How do you get job security when so many are experiencing job insecurity? In this episode, Rob Cornilles asks Bill Stoller of Express Employment Professionals, one of the most influential players in matching employers with job seekers. Whether you call this market “primary temporary employment” or “temp hiring,” the chairman and CEO of this sprawling franchiser delivers sage advice for today’s reality. If you’re looking for better candidates or to become one yourself, Bill offers clear direction rooted in proven success. He’s our “man for the jobs” as he guides us to that which leads to greater self-worth: a job.
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Bill Stoller | The Man For The Jobs
Chances are pretty good you have an Express Employment Professionals franchise near your home or work. With more than 900 offices in several countries, it’s hard to miss this ubiquitous Oklahoma based business that’s placed well over eight million people in temporary or flex jobs. Bill Stoller, the company’s Cofounder, Chairman, and CEO knows what it takes to find, acquire, and keep a job. Also, if you’re hiring, how to test out talent for fit and competency while satisfying any current budget constraints. Here is the Man for the Jobs.
My guest is Bill Stoller, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of a successful company, Express Employment Professionals, based in Oklahoma City, but with offices all over the country, in fact, internationally now. Bill, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Rob. It’s great to be with you.
It’s good to see you again, Bill.
We’ve had a long absence in between our communication, but I thank you for reconnecting.
I’ve always admired and appreciated your business and frankly, I’ve been a little envious of how you have grown this business since 1983. I know you’ve been in the business even longer than that when we talk about temporary staffing. Let’s modernize it a little bit as we get into our discussion here. You and I are talking in an unprecedented time economically. It’s certainly different in 1983 or back even in the ‘70s when you got into this industry. You have been known to call this primary flexible employment, this type of industry that you’re in. I want to ask you straight away, what is it like being in the employment industry when many people are unemployed?
It’s always been a curse and a blessing anytime you have a downturn and there’s high unemployment. This downturn has been totally different. Usually, there’s a rampdown to the point where you bottom out, where it took about two weeks for everything to bottom out during this time. As we slowly come out of it, we are experiencing certainly high unemployment, but we’re also experiencing a huge shortage of people to fill orders. We have 24,000 jobs that are unfilled because we can’t find the people to fill them right now. It’s almost like it was prior when we also had a difficult time recruiting. I’m sure some people are afraid to go back to work and the unemployment benefits have been good, but I also think that people are taking a pause. Don’t get me wrong, there are still lots of people that want to go to work, and we are putting more and more people back to work every week, but it’s still a struggle because there is a demand for people to fill jobs.
You mentioned a couple of things there. You talked about the concern for health and safety. You talked about unemployment benefits may be difficult to turn away from if they’re available to you when you’re not employed. Are there any other factors that you can think of right now that cause people to take a pause or rethink where they want to go in the workplace?
I also think that the whole issue about George Floyd has changed a lot of attitudes and perspectives, and for Black Lives Matter, a lot of people are focusing there. It’s a diverse group of people that are focusing on it. I do believe that has a lot to do with it. Other than what I have already explained, I don’t think there are too many other reasons other than people are nesting. They’re getting used to staying in their homes. Although, from that standpoint, there are a lot of issues about mental health during these times as well, people being locked up in their homes. That’s why we’re seeing a second recurrence of the COVID because people aren’t wanting to get out and they are getting out. It’s going to be natural for that second wave to be with us, and it will go like waves do. You’re going to have a wave here, a wave is going to come a couple of minutes later and another couple of minutes, meaning a couple of weeks, and depending on the timing of what’s going on around the world.There can be no passion without true purpose. Click To Tweet
When we were thinking about who could be an interesting, compelling and helpful guest for our podcast, your name came up quickly because of the state of affairs that we’re in as a country, even throughout the world. Employment is such a hot topic and you’ve described it quickly why it is so. You’re the expert in employment. You’ve been in this industry for 40 years or so. Whenever I have employment questions, I think of Bill Stoller. Before we talk about the future, let’s talk a little bit about the past. You began the company with two partners in 1983. One of those partners, Bob Funk is still with you as a partner, Cofounder, and he’s the President of Express, whereas you’re the CEO. You’ve seen so much change in how the industry looks at temporary staffing. Can you describe the evolution of that industry?
