Fireside chat with President, RemX, Joanie Bily


Jan Jedlinski: Welcome back for our almost final session for the day at the World Staffing Summits. I'm super excited to have this fireside chat with Joanie here who is with me. She is a great leader in the staffing industry and was actually the winner of our world staffing awards top leaders to watch last year.

Jan Jedlinski: So I'm super pumped to have you here. Joanie, and have a quick conversation before we dive in. You know, tell us a little bit more about yourself and your journey in the staffing industry. 

Joanie Bily: Well, thank you for having me great to be here. I know it's been a long week for you. So first of all, congratulations on having this summit this week and it's been outstanding and just a great experience.

Joanie Bily: I know for so many I've been in the staffing industry for 25 years. You know, I started my career right out of college and have been in just about every role you know, that there isn't staffing and I think that's what makes it so great is you can have a ton of experiences. But you know, so I've been a sales rep.

Joanie Bily: I've been a recruiter, I've been a branch manager and, you know, through the years have worked my way. Into area regional roles. And for the last six years, I've been the president of the RemX business, which we're focusing on, placing people in professional staffing and call center staffing. And I truly enjoy it.

Joanie Bily: It's just it's just a great industry. And you know, also being a female it's been a great industry to really be able to move up and have opportunities. And I've just loved it. It's been really rewarding. 

Jan Jedlinski: Fantastic. To hear that. And, you know, speaking about RemX, you mentioned that the last year, you know, after the pandemic was actually one of your best years, I think you've mentioned in terms of revenue and growth.

Jan Jedlinski: And I would love to hear more about that. And maybe, you know, the audience can learn some of the tactics that you have used last year to, to grow the business. 

Joanie Bily: Sure. Yeah, it has been an exciting year. 2021 was actually the best year in the history of the RemX business. And you know, and it's not, it wasn't just year over year growth.

Joanie Bily: It was, you know, the largest revenue and gross profit and EBITDA that the Remx division. Has ever had. So, when I look back at it, I can tell you coming out of 2020, of course I was concerned. We actually had a great 2020, I know many companies certainly struggled through the pandemic, but we had grown.

Joanie Bily: Our revenue line. We actually grew our gross profit by about 10%. We had very strong EBITDA growth in 2020. And so I was really concerned. How are we going to do this again? In 2021 and 2021 did turn out to be a great year. We grew 19% in sales, 25% in gross profit and even more in, in EBITDA. And I think what happened was we really changed our business model.

Joanie Bily: We moved. To a virtual model. We did close a lot of the brick and mortar, you know, that we had, you know, those, the offices. So that was something that concerned me, like, what is this really making the right decision? But it's incredible because it accelerated our growth. And I think what really drove the growth.

Joanie Bily: Was the collaboration between the employees. It's like we took all of the barriers down. And so our team across the country, you know, was leveraging technology and tools and they were collaborating and working together more than they ever did before. And that really led to us having our best year. 

Jan Jedlinski: That's great to hear.

Jan Jedlinski: And you grew a team as well, right? So you basically went all remote or you're still having a hybrid you know, workplace scenario. 

Joanie Bily: Yeah. So we do have a bit of a hybrid. We've kept a few key offices in certain markets where we did want to have a presence. So we do have a hybrid model, but you know, when we hire someone, when we're looking to hire, you know, a recruiter, they can really work from anywhere.

Joanie Bily: And we've just become much more flexible, I guess, in the way that we work. So it is a hybrid. Still a few offices. And we did invest, we hired people. We went into 2021 with a strategic plan of hiring direct hire recruiters, hiring salespeople and went in with the new structure that was focused more on really growing our business regionally versus, you know, just one office in a market.

Joanie Bily: And it worked. 

Jan Jedlinski: Great. Great. And I know that you also, you know, serve on the board of the American Staffing Association. So you hear a lot of you know, challenges and, you know, topics that are on top of mind for staffing, owner and operator every day. You know, what is on top of mind for you at the moment as a staffing leader?

Jan Jedlinski: What keeps you up at night and maybe what are the topics that you also hear from your peers that are currently, you know, in terms of discussions and where to market is going. 

Joanie Bily: Yeah, no, that's a great question. I'll start with what keeps me up at night. And that's certainly okay, now that we did this in 2021, how are we going to do it again in 2022?

Joanie Bily: My CFO and CEO certainly want to see us continue our growth rates and and we want to deliver so those are the things that definitely keep me up at night when we're working on plans and budgets. For the new year. But right now the market continues to be strong and as we all know the demand for talent.

