How to Be a Staffing Leader

Episode 27

Episode overview

James Lund a VP and partner with ProFocus is our special guest on this episode of the Hire Calling Podcast! With many years in the staffing industry, James brings a great perspective on how to recruit and retain top talent. Especially, with the looming challenges of the great resignation, the pandemic, and the retirement of baby boomers.

When it comes to pay and how to generously yet fairly compensate your employees, Pete and James have great advice on how to find that perfect balance.

They also discuss strategies on how to be an exceptional staffing company that your candidates and clients can trust.

Whether you are a hiring manager or on the leadership team for a staffing company, this is an insightful episode that you won’t want to miss!

49 minutes

View transcript

James Lund’s 4 core staffing business strategies

  1. High quality, high touch: Frequently reach out to your clients and candidates to identify their needs and determine what you can do to help. It is important to show and demonstrate that you care about their success.
  2. Exceptional service: Cultivate relationships and take a personal approach, so you can make a positive impact on meeting your candidates’ career goals and helping your clients grow their business.
  3. Focus on technology: Utilize software and automation tools to help make your employees’ jobs easier, while simultaneously making it simpler to source and acquire exceptional talent.
  4. Make your company an amazing place to work: Provide professional development opportunities, team-building sessions, promote from within, offer competitive pay, and have high quality benefits.

Tips on how to improve your workplace culture and retention

  1. Develop your leadership team: Regardless of how great your benefits are or how well you pay your employees, if they don’t feel supported and equipped with the right tools to be successful, they will want to leave.
  2. Ask for feedback: Conduct stay and exist interviews to figure out what areas need improvement. Take that feedback seriously and implement the changes necessary to help your company grow and improve.
  3. Pay competitively: Show your appreciation for your top performers by having a great compensation plan. Be reasonable and generous, so that your employees target income is attainable. If you want to pay less, you’re going to get less.
  4. Be flexible: It is important to be willing to adapt to change and accommodate individual needs. More flexibility leads to higher employee satisfaction and engagement.

Additional resources

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the president of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. His mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way, while building an organization with boundless opportunities for ingenuity and advancement. When not managing 4 Corner’s growth or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his sales and business expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Hire Calling podcast.


Pete Newsome  00:02
Welcome everyone, and thank you for listening to The Hire Calling Podcast. I’m Pete Newsome, and this is your source for all things hiring, staffing, and recruiting. I’m welcomed today by James Lund, who I’m very excited to have on the podcast.

Pete Newsome  00:14
James is the Vice President and co owner of Pro Focus, one of the top IT staffing companies in the country based out of Portland. James and I have gotten to know each other over the last couple of years through Tech Serve Alliance.

Pete Newsome  00:27
He is someone who I’ve been very impressed by as far as being someone I know is going to do great things in the staffing industry above and beyond what he’s already done as one of the brightest young leaders in our space. So honored to have him on today. James, thanks so much for joining.

James Lund  00:44
Yeah, appreciate you having me. Thanks for the kind words.

Pete Newsome  00:47
You’ve been with Pro Focus for how long now?

James Lund  00:52
Five years as of this month.

Pete Newsome  00:54
Five years? So talk a little bit about Pro Focus. What differentiates you guys in the space? Every time we talk, I hear about innovative creative things you guys are doing. So how would you present Pro Focus to someone who wasn’t familiar with the organization?

James Lund  01:11
Yeah, first I share the word technology, staffing, and consulting company. And for a lot of people, that’s unique, because we’re tech only. So we specialize only in technology and a lot of staffing companies, do a little bit of everything. They have a mix of various verticals, and we only do tech.

James Lund  01:31
So that’s one thing that I think is a key differentiator for us. It’s great for our recruiters, and our salespeople because they’re really focused on technology and I think it’s really important for us to stay down that path. That’s just one of the differentiators, I would say is, is being tech only.

James Lund  01:54
In terms of our market, I think we’re doing a lot of really interesting things that are deviating from what you see within technology staffing in general, or staffing in general. So you mentioned innovative things, that didn’t come from staffing.

James Lund  02:11
So for me, when I started about five years ago, we’re about seven or eight years old now, we’ve been growing rapidly every year, year over year internally is just really exciting growth that we’ve been seeing. But we look at it from a lens, not just what typical staffing companies will do from a reward system for culture.

James Lund  02:34
We’ll dive deep into this too, I’m sure with some of the topics we’ll have.

James Lund  02:38
It’s just exciting to be able to approach this and have, our founder and president support to truly look at this, you know, as an organization and kind of revisit, common norms that you would see in staffing and in doing things differently for our team, as well as our consultants, and our clients.

Pete Newsome  02:55
We’ve gotten to know each other over the past two years, roughly since coming together through a round table, from our joint association with Techserve Alliance.

Pete Newsome  03:07
I’ve been so impressed by the way you and John, your partner who founded Pro Focus, you seem to have a clear difference in your approach to the way you look at things, you know, it’s something that I think my company 4 Corner Resources does as well.

