EPISODE 9: JASON LEVERANT

009: The Value of a Servant Based Mission with AtWork President Jason Leverant

How does a clear mission statement lead to consistent growth even in uncertain times? David talks with the President of AtWork Group, Jason Leverant, about that and more.

A special thanks to ZipWhip for sponsoring this episode! ZipWhip is the market leading solution in texting for business with unmatched connectivity to the mobile networks.  Check them out today!

The irony is that you can make as much money in the world. But you just can't buy time.

 Show Notes:

  • Jason’s rapid climb from mid-level to C-suite (1:56)

  • Jump starting growth during a recession (6:40)

  • Amazon Alexa’s role at AtWork (8:28)

  • Using your mission statement to create a solid foundation (9:09)

  • The importance of time management for work-life balance (10:25)

  • The AtWork staffing service and franchise model (13:09)

  • The unique way AtWork supports its franchisees (14:48)

  • Who is AtWork’s ideal franchisee? (17:50)

  • How AtWork’s brand attracts talent (22:58)

  • The benefit of the AtWork brand identity for franchisees (25:22)

  • Driving business growth with a personal brand (28:02)

  • The billion dollar goal (29:27)

  • How does Jason plan for growth and challenges? (31:43)

  • Is AI killing recruitment? (33:50)

  • What Jason is most proud of (38:04)

Additional Resources:

If you are interested in listening to more recruitment business stories or wish to share your recruitment business journey, subscribe for free to The JourneyUp in your favorite app and listen to other informative and inspirational episodes! Feel free to contact me, David Alonso, with questions and comments.


Episode transcript

David Alonso:       Hi and welcome to the JourneyUP podcast. This is a show featuring the very best CEOs in staffing industry. We share their passions and successes as well as giving you some practical advice that you can use in your staffing business. I'm David Alonso and in today's show, I met with the president of an award winning recruitment franchisor revenues now exceeding over 332 million bucks. He's a recruitment Hall of Famer and he's listed by the staffing industry analysts as one of the hundred most influential people in the staffing industry. My guest today is Jason Leverant from the AtWork Group. Thanks for Thomas for the introduction and let's now hear what Jason is all about.

 

David Alonso:       Okay, Jason, well thanks very much for being on the show today. Really appreciate you being here. Thank you for your time.

 

Jason Leverant:     Thanks for having me...it's awesome.

 

David Alonso:       That's great. Where are you located? Where's your base?

 

Jason Leverant:     I am in beautiful East Tennessee, actually Knoxville, Tennessee, where I guess we are famous for the great Smoky Mountains still. I think that the most visited national park in the country right now. So I coveted San Diego and the beautiful beaches, southern California. A lot of people in the country I guess want to come visit us here in Knoxville. So, uh, that's where I'm sitting at today.,

 

David Alonso:       So, I don't say this often. We'll probably trade the weather... A lot of May gray here. So if I sound like I'm moaning about the weather here I am, it's been a rough couple of weeks. So, maybe it's the right time to come visit you down there.

 

Jason Leverant:     There you go. Come on over.

 

Jason Leverant:     Yeah, I'd love to. I'd love to say again. Thanks for your time. I always like to kind of start this thing, but just be getting a good background of how you started and I'll tell us a little about your journey up to your current role, even though it's just touching upon how you actually got into the business in the first place.

 

Jason Leverant:     Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It's kind of an interesting story and a lot of people stop and ask me and they're like, you know, I look at your LinkedIn profile and you, and basically you work at Ronstadt and you are working out of a branch and then you jump rank and you're already sitting in the, in a c level role at a national staffing firm. And so it kind of goes back to my journey before I got into staffing. And so, you know, I worked for a sporting goods company and it was called Focus Golf, but we were actually a licensee for a brand that many people are familiar with, Dunlop sports groups. So if you play golf or you play tennis, you may be familiar with the Dunlop products. We also produced Max fly and Slazenger and other things like that. But I was in their marketing department as their marketing manager.

 

Jason Leverant:     So I handled, you know, basically golf products, golf clubs, golf gloves and things of that sort. And I was, you know, it was kind of an interesting role. I got to play a lot of golf that you're in an industry where everyone has fun. Everybody loves to golf. And that's, you know, you're in a recreational industry where Fridays were product test days and you got to hang out on tour with pros and you know, it was a really a great time, but just like anything, all good things must come to an end, and you know, I found myself in a position, there was some, some changes internally with focus golf as a licensee in Dunlop Sports Groups from the UK coming in and wanting to take a stronger stance here in the US and I was looking at my opportunities. I had to find something because I was with really without a job.