Joanie Bily: Is so strong. We continue to see, you know, pay rates increasing for workers. Online job postings remained very strong, unemployment rates in the United States and across the world, you know, really are very low. So there is a strong demand, which is great for the staffing industry. And so it is a good market.

Joanie Bily: It is. A good time to be in space. So that's kind of the upside at the same time, there are a lot of challenges and things that we do discuss on, you know, at the board at the American Staffing Association we still have challenges with, you know, managing through this pandemic. Certainly managing through like the vaccine mandate.

Joanie Bily: Even though, you know, the government mandates did not get upheld, there still are challenges with companies that are mandating known vaccines and how we track that. And the administrative burden of the. It's still a factor, you know, certainly today. So, that's a challenge, but I would have to say the biggest challenge we see is the scarcity of talent.

Joanie Bily: Okay. And that really just comes back to labor participation which is still at about, you know, 40 to 50 year low. We just do not have enough people participating in the workforce. And that continues to be one of the biggest challenges, you know, that we have. And I think our industry can play a role in promoting opportunities and really encouraging people to get back to work.

Joanie Bily: But that is a big challenge. And another topic that we talk about as well is the skills gap. And there still is certainly a mismatch of available jobs and people having the right skills to meet that demand. So, that's a big challenge and I, you know, at the American Staffing Association, we are discussing.

Joanie Bily: What role does our industry play in helping to close that gap? And should we play a role and what, you know, what is the role that we play? But certainly that is another challenge that we have. 

Jan Jedlinski: So you say that's a potential, maybe we talked a little bit about challenges or potential opportunity for the you know, staffing market. And when you think of maybe other opportunities, one of them is, could be re-skilling or like the topic of re-skilling and, you know, focusing more on that as a staffing company, potentially as a service aspect of potentially going deeper into the re-skilling existing workers to different skills.

Jan Jedlinski: Would you see that as a, as an opportunity in the next coming years for the traditional staffing businesses? 

Joanie Bily: Yeah, I definitely see it as an opportunity. I know my company that I worked for, you know, RemX is a division of EmployBridge. We've actually invested in a partnership with Penn foster.

Joanie Bily: Where we're offering education and classes to our associates to try to up-skill and also re-skill workers. But we're just scratching the surface. There's so much more we can do. And, know, on the members of American Staffing Association and board members are really doing some unique things as well with apprenticeship programs.

Joanie Bily: You know, offering opportunities for training on the job training, vocational training, getting involved with the trade schools. So many of the staffing firms are focused on this initiative, and I definitely think it's an opportunity and one that, you know, companies need to think a little bit more seriously about.

Jan Jedlinski: Great. Maybe one question. And maybe somebody in the audience, you know, is interested in starting a staffing business, or maybe a recruitment or HR tech business. And from all these years in, you know, working in the industry and having that experience, what would you give somebody advice that wants to start a new business today?

Jan Jedlinski: And so maybe there are things that you would do differently in RemX now. 

Joanie Bily: Well, certainly when I started, as I mentioned, it was a long time ago and we didn't have the technology or the tools that are available today. You know, certainly for someone that was just starting out, I would really recommend it.

Joanie Bily: Making sure that they research and look at what are the different platforms and tools that they could have access to that would help really get their business off the ground and put a good foundation and infrastructure in place to help them accelerate. Their growth and there's so many, I know that you've highlighted, you know, a few of them actually this week and you know, even Talent Tech Labs who kind of sponsored your day is such a great resource.

Joanie Bily: You know, and they didn't pay me to say this, but I would highly recommend that. They do connect and look at their research and recommendations of, you know, kind of what's happening in this space, because I believe in if you're going to start out today. Technology is going to be the difference that really sets you apart.

Joanie Bily: And having that foundation, of course, you still need a great strategy and you need to execute on that and focus on differentiation and hiring great people and retaining them. There's a lot that goes into, you know, that recipe for success, but that foundation needs to be solid with the tools and technology that have in place.

Jan Jedlinski: I agree, know, having a solid technology stack when you start off Talent Tech labs is for sure a good resource for that we've seen that across the board with other companies and partners that we work with, they always come back to the Talent Tech Labs and the technology ecosystem and landscape that they have built a really good overview to find the best technologies and pick from there, which ones are the right for you?

Jan Jedlinski: Thank you so much for that. And I, you know, think maybe we can have another minute or two of questions from the audience. Maybe there's some quick questions for you that we can take. If that's fine for you.

