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Lasso Talent With a Staffing Service

This ever-hot industry shows no sign of cooling down. Here's how you can get started in the staffing services business.

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According to the Bureau of Statistics, staffing services will be one of the fastest-growing industries over the next five to 10 years. If you know how to lasso talent for some high-demand professions, you might be a contender in this still-hot field. "Sourcing and deploying talent is not a core competency of most businesses," says Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association in Alexandria, Virginia. "There is more art than science when it comes to finding the right people."

Entrepreneurs new to the aren't likely to do well pitting themselves against the huge, full-service staffing giants like Manpower, Wahlquist says. Rather, accountants, lawyers, nurses, mental health professionals, engineers and pharmacists, among others, are finding success using their connections and insider savvy to create niche staffing services for their own professions.

Another hot niche? Many employers are looking for workers over the age of 50--particularly temporary and consulting hires. "They want them for both their experience and their ," says Edward Caliguiri, 49, a partner in The Response Companies, a staffing services firm in with sales of $30.5 million. "Over-50s are also in great demand for consulting assignments because they have depth and breadth of experience throughout different business cycles."

Getting Started: Staffing Services
Before you start your own employee screening business, consider the following:

  • Prior experience is important. According to Edward Caliguiri, a partner with The Response Companies, a staffing services firm in New York City, it's tough to get a start in this field unless you've already worked in a similar firm. "Someone needs to spend time in this business to understand it," he says. "People often underestimate what it takes to succeed. In strong economic times, there are lots of startups, but up to a third fail in severe economic downturns because they don't have a strong, deep client base."
  • You"ll need a substantial upfront investment. Caliguiri suggests that entrepreneurs who decide to go off on their own need at least enough money to sustain themselves for up to six months. "You probably won"t see any cash flow at all for three to four months if you're lucky--maybe even longer," he says. "The first year is really a builder year. It takes two to three years to reach some sort of critical mass, whether you're working on your own or adding staff."
  • Find the right candidates. You have to be able to do more than search resumes at online job boards like Monster and Yahoo! Hot Jobs. The best way to find candidates is to build strong networks within your specialty area by joining professional organizations such as the Security Industry Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association and so on. You"ll have access to their own industry-specific job boards, but more important, you"ll develop deep knowledge about the industry by attending their conferences and trade shows, and building your own network of connections.
  • Polish your telephone skills. When you're getting started, Caliguiri says you"ll probably need to make 75-100 phone calls a day to recruit talent--cold calls to people from the industry you're staffing to ask about their backgrounds, qualification and interest in a new position. Your goal is to build a strong network of connections so that ultimately, you can find the right candidate for a job with four to six phone calls.
  • What makes you stand out? If you're just starting out, your potential clients are going to want to know why they should use you instead of a more established firm. Make sure you know how to articulate what makes your firm different or unique.

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