Pete Newsome  03:25
Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to it is that you really make it personal. And are not too concerned with how things have been done for a long time in the past in our industry, you’re looking to do the things that really make sense today, both for your employees and your clients.

Pete Newsome  03:46
So I do want to dive into that. But let’s start with a little high level we kind of jumped right into everything and you’re in Portland, I’m in Orlando, polar opposite sides of the country. How are things going right now? Talk a little bit about the market in Portland.

James Lund  04:04
Yeah, the market is really strong, we’re pretty excited about it. We have a lot of clients here that are poised for a lot of growth. Really the main challenge is the talent. We have a lot of companies that have been growing this year and plan their roadmap to grow a lot more over the next couple of years here in Portland.

James Lund  04:23
We have clients beyond Portland, but this is our primary market. We just actually conducted, we do an annual Portland Tech Trends Survey. It’s a report just focused on the Portland metro area, you know, our Pacific Northwest as well. All of our clients and tech leaders across the Pacific Northwest and asking them about what they’re seeing in the market and what they foresee over the next year.

James Lund  04:28
That was really exciting to see that it was really full steam ahead from that. Well, that report should come out in the next few weeks. And we’ve just been gathering all of those responses and digging into that over the last couple of weeks.

James Lund  04:52
It’s exciting to see that our clients and leaders across technology here in the Portland area are seeing a lot of optimism. They’re seeing a lot of optimism for a ton of growth. The main challenge they’re seeing, at least so far is, is that you know, the talent side, that’s the biggest challenge retaining and in acquiring talent.

Pete Newsome  05:22
Give us a little bit more of a teaser to that. Was there anything that surprised you from the results of the survey?

James Lund  05:30
One thing that was surprising was the acquiring talent. If I recall correctly, it was obviously the number one challenge. But it was surprising to see retention was lower, I mean, it was number two.

James Lund  05:46
In terms of it being a top challenge, retention was not as high as I would have expected. Especially based on what we’re hearing about the great resignation, and something called the great reassessment.

James Lund  05:58
But retention was not as high as some of us thought it would be, you know, in terms of there seeing that as a really top challenge. It was still high, it was still quite high, but it seemed like acquiring the talent was a far larger challenge for those that took the survey here in the Pacific Northwest, as opposed to retaining.

Pete Newsome  06:19
That is interesting because we all always hear and I believe that retention is so much easier than having to go out and acquire new talent. So given what we’re facing right now, that is very surprising, I would have expected that to be the number one issue, for sure.

Pete Newsome  06:39
But not the case, so what are you guys doing on that? Let’s talk a little bit about retention. I know it’s something that is important to all staffing companies right now because we’re seeing a lot of a big battle for talent in this space.

Pete Newsome  06:57
We’re seeing a lot at least in Florida, I’m not sure if you guys are as well, we’re seeing a lot of staffing companies lose recruiters to corporate entities who are building up their teams in a greater way than they historically have done. So at Pro Focus, what are you guys doing to counter that?

James Lund  07:18
We do a lot of things.

Pete Newsome  07:20
I know you do.

James Lund  07:21
So this is something I take really seriously, we want to keep our team members. It’s one of our four core strategies, you know, one of them, it’s the one that’s most important to me, is making this an amazing place to work.

James Lund  07:37
So retention is really important. People enjoying their work, people coming to work and actually liking what they do, and loving the company are really important. So we do a lot too, and I take this really seriously from gathering feedback, listening, involving our team members in the big picture of the company, and helping us grow and improve.

James Lund  07:57
I think first though people quit people, they don’t quit companies, you know, you hear that I firmly believe that. Ultimately, even if you are doing a lot at the top, and you have great benefits and great pay and all of that ultimately, if they if individuals don’t love their bosses, I think they’re going to leave.

James Lund  08:16
So we take a lot of attention to making sure that we have good leaders across the organization, and that we’re developing good leaders, we’re promoting good team members into leadership that is knowing it’s a different position than we’re preparing them for leadership.

James Lund  08:33
So to me, I think that’s a really important part of our retention strategies, having good people across the organization that is leading and supporting our team members.

James Lund  08:42
There’s a lot going on, you mentioned leaving the agency world for going internal, and there’s going to be a certain amount of that, that’s going to happen. With the money being thrown out, from some companies to go internal, it’s pretty remarkable.

James Lund  09:00
I think it will be interesting to see once they fill their teams, and what happens with those individuals that will, you know, inevitably or some will inevitably get laid off. That’s a risk some people take and I’ve talked to two internal team members over the years that, that’s a factor they know.

James Lund  09:18
They can go chase that and sometimes they know it’s maybe worth it to go, you know, get whatever that sweet offer is to, be remote, you know, recruit for Amazon or wherever it is.

James Lund  09:31
Then maybe when they do some cutbacks then at least with the agency, I think for us for that retention, our best performers don’t ever leave for the agency, or sorry don’t ever leave the agency for internal because of the compensation differences.

James Lund  09:45
Once they have built up a good bit of good book of business, whether the market changes or not, you’re in control of your employment.

Pete Newsome  09:55
Correct, yes. I’ve wondered about that quite a bit. As we’ve seen, we’ve experienced departures from our own internal staff, and as much as we try to avoid it. We end up filling, unlike you guys, we do a lot of non IT positions.

