This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In Start Your Own Staffing Service, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and writer Krista Thoren Turner explain how to start and run a successful staffing service. In this edited excerpt, the authors discuss just what type of employees you'll need to help you manage your staffing service.
There are many different tasks to be covered at a staffing service. If you're starting out small, you'll perform many of those tasks yourself. These are the permanent positions most typically found in staffing services:
- Administrative assistant. Provides assistance to upper management.
- Administrative coordinator. Handles payroll, billing and accounts receivable. In a smaller service, they may also purchase supplies and be in charge of weekly mailings.
- Bookkeeper/financial services manager/payroll representative. Deals with payroll, both for permanent staff and temporary workers. The same person may also do collections and billing.
- Corporate administrator. Handles purchasing and provides HR support for permanent staff.
- Office manager/branch manager. Oversees all office operations..
- On-site coordinator. Oversees temporary employees at the work site. This position is usually only necessary when there are large groups of temporary employees at a single site, e.g., workers at a factory.
- Permanent placement specialist. Handles recruiting, interviewing, selection and placement of permanent employees for the staffing service's clients.
- Placement specialist/performance supervisor/personnel coordinator/employment counselor. Handles initial calls from prospective temporary employees and also interviews applicants, supervises temporary employees and deals with any employee-related problems a client may have. All staffing services of any size employ several of these individuals at each office location. Even a small service usually has at least two people handling these tasks. In a small office, these individuals may also be recruiters.
- Receptionist/secretary. Answers phones and handles office tasks.
- Recruiter. Finds and interviews applicants and may also provide customer service. Most sizable staffing services have several of these individuals at each location. In a small service, the recruiter and the personnel coordinator may be the same person.
- Risk control officer. Handles all insurance needs for the staffing service. Many services successfully handle their insurance needs through an outside insurance agent. However, very large staffing services, as well as services in sectors with high personal injury risks (e.g., the industrial sector), often have in-house risk control officers.
- Sales manager/sales associate. Handles sales and is usually out of the office generating business. They also provide customer service. All but the very smallest staffing services usually have at least two of these positions at each office location.
- Regional director/vice president of operations. Oversees company operations. If there's more than one office, then the regional director supervises the office (or branch) managers.
Now that we've gone over the types of positions many staffing services have, let us stress that most privately owned startup services have very few permanent staff members. So don't shake your head in despair, wondering how the heck you're going to come up with all these employees.
In New Castle, Delaware, Patricia Troy-Brooks, owner of Advanced Staffing, estimates that you need a minimum of just two people when you start out: one to get clients (i.e., a sales associate) and the other to find and supervise employees (i.e., a recruiter/coordinator). "From there, you add your front-desk person," says Troy-Brooks. Until you have that person, your recruiter/coordinator will also be answering phones. Note that your sales associate won't be able to do this because they'll be out of the office most of the day. Several years down the road, you may have a dozen or more permanent employees.
Once you're ready to hire employees, what should you look for? Skills and experience are important, of course, but they're not the only considerations. In the staffing industry, you should look for the following personality traits:
- Unflappability. Your staff, particularly "frontline" employees like personnel coordinators and recruiters, must be able to deal effectively with stress. When trouble strikes, these people have to be able to handle the stress.
- Multitasking ability. With phones ringing all morning and many tasks to be completed in a narrow time frame, you need staff members who can handle more than one task at a time.
- Ability to get along with others. In a small company, conflict is very obvious. Hard as it may be, don't be afraid to let employees go if they don't fit in with the rest of the office. Conflict interferes with morale and productivity.
- Ambition. This industry is highly competitive and demanding. You need employees who enjoy being challenged.
To maximize your chances of ending up with employees who provide the best possible fit for their positions and for your company, consider the following strategies:
Provide a thorough, solid description of the position. List the requirements of the position and the skills and qualities you're looking for. This sounds obvious and easy, but many firms don't do it effectively.
Give behavioral interviews. Here, the questions focus not only on candidates' competencies, but also on their cultural and motivational fit with your staffing service. For example, questions such as "How would you handle X situation?" can be effective.
Give candidates projects to do together. That way you can observe how they work, perhaps as part of the interview process.
Use a valid personality assessment. This tool can help you understand candidates' real strengths and weaknesses. Psychological tests like these are readily available through bookstores and online.