 

Jason Leverant:     So I started looking and throughout, you know, my life growing up, my father had partnered with headhunters and, uh, in helping him find his next career. And that's what I thought, okay, you know, I'm going to follow in his footsteps and I'm gonna go turn to a headhunter. And I didn't know what I was doing at the time. And so, you know, my wife and I were talking about it and she said, well, what about these companies? We were searching staffing firms around locally in Greenville, South Carolina. And so I started boots on the ground, went out knocking on doors, visiting staffing agencies saying, Hey, can you help me with any positions? This is my experience, you know, national marketing, you know, sporting goods. I'd love to stay in this industry, but I also want to stay in the southeast. And honestly it would just wasn't possible if I, if I was going to stay in the industry, I would've had to go to southern California with Tailor Made or up in Boston with Tidalist or you know, basically anywhere in the country

 

Jason Leverant:     But Greenville, South Carolina. But they stopped me and said, almost every single firm said, you know, we can't help you with any positions externally, but we may have some opportunities internally if you want to at least listen to us and see if you like it. So I went through the, the, the process, the kind of the on-boarding orientation, not on-boarding, orientation... But the orientation kind of is this for me with both Ronstadt and a company called Apple One out of southern California. And I went through it with both. And funny enough, I got an offer of employment by both Ronstadt and Apple One on the same day within like 30 minutes of each other. And so this was like a sign I have to be in the staffing industry, didn't have anything on the horizon and to staffing companies want me to come work for them, I should listen to that.

 

David Alonso:       So these, the opportunities from background really differentiates as well, right? I mean it's, you know, oh, someone's got marketing backgrounds going into recruitment. You're talking about personal brand growing the company brand is very advantageous.

 

Jason Leverant:     Bingo. Exactly, exactly. And so that helped tremendously. So I ultimately took the, the role for Ronstadt I, I've got great things to say about their training because they brought me through the ringer, went through the process and really got my foundational understanding of the industry with those guys. But you know, it's funny because I started in the history, I was in a sales role. They always had me positioned out because sales was always been my strength in markets where I was going to spin up new branches. So I was out in Anderson, South Carolina, Clemson area when I kind of jumped the ship and came over to Knoxville with Ronstadt. I was working in blond county, which is a, an area kind of in the outskirts because sales was my strength. I always yearn for more of a national type, you know, gig. That was what I am doing with Dunlop being confined to a little area...

 

Jason Leverant:     it just wasn't my cup of tea. So I was getting my eyes open and this little company, little company, this little company called at work was advertising for a VP of sales. And so I threw my hat in the ring. I remember distinctly if your recruiter had been in recruiting, you remember Hot Jobs, the Yahoo Job Board. I was actually found it on Hot Jobs and I sent my resume and, and uh, I told my wife that night when I did, I said, you know, hey, I sent my resume and who knows, they might call me. I said, I doubt it, but you never know. And I literally, that night I got an email from the CEO I was interviewing the next day. It took a good probably three months, but I finally joined the AtWork family. Yeah, it was interesting. It was a, it was a grueling process, but I joined the work family in 2007.

 

David Alonso:       How big were they back then?

 

Jason Leverant:     You know, it's funny, we were, we were hitting some peaks back in the '07 times. I mean everybody was in the industry. We were at a high as an industry at the time, right. Cap at hundred millions. We were right over a hundred million. We're really excited about hitting the triple digits and the and size, um, obviously the, the recession, you know, helped us unpack, unwind a that, that number. Yeah.

 

David Alonso:       Not to long after you joined either, right?

 

Jason Leverant:     Oh my God, funny because it was, it was an interesting ride because I'd been in staffing for a few years prior. Things were growing great. You didn't have to really try that hard and just orders were falling in, you could fill it. I mean, billable hours were increasing. It was beautiful. And then, '08 happens '09 And it's like the trap door fell out of the economy.

 

David Alonso:       I was doing it as well with my recruitment business. I know exactly how that was happening. Yeah, yeah. It was ugly. But it didn't deter right. You uh, you moved your way up the ranks.

 

Jason Leverant:     Oh Man. I was batten down the hatches. We really shed a lot of the overhead. We had to just maintain and we felt that we, our unit count dropped pretty heavily. Our total revenue went down, I think about 60 million or so, a little bit less than 60 million in total annual revenue. And we basically had a building point from that point forward to start growing. And that's exactly what we did starting in 2009 2010 and we just started ramping up the growth. We again focused on best practices focused on what we really needed to do to get the job done. It was in maintenance mode '08 to '09, 2010 and we started looking at yeah, what we're going to do. But you know, you know, we've talked about it in our kind of pre-calls, but AtWork we are a franchisor, so we are looking to bring in franchise owners and when the economy is pretty rough, a lot of people aren't looking to invest in the industry. That was almost most severely impacted by the recession. So we took a stance and we started building ourselves and we started building some company on locations to get the momentum going and that really helped jumpstart our growth back into the industry in 2010 and then beyond. And we've just rocketed since that point, so

 

David Alonso:       Absolutely. Yeah. And you, um, took the president role at the company what period?

 

Jason Leverant:     I took the Chief Operating Officer in late 2011 and then, and then the, uh, the founder of the company designated President in early 2012. And so that's when I really took the helm. Uh, we're still a privately owned firm. The owner sits in Scottsdale, Arizona pretty much, uh, 12 months of the year. It's just, it's his home base of operations now. And, and we work remotely. I, I joke with people and say when he's in Phoenix, I actually interact with him more than when he's right across the office from me. It's crazy, you know, and we've got video conferencing on all of our desks. So he basically tells his echo device and then we use the a, the Amazon echo device. So if he says, Hey, call Jason and we have a video you know, face to face, video call three times a day, four times a day.