The whole industry started because there were a longshore of people that had worked in the north during the summer, and they would shift and work in the south in the winter. They had a job broker manage for the shipping company. World War II came around, you had people who went off to war, and you had to have jobs filled and many of the women here filled those jobs. Following World War II, you had a huge surge in the economy, so you needed to have people, and sometimes those surges were temporary. Companies decided to start doing it just in time. That has been one of the big revelations that leadership and executives have found. Rather than employ somebody for twelve months a year, we can employ for six months. That’s also changed as well because we got into it in the early ‘80s but towards the late ‘80s, things turned around to the standpoint of where most of the lower-skilled positions, middle to lower-skilled clients, and companies wanted to try somebody out before they committed to them.
I believe that has grown dramatically over time. You can call that Probationary Hiring or Probationary Staffing on our end, where you get to see how the person works, what their attitude is, and see if they fit your culture. That has been a huge reason why the industry has come around the globalization of international companies. When the Berlin Wall fell, to me it seemed like all the trading that went around in the world was one big trading partner, as opposed to producing goods and services for your own country. That has caused shifts in demand, so a lot of seasonality. Seasonality has also created a big need for temporary staffing. Even now, during these times, companies are still needing that, but many of them are looking at just bringing people in and trying them out before they hire.
Let me shift a little bit into the higher skill positions. When you look at projects that companies need to have done, in the IT world, the technology world has projects, maybe they’re now coming up with some software for their company. They’re going to hire project people. The IT world, the technology people will actually enjoy that because most of them do work virtually and they’re able to do their job from anywhere. The computer age has really brought on a lot into the technology sector as well. You’re seeing it in all aspects. Engineering can be the same way when you have construction sites. You have needs for engineers for just a temporary period of time. There’s been a huge mind shift in Corporate America and small business. We’ve been the beneficiaries of all of that change.
I would also imagine this shift towards telecommuting or virtual work like we’re doing is also contributing to the realization that, “I don’t necessarily have to have a full-time employee and/or I don’t necessarily have to have a full-time job with one employer. I can mix it up. I can shop my services.”
That certainly is happening. Of course, Millennials like that, they’re used to that. They’ve grown up with electronics, handheld and as well as computers. They love it. A brief story for us is we used to not allow our temporary associates to work virtually. It was primarily for worker comp reasons. We’ve obviously changed. We have figured out how to deal with it and how to work with it. I can’t say a large amount, but we do have some that have worked virtually.
The other thing that strikes me about what you’re saying is the old traditional perception of temp workers, I know that’s almost a disparaging term. Please forgive me, I’m harkening back to traditional terms. It’s like, “I need someone to sit at the front desk for me. My assistant is on vacation or sick for two weeks, so I need someone.” It covers the gamut as far as the type of temporary associates that a company may hire for all sorts of skillset.
It sure does but it’s changing. Let me first go back to how to call somebody who’s doing flexible work. Years ago we decided, “Let’s update that and maybe give them a better title.” We call our temporaries, associates. We like that name. We’ve never heard anything negative about it. Internally, we call ourselves teammates. That’s how we identify us versus our associates.
It seems that the model has not benefited the employer more than the employee or the employee more than the employer. It seems like both sides of the coin are benefiting from the evolution of this industry.
That’s a good point. There are quite a few people, in fact, that do want to control their time and they don’t have to work full-time. There are also people that are waiting maybe to go to college in the fall and they want summertime work. Some people may be going into the military and they need something to do to wait out that period. There’s also the person that’s coming back to work. Before they want to commit to any one company, they like to go around to various companies and look for the right company to work for. It benefits both sides because they both get to see how each other acts and works and what the culture is both within the company and what the person’s beliefs and culture are.