Joanie Bily: I'd be happy to answer them. 

Jan Jedlinski: A question from Scott that asks, you know, with this chronic climate, what are the sourcing strategy?

Jan Jedlinski: So to say that's what your team is doing besides maybe looking on LinkedIn, do you have any specific tactics that worked well for you? Or maybe some that didn't work so well? 

Joanie Bily: Yeah, I can, you know, I can say Scott we've certainly tried quite a few things. Some things work, some things don't, you know, don't work, but we.

Joanie Bily: Have invested more certainly this year. Advertising and targeted advertising and we use multiple channels. It's not just, you know, LinkedIn, we use a lot of different sources. We also have a referral strategy where we are asking our candidates and employees to be our temporary associates. As well as people we place on a permanent basis.

Joanie Bily: To refer additional, you know, talent to us. And that has been a great strategy as well. So even though we invest quite a bit in targeted advertising you know, on the different job boards and our social streams referral strategy has also been a key component as well. 

Jan Jedlinski: That's actually a good point.

Jan Jedlinski: We just had a ask me anything. With David Francis and a lot of the questions came off about referrals and we have even a company that's participating in the staffing summit here, Staffing Referrals that is pushing this topic really. And I think it's working really well for a lot of companies.

Jan Jedlinski: So that's a good one. And yeah Kathleen just mentioned David from Staffing Referrals as leading the session. One question and I think that also relates a little bit to what I had in mind to ask you as well, is, you know, the question is about if chatbots for screening candidates will work, will not work and maybe will not work that well on the higher end of the talents, you know, skilled talent.

Jan Jedlinski: Do you feel how you see the relationship between your technology and the recruiter and, you know, the role of the recruiter. Still being an important role you know, in combination with technology and maybe also, you know, in the landscape of the skillsets, right.

Jan Jedlinski: Do you see a difference between maybe in all the light industries you know, warehouse type of work, maybe different IT, Engineering type of skill sets, know,What are your thoughts on that? 

Joanie Bily: Yeah great questions. I think chatbots certainly have their place. And we have tried a few different things. I do think that for that initial screening, it does work better with the more entry level candidates. We don't use them on the higher level positions.

Joanie Bily: However, we also have found that chatbots and tools out there to engage with our workers, once they're working for us to continue to drive engagement have been extremely effective in retention. And that's probably where we've had the most success out of everything we've done has been a tool that we've implemented where.

Joanie Bily: You know, the candidates do not actually know that it is a chat bot, but they really, I mean, they really do believe. It's almost like they forget, we tell them, you know, but they, it is interesting to see the engagement levels and it has helped retention, but again it's not the high level positions, but it is white collar, like call center, customer service that has been very effective.

Jan Jedlinski: Great. That's great to hear. Thank you so much. Awesome. who wants to get hired. There's more questions from Kathleen. Maybe. How often do you reach out to your employees once they get hired by the client? Okay. So that goes back a little bit to retention redeployment, know, any strategies that work.

Joanie Bily: Yeah, I'm a big believer in high touch. You know, the RemX division that we have is really focused on it's a higher margin business, you know, so higher markups, higher margins with that comes a higher touch. So we do spend quite a bit of time staying in touch with our candidates even after we've placed them.

Joanie Bily: And you know, we're all about that kind of building, we kind of call it like a white glove service and yeah. Keep that ongoing. And I do think that helps set us apart, both with our customers and our candidates and certainly makes a difference and then leveraging technology to do that as well, where appropriate in sending them the right messaging and alerts.

Joanie Bily: We have tried to automate certain aspects of it as well, where it makes sense. 

Jan Jedlinski: Awesome. Thank you so much for those great insights. I know we're running on time, so I really appreciate you joining the summit previous sessions and also this one as sort of the final session for the day.

Jan Jedlinski: And yeah, really appreciate you that you have such great insights and also participate in the community. And yeah. Catch up hopefully not in 10 years, as you mentioned in the other session maybe next year and stay in touch and for the audience you know, thank you so much for joining the summit.

Jan Jedlinski: Stick around in the next couple of minutes, we'll start the award ceremony for the World Staffing Award. So we will actually tell you who won the top 100 staffing leaders to watch and stop staffing companies to work for in 2022, super excited about this. We had over 10,000 people there. For the companies and leaders that were on the list.

Jan Jedlinski: So excited to announce who won and stick around. And Joanie, thank you so much for being here and I'll see you soon. 

Joanie Bily: Thank you. Thank you, Jan. Take care. Bye everybody.


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