 

David Alonso:       So there is no hiding in, that's for sure.

 

Jason Leverant:     Oh No, it's awesome. Look what we're doing right here, man. Yes. So he gave me the, he gave me the reigns and said, take it where you can take the company. And I asked, I said, how big do we want to go? He said, let's grow. Let's do this. Yeah. And so we really focused on kind of reworking everything we do. We started with a mission statement back in 2012 and we, and we looked at where we were in the past and there's nothing wrong with it. We were a great company, but we really wanted something inspirational. We wanted, you know, a mission to drive the purpose of what we're trying to accomplish. And funny enough, we simplified it. We took a mission statement that is very simple, very basic, this whole idea to be at work for you. I could talk for an hour about what that really means to us. But that kind of underpinning, that coupled with our core values of servant leadership, you know, you don't really, excellence in the market and empowering our owners has driven us to just exponential growth. It's been, it's been a phenomenal ride and we've continued to grow. And so last year we pushed, uh, over 360 million in total revenue over a hundred branch locations across the country in 2018. So pretty interesting. Uh, yeah, I would say it was pretty amazing run that we've had, but it's all been really focused on, uh, a service forward service focused approach. And that's really what I'm beating that work order from just a, we need to differentiate through service. That's what it's all about. So,

 

David Alonso:       and, and obviously, you know, early days, a lot around vision and processes, et cetera. Now that everything's in a more of a, uh, routine, so to speak, people who aspire to be CEOs or presidents, what does it, what does a typical day look like for you? What does a, there's no nine to five, right? We all know that. But if you could sort of summarize that, what does it kind of look and feel like?

 

Jason Leverant:     Yeah, you've got to live in it. And so that's it. That's an amazing question because it feels like every day is different. And I like it that way because it gets creative, different things are happening and we're always moving. We're always developing. And so, so we, we kind of live by this idea or this concept, you know, people say the, the expression, if it's not broke, don't fix it. But the expression really is, if it's not broken, you're not looking hard enough, fix it anyways. So we're in this constant state of really examination, you know? So I have a certain meeting routine with all of our departments. Every Monday morning we do kind of a one on one department head kind of meeting, a steering type of meeting to make sure everybody's going down the right path. Every other week we do a department head group meeting to keep the communication flowing.

 

Jason Leverant:     At the end of every month we do a full staff meeting. It's all about communication. It's all about making sure that everybody is bought into the vision. Everybody is really focusing on the direction that we want to go. And then it's obviously identifying and prioritizing. I wish I could share with you on, I probably can, you know, I keep them board of all ongoing projects on my, on my wall at all times and we keep it updated. So, so my life is really making sure that our company is growing from a branding perspective, but not just a branding and an external appearance, but infrastructure operationally. It's following the path that, that we want it to take and grow in a certain way. And so again, it, it's really just doing the best you can. Funny enough. And I, and I've told people, you know, I really want, I have a desire to, uh, to write a book about time management because for me, you know, many people think, oh, you're gonna, it's going to be grueling.

 

Jason Leverant:     You have to you know. It's a hundred hours a week. It's, you know, you're, you're never going to live. You know, I've got three young children. I can come home for dinner while when I'm in town, I'm not traveling. I come home, I have dinner every, every night. If I can sneak away... Today, I went and had lunch with my daughter at school. It's all about time management. And there's nothing in your career if you balance your time properly and you do the right things. And when you're working, you're working and when you're playing, you're enjoying time with family, you're doing that. But if you balance your time properly, you can fit everything in. It's all about prioritization of what you're trying to accomplish. And, and that's what I've been successful at doing for 12 years with that work. And that's not held my career back. And I, I really feel like it's a time management component that people need to really think about. And that's helps you excel because when you're working and you're doing your best while you're on the job and working and not playing around, not not, that's helped me accelerate my career. So,

 

Jason Leverant:     and the irony is that you can make as much money in the world, right? But you just can't buy time. You know? That's the thing that time is so important. We do a lot of sessions internally about management of time, structure of your day.

 

David Alonso:       Should be able to do things in the day. Just got to work it closer to your time management for sure. But I'm really intrigued and I actually think a lot of the listeners will be just about the model of AWwork in the franchisee business. It gives us an overview of how it works from, from a revenue perspective and just talk about a little bit about the model if you would.

 

Jason Leverant:     So AtWork... I alluded to earlier is a franchise or a of staffing services. So we find entrepreneurial minded professionals that are looking to enter into the staffing industry. So those that want to come in and you know, own their own staffing business. We help them do that. We give them all of the infrastructure, we give all of the pieces and parts and processes, everything they need to open up their own staffing business. And really it's as simple as that. They follow the model, we do everything on the back end to allow them to truly focus on the sales client development side of the, of the spectrum and the talent development talent pipeline side of it. So sales and recruiting, you know, so we take all of the, the back end infrastructure components, we provide the software solutions, we do all the tax and accounting functions.