I appreciate all the clarification you’re bringing to this conversation already because here’s another misconception, and maybe it’s my shallowness. Historically, I may have thought that someone who turns to a temporary agency for assistance in finding work is someone who might be a little desperate. They can’t find anything full-time, “I need to find a broker, if you will, of jobs who can help me.” The way you’re describing it, if you’re an available talent, an available associate, you could use Express as a great way to strategically map out your career. Help with the ebbs and flows of your life and important milestones of your life, whether you’re having a child or you need to care for a relative, or whether you want to get additional education. Am I reading this correctly?
You’re absolutely right. It’s that flexibility that affords both the company and the individual. A lot of it is the individuals are looking at their lives and their balance of life, and they’re wanting to enjoy both. There are other times too. If one family member gets a job in another community, the trailing spouse needs to find a job. When they do that, we’re a great source for them to utilize, to look at what the market is. Think about when you move to another city, many people don’t buy a home. They rent for a year so they can see what part of town that they’d like to live in. Looking for a job is similar to that.
I’m going to talk a little bit about the assistance that Express Employment Professionals gives people who are in any of those situations. You are approaching 900 offices throughout North America, in Australia, in South Africa. It’s truly a global company. In 2016, Express was named one of Forbes’ Best Franchises to Buy. You are a franchise model. Those 860 some odd offices, it would be interesting to know how many of those are owned by franchisees and how many of those are still owned by corporate. Also, Forbes has ranked you the Number Five Best Temp Staffing agency and the Number Eleven Best Professional Recruiting Firm. Another one that I find interesting is that Entrepreneur Magazine ranked you number one in your category for franchisors. Those are tremendous successes. Obviously, the industry thinks highly of the model that you’ve built. I’ve got to ask you, Mr. Cofounder, how did this all come about? What’s the secret sauce that has made your company successful over these decades?
You brought it up early in your question, and that is we are a franchised organization. For the type of business that we have, which is personal and relationship-based, there’s nothing better than to have an owner of a business in their local market. That is the number one reason why we have been able to grow as much as we have and, quite frankly, been as successful as we’ve had. I will also say that the founders are also franchisees. We started that way. When we’ve all three got together, we had a disproportionate amount of business. The only way that we could start a business was to charge ourselves for how many paychecks that we provided to people.
If somebody had $250, they’d pay a portion to get those paychecks to the associate. If somebody had $100, they would pay for that service. That’s how we accumulated money other than lending the company money at the beginning. We started franchising and getting people. Obviously, we had to get a line of credit. That’s how we ended up growing. I also think that we have a unique purpose. Every one of our franchisees captures that passion. They capture a passion for doing our business because they also understand what the purpose is. Our purpose is to help people find work and companies to find good people. To me, that is the backbone of who our company is. People that are passionate about what work they do are passionate because they do have a purpose. I don’t think you can become passionate unless you have that true purpose behind you.
It took me a couple of years when I was placing people on jobs. In my day, temporary help was not a big business, even though there were companies that specialized in it. It was those that place people on jobs full-time. The first time that I put somebody on a job, it sure made me feel good. After a while, I found out, “Is this what I want to do for my life, continue to place people in jobs?” I rationalized in my own mind, “What more important thing to do than to help people find a job?” What can you do without a job? There’s not much you can do. I rationalized that the job I was doing was the most important job that someone could ever do. We have a lot of franchisees and a lot of their staff that believe the same way. That has been the cornerstone along with being 100% franchised.
