Staffing 100 Hall of Famers Share Their Best Piece of Leadership Advice

Since 2011, Staffing Industry Analysts has been assembling its highly anticipated Staffing 100 list, which aims to highlight those who are shaping the industry and influencing the workforce solutions ecosystem. Years later, in 2017, as a way to honor those influencers who were consistently making the list year after year, they created the Staffing 100 Hall of Fame.

Not unlike the Staffing 100 list, the Hall of Fame comprises remarkable individuals leading exceptional businesses that are generating notable results. Truly, this is the who’s who of our industry.

As a marketing professional specializing in the staffing industry, I am always most intrigued by people’s personal stories. How did they get to where they are? What were their most prominent lessons along the way? Which of their jobs have they loved the most? And, of course, what leadership advice do they have for others?

This year’s Executive Forum — the annual meeting for CEOs, owners and senior-level staffing and workforce solutions executives — was centered around “Breakthrough Leadership,” modeled after SIA President Barry Asin and staffing performance consultant Mike Cleland’s book, Breaking Through: Leadership Disciplines from Top Performing Staffing Firms. In order to better understand how to become a top performer, Barry and Mike surveyed the businesses who had “made it,” leaders whose businesses surpassed that $100 million mark The advice, of course, varied, but there were most certainly common denominators.

To continue the conversations sparked by Breaking Through and carried into Executive Forum this year, I set out to gather more leadership advice. This time, from the recently inducted Class of 2019 Staffing 100 Hall of Famers.

Here are their best pieces of leadership advice to — to fellow staffing executives and up and comers:

“Don’t overcomplicate things.”

William Grubbs grew up in staffing — having started out as a recruiter and worked his way up to CEO. And in fact, when you ask him, those were two of his most favorite positions he’s held throughout his 35+ year-long career. As a recruiter, he enjoyed getting to learn the industry. As the CEO, he liked being part of a company’s growth, strategy — and success.

In Barry and Mike’s book, coined the “staffing playbook,” there are numerous examples and stories of the executives who have successfully broken through the $100 million threshold in their staffing businesses — which, by the way, is a small circle of just 140 out of the 19,000+ US-based staffing companies that exist. And, of those successful businesses, leaders referenced metrics and consistent measurement as being most important to their models and results.

Similarly, Bill recommends keeping it simple.

“This is a fairly straight forward business. Stick to the metrics and focus on execution, and your team, or your company, will be successful.”

“Look in the mirror.”

As president and COO of AtWork Group, a franchise-based staffing business, Jason Leverant spends his days leading branch owners by providing insights and technology as well as implementing process and operational improvements.

In a business outpacing the industry growth rate three times over, Jason likes to keep a mindset of continuous growth and improvement, while maintaining an objective—and reflective—viewpoint.

“One of our favorite expressions around here is the opposite of ‘if it’s not broke don’t fix it.’ And that is, if it’s not broke, you’re probably not looking hard enough, fix it anyway! If you’re being effective, strive to be more effective.”

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“Recognize people.”

When Bob Livonius leads an acquisition or mentors an executive from a portfolio company, he equates the relationship to being like grandchildren — where he knows he’ll have to give them back, but he can still impart some hard-learned lessons and wisdom while time permits.

His leadership style is pretty straightforward — he’s humane and genuine, and starts first by being personable. Small but important behaviors, like knowing and addressing people by their first names, establish credibility and relatability.

He also draws on advice from his dad, including “you catch more with honey,” so being nice and creating an environment of positive reinforcement is always on the top of his list of best practices.

“The single most important thing you can do as a leader is to recognize people further down in the business, and to care about them as people.”

“Build trust.”

Leadership is complex. Lisa Maxwell, founder and managing partner of executive search firm Gerard Stewart, knows this all too well. In her role, she provides guidance to companies while leading them through the executive search process to identify their next C-suite hire. She is, for all intents and purposes, a leader among leaders, and has to carefully navigate competing agendas, strong personalities and company dynamics to help make senior-level hires.

To build rapport — and, perhaps more importantly, to garner trust — Lisa leads with honesty and integrity.

Her leadership advice is less of an actionable to-do and more of a state of being.

“A good leader puts the business and the people ahead of their own personal agendas,” Lisa says. “You have to lead in a way that is not self-serving. And to me, you either are that person or you’re not.”

“Learn from the people who know more than you do.”

Eric Rumbaugh is one of the handful of attorneys to make the Staffing 100 list, let alone the Hall of Fame. He has litigated many contingent labor lawsuits, and works with buyers and suppliers on contracts and day-to-day staffing legal matters.

To be the best leader to companies and their executives as they face challenging legal situations head on, Eric focuses on continuously learning, so he can be the best resource possible when the time comes.

“I’ve been fortunate to have been able to constantly work with people who know more than me,” Eric says. “Every challenge adds to your experience. Never stop learning and you’ll always be adding — and broadening — your point of view.”


Brittney Kowalski

Brittney Kowalski
Founder + Lead Consultant , BMUR Branding Group LLC. She can be rached at brittney (at) bmurbrandinggroup (dot) com.

Brittney Kowalski

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