 

Jason Leverant:     We'd lift all that burden off of our owners to really allow them to focus on honing their skills on both of those fronts. It's interesting because our model is slightly different than some of the other staffing franchise models from a financial perspective. And I could go on for an a for an hour talking about the benefits of our structure versus somebody else's. And, and I'm not going to bore you guys with that, but when you look at our model financially and how we actually structure our fees, components and you side by side comparison, we are the most cost effective model. You know, I'd say we're the cheapest because that would assume that our value that we bring to our owners is any less. That's absolutely not the case. And you could see it based on our phenomenal success and growth that we've had, but we're the most cost effective model that's available as a staffing franchise. And we don't skimp on that level of service and the resources and things that we provide to our franchise owners because we really take a hard focus on, you know, our mission statement on decisions that we make internally to make sure that we can remain in that position.

 

David Alonso:       What, what sort of training goes into a new franchisee? How does that work?

 

Jason Leverant:     Oh yeah. So it's funny, we find ourselves even before an owner, an owner, when they're going through, we call the discovery process in the validation process. You know we do a discovery day, we do calls with these potential owners and we find ourselves dwelling at the training. Even at that point talking around how to go out and make an effective staffing sales call, how to recruit individuals. But officially when you sign the franchise agreement that really the training begins at that point in time. So we have a tool and intranet software platform that helps with the new owner, walks them through, I think it's like 150 or 160 steps to ownership for when they execute the agreement to when they actually opened their door. And through that process there's steps to the process to open their, you know, all the different little nuts and bolts items of setting up your corporation, getting insurance in line, you know?

 

Jason Leverant:     But then there's also those training components built into it with, you know, some pre opening web-based staffing training. There's pre-opening web-based employment law and HR related trainings that come into play. We do an instructor led live, we call launch camp very early on in the process, which allows our owners to to come in just as owners and focus on getting their business elements up and running and then that that reserves or allows us to focus on our full instructor led training to be purely staffing related. Because what we want is at the end of the training process for our franchise owners to have a core understanding, a foundational understanding of the staffing industry. And I, and I tell our owners as they come in, many of them have no staffing experience. They may have, you know, experienced as clients of a staffing firm or at some point in their younger life had went through a staffing firm for some kind of a temporary employment or something like that. But they've never actually acted in a role where they were placing talent and that kind of thing. Our goal is to bring them through. Yeah. So they come in and they have that foundational knowledge when they opened their doors and then our field operations team comes in and works with them to keep building in that foundational knowledge on top of that. So then you know, hopefully over time they start building those skills and they become true staffing professionals when they're out in the marketplace.

 

David Alonso:       Are they surprised about the detail that goes into actually setting up your own shop or they kind of, surprised about the level of detail that is needed.

 

Jason Leverant:     You know, it's funny because we baby-step everything. It's very granular. The process that we have when they log in to their AtWork Connect platform. They have every step. If they follow each step and just check it off, check it off and just go down the list. It's actually quite simply, it's very detailed, but people take it for granted I think because I recall times when we didn't have this software and I think in my head, oh my God, how did, how did our previous franchise owners even know to open up to do all this stuff? I mean, we didn't have any of these resources 10 years ago and they were, they were okay. But now we were literally handed on a silver platter to our owners and say, hey, we make this process as easy and seamless as possible because we don't want you to have to worry about this. We don't want you to forget anything. We want you to really truly focus on building your market, building your business. That's what it's all about. So

 

David Alonso:       yeah, concentrate on sales. So you alluded to this a little bit before, what, what's like a, an ideal profile of the type of person that you would expect to be successful? Because I presume you do some outbound reach to certain individuals, right? So what are you looking at?

 

Jason Leverant:     Yeah, so if you could give me, you know, kind of a profile candidate profile and I'm placing the job order with you and you're a recruiter and you're telling me what do I want from my potential placement here? You know, somebody who's sales minded, who's I think almost direct sales experience is great, having actually been out and sold before. But I think even as strong or as powerful would be managing sales teams. That's very critical because we've seen now the owners that really excel. I've got a strong background in team management and understand how to coach and develop internal teams despite the fact that your first office will only have two to three people working with you in the office. You still need to have those skills to be able to motivate and engage your team. If it was somebody with staffing experience, you have a bit of a tactical advantage because you already get the market. So if we can draw somebody in that has 10, 15, 20 years of staffing experience, they can walk right in the door. Those people really appreciate what we've done. We've got probably six or seven owners who have come from the staffing industry and just been crazy successful and have told us, we wish we did this 10 years ago. I wish that you don't have, I mean, so many owners tell us, I wish you, yeah.

 

David Alonso:       It's interesting though. You said sales first, then recruitment. I don't know if that was an oversight or not, but I would've thought it would be staffing fast. But what sort of a learning curve, if your non-staff in the good people, how long did it take them to pick it up?

 

Jason Leverant:     It really depends, I think, you know, we get some really, really sharp folks that get it really, really quickly. But it's funny that you asked that question because everybody takes their time and I, and I don't say it, you know, staffing as a whole, I don't feel like is a, is a super complex industry to yet it's very processe driven. We, we've got processes in place and if you learn the processes for all the process for us, you're going to go, go and do it. But there's times when I, I recall when I used to work directly with owners on a day to day basis, we could go in and basically tell when an owner finally got it, it clicked in their head and they say, you sounded like you were talking to a staffing, like a recruiter or a staffing salesperson versus talking with an owner who's trying to, who's on their way.