You talked about a job and how good it feels to place someone. I know a little bit about that, Bill. For over a decade, my business was in the training/placement business where we put people into jobs within our core industry at that time, which was the sports industry. We still work a lot in the sports industry as you know. We also work with more general businesses and a variety of industries. Nothing brought us more satisfaction than to take someone who was unable to get their foot in the door, either because they didn’t have the requisite skills or they didn’t have the “connections.” We would take them and train them up and then we would give them that opportunity with our network of clients. Our placement rate was 75%, 80% at some point. We used to think that’s a lot better than most colleges, not to diss most colleges. We understand what you’re saying and it’s gratifying. What is the most important job someone can have when they’re out of work? What’s the most important thing they can do when they’re out of work?Don't jump at the first thing that you would think is a good job. Find a company that is a good company to work for. Click To Tweet
They need to start looking for a job because it’s not always easy and it’s not always quick. Quite frankly, I always recommend coming to Express and earning extra money and look at companies that they might want to work for. The advice that I’ve always given somebody, especially coming out of school, I say, “Don’t jump at the first thing that you would think is a good job. Find a company that is a good company to work for.” It doesn’t matter what job you do. It’s finding the company. Once you get inside of an organization, your talents and skills will be seen by others and then you will quickly get promoted or put into maybe more interesting work. When they’re out of work, it’s important for someone to try to continue working on temporary assignments and then look at the same time and then find a company that you want to work for.
Can I drill down into that a little bit with you? You said, “Find the company that you want to work for.” Most companies, like most resumes, look perfect on paper. The closest we ever get to perfection is on our resume. Certainly, you’re supposed to put together an attractive, appealing resume. That interview is important to identify who this person is beyond what they’ve written. When I look at a company, I can go on their website. They look pretty good on the website too. Are there any insights, any tips or any secrets that you can give us? How do you get to know a company when you’re on the outside?
Work temporary for them through Express. You’ve got to get references. You need to find people who have worked there and why they’re not working there now. You need to find out from people that are working there. Anybody could go out at 5:00, as people leave their place of business, they could always ask them that way. I’ve never heard somebody doing that. That’s about the best way that I know of. You can also talk to their competition and see what their competition thinks of that organization. There are ways to always look at and discover what a company does. There seem to be rankings for everything and ratings for everything. People could look up what ratings are. In our industry, every town has ratings of the best employment companies to work with.
That’s a good point. I’m happy to tell you that where I’m living, there’s an Express office about 6 miles from me. In fact, I’ll bet many of our readers, chances are that not far from where they are, there’s an Express office. There may even be one that they’ve passed already. Let me ask you though, those candidates that are going into the Express office and they’re sitting down with one of your advisors, what are some of the skills that they probably should have or at least work to acquire if they’re going to be a successful candidate?
I have to say that soft skills are still the most important skills to have. You’ve got to develop yourself. You’ve got to be knowledgeable. You need to make sure your mind is healthy. You need to have the right attitude. To me, attitude is everything. You also need to have a good appearance. It’s those things that are important. In terms of what type of true skill somebody wants, they’re going to have to find out what they like. If they took some college, did they like accounting? Did they like presentations or speeches? Did they like English? There are always jobs that you can do in those areas. Obviously, some want to be a mechanic. Some want to be a skilled laborer, which quite frankly, is a wonderful position to be. In fact, we took a survey of trade people, and they seem to be the happiest workers that you could find.
We found it was about 90% enjoyed what they were doing and felt that they were a great contributor to their company, and they came home satisfied after a day’s work. You have to find out where your interests are and then go out and get some skills in those areas, and then you’re prepared to go into the workforce. I’ll always come back to attitude, how you look at life and how positive you are is the most important thing.
In this environment, meaning the economy we’re in, there’s a lot of social unrest, there’s political uncertainty. Should people be faking optimism? You’re a wise individual. You have kids and grandkids. What are you telling them so that they can have a good attitude about the future?
A lot of people are distant from what is going on. When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, a lot more people are tuned in. I believe our youth don’t have any negative feelings whatsoever. They’ve grown up in a much more diverse life than what you and I have had. It’s all about treating everybody fairly, equally and quite frankly, positively. I haven’t personally seen too much of the negative attitudes. I hear a little bit more fear in people because of the COVID-19. Maybe it’s who I work with. I work with a bunch of great positive people who are wanting to do what’s best for everybody.
I will tell you that I’m a big supporter of DEI. I have several initiatives that are going on inside our organization. We had an ad hoc committee that we turned into a full-time committee. We’re going to get our franchisees involved in focus groups and in a franchise committee to give us advice. We’re going to do all we can to make sure we recruit for diversity. That’s the healthy way of doing things. Most executives don’t want ‘me too’ people, meaning they act like me. They want people who challenge them. I know I do. I’m not right in everything that I do. You want people that have diverse ideas and thoughts and so forth. That’s my take on where people are.