James Lund  10:12

Pete Newsome  10:13
The number of recruiter roles that we’ve been asked to fill, it’s sort of ironic, in a way for our own clients has been unlike anything we’ve seen in our 16 years in business not even close, we historically would get them sporadically. But we’re, seeing them by the dozens, almost and have over the past few months.

Pete Newsome  10:34
To your point, it does beg the question, what happens when things normalize? What happens when things begin to subside? Which they will eventually, those teams aren’t going to probably be as big as they are today. So that’s something that will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Pete Newsome  10:52
You also touch on the great resignation and I wanted to get your take on this. One of the things that I have not heard referenced much at all, is that the baby boom generation was going to be retiring.

Pete Newsome  11:11
We’ve been hearing about that for the last 10, maybe even 20 years, that it was going to cause a shortage in the workforce. I have not heard that referenced at all, in terms of the great resignation, which incidentally, was a term coined pre COVID.

Pete Newsome  11:26
The guy who came up with that phrase was a professor at Texas A&M in 2019. So he anticipated this coming. Now that it’s here, and we’ve seen such a shortage in the workforce, no one mentions the baby boomers retiring. Is that something that you guys have thought about at all? Or why do you think there’s such a problem right now?

James Lund  11:50
Yeah, I think I actually did you know, I hadn’t heard much about the baby boomers for a while. But I did in a conversation in a Techs group a couple of weeks ago.

James Lund  11:58
I did hear someone or maybe it was actually one of the presenters was talking about boomers. They didn’t quite all retire when it was expected. It’s really just been a slow, slow process of that happening. So it’s interesting to see, but in terms of, I really do think I’ve heard about the great reassessment.

James Lund  12:20
I know, there’s a great resignation and some of the great reassessment. I really think that that’s a good way to define this. I think a lot of people had more options than ever before, in terms of their employment choice and their career choice.

James Lund  12:34
That’s one thing that I think stands out, as opposed to just resigning is now because there’s so much opportunity, whether people leaving the workforce, or just because there are just so many more jobs than there were before.

James Lund  12:47
I think we’re seeing a lot more people really evaluating what they want to do with their career, and leaving companies that, maybe their jobs, they don’t love companies they don’t love and assessing their future.

Pete Newsome  12:57
A lot of changes are taking place as we speak, needless to say, and you know, we’ve all had to adapt to changes forced upon us by COVID, through the pandemic closures. Things are different in your part of the world than they are in Florida where I am, how has Pro Focus navigated that? If you wouldn’t mind touching on both?

Pete Newsome  13:20
How you’ve handled it internally, as well as with your clients, how it’s changed relationships, for the good and bad, maybe. But I know you guys have obviously done a lot to make sure that you’re ahead of the curve.

James Lund  13:33
In terms of our internal retention?

Pete Newsome  13:36
Yeah, talk about both. Start with internal.

James Lund  13:40
Fortunately, in 2021, we just didn’t have the type of turnover that I was hearing from my colleagues across the country. I know this is generally a business with a lot of turnover. I know there’s desirable and undesirable turnover, I would say for the most part.

James Lund  13:57
Like I said we did not lose very many of our team members that were high performers. We just didn’t, we lost one, I think of our higher performers that chose to leave the industry and just pursue what that person wanted to do with their career. That person was a younger individual that was still just figuring out what they wanted to do. We fully supported that transition.

James Lund  14:17
Aside from that, for the most part, we didn’t lose really very many people, maybe one other person that in terms of, you know, a higher performer week for the most part for turnover was pretty good.

James Lund  14:29
So we didn’t see that great resignation or the great risk reassessment. I know that we’ve heard and talked about, with colleagues across the country that they’ve seen a lot of their recruiters leave for an agency. You know or started to leave the agency for internal or leaving to other agencies that had better comp models or what have you.

James Lund  14:50
We didn’t see that, fortunately,

Pete Newsome  14:53
So not to share too many secrets but that’s unique, that’s an anomaly. We know that from our time at Tech Serve a couple of weeks ago at the conference, it was probably the most prevalent conversation that was happening both on side conversations as well as what the presenters were addressing.

Pete Newsome  15:12
What do you attribute that with Pro Focus? Obviously, you guys are doing something very right to be in the position you’re in.

James Lund  15:21
Yeah, I think it’s a combination of things. Just in general, in our company as a whole, we really look at a lot of different ways that we can improve the experience for our team members. Our mission is to create exceptional experiences for every one of our candidates, clients, and team members.

James Lund  15:40
So when we think of that, our mission is not just focused on our candidates and clients, it’s our internal team members, as well as our consultants that are out working at our client locations.

James Lund  15:49
So one of the things I think in 2019, we did improve our comp plan. So of course, compensation, there’s only so much you can do with retaining people with fringe benefits, work life balance, or just really supporting them and having good bosses.

James Lund  16:07
If you’re not paying them competitively, you will most likely lose them. I think there’s a certain degree that people will give up in terms of comp that, for a really good situation that they can be at from a workplace standpoint. So I think that’s one that is a factor.