 

Jason Leverant:     And I usually stop and tell them, hey, now you sound like a staffing pro. You sound like a professional. You could, you could go and sit at it, you know, go to a staffing world and executive forum and nobody would think twice that you didn't know what you're talking about. You know? But there's certain tipping point with that. That really happens. But I do say sales first because despite the fact of the economy that we're sitting in today, you know, being a, being a talent, short market with skills, gaps everywhere. We've seen owners, when you start a business in staffing, you're starting from scratch. Even having our infrastructure, even having our brand backing, having everything, it still takes a concerted focus, a really strong focus on the client development side of it, because you can't force relationships with customers. They may have a demand and you may be able to secure a, you know, one off job order.

 

Jason Leverant:     But to truly solidify a branch in a marketplace, you've got to have a really, really strong sales process. Now it's gotta be backed by effective recruiting as well. And that's, that's absolutely the truth. But for a new office taking off the ground was starting with zero revenue and growing sales and is absolutely critical. And we put a lot of emphasis into that. Now we found that as an atypical fit for staffing. We don't necessarily feel, and I don't want us to lay down a rule, but folks with HR backgrounds seem to have a more difficult time transitioning into the staffing industry. And so that's kind of interesting where you think, oh, you know, HR folks should be great for staffing, but it's just a mindset shift for them. And so yeah. Not to say it's impossible. It's just a bit more challenging because it's a different world.

 

David Alonso:       yeah, I can understand that. I can what? I mean they're more resource driven versus actually recruitment and sales driven. Right. So that kind of makes sense.

 

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David Alonso:           I'm reading Linkedin, looking at articles. You guys are a really good strong job on branding. I end up doing quite a lot of that goes into your franchisees and you mentioned before about the market and so forth. So I always like to kind of switch gears a little bit and talk about especially the, you know at the moment how difficult is to find candidates and so forth. How does the brand go out and attract candidates in these difficult times? What did you kind of suggest to your people about how to keep on bringing these good, good candidates through the doors?

 

Jason Leverant:     It really is the US economic issue with the, there's a lack of talent, but there is talent out there and the staffing firms are bringing them in. So for us it goes back to our really core focus on our branding and awareness. And we do have a bit of a strategic advantage as a, as a franchise or, because in franchising it's all about brand awareness, right? So you want to try to, you know, your w, I don't want to say puffing ourselves up, but we always want to appear bigger than what we are. And that's something that's kind of a strategy we took back when we were a $60 million or $70 million firm back in '09 just to look at our presence, our online presence, everything we're doing to appear. I want up here as large as an Adecco, as an Elitist Group, as a Manpower when you know we're, we're a fraction of their size even today with growth.

 

Jason Leverant:     But it's all about building that brand awareness. And so we've continued to maintain that where web presence a strong, we focused on reputation management heavily. We're focusing on really looking at ongoing satisfaction surveys and things that's worked not only just to attract new talent but retain the talent that we have. One of the things that we're experimenting with and feeling really good about is our focus on video marketing. We've, we've just recorded a series of recruitment based candidate facing recruitment videos. Really high production value. Those can be used, whether it be on television or wherever. They're very, very high production value and we're seeing them right now using them on YouTube through ads, YouTube ad channels, things of that sort and seeing some serious, serious results through those channels. From the standpoint of brand awareness of engagement impressions, but also click-throughs and actually the watches, it's outstanding, how much data you can pull extract from from the Youtube marketing channels on that arm.

 

Jason Leverant:     At the same point, we're looking at innovation in technology that's been innovating, so we've, you know, we've Beta tested some AI sourcing tools in the past. We've, we're looking or we've rolled out an upskilling platform. This is more client or talent retention on that side. In a partnership with Penn Foster. It's at works level up program. And so we really want to offer this ability for our talent to level up themselves and, and it's really a pretty cool, uh, way to go about it. And so we're really looking at ways to bring resources and value to the table where we're staffing firms in the past that really struggled to do that. So

 

David Alonso:       How does the brand awareness stuff that the AtWork Group corporate that does that trickle down into the franchisees? Cause I presume, you know, the budget isn't with the franchisees, the budgets with the corporates. How does that work from what you do? How does that kind of trickled down and actually support people in Nashville to San Diego and stuff? How does that work?

 

Jason Leverant:     Yeah, you've got a great, great question. A lot of people ask that. That very same question is really, when I brought on our marketing director, I told him, it's like, you're almost like a, you're going to wear two hats. You've put on your staffing, your staffing hat or your franchise sales hat. And so when we meet we, we've got a clear delineation between spend, between resource sets and things of that sort for franchise sales and for our staffing operations. And so AtWork dot com, which is a really attractive domain where we push all of our jobs through and we do a lot of work to get highly trafficked is different than. AtWork Franchisedot com which is our franchise arm of the uh, business. Funny enough that we actually, most of the time, most months we spend more resources on our staffing arm than on our corporate franchising arm because in my opinion, if we could attract more candidates, more clients, if we can grow the staffing side of the business, guess what? Owners will take notes. They're going to join the system because they see our growth.