It sounds like you’re undergoing even greater communication within your organization to understand one another. You’ve talked to me in the past about communication and how important you believe that is for any professional in any skill or trade or industry that they may find themselves. Can you share with the audience a little bit about your views on communication? You’ve also told me in the past that you think that relates closely to what I’m a champion of and the industry and the skill that I work in, that being sales. I don’t want to give too much away. What are your thoughts on communication as a professional?
I don’t think there’s anything more than an executive needs to do is communicate to their people. I’ve certainly learned that the more they hear from me, the better off it is for everybody. They want to hear what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. I did live streaming with our people for a couple of years and I did it about every quarter. We did it up to six times a year. I have done probably nearly twenty of them. I gave a live stream to all of our people to let them know what we’re doing because we had to go remote. Ever since then, we have been communicating.
I’ve always had an open-door policy. I want people to come and talk to me. We have quarterly meetings with all of our staff at headquarters. We have a ritual. At the end of each meeting, we have asked the founders questions. People ask us questions. Believe me, they challenge us in many areas. Quite frankly, some great ideas have come from those questions that we were able to implement. It’s not only you communicating, but it’s also you listening in these times and all the time, and that’s extremely important. I truly believe that people who are the ones that ask the questions are the ones that are going to get ahead in life as well. From your standpoint, consultative selling is extremely important. To me, consultative selling is asking questions and listening to what the person is saying.
Express is a company a lot of people love working for. Your headquarters is in Oklahoma City. You have offices everywhere. Your revenue growth, last I checked a couple of years ago, it was about $750 billion in sales. I don’t know what it’s at now, obviously, it continues to show impressively. On the other hand, there are a lot of people that don’t like where they work. There are several studies that have been done, and even polls and surveys that suggest what those reasons might be. In fact, a Harris Poll suggested that the number one reason why people leave is because they have a better offer. I’ve also heard competing polls say, and you and I have chatted about this in the past, the reason why people leave is because they don’t like their boss. If you were advising a company on how to retain good talent, what are some of the things that you could suggest that would make that talent want to stay and want to be a part and grow with that company?
There are quite a few things you can do. Obviously, the first thing is you’ve got to communicate and you’ve got to listen to those people coming in. I also think it’s important that you have internal training for your people. We’ve developed a leadership program for our people, and it’s all by volunteer if they want to do it. We have a program that they’re able to more self-develop and then also learn leadership skills. One thing that we’ve instituted is we have our own in-house Toastmasters club. I don’t know if they’re doing it in these times, but I wouldn’t doubt if they are doing it virtually. If they’re not, I’m going to suggest that make sure that they do because that’s something that will keep people positive.
Toastmasters, for those who may not be aware, it’s been around for decades nationally in individual chapters all over the world. Toastmasters teaches people how to speak comfortably in front of an audience, whether it’s a speech or it’s a Q&A. Why did Toastmasters become something that was instituted of expressing? Why do you think that’s continuously an important skill for people to learn?
I’ll go back to my experience. When I joined the company right out of college, it was a personnel service. They had in their manual that if you want to help yourself, here are certain things you can do. The one I remember the most was joining a Toastmasters group and become a better communicator to break down any fear you might have speaking in front of other people. I joined Toastmasters. Over my life, I’ve gone through two Toastmasters chapters. I’m sure some of your readers know and some don’t, but they have manuals that you develop speeches from. In both clubs, I went through both of those. You have a goal in front of you and they place it there. That’s how I got it. It’s all part of self-development. One of the things that people need to do for themselves is to constantly self-develop.There is nothing more important than you being happy with who you are. Click To Tweet
I remember many of the books that I used to read when I was in grade school, high school and college were self-development books. I truly enjoyed reading those because I don’t think there’s anything more important than yourself being happy who you are. Your self-esteem and your ability to please yourself allows you to help other people. I don’t think you can help other people if you’re not happy in your own body. That’s why I enjoy helping people and helping people find work or giving people the opportunity to own their own business. It gives me joy because that’s how I have lived my life. I love to see other people be able to experience the same thing.
