if we have multiple people on assignment, we become again significant and relevant and ultimately indispensable. It’s a lot harder to get rid of your staffing company and remove you from a vendor list if you’ve got a hundred people billing, then if you have 10 people billing. Ten people, you’re not significant. They need to justify their vendors list, their supplier list. You’re probably not going to make the cut. If you have multiple people there and you’ve really penetrated developed relationships and multiple departments and have the headcount or have multiple permanent placements, you’re going to withstand the test of time and become again that trusted business partner.

Folwell: I’ve never really thought about the share wallet concept, I really like that. Is that something that from a client sales perspective that has been being measured where you say, “All right, well how many jobs, what percentage of job orders are we getting from this customer or what percentage of their staffing placements do we do?” I’ve never heard anybody talk about that from that perspective. Is that something that’s being measured?

Henderson: Absolutely. In my background, working strategic accounts, which tend to be those large nationals that are spending 50, 60, a hundred million a year on staffing services, it was really something that not only the base work part of, but that I was very, very, got a lot of, I guess, had a spotlight on it in terms of my team’s actions and my own actions. So what departments do we currently work with? What are the departments that we know about? Who have we met with, who have we spoken with? Who do we not know? You’re really mapping out that organization, taking an org chart approach to it. And oftentimes, I’ll say 80% of the time, we would just find certain areas where we would just dig in and thought we were doing a great job and found out that gosh, we should be working with the PMO, we should be working with network and infrastructure, database administration. And we were just with one little area and one little team and really having a lot of missed opportunities.

But I think in order for staffing companies to be successful at that, they have to inspect it, they have to teach their folks, teach their sales staff, how do you go about penetrating accounts? How do you org chart the account and sit down and review that on a monthly basis and hold them accountable to meeting others within the organization and mapping out what their teams look like. So it’s really a skill that has to be taught first and then you have to work with your team and actually follow up and inspect what they’re doing in order to make….

Folwell: It sounds like there’s a training component and a process building and also maybe a framework for, “Here are the questions you ask, here’s how you can potentially expand it, here’s how you map it out and identify the opportunities.”

Henderson: It’s called basically an account profile, an account management plan and an account profile. And an account management plan, typically, at least in our environment, we would update it every three months and it would have your goals and your objectives and then your tactical action items that you would have for that quarter. And some of those tactical items might be, “Okay, I need to meet these six particular people that run these six particular divisions that we’re currently not working with. So it’s again, understanding the big picture, like working on the business and working in the business at the same time. And once you map it out and have an account plan, it kind of tells you, “Here’s what I need to be doing in the next three months to penetrate this account and here’s who I need to meet with.”

Folwell: That’s great, great advice. So shifting gears a little bit, another thing you and I had talked about just briefly previously was about the importance of gratitude. And a lot of guests that come on this show talk about it, I believe in it strongly, but could you share a little bit about your perspective on the importance of gratitude?

Henderson: I think gratitude and a couple things that go hand-in-hand, gratitude and trust. I’ll talk about trust first because it leads into it. Just because someone’s buying our services doesn’t necessarily mean that they trust us. How many times have we had a contractor or a plumber come into our home and we buy their services, but we’re not necessarily sure that we really trust them, that they’re on the up and up. So I think that part of it starts with being dependable, being reliable, doing what you say you’re going to do, and follow up and follow through. And then conversely, don’t sign up for things that you can’t do because typically we’re going to fail and we have a very, very poor mark on the customer in terms of how they feel about us.

And then I think also related to trust, if you do perform poorly, you do mess up, you do have something that goes sideways, it’s owning it, admitting it, and then correcting it and putting actions in place so it doesn’t happen again. And following up with your customer to determine are they happy with what you’ve done? Are they happy with the remedy to the corrective action? And I think that trust really kind of feeds into gratitude, right? It’s a lost art and a lot of people tend not to have it in business.

And I think sometimes in our personal lives you maybe see people potentially not having it there as well. But it really needs to be, I think gratitude, it needs to be sincere and it needs to be genuine. And staffing, you really have to care about the success of your candidate, the success of your client, and have this long-term mentality that they may not buy our services today or we may not be able to place this candidate today, but we’re going to do the right things by them that we may not necessarily get paid for today because we know that in the future it’s going to pay dividends for us and it will come back to us from the candidate standpoint or the client’s standpoint. And ultimately it’s the right thing to do.

And a partnership is a shared risk, shared reward. And it’s not always going to be easy with our customers, but if we take that long-term mentality that we want their success above all else, it’s going to come back to us and pay dividends over the years. And it just takes that patience and showing them that gratitude that we’re in it with them for the long haul and we care about providing services to them that are above and beyond staff.

Folwell: That’s again, great advice. With that, we’re going to jump into the last section of the interview. So we’re going to go into the personal questions. So what advice do you wish you were given before entering the staffing industry?

Henderson: Oh my goodness. I would say adding — number one — adding value beyond just placing candidates. I think those are mentors in staffing taught us the mechanics of the business which we have to follow. Maybe myself and others fell into this mentality of, “Okay, I’m just going to go, I’m here to fill this job, get this person on assignment. It makes sure the customers stay on assignment or they stay in this perm job,” and following those mechanics. But what I wish I would’ve known is to truly move up that value chain, you do have to go and educate and provide value-added services to the customer. And other staffing firms are offering it, but many aren’t. So I think it’s asking to actually have conversations with the client saying, “What’s important to you? What do you value? What do you need outside of me giving you a candidate?”