James Lund  16:25
2019, prior to this, we did we improved our comp plan. We really took a look at it, and evaluated how we can make it more generous, especially to our higher performers. So that was one thing that was really important for us. Making sure that the math worked, of course, but to where we can be as generous as we reasonably could.

James Lund  16:45
For our comp plan for higher performance, it’s not as generous for someone that’s underperforming. So that was a shift that we made. We don’t want to change our comp plan very often. But this was one that I thought needed to be improved in order to make sure that we could retain our high performers.

Pete Newsome  17:03
So you were ahead of the curve with that, for sure.

James Lund  17:05
Yeah, that was just something I think it was lucky on the timing. We just evaluated different things that we can improve. That was one that was really important, to make sure that we were able to acquire and retain the right folks. We have been growing quite a bit.

James Lund  17:20
Internal hiring, is a really important piece and if somebody looks at the comp plan, they want to make sure that they can reasonably make whatever their target income is.

Pete Newsome  17:30
Yeah, it’s so important in our space. All we really have is our employees and the value that they deliver in the market, our brand, and our name only goes so far, that’s not going to get the job done.

Pete Newsome  17:43
So I commend you for being early, you solved a problem before you avoided a problem by taking those steps. I think that’s probably the best way to phrase it.

James Lund  17:54

Pete Newsome  17:55
I want to find out what’s changed with your client relationships or the impact you’ve seen from COVID. But if you wouldn’t mind, you mentioned that you guys operate on four core principles? I’m not sure exactly how you phrased it. Would you share those with us?

James Lund  18:12
Absolutely, so it’s four core strategies that we have. It just helps us guide our decisions, as a business so that we are all on the same page about what our priorities are. We just had our all company annual strategic retreat last week. And, you know, half the day is dedicated to talking about our core strategies, sharing ideas, discussing ideas, and brainstorming ways that we can improve our execution in those areas.

James Lund  18:44
The first one is high quality, high touch. So we want to really deliver, we want to have high quality relationships with both our candidates, consultants, and our clients. We want to have direct access. We really need to be successful to have direct access to the decision maker who’s going to be making the hiring decision.

James Lund  19:02
So that’s really important for us, that’s how we can deliver our quality.

James Lund  19:05
The second one is exceptional service. So being a Fred, if anyone’s listening that has read Fred Factor, it’s a great book. It’s a quick read, but I think it’s really important for us to be delivering an exceptional spirit experience.

James Lund  19:19
I think, in our industry, it’s shocking to me, I didn’t come from the staffing industry five years ago, but it’s shocking to me the low bar our industry has for service. It’s remarkable.

James Lund  19:30
It makes it really easy, I think to be able to provide exceptional experiences for our candidates and for our clients. A lot of bad recruiters just like a lot of bad salespeople have given the industry a bad rep, right? I mean, It’s remarkable.

James Lund  19:47
So that’s a core strategy of ours.

Pete Newsome  19:49
There are some bad players.

Pete Newsome  19:51
I want you to finish talking about these strategies, but I think the commoditization of the staffing industry has helped contribute to that in a really negative way. When you talk about high touch, I don’t know how you could hire without that.

Pete Newsome  20:11
There’s an entire line of businesses, I won’t name names, you and I both know who they are, who exists to take the touch out of it to take the personalization out of staffing, which to me, is just insane.

Pete Newsome  20:27
It’s one of the most intimate things you could do in the business world. We all acknowledge at least, I hope everyone acknowledges that your employees will make or break your organization. So to try to commoditize that is something that has never made sense to me, it’s a space that we don’t play. It’s a space that you guys don’t play in.

Pete Newsome  20:47
But that certainly has elevated the perspective of our industry, in my opinion. So I hope that trend, I think it’s going away a little bit. I think the value of how hiring happens, is certainly at a top of mind for everyone right now, given the conditions of the job market. I hope one of the byproducts of that will be the realization that this is not something that should be commoditized, that something should be elevated at all costs.

James Lund  21:20
Yeah, absolutely, I agree.

Pete Newsome  21:22
So continue on, I just wanted to throw that in there. I know it’s something that you agree with. You and I have had lengthy conversations about that already, and see it as important. And we hope that others will see that as important as well.

James Lund  21:35
Yeah, that space is great for some, and that’s just not the one that we’ve decided is the right one for us. So at least not at this time. So for us, it’s really important that we stay, we have really high expectations in terms of our quality, and in our quality ratios and quality, metrics with, from film ratio to sub interviews, to placement, all those kinds of things.

James Lund  22:00
We know that we have a harder chance to win if you don’t have access to a manager. So the other two real quick, I already had referenced, specialize only in technology, making it an amazing place to work.

James Lund  22:12
So those are the four core strategies that we look at. When we think about how we can improve, better execute on our core strategies, those before.

Pete Newsome  22:21
That’s great, I love it. I think that your success is not coincidental as a result of that, because from our exchanges over the past couple of years, it’s not something you just talk about, it’s something that you guys take very seriously and you make it very clear that’s going to be your approach with your employees and with your clients.