 

Jason Leverant:     That's what's going to drive our franchise sales growth is the performance of the, the as a franchise system. When you look at the team here that we built internally, I'm a staffing guy. All of my field ops folks are 20 year veterans in staffing. We look at ourselves in the mirror. We're a staffing company. We're not a franchise company. We're a staffing company. That franchise is not a franchise company that did the staffiing, which is, which I think may set us apart of it because for good or for bad, I mean the results are evident. We've really put a heavy focus on bringing in people who get the business. A lot of times it helps in the franchising front because in staffing it's a service focused deliverable. In Franchising, it's a service that we're delivering to our Franchisees, so I find my team delivers phenomenal service to our franchise owners. That's our mission. If you look at our ad work for you mission, if you read the fine print of our mission behind it, kind of the underpinning of it, it talks about the service that we delivered to our Franchisees, our clients, and our talent.

 

David Alonso:       I can see how that just sets you apart from your competitors. I really do and actually for someone who, if I was to go into that, I'd want that level of marketing's, I know it's going to trickle down and I can really talk and piggyback off it. I could do so many of them own marketing campaigns as the back of what what you do. So that's a real bonus and I'm not sure, um, if a lot of people listening in actually realize just how important that is to have that sort of corporate brand. So that's amazing. And what about, um, where do you kind of see the president's role in, in brand awareness? So, you know, on LinkedIn there's a lot of business owners acquire before recruiters to be front and center and videos and so forth. But I see you're a guy who doesn't mind to be in front of the camera. I can see online and stuff yourself. I wouldn't say that's typical of a lot of, you know, not necessarily your size but maybe a staff and business of say up to 20 people maybe a little bit camera shy. How important is your personal brand in grown your own company brand?

 

Jason Leverant:     I think it's absolutely critical and I think that was a, a big component of, you know, the tone that I want to set in the organization is that I want to position myself as a, as an industry leader, as a thought and subject matter expert in the staffing industry. So again, when we're franchising, when they're looking at who we are, they see that, you know what, not only do they say they know what they're talking about, everybody else in the industry says, yeah, these guys know what they're talking about. And so many on my team, I've encouraged them to get involved from an entry perspective, get involved in public relations campaigns and opportunities to put ourselves out there as industry experts. Are you sharing the secrets trade secrets? Well, not, you know, we're not sharing any kind of special sauce that at the end of the day, staffing and staffing, if you serve us better than your competitors, we're going to win.

 

Jason Leverant:     And at the end of the day too, I wholly believe that the whole idea of a rising tide lifts all ships. So I get out there and do what I do to try to improve the perception of the staffing industry. And so if we're using that example of a rising tide lifts all ships, I know our ship is faster, better, stronger than everybody else's. So we're going to win. If I can get the industry position more strongly, and it may be, I may be kidding myself with that, but I look at what we've done, I look at the growth that we've had and look at the impact we've been able to make as a whole. And so the bigger weekend, and it goes back to this whole idea of, you know, for us as do a lot of staffing firms, we'd love to be that next billion dollar staffing firm. So I did some math and looking at, okay, how do we get to $1 billion in revenue?

 

Jason Leverant:     What do we need to do to achieve this, this big lofty goal of $1 billion? And when you start doing the math, you know, in 10 years I've been with the company 12 years now. So 10 years is not, doesn't seem that far away. If you're like yesterday, I just started 10 years, we can average 15% growth year over year we'll be at $1 billion at the end of our 10th year. And so I'm looking at our numbers and, and you know, and I look at the, where we are, where we're going and I set that tone for everybody and say, okay, here's how we get there. If we can grow, we can make an impact in the industry for the positive. We're going to be able to maintain these numbers. And so as we grow and we become, you know, the, the eighth largest or 10th largest staffing firm in the country, we can swing a lot bigger stick and make a lot stronger ways. And if we're servicing at the level that we do today at that size, we're going to improve the perception of the industry. There's no doubt about it.

 

David Alonso:       When you talk about growing a business and in your role, what about the issues? There's obviously issues that arise, you know, how did you kind of foresee stuff, how much strategy do you put into like looking ahead of the curve and seeing where you might be kind of a little bit susceptible to some issues that are going to arise.

 

Jason Leverant:     It's crazy because there was one year, I think back, I think it was 2014 or 15 we pushed like 57% growth in one year. It was crazy. And we were, we were a $164 million company pushing 57% growth in one year. It was, it was not like we're going from a million to a million and a half. We were going from 160 million to 257 and nine or something like that. And one year I, I jokingly filled books. It was like running tractor trailers on gravel roads. I mean, your infrastructure is barely support able to support the level of growth. And we're like, you know, the, the, the walls are shaking. We're trying to, trying to keep it, keep it on the track,

Jason Leverant:     Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and you know, the lot of bigger numbers comes into play and we've started leveraging some of this, but still some serious growth as a, as of late, we're about to drop a release for quarter one 19. I think it's coming out the air tomorrow where we've grew 17% year over year from 2018 versus 2019 and so we're pumped about that because I needed 15% so I'm already beating my target by two points, which is pretty awesome to get by, you know, one quarter down out of 10 years at 39 quarters to go at 15% to hit my targets.

