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A conversation with EmployBridge CEO Tom Bickes

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As our franchise division, Remedy Intelligent Staffing is a crucial avenue for the growth of our $3 billion company

EmployBridge CEO Tom BickesAs EmployBridge CEO, Tom Bickes oversees a $3 billion dollar company with a wide portfolio of brands. Remedy Intelligent Staffing is a crucial part of EmployBridge’s strategy for growth; as our franchise brand, Remedy combines the vast resources, industry knowledge and technology solutions of EmployBridge with the passion, talent and local market knowledge of individual entrepreneurs.

With our renewed franchising growth initiative, we have more than 150 available Remedy franchise territories across the country. Learn how the advantages of our national reach can help Remedy franchisees take greater local market share.

What’s the state of the staffing industry right now?

The state of the staffing industry right now is very healthy. If you take a look at what has happened since the last downturn, businesses have not recovered at a very fast pace. As a result, they’ve used contingent labor more often and they’ve used it for a longer period of time. During that time period, we’ve proved our value proposition in a big way. Productivity for America has gone up while at the same time, a higher percentage of the workforce is contingent. The beauty of a contingent workforce is it saves our clients anywhere from 20% to 25% a year in labor cost.

Our demand is way up, and the supply is tight so we bring great value to the clients by bringing them great temporary associates. And from an associate standpoint, we can introduce them to 50 to 60 different clients in a market rather than them trying to make that contact one at a time. It’s a great value proposition to both the end user of the service as well as the associates that we ultimately place on the jobs.

If you look at the trend line since the recovery, we’re at all-time highs. This is a $161 billion industry. It has grown from $97 billion pre-recession, so we’ve seen significant and consistent growth since the recovery. It’s projected to keep growing over the next few years at 2% to 3%. You’ve got a rising tide of demand you can take advantage of, but candidly, the real key opportunity is to take market share. If you have a better offering than your competitors, you ought to be able to take market share and grow it anywhere from two to three times the industry growth rate, if you position yourself appropriately.

Why is EmployBridge’s franchise division important to the company’s growth?

The importance of the EmployBridge franchise division is the ability to continue to expand our offerings. When you look at our business, EmployBridge was just recognized as the largest light and industrial staffing company in the U.S. last year by staffing industry analysts. But you don’t stay there unless you can ultimately provide the right solutions to your clients. Those solutions have to include the ability to service them in any market they need to be serviced in. Right now, we’re the number one, go-to provider for anyone that has multi-site, multi-state service offerings or locations, whether that’s in manufacturing or logistics or transportation.

Franchising allows us to expand at a quicker and faster rate in markets that we know have the demand and that may be better serviced by local entrepreneurs with connections in and knowledge of those markets.

From the franchisees’ perspective, what advantages are there to being part of such a big company like EmployBridge?

The franchisees are where the rubber meets the road. We think there are some significant advantages for franchisees to be partnered with EmployBridge. A company of our scale allows us to do a number of things that are ultimately passed along to a franchise owner. If you were to start a business today on your own, you won’t have the scale to invest in technology, to invest in training, to invest in people on the level that we do. We’re the largest light and industrial staffing company in the U.S. and as a result, our scale gives you three distinctive advantages.

Number one, our process efficiencies help you gain a competitive edge. Number two, you can invest in value propositions to both your clients and your temporary associates that differentiate you in the marketplace. Number three, you can invest in technology. Technology is such a key element. The world is changing. If you stand still, you will be passed. We are extremely innovative when it comes to technology.

With size and scale, you can do a lot of different investments in the business that put you ahead of your competition. We invest heavily in our technology, including our mobile app, front-office systems, back-office systems and communication portals to temporaries and clients.

We also invest in training that will enable you to have the best talent and outperform your competition. We’re always looking at our value propositions to clients and associates, because if we can bring more value and be the preferred provider, we can win more often.

How does the market and industry knowledge filter down from EmployBridge to the franchisees?

When you look at all the knowledge we’re able to collect by having nearly 500 locations across the country and serving over 13,000 clients, there are a ton of best practices that get developed every single year. We created a site called The Bridge where all this data is collected and available to every franchisee. They can go there and pull information that’s directly relevant to their market, their clients or their opportunities. They can take a look at things people have done or are doing that are making a difference and apply that to their own business.