Pete Newsome  22:49
It’s really impressive to see from a distance. But talk about your clients a little bit. COVID has changed a lot for many of us, it’s made recruiting, in some ways easier, I think. Where we can have more flexibility in terms of the remote employees and the options that exist there.

Pete Newsome  23:08
But it’s also made certain things more challenging as we have to navigate different mandates and requirements, both from a government standpoint, as well as from an individual company choice standpoint. That’s impacting us here in Florida quite a bit and with our clients throughout the country.

Pete Newsome  23:27
How about where you are? what do you see in there?

James Lund  23:30
So in terms of the overall impact on our clients, I think, there has been a big impact. I would say that it’ll be interesting to see how many of our clients actually do require any of their team members to come back on site. I know that’s going to be an interesting one to see. How many more people? How much more turnover will there be once some of the some of our clients require going back into the office.

James Lund  23:57
Whether it’s one or two or three days a week, I know that there are a lot of companies that our clients and companies across the country, they’re going to require that and that’ll be interesting to see.

James Lund  24:06
But for our clients, it’s really interesting when we did our survey, that a lot of our clients and people, tech leaders in the Pacific Northwest, they acknowledged, what you referenced is that it’s a lot easier to acquire and to recruit talent, when you’re fully remote when you have that option. Of course, that makes sense.

James Lund  24:34
But I also think it’s interesting that a lot of companies and a lot of our clients are threatening to take that away or having some level of you know, one day in the office or two days in the office. You know, another thing of retention, we embraced office optional.

James Lund  24:48
So that’s totally optional to us at this stage for all of our internal team members and that has made it so much easier for us with our recruiting for our clients too. So that’s one thing that I see as the biggest or at least one of the biggest challenges that we’ll see is if more and more of our clients start requiring that.

James Lund  25:08
It really will change how we’re able to be successful for them. But for the most part, I think our clients have adapted pretty well. Then, of course, there are a lot of challenges, but for the most part, it seems like they have been growing their teams and headcount and, for the most part, embracing remote, and, continuing to do that.

James Lund  25:30
So, for us, pre pandemic, and to now, a lot of the same challenges that you would have seen before COVID, you know, we’re seeing with our clients.

Pete Newsome  25:44
Again, the difference between Florida and the Pacific Northwest and a lot of other parts of the country, where we’ve been open, as you saw, probably a change when you were here in Jacksonville a couple of weeks ago.

Pete Newsome  25:58
It’s business as usual, for the most part, companies are trying to navigate how to handle that, where everyone can be on site. But it’s optional, it becomes a competitive advantage or disadvantage if you choose to look at it that way.

Pete Newsome  26:17
I would say we’re about 50/50 right now, that is an unscientific number, but half of our clients who we work with regularly want their employees back on site. Others haven’t gone there yet, but it sounds like most of yours, haven’t asked people to come back yet.

James Lund  26:33
For the most part now, that’s where, you know, to go back to my other comment, when that does happen, it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts because you said you are all open. We’re still fairly closed, we still have a mask mandate, you know, indoors and in offices, and unless you’re in a private room with the door closed. So a lot of our clients have delayed their back to office plans.

James Lund  26:58
I think, you know, there was a number that we’re planning on, you know, in January, just a lot of these have been pushed back because of the cases and the mandates here in Oregon. So for the most part, it’s still, for people that are listening and in Florida or other parts of the country that are open, you know, it’s we’re still fairly closed here.

James Lund  27:22
From when it comes to the office, a lot of people are still working remote, many people have not been trying to go back to the office yet. It’ll be interesting to see how things go when they reopen, and then companies and our clients start requiring people or looking at their in office plans and what that is, how that’s going to change, you know, our ability to acquire talent for them, or our potential, our turnover of our consultants.

Pete Newsome  27:48
Sure it is going, we have a client right now, who is requiring that everyone be vaccinated, which is something that really our governor in Florida has fought against. It’s made things easier for us because with the mandate, and we’re watching it closely, we don’t know how that’s ultimately going to land.

Pete Newsome  28:12
So we feel like we’re in purgatory right now. Until we know, we’re not sure what actions to take, but selectively we’re having to enforce our client’s policies. One of our bigger clients just decided that everyone has to be vaccinated to come back. It’s going to cause some turnover.

Pete Newsome  28:33
We know that, and it’s going to be really interesting to see how this plays out both from a vaccine standpoint, as well as coming back to the office standpoint because the decision that you make is going to determine how easy or difficult it is going to be to staff.

Pete Newsome  28:51
It’s going to reduce the candidate pool if you start making additional requirements. And that’s just math at that point.

James Lund  28:58
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Newsome  28:59
So I’m really curious, I’m not necessarily looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. But I’m curious to observe over the next possible year, we’ll see a lot of things unfold, don’t you think?

James Lund  29:13
Yeah, and we haven’t, you know, we have a number of clients that have already mandated having a vaccine, being vaccinated as a mandate if you’re on site. So for a lot of the folks that we have placed, if they’re never going to be on site that may or may not impact them, depending on the client.