One of the things that I am big about is having a decision made at the lowest level possible. We had an instance where we had a franchisee who supposedly owed $250 for something and they were adamant they didn’t and our employee was adamant that they did because that’s what the record show. Our CFO came to me and he said, “What do you want to do with this?” I said, “How much wasted time are we going to have arguing over $250? That doesn’t matter. Let that person make that decision and say that the franchisee is right and let’s go on to the next thing.” It’s part of that empowerment that is important.
We’ve all heard of some of the hospitality organizations around the world who give their people the power to make decisions like that. That makes it much more important to be able to have those decisions made at the lowest level possible so everyone can be positive and go on to the next thing. Giving people responsibility is extremely important, giving somebody the opportunity to lead a project. I grew up that way. I grew up on a farm and my father put me in-charge of certain projects and certain things. I learned to be a decision-maker and learn to be independent and have some autonomy, and him not over my shoulder all the time. That’s important as well.
Everybody sets an example for somebody. I believe that everybody is a mentor to somebody, to everybody, quite frankly. No matter where you are, people look at you. If you’re the center of attention in one way, shape or form, they’re looking at you and studying you. You always have to believe that somebody is constantly monitoring who you are. Within an organization, that employee needs to take that responsibility on as well. It does come back to self-discipline, and that’s another big trait that people need to have. An organization needs to be able to offer an expression of how people want to work and take on responsibility and be responsible. That’s how I think organizations can do a better job.
Bill, I want to stay on this track where we can all make improvements. Let’s start with the candidate who’s interviewing for a job. You’ve placed eight million people in jobs.
Over the lifespan of our company, I’m sure.
It’s an incredible number.
It’s about 500,000 a year.
You don’t know about every one of those cases. I know you can’t keep track of all of them. Is there a common mistake that people interviewing for a job make that you wish you could correct before they even make that mistake?
There are certain things. They need to be prepared. It would be nice to know if they know anything about the company before they come in. It would be nice if they knew anything about their boss. Whether it’s Facebook or LinkedIn, you can find out a lot of things about people. A lot of people do that and I’ve been impressed with what they’ve done, at least the people that I have come into touch with. They have to ask the right questions. The right questions are not necessarily, “What kind of benefits do you have for me? What can you do for me?”
For the most part, you need to have a balanced interview. You need to come up with three questions to ask the interviewer when you are preparing. Your attitude also comes up. You’ve got to display that positive attitude and a go-to attitude, and somebody willing to go to work. Interviewing and looking for a job is the toughest job there is. You talked about communication. We’ve talked about sales. Everybody is a salesperson because going through a job interview, to me, is selling yourself. You need to know who you are, know what your positive traits and negative traits are, and don’t be afraid to communicate those. It’s all part about selling yourself to the company.
Let’s switch seats. What’s the biggest mistake you see hiring managers, the interviewer, will make that may sabotage their ability to get a good candidate who’s sitting across the desk from them?
If they’re not prepared, then that’s not going to be good. They also have to sell themselves and sell the company to the person. It’s a two-way street from that standpoint. They need to ask intelligent questions. They also need to listen. I’ve always liked using open-ended questions and letting the person speak for a minute or two instead of yes and no answers. I can be at fault at this too, there are too many times you want to answer the question for them and sometimes you do. You have to be patient and let the person explain where they’re coming from.
The first impression is the lasting impression. I’ve told many interviewers in the past, “Allot the same amount of time to each interview because the first impression may not be the right impression.” I said, “If you’re going to take 45 minutes for the interview, give everybody that 45 minutes because you will discover more as time goes on.” I have found out that sometimes a person is quiet when they start an interview, and when you get warmed up, they are much more expressive. If you didn’t give it that time for them to warm up, they never would have happened. Making the person comfortable is the most important thing as well. Obviously, if you can do it between two chairs, that’s also the best way to do it so there isn’t that barrier between you and them. Intimidation can be a big thing in an interview. You don’t want to intimidate the person that you’re interviewing. Those are a few of the areas that a person interviewing someone else can do better at.