 

David Alonso:           So, Amazon Echo thing for the owner and have a chat. We might remind him if he doesn't know already.

 

Jason Leverant:     Exactly man. So, but going back to this, this fact of, of having that strategy and, and there's some things that you can plan for, but there's other things, you know, if a large customer comes to you and says, Hey, we want a partner, let's go right now. It's Kinda hard. You've got to think about, for us, we partner with Wells Fargo Bank. They're been an amazing partner for us since a, and I'm not getting paid any kind of referral thing here, I'm just going to, I'm not a paid spokesman for them, but they were to help back in 2007 honestly, during the recession, 2008 they helped us out when no one else would. They believed in us and they've been our partner ever since. So this will be our 10 year anniversary with those guys or 11 year now. You know, thinking like things like banking lines, you know, if you don't plan for that, it's going to restrict your growth.

 

Jason Leverant:     If you can't afford to fund a, you know, a $50 million client, you've got 30 day net terms, you're talking about a considerable credit line in a plan, then you've got workers compensation premiums. If you grow exponentially and now you have to renew those work comp premiums if you didn't plan appropriately, those down payments, those costing on the front end to renew policies are absolutely crazy huge. You know, you're kind of stuck if you don't, if you don't have the funds, what do you do? There's some core operational components that you have to have to critically focus on. That coupled with making sure you run your ship really tight. The issue we have today is a lot of people can get very litigious and so you have to make sure that you run properly, you know, lean on your legal partners. I think it's critical. Listen to them if they tell you to do or not to do something, listen to them.

 

Jason Leverant:     I mean just things that where we've, where we've learned in the past from from different issues and mistakes and you know, while the numbers look great, there's always a set of issues behind it that we've had to deal with and to get through and it's been a wild ride but a learning experience for it and we've taken all of our experience and channeled it back into our franchise program to make sure that our owners don't make mistakes, that they get the right decisions and that they can scale and grow and don't have the issues.

 

David Alonso:           And again, great that they've got you guys to call upon for the legal side of things, if need be,.When we talk about barriers to grow for issues around growth, do you kind of see any things on the horizon, any recruitment trends or to your model as far as barriers to growth? Anything that you're kind of trying to head off because your read, you know, recruitment's dying, it's is going to die soon, right?

 

Jason Leverant:     So they say, and I think that's funny because I do a lot of of industry speaking on technology and a lot of people pointed recruiters and say, oh you're, you're going the way of travel agencies. That's what I have somebody actually, so I did a panel discussion at an ASA event a few years back and we had some folks from academia, a couple of guys from like Yale and Rice and Cornell come out and did a presentation and trust me, it was not what I expected. It was great, but it was definitely, I felt like a college lecture I sat through. But one of the more dynamic of the folks said stood up in a room full of staffing professionals that said, if you guys don't change, you're going to be like the travel agencies were 20 years ago when the Internet was coming into fashion. Now I've thought about those statements for a long time and looking at that thought process and I disagree with him because I feel like in staffing it's more relationship driven than a transactional type relationship.

 

Jason Leverant:     You know in something like buying a vacation is very transactional. There's not a trust element that I'm having to, to worry about. When I think about staffing and I think about the tools that are coming down the pipeline, we think about the AI sourcing tools and the AI matching tools and that's where a lot of people point say, hey, computers are going to do the job of recruiters. You know, I am the first to say I'm a super nerd. I love technology. We've looked at the AI components tools and I keep saying tools because that's what I truly feel a lot of these resources are. They are tools to be wielded in the hands of a professional and the professionals, the one making the matches and providing those services. Yeah, there'll be a place for that. Perhaps there's a new line out of a service line that becomes AI matched candidates, but there's not going to be at this point that I see at the, even the distant future, a source or a tool that's going to actually take a way, the job of recruiter, they're... They're not capable at this point.

 

David Alonso:       No, I agree. And it's the same as sales enablement tools. I mean, is it the death of the salesman? Just because there's good tools, the tools are the to get you where you need to be. So I agree. So I think one of the things you mentioned as well, there's, there's always issues around operations. A big business is growing fast and so forth. So what does the next 12 months, how far out do you plan ahead? You know, obviously you've got your 12 month forecast, so you, are you going out five years, 10 years? When you revisit if it's not going according...

 

Jason Leverant:     Yeah, we, we look at it ongoing and because franchising is a is a bit different than if we're actual staffing operations. Our scalability is a little bit different. It's actually a bit easier to focus on scalability. Right now we've done three year forecast financially, but structurally we that's obviously subject to change based on where things go and how we grow our business. Uh, some of the things we have looked at, you know, obviously we have a 10 year growth strategy on our target numbers that we want to go with along with kind of infrastructure. Both, you know, our model as a regional support model. So we have carved regions that we have a core focus on trying to support our owners, getting a little bit closer to them through a, again, regional hubs where our folks, corporate folks can be closer to reach out and touch those owners and interact with them, engage with them on a local level.