James Lund  29:30
So some clients met whether you’re outside or not, maybe they’ll have that mandate. If you’re in the Portland area, obviously, there are a lot more folks that are vaccinated than those not here in Portland and I think of it as similar to you know, it’s interesting, it’s not the same but I do think it’s a little bit similar to marijuana.

James Lund  29:50
So, you know, in Portland and Oregon, marijuana is legal, so you can do that.

Pete Newsome  29:59
You guys are recreationally legal too right?

James Lund  30:01

Pete Newsome  30:04
I don’t know, this, but I probably should be 18? Is it 21? What is the?

James Lund  30:09
You know, I think it’s 18? I don’t actually know the answer to that question.

Pete Newsome  30:15
I have no, I have no reason. There’s no reason for me to know the answer to that. I’m just curious.

James Lund  30:21
Yeah, no, I don’t know for sure. I think it might be. I think it’s 21. But, you know, I actually don’t know. But it is interesting, though, because we have some clients that, you know, when we do a drug screen, we don’t ask for that. The clients don’t care and It’s not required.

James Lund  30:36
Then we have some clients that it is required, because maybe, you know, for whatever reason, federally or maybe they’re customers or what have you, for whatever reason, it’s not allowed, and so that would be tested.

James Lund  30:51
So that’s one thing we’ve done, I think of that is similar to the mask, you know, or sort of similar to the vaccine, hey this job requires you, you can’t smoke marijuana, you have to pass a drug screen, which will include marijuana, this requires you to be vaccinated, hey, this requires you to pass a background check, all those kinds of things.

James Lund  31:11
It’s just one more thing by the client for us to manage, and as you said, will reduce the talent pool. I do think this is a little bit obvious, it’s different than the marijuana thing. But it is similar in regards to reducing the talent pool, but also not quite as much I think, because we are able to hire, and a lot of our clients are remote, and the vaccine won’t necessarily apply if they’re considered a permanent remote position.

Pete Newsome  31:39
Sure, it will, that I love. I think it’s a very appropriate analogy to use with marijuana because we’ve seen companies, I’ve yet to see someone who didn’t test, have a test for it, start requiring it. But lots of examples of organizations who’ve made the decision that it was too limiting to their talent pool and have raised the requirement.

Pete Newsome  32:04
One of our larger clients just said that not only did they say we can stop testing for it, anyone who passed or failed a drug test for marijuana, they wanted us to go back and reconsider because they realized it. Who knows what their thought process is, I don’t want to speak for them. But I suspect it was because they realized it was too limiting. And it was impacting their business in a negative way.

Pete Newsome  32:29
I know that’s going to happen with companies with either coming back on site or the vaccine mandate, and it’s kind of a fascinating rabbit hole to go down, not that we will, but to think how you have to make it balanced your business, what’s good for your business versus what may be a moral or ethical or principal decision for you, right?

Pete Newsome  32:55
But if it’s going to hurt your bottom line, those things tend to not be as important, right, like, so it may seem important now. But if you can’t get employees, you know, it’s going to be difficult.

Pete Newsome  33:07
As you know, everything’s on a sliding scale. If you can, you can have low salaries, but it’s going to limit your poll, you raise your salaries, you get more, you got more candidates to choose from, it’s just math.

James Lund  33:21

Pete Newsome  33:22
So touch on that, though. Real quick. We just updated our 2022 Salary Guide, and published it a couple of weeks ago. Even though I had been living the increased salaries over the past six months, I was shocked to see, really the comparison from 2021 to 2022. We’re up about 15%, across the board is how our numbers ended up coming out that we published. Does that surprise you? Are you seeing something similar in Portland?

James Lund  33:53
It doesn’t surprise me. I don’t know, what the actual numbers are for us from 2021 or 2020. You know, in terms of what the percentage would be, but it’s certainly up. I was thinking probably in that 10% range. It depends on the skillset too, so we’re seeing some skill sets that are going a lot higher.

James Lund  34:10
Sometimes candidate demands that are just, you know, where maybe the budget for the client side isn’t meeting it. So that will be a challenge, of course, we’ve talked with clients as well in trying to even though you would think a lot of companies in hiring managers would understand the talent shortage.

James Lund  34:30
I mean, it’s basic, econ 101, right? We supply and demand, the price goes up. So that’s what we’re seeing as well. And of course, it depends on the skill set.

Pete Newsome  34:43
It’s a byproduct of everything that’s happened at times. I just mentioned to someone on my last podcast that we were talking about the hospitality industry and travel, and I was interviewing the CEO of the American Resort Development Association, who’s also a friend.

Pete Newsome  35:06
We were talking about how the pandemic has affected family life and the time that you’ve spent together and the way you value time together, it’s really a silver lining among all the bad, and you almost feel guilty identifying those things at times. But one of those silver linings for the staffing industry is that not only is it less commoditized than it was at least that’s how I think it’s evolving.

Pete Newsome  35:34
But the value of folks in our position and to be consultative in our discussions with senior executives at our clients, which is sometimes, it’s not always something we do in the staffing world. It’s almost viewed as a commodity, the act of hiring, I think we’ve been elevated there too because those discussions aren’t just complaints or excuses as to why a position is unfilled.