You’re suggesting that the interviewer has to remember that they’re recruiting somebody. You are a collegiate basketball player. We provide a little bit of basketball behind me, paying homage to your collegiate career, Bill.
Still, aren’t you in the Hall of Fame of that University?
I am in a couple.If you can't be happy with yourself, you can't help other people. Click To Tweet
That’s absolutely true. You’re also a great contributor to Pacific University. Let’s call it what it is. You’re a huge supporter and contributor to that university.
I went to a junior college first and it was Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington. I also think that’s a great way to go for people. I did it for my basketball career because I didn’t want to commit to a four-year school. Going through junior college was one of the best things I did. That’s the one I’ll refer to I’m in the Hall of Fame there. I was blessed and honored to be admitted to the Hall of Fame.
They recruited you and they do today. Universities in their athletic programs are well-known for the recruitment of athletes. It’s funny that sometimes in business, we don’t take that same attitude. We almost take the attitude of, “You’re lucky I’m interviewing you now. I am blessing you with my presence, allowing you into my conference room or my office.” That’s the vibe they give to a candidate. Granted, they’re in a position of power and they’re in a position where they’re already successful. They have the job they want and this person doesn’t. It’s easy to act a little bit full of yourself and a little more superior. What you’re describing is you have to put that person at ease. You need to let them know that we want you. We want the best candidate and we hope that you’re that person.
You have helped people who want to become business owners. As a franchisor, you have many franchisees. You have made people’s dreams come true who can invest in an Express franchise and now they’re a business owner. Not everybody is cut out for that. Not everyone is cut out to be a business owner or to be a franchisee whether it’s an Express, McDonald’s or Taco Bell, or whatever the situation may be. What advice do you give to people who are contemplating making such a career move? What are some traps they need to avoid? Also perhaps, what are some highs that maybe they cannot yet see but that are out there for them if they’re successful?
That’s not only a loaded question, we could spend a day on one alone. I had no intention myself of starting my own business. It was the downfall of the company that I was working with when they ran into financial trouble. Sometimes, what’s adversity to somebody else and even yourself, changes your whole life. Did I want to start my own business? Did I want to continue with the company? I was going to buy the office. I decided to buy the office. Three months later, they went under from a bankruptcy.
You’ve got to go back into your childhood and your growing up period. Did you like being a leader? Were you a leader? If you were a leader, that’s one indication. Did you like taking risks and doing things on a job that was somewhat risk-taking? I don’t mean physical risk, but I mean decision making risk on what direction to go with a decision and then a program. My father was the best person for me in teaching me at a young age. He gives me responsibility and then I went out and did it. Another important trait is, are you proactive? Are you always looking for something to do that’s better or you’re looking for another way of tackling something?
Of course, there also become financial things. You’ve got to be a wise spender. You’ve got to save for the rainy day, but you also got to save if you want to buy a business. There are all sorts of things that you’ve learned about yourself. We’re not perfect. We select people that aren’t right for our business and we select people that aren’t able to do the types of things that a business owner must do. Time management is important. Are you a good time manager? Do you prioritize well? One of the things that I would also suggest is that there are business brokers out there. Business brokers can be a big help to you if you’re thinking about getting into a franchise or buying a business or whatever it might be.
You’re right, not everybody is cut out to be. For the most part, those that work for really large organizations that have a broad job that doesn’t give them a definite skill, I’m not certain if that’s the right person. Sometimes being too corporate and sometimes not being the doer. Especially in our business, we’re not an absentee owner business. You’ve got to be in there every day. When you get started, you’ve got to do the work itself. You have to be in the business. Once you grow enough and you have enough business, then you manage the business and you’re on the business instead of directly in it. That’s when you become a sales leader and that’s extremely important as well. You’ve got to enjoy managing people and inspiring people. If you like doing those things, then owning an Express franchise or even a McDonald’s franchise is the right way to go.