And that’ll be a different answer from client to client because everybody has different expectations and they’re in a different industry and have different challenges. But I think that it could be anything from providing them skills data, geographical data, market data, connecting them with peers in the same industry that they need to maybe bounce a problem or an issue off of. Even something as simple as providing them benefits, information from peer groups in the industry. So there’s a lot of things that our clients need and want outside of just getting the person into the seat.

So I think, I wish someone had instructed me earlier on my staffing career that, think of it from a standpoint of not only making a placement that they’re happy with and that the candidate’s happy with, but think of it from the standpoint of, “What else can you do as a staffer to provide value to that organization? What do they need other than in addition to that particular candidate?” Probably one of the most important things I kind of had to learn that on my own or someone maybe had told me.

Folwell: I love it. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Henderson: Oh my goodness, that’s a great one. I think that from the standpoint over the past five years, and I won’t call it a new belief, but I’ll call it maybe a renewed behavior. Again, we get in this mode of becoming order takers. Unfortunately, we try not to, but we do. And I think we maybe don’t do the mechanics of the business. So I think as we found ourselves in the throes COVID in 2020, kind of a renewed dedication and tenacity and commitment to the industry and to staffing, realizing that, gosh, while 2020 was really hard, people weren’t hiring. The same thing is like 2009 and 2001, customers weren’t hiring. And it really was to go and have that renewed determination and perseverance and realizing that if I do all these mechanics, and again I put the customer first, help them or whatever it is they need that I won’t necessarily get paid for today, it’s going to give me dividends down the road when the economy on the economy recovers, and it did.

Helping someone find a job that was maybe displaced, a client that was displaced, they remember that. Helping a candidate get their resume ready and giving them, even if you know, can’t personally place them, giving them names of people, connecting them to people in the community or connecting them to folks in other organizations knowing that you are going to benefit off of it today, you’ll benefit down the road.

So I think that that was probably one of the renewed types of things that came back to the forefront of my mind that, “Okay, gosh, 2020, this just reminds me of 2008 and 2001, I need to do the same things I did then right?” Put the candidate and client first and realize that if you do that as the economy recovers, they’re going to remember you and remember you first.

Folwell: Love it. And what is the book or books you’ve given most as a gift and why?

Henderson: Oh, well there’s two. How to Survive Anything is actually a book that I’m reading, which I kind of thought was really interesting. It was written by a former military individual that talked about anything from, gosh, if you’re in a plane crash to, if you’re chased by an alligator or you’re, you know, get lost in the woods or whatever, or societal collapse or whatever it is, he goes through chapter by chapter of how to go survive any type of a tragedy, how small. So it actually gives you some good, good, great, preparedness tips just for everyday life.

And then also from the standpoint of staffing-related books, a gentleman that I had worked with for many years at Kforce wrote four staffing books. And he was a former military leader. And his books I found to be, while I worked with him, I didn’t know all these stories. And his books are incredible. He goes through what he learned in the military about leadership and how he’s actually taken that and he’s been able to apply that over the decades to groom and mold people and build trust and loyalty among his employees. And you work with someone every day and you don’t necessarily, I guess, dial in all that they know, but I think his leadership books have actually been tremendous truths in leadership. And this gentleman’s name is Mike Ettore and worked with him for a number of years. He’s got some tremendous leadership books that apply to staffing.

Folwell: Awesome, I love that. And with that, do you have any closing comments, any last remarks that you’d like to share with our audience?

Henderson: The only thing I would say is every day, again, it’s not just about client retention. If we have some type of a downturn, it’s about keeping our customers for the long term, because I’ve read a lot of data that says it costs five to 20 times less to keep a current customer than it does to go and acquire a new one. And I think sometimes we get caught up in the allure of capturing new customers and how fun that chase can be. But I would implore folks to basically realize that churns is not only costly, it can really stretch back office resources and it forces them to work twice as hard to acquire those new clients. So it’s a lot easier and a lot cheaper to maintain and keep the ones that we actually have. 

And then finally, I think a key way that we should be doing this in our everyday work is make certain we’re always finding their pain and eliminating it, right? If we’re finding our customer pain, so we understand the challenges and the issues and we’re asking questions and we’re listening, it’s going to enable us to formulate the right solution for them instead of us just assuming what their problems are and jumping to a conclusion and trying to give them something that they don’t want and don’t need. Watched a lot of people jump in, as you said, and immediately, “Oh, let me tell you my features and benefits about our company, what we can do.” And the customers sitting there going, “Gosh, I don’t care about any of this. Yeah, none of this, I could care less.” So we have to determine what is important to them, Where are their pain points, where are their issues, what do they want, what do they need? And we get that by asking questions and leading them down that path of self-discovery, versus us jumping in and telling them, right? We’re going to gain so much more trust and loyalty by letting them explain to us what it is they need and finding their pain and eliminating it.

Folwell: Once again, great insight, and Kim, it was so nice having you on this show. Some great, great thoughts, great insights. For everybody that’s listening, thank you so much for being here with us today.

Henderson: David, thanks for inviting me in. Had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed getting to talk with you about the staffing industry and client retention. 

Folwell: Awesome.