We have other resources that are available to them. Our national account sales organization assists them in winning business locally by taking advantage of our national client relationships. We also have programs such as our on-site program that helps them create an outsourced relationship with a client that’s fully integrated with that client’s site.

All of the tools that are available to EmployBridge at large are available to every one of our franchisees as well because they’re doing the same business, just in a different market.

What does somebody need to do to have the best chance of growing a really outstanding franchise?

I’m often asked if I were to open a franchise tomorrow, how would I ensure success? How do I ultimately build a successful business and have a very rewarding experience?

I think there are a few elements of success in our business. You have to be involved in your community and know the business leaders because people do business with people they trust. Another thing is that not all business is worth having – client selection is such a critical component of sustainable growth. There is business that’s not worth taking, whether it’s because of pay rate, or whether it’s because of safety or whether it’s simply because of how they treat their employees. It’ll eat up the capacity of your business and reduce your ability to go build good business.

Great business is business you can keep and sustain for years. That means not just selecting an account, but servicing it for life. We have training and tools available to help with that, because it’s what we’ve been successful at doing. We have an 85% client retention rate. The top 10 clients at EmployBridge have an average tenure of nine years. You can grow your business because you’re not replacing business, you’re adding to it with every new client you take on. Those retained clients become your best sales solutions because you can talk about stories that you’re doing and successes you’re doing.

We’ve been fortunate. When you take a look at the past 18 years at EmployBridge, we’ve grown at anywhere from two to three times the industry growth rate. You grow a business by winning business, servicing it well, going and winning more and talking about the stories of what you’ve done.

How does Remedy maintain a strong relationship with franchisees?

When you think about the relationship between a franchisor and a franchisee, I think it is critical to start with trust. At the end of the day, you have to do what you say you’re going to do. When we think about our values of honesty, integrity, maturity, family first and passion, we live them every day. Those aren’t things that are just put up on a wall – those values live in actions we take and decisions we make. If we can live those values with our franchise partners, we’ll be partners for life.

Right now, the relationship and the trust I have in my franchise partners and hopefully the trust they have in me has never been at a higher level. But we’ll continue to earn that trust. You can’t rest on your laurels. You’ve got to think constantly, “What have I done for you lately to improve your business and what have you done for me lately to make our partnership stronger?” It’s a joint effort. It’s never a one-sided story. Today, I’m real pleased with where we’re at. We’ve got a great leader of the Remedy group in [Franchise Division President] Steve Mills. He is a wonderful advocate for our franchisees.

As a company, anything we’re building, we make available to the franchisees because we’re all building this business together and growing together.

We think a lot in this company about how we can make sure the company-owned operations and the franchise operations coexist successfully. As a result of some acquisitions, we do have some overlap markets, and in those markets, we just need to support each other’s growth. Remember, we only own 6% market share. There’s 94% of the business out there that’s being done by a competitor that’s not as good as us. So collectively, we ought to go gain market share together and figure out how to help each other.

But it’s not our goal to have overlap markets. Our goal is to have markets that are either owned by the franchisee or they’re company-owned markets so that you don’t have those clashes. Then everything that we do, every product we build, every offering we have, becomes one team.

It’s not necessarily about how much revenue comes from which group, it’s about your purpose. What are we trying to drive? We’re trying to drive a solution to the supply chain world, which is the fastest-changing environment out in America today. We stay relevant to them by having offerings in every market they need us in. What is the market opportunity, how much are we doing there and how do we go get 10%, 15%, 20% of that market share? We’re going to grow collectively by taking a look at every opportunity we have in the markets.

What would you most like franchise candidates to know about Remedy and the staffing industry?

Whatever franchise opportunity you’re going to look at, you have to make sure you’re attaching yourself to a growth industry. The staffing industry is a growth industry and will continue to be. We’ll continue to see expansion of usage of contingent labor in the U.S. because it is bringing huge value to our clients.

I’d also tell you to attach yourself to a growth company. We have 18 years where we’ve grown faster than anyone else in the industry. We know how to grow, and we have the experience and track record to prove it.

You also want a partner you can trust. I want franchisees that I can trust and that will come in and build a business and do it well. We have the tools to help you build that business, but we can’t do it without you. So when you come in, get with the right group, get with the right company, get with the right industry. I believe that’s us.

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