As you know, Bill, this podcast is built around the idea that we like to talk to people who know how to persuade, influence and inspire people, and/or who have been persuaded, influenced, and inspired to do good in business in their communities. I’m wondering in your career, is there an individual or is there an incident that stands out where someone inspired you or someone motivated you to take a particular measure or a step, take a risk perhaps? I’ll even give you this, Bill, I’m sure that you’re involved in that every day with your leadership team and with your franchisees. In general, how do those words resonate with you, to persuade, influence and inspire?
That’s what leadership is all about. Those three words are what every leader should consider and understand as they lead their organization. I do think that it’s important for people to understand that you can’t be afraid to do what you might want to do. If you look back at a lot of experiences in your life or people that have influenced you, you take snippets of each one of those. When I first interviewed to go to work for Acme, I never thought about going to work for an employment agency. I had taken a personnel class in college and they forewarned you about going through an employment agency, at least the book did, and the professor. I was hesitant. When I interviewed with my eventual supervisor, he gave me a vision and opportunity. What’s important is people need to have that vision put out there in front of them.
Certainly, the president of that company was an inspiring person. He was persuading but in a great way. You have to treat people the way you want to be treated. When I looked at him, he is the one that said, “Do you want to join Toastmasters? If you want to do secondary education, you’ll get an MBA or whatever.” When somebody says those things, I went out and did them. I went out and got my MBA. It was that vision that people put for you. There are all sorts of people that persuade you, but you have to accept what they’re trying to message to you. It’s the receiver who’s the one that needs to take action to themselves. Without mentors, without people that give you some direction, why continue? You might as well take people’s advice and what you think you can do within it and you’ll make a success of yourself.
I love that answer. I want to ask you one more question. You’re in the job world. Your whole career has been built around helping people find work and sustaining themselves and their families. I want to ask you, what’s the value of a job in your view to an individual? What does a job mean to somebody? What does it mean when someone doesn’t have a job?
This is another one of the topics I love. To me, a job is everything. I don’t know all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but self-actualization is one of them. It gives you self-worth. To me, everything relates to the job. You need to have that. Security is another one. Love and security, you’ve got to have those. A job allows you to have that. I’ve always loved work and probably to a fault at times. When you do what you’re passionate about, it’s absolutely not work. In some ways, when you’re in the sales business, it’s also competitive. That’s why having a competitive background has certainly helped me as well as yourself. It’s important.
If you can’t be happy with yourself, you can’t help other people. A job is everything. What can you do without a job? I believe that being happy on a job makes you happy everywhere. You have to find that. You’ve got to find out what you’re passionate about and then go out and do it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t change every five years because of whatever circumstances. I’ve interviewed once for a job, and that’s all I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve never had to go elsewhere to find a living. I certainly have, from a business standpoint, started other businesses and still have other things going on. It’s all being with people, working with people, helping and seeing people grow and seeing people develop. That’s got to be a huge motivator in somebody’s life and it’s been a big one in mine. I’m happy that I’ve had that opportunity. I expect to have many more years of having those opportunities.
It would benefit all of us if you did, Bill. Keep at it. I want to say one thing about your comment, if I may. Some people reading don’t have a job where they punch in and punch out, get a paycheck every two weeks but they have a responsibility, it could be caring for a sick relative or raising a family. Would you agree with me that having a job means having a responsibility?
Absolutely. One of the better jobs in the world is raising a family. I truly believe those that have devoted their lives to doing that are the most successful people in the world. I rank them higher than anybody in my mind. People that help other people no matter what they do is extremely important.
Bill, this has been great. Thank you for sharing with us about Express and what’s made it successful and also your personal thoughts and your tidbits of wisdom, which have been built up over decades of leadership and success. This has been interesting and fulfilling for me, and I’m sure for our readers as well. We, at Game Face, wish you and Express and your 860+plus stores or offices around the world, your associates, franchisees, and leadership team, we wish them all continued success.
Thank you very much.