Pete Newsome  36:05
It’s a lot more serious than that. We’re even having discussions which, again, 16 years in business, I don’t think I did with any regularity, it is very infrequent, where we’d say, if you don’t raise your prices, it’s not a good expenditure of our time. It just makes no sense for us to work on your position.

Pete Newsome  36:27
Those conversations were often dismissed in the past, but they’re not anymore. That to me is a silver lining for employees. It’s a silver lining for everyone in the staffing industry as well.

James Lund  36:41
Yeah, it was always, I mean, this has always been present, right? This has always been an issue, but certainly when you have so much need and your clients. I mean, a lot of clients and a lot of job orders, there’s so much demand out there, that we, fortunately, are in a position to where we can be a little bit pickier and have those conversations and turn business away.

James Lund  37:04
Whereas before, you know, the client could make their terms say, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing from a budget perspective.”

Pete Newsome  37:17
It’s a tough conversation to have, it’s a risky conversation unless you know, you’re 100% correct. What I mean is, if our salespeople in the past, and I did it, too, when I was selling, I’d want to tell the client, you have to raise your rate on this and draw a line in the sand.

Pete Newsome  37:37
That’s a tough thing to do.

Pete Newsome  37:39
If you’re not completely sure you shouldn’t do it unless you’re completely sure because another company, may come in behind you, fill the position, and credibility is immediately lost. So now, there’s a much greater comfort level, I think, with having those conversations because the situation is ripe for it in a way.

Pete Newsome  38:01
It’s overdue, there hasn’t been a big shift. I think inflation, for the most part, has probably been outpacing salary increases. So to me, I think it’s almost the right sizing to some degree. But it’ll be interesting to see how far that goes, right? Will these salaries continue to increase because of the gap of open jobs to employees or candidates able to fill those jobs, It’s not shrinking, it’s only growing, I’m not sure where that’s going to lead.

James Lund  38:29
Yeah, I’m not either. I think one thing that you touched upon, the more we can stretch the job order they get at this point, I think right now as you said, it’s a great time to have these conversations. But I also don’t think it’s as challenging or difficult to have a conversation to have that, some people are so fearful of pushing back with hiring managers.

James Lund  38:49
As well as pushing back with our clients and having those, you know, what could be considered a tougher conversation and I think it’s really just sharing our expertise. It’s sharing knowledge, and take it or leave it, customer, this is what we’re seeing in the market. Like you said, if it’s going to, it will make us look bad if our competitors go in and fill it at the rate that they want it to.

James Lund  39:11
It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, we can just be transparent with that and say, hey, you know, maybe we can, but I can tell you from what we’re seeing, the vast majority of candidates are coming in here. You can run that risk, but you can go unfilled, but I think it’s appropriate to have those conversations.

James Lund  39:32
It’s necessary, especially right now, but I don’t think it’s a matter of oh, we’re necessary, you know, going to turn the business away. A lot of times it’s just educating the client and helping them understand and just trying to see where we can stretch the job order, trying to see where we can get them to at least increase the max.

James Lund  39:48
So that we can say hey, how about you at least compare, you know, maybe we can get you, someone, at that rate.

James Lund  39:53
But do you want to see someone here 10 or 15 or 20k higher that maybe has a lot more experience and maybe is a much better fit? This can be of better value to you, and maybe they can help bring up, you know, other more junior developers or whatever the position is, that can add a lot more value to the team at a more appropriate market rate.

James Lund  40:12
So then they continue to lead.

Pete Newsome  40:15
Absolutely, that’s why I’ve always thought of it as a sliding scale, right? If you want to pay less, you’re going to get less, and it really is no different than any other asset. But, it’s an interesting time where those conversations are just more, I’m finding companies are more open to it, and they do see us as that authority.

Pete Newsome  40:39
You and I would argue they always should have, I just don’t think that’s always been the case. When you look at the prevalence of the VMS space that we touched on a little bit ago, that’s evidence enough that we want to hire employees at the cheapest possible rate, with as little effort as possible.

Pete Newsome  41:01
You and I would say, I think I don’t want to speak for you. So tell me if I’m wrong, that should never be the goal. The goal should be to hire the best employee, and let the market dictate the rate. The more touch in time extended upfront, the better. If you don’t expend that time, you’re taking a chance, right? You’re guessing, and that’s not ever how hiring should happen, I don’t think.

James Lund  41:27
Yeah, I agree with you. I definitely agree with you, I think when you think of the VMS, it’s trying to try to solve the problem like when we talked about the bad players earlier, it’s trying to solve that problem, that the bad players that are submitting way too many candidates.

James Lund  41:46
Or that they’re not finding the right candidates, they were trying to, you know, because trying to feel like or seeing the staffing industry or staffing individuals, as really just, you know, being too expensive, and they’re just trying to put some control on it.

James Lund  42:00
Whereas if they had a good partner, like you, or like Pro Focus, or other good people, there’s a lot of really good staffing companies across the country that we know many of those individuals that are doing the right thing, and that is fair, they work closely with their clients. If all staffing were like that, VMS, I think, would not exist.

