The Staff of Life

Start your own staffing service.

Have you been eyeing the drum-tight labor market, thinking you ought to get into the staffing business? If you can match the right people with the right jobs, that might just be a smart move. It was for Tom Potenza, 33, who in 1998 launched TechLink Inc., a Ramsey, New Jersey, staffing firm that provides IT professionals to clients who develop their own software, Web sites and other systems. "I was flipping through The New York Times and saw there were tons of jobs out there. I read about how the demand for good employees is so much greater than the supply," explains Potenza. A former computer programmer, he figured he had the connections to open a company to fill the need.

Potenza's timing couldn't have been better. A robust economy and low unemployment rate are driving the demand for workers. Companies vying for the same talent need an edge to compete. Increasingly, that edge is staffing companies.

In the old days, there were two kinds of staffing firms: temp agencies and recruiters. One placed people on a short-term basis, the other permanently. Those lines have now blurred, with many temp agencies doing direct placement and many recruitment firms arranging short-term contract work. This change has had such an impact that the leading industry organization, the former National Association of Temporary and Staffing Services, recently renamed itself the American Staffing Association (ASA) to reflect the current state of affairs.

The reason for the shift is twofold. "The staffing industry is changing in response to the business world, which has different employment needs than in the past," explains Jean Norton, founder of, an Austin, Texas, directory of industry staffing companies.

Plus, "People find they like the flexibility that working through a staffing company provides," adds Tim Brogan of the ASA in Alexandria, Virginia. "They see themselves as independent professionals."

There's a host of terms now used to describe the increasingly complex industry: staffing firms, employment agencies, employee leasing companies and personnel service suppliers, to name a few. Staffing is now a $72 billion industry that puts about 2.9 million people to work each day.


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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Staff of Life.

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