Are you a staffing owner who often feels like you’re working in your business, rather than on it? Take an honest look at your role within your firm. If there are days you’re barely staying afloat, it’s time to take a step back and do some reassessment. In many cases, staffing leaders start their firms with some preliminary success, yet quickly get bogged down by the many functions of their firm. Unfortunately, this is often due to poor strategic planning, or worse yet, no plan at all.
In a recent Crushin’ It In Staffing webinar, we had an opportunity to hear from Amy Bingham, CEO of Bingham Consulting, a firm providing strategic and operational consulting for the staffing industry. Over the years, Amy has consulted with dozens of staffing agencies across the country on driving their businesses from a revenue and top-line and bottom-line perspectives. From her experience both working in staffing and consulting clients, Amy was able to offer our listeners invaluable insight and guidance on what it takes to avoid major failure in the staffing industry.
In discussing the biggest mistakes staffing agencies often make, Amy explains, “the three biggest mistakes that my colleagues and I have seen in our many years of consulting to staffing firms – and being in the industry ourselves and making some of these mistakes on our own – are failing to plan, failing your people, and failing to grow profit.”
Now if overcoming these mistakes seems like an overwhelming task, don’t worry! In this blog, we’re going to break down the first major hurdle – failing to plan.
As Amy describes, “Failing to plan is a major reason why growth stalls.” When you opened your staffing agency, you were probably encouraged by the large number of job orders you had to get things off the ground. As things got underway, your team continued filling orders and soon, you were filling even more – but not doing anything well. According to Amy, this is where having a solid plan comes into play.
While the traditional generalist model of staffing worked for many agencies in the early days, Amy advises against it. How do you do that though? According to Amy, here are some critical questions to ask yourself before getting in the trenches:
- What is your vision?
- What do you want to stand for as an agency?
- What is your specialty? What space do you plan to be in? IT? Engineering? Accounting and finance?
- What will differentiate you from other firms?
Now, let’s start with defining your vision.
Getting a sense of not just your services, but your mission as an agency is the first major step to creating a business that propels you to growth. Amy explains that your mission/vision strategy includes strategies surrounding your recruitment, sales, operations and marketing (including social media, a core part of lead generation). Once you’ve nailed down the many components of your mission, you can begin to develop your execution plan which should consist of two or three key initiatives you will undertake each year to grow your business. In going through this process, there are many options available to you. In addition to using a consultant, you can tap into helpful templates on the web or books (Amy recommends Get a Grip, a book which will help you develop a clear vision and learn how to run your business without letting it run you). What’s most critical is taking action to make your execution a reality by putting it on paper and committing to it right out of the gate.
Next, you’ll want to drill down your financial management.
As Amy explains, “When the business is running you, there’s no way you can look up and look out and run the business. While there’s no specific guidelines on how to price a staffing business, I recommend setting a gross profit floor under which you and your salespeople will not go past without further discussion.” In doing this, you need to be confident that your gross profit sweet spot is based on the quality of your service and market pricing. This also involves knowing your financial statements and ensuring a strong cash flow, as having your financials in order is key to the execution of all other parts of your plan. If you find yourself struggling in accounting, it’s important to seek counsel in this area before moving forward!
Once you’ve drilled down your financials, it’s time to assess your sales process and operations.
Technology constraints are often the biggest barriers to optimal productivity and sales outcomes. As Amy says, “If you’re failing to see into the business, you won’t get a grip on your sales pipeline. While vetting your ATS system is certainly part of this process, the CRM component to this is critical. Whether it’s Salesforce or another platform, visibility into the pipeline for business enables you to forecast.” Putting a stringent tech system in place that allows you to clearly see what is and is not working in your sales process is instrumental in improving your lead generation. If your system is not aligned with your specific goals and guidelines, it will not give you the data and information you need to make meaningful adjustments in every part of your sales process.
“Remember, the high-performing staffing firms are run by people who do consistent rainmaking.”
Of course, planning is integral to success, but leaders who understand that staffing is driven by sales are best positioned to excel in the industry. Keeping yourself out of the operational role (by hiring someone to fulfill this function) and putting yourself in the driver’s seat of sales and client development should always rank highest in any execution plan.
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