Pete Newsome  42:23
Right, but you said the word that we don’t want to throw around too much. But I do think it is the perfect one for the situation that we’re in. It really is an opportunity to be a partner, more so than any time that I know of in staffing.

Pete Newsome  42:42
We can be that and I think Pro Focus just like us, we’ve always attempted to be a partner, we’ve looked for organizations who can see us as such, but the opportunity to do that at a bigger scale, I think exists right now. That’s why it’s a good time to be in staffing, it’s a bit of a minefield, we’re trying to navigate all of the changes and to do so by paying attention, to the laws and mandates that and boy, just from one state to the next.

Pete Newsome  43:13
It’s like, at times we feel like we’re living, it may as well be a different country, the way that things are so different. But we have a lot to navigate, but to be a partner and to be seen as that as you know, it makes all the difference in the world and how the relationship flows.

Pete Newsome  43:31
It should be the goal of not only the staffing company but the hiring entity as well, whether they realize it or not. But again, of course, we think that way, because that’s the way we strive to do business and really try to almost insist on it in the way we handle our day to day operations.

James Lund  43:51

Pete Newsome  43:52
So with that said, I think we’ve covered a lot of the past. Before we go, what’s the outlook for 2022? What do you expect from Pro Focus? What can we look forward to?

James Lund  44:04
Well, we are growing. So we’re continuing to invest in our growth. I think right now, there’s a real opportunity in the market for us to capture market share. Like I said, we were a seven to eight year old company and really excited about the opportunity for us to really get some new clients and really break into some customers and really expand with those customers.

James Lund  44:32
So for us, we’re investing in our team, and we’re looking to hire. We just rolled out every six months, we share an updated Pro Focus roadmap with everyone in the company, which details our goals and our plans from a hiring perspective and looking at our org chart and in from the coming year as well as you know 2023, 2024, and beyond. So we share that every six months and update that as well as progress towards those things.

James Lund  44:56
So we’re looking to add another probably 50% or so, close to 50% internal headcount this coming year, which we are really excited about and want to continue to invest in our growth, just because we have a number of clients also that we have confidence that we’ll be able to grow with them too in terms of those partnerships. So a lot of opportunities there.

James Lund  45:21
We’re pretty excited and rolling out some succession planning and looking at ways that we can continue to develop our team members, the ones that are really interested in moving, you know, into new roles with us and into leadership roles where we’re partnering with them on their development. So they can step into those leadership positions as we grow.

James Lund  45:40
So for us, we’re really excited going into 2022, we need to hire so, a perfect podcast and beyond. But that’s one of the things that we’re prioritizing to bring on new team members. And to help drive that growth this last year, I think we would have grown so much more if we had just, you know, we anticipated this year to be strong. So we hired in anticipation of that invested in that we didn’t hire it out.

James Lund  46:05
So we did not have enough recruiters this year, I’m sure the same for you. Mostly everyone in staffing as well as, oh, man, if we had a full team so you know, we have a lot of confidence 2022 is going to be strong.

James Lund  46:17
We’re looking to hire even more people for that growth and to help drive that so we can deliver for our customers because we have a lot of really good customers and clients and we want to make sure that we can show up for them and get them the right team members for the projects and for their company.

Pete Newsome  46:37
Well, I hope your presence on The Hire Calling today gives us more listeners in the Pacific Northwest.

Pete Newsome  46:44
I will say to anyone who’s listening there, after observing you and John and the way you go about business and everything I’ve heard you share over the past two years, I feel very confident saying that anyone who has the opportunity to employ of Pro Focus internally or to work with you guys as a client or contractor is going to be treated extremely well.

Pete Newsome  47:08
That’s unique, I feel very strongly about that. I don’t say it lightly, and you guys are doing things the way they should be done. That should be a given. It’s far from a given in the marketplace. It’s rare, and that’s why you’re succeeding. That’s why I have no doubt that you’re going to not only meet but surpass all your goals and objectives.

Pete Newsome  47:31
So let’s bookmark this time and next December, we’ll come back. If you come back on if you’d be so kind as to do that. Then we’ll recap the year and I know you guys are going to have a great one and I can’t thank you enough for coming on. It’s a busy time with your five kids at home. Right? Are you still at five?

James Lund  47:51
We’re still at five and we’re done at five so that is it. I was committed to five so you know the joke I always share that, you know, my wife wanted five I wanted two and so we compromised and had five. So that’s it. I’m done.

Pete Newsome  48:07
Perfect well, it’s nice, but I get to speak to someone who has more kids than me because they can appreciate all the craziness that happens at this time of year especially. I hope you guys have a great end of the year. I look forward to talking to you throughout 2022.

Pete Newsome  48:26
So James, thank you so much.

James Lund  48:27
Yeah, thanks Pete, appreciate it.

Pete Newsome  48:29
Awesome. Well, everyone thanks for listening. As always if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for new topics, email us at, we’d love to hear from you. Thanks and have a great rest of the day.

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