 

Jason Leverant:     But we've also invested in and part of our future we see the writing on the wall that the industry total contingent workforce management is becoming more and more of a of a theme with client companies large and now kind of mid market companies shifting towards MSP companies to come in and really provide kind of cost and quality controls. So we just found a sister company late last year, early this year, our sister company pipeline talent solutions and pipeline is a, is a full scale MSP which provides total workforce ecosystem support and solutions for clients specifically targeting the mid market. So customers that we're not really not on the radar of a of a GRI or of a tap thinner pontoon and our source writer, Kelly OCG, they're targeting on the big guys. We're going into the mid market, the mid-level spenders who you know, again, they have enough spend for us to really step in and help them manage it and show real savings. So we're excited about it. It's very early in its, in its process. Ultimately it adds value back to the total AtWork family of companies because it brings a, a national footprint, a large or mid-level or mid-market footprint for our owners where they couldn't have played in that space before.

 

David Alonso:       Well it seems like a very good move for sure. We spoke a lot about growth and revenue and so forth and you know, you're incredibly proud of. What about the sort of, the more that the tactical side of, of running a business. Where are you most proud of where you've sort of grown in last or seven or eight years? Personally?

 

Jason Leverant:     So as a business we've gone from what it feels like to be a privately owned company. We were very much, uh, you know, we were a small company. We are privately owned, we ran like a very small company and we had a great feel when you came to work and at work that, you know, you're a small company, you're part of something. But what we've been able to do is take that, that feel of being part of a company that really cares about everybody internally, but really build something out that we can scale and grow. It's a great thing we've done so far. So we've, we've grown dramatically and maintain that feel of being a, a nimble organization. One that, uh, if people really enjoy, people love to come to work here where we have great tenure internally, we have very little turnover. People just love their jobs here.

 

Jason Leverant:     And I want to maintain that, that side of it, but give us the ability to scale. So you can't, sometimes you can't have both. When you start growing, you start feeling a lot more corporate. You feel, you know, I don't want our team members to feel like a number in our organization and I don't want our owners to feel that way either. So that's a challenge. It's a great thing, but it's also a challenge versus in the future as we continue to grow, to maintain that really close, we do it, we call it the, at work family. When somebody joins the family as a franchise owner and our team here, it's like being a part of a family and everybody really enjoys one another and we have a great time. But the key is how do we maintain that as we're, you know, as we get to a hundred owners and we get to, you know, we had roughly 700 at work team members, internal team members across the country.

 

Jason Leverant:     That's franchise owner staff and ours, you know, getting to know, you know, some of the key members we're really trying to get to know, you know, it's hard to get to know all 700 people, but it's really getting those as many as we possibly can and continue that feel of a family environment. Now obviously when you step back and you start looking at some of the, the accomplishments that we've made, you know, from a, from an award and accolade perspective, we've, we've got, you know, I tell folks we pretty much, if there's an award out there, we chase after it. We want that recognition because we can say how great we are, but it's a lot more powerful, somebody else's, how great we are. And so that's, that's been our mindset. So I look at our Franchise Business Review FBR 50 award that we get, we've gotten every single year we've surveyed. So what that is is this is very proud that we get this. Our owners fill out a very extensive survey every year about us as a company and the support we provide. And uh, every year we get regarded in their top 50 most satisfied, uh, franchisees. It's that they ranked at the highest ranking a franchise or there's 4,000 franchise wars in the U S and we're in the top 50 of, of happiest franchisees. It's pretty, pretty awesome to be a, to say,

 

David Alonso:       yeah, I never realized the number is that high.

 

Jason Leverant:     Yeah. Yeah. That's crazy. I mean, and that, and then you said, you know, we start thinking about other achievements we've, we've received, we were, I think 86 on entrepreneur magazine's franchise, 500 again, 4,000 franchise companies in the U S and we're in the 86 were rated the 86 best franchise in the country. I look around, I'm like, we're just at work. I can't believe we're that getting this kind of, uh, this kind of recognition. But it's all about branding. It's all about proper PR. It's about, you know, positioning properly and, and doing the right things, executing on, on it.

 

David Alonso:       Well, he's done a good job on me. I am sitting here thinking, why would I not want to be a Franchisee or work? Come on maybe one type. I can definitely, you know, have to listen to you. I can really see the value on having just that extra level of support when you start a business nowadays, especially with, I think we touched upon how the legal side of things as the way that things change so quick, especially in the u s definitely a different business animal, two in Europe. And, uh, I can, I can see a lot of advantages for the business. So, you know, you did a great job probably about, we'd probably penciled in part too because I could talk to you about this, but I think that's probably where we're at today. And I'd say thank you so much. I think we say great model. He did a great job and especially on the personal brand. People listening here, watch Jason on video, follow him on Linkedin and check out AtWork for more, a little shameless plug here, but check it out because he's done a great job in the corporate brand age. All right, we'll wrap this up today and I'll speak to you soon. No doubt. Alright, thanks.

  

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