TriCom Technical Services

It’s Tough Out There…

In Contracting, help, IT, Kansas City, staffing/consulting, Talent, TriCom, TriCom Technical Services on February 24, 2011 at 9:41 am

The following guest post is authored by Matt Sharples, Owner and CEO of TriCom Technical Services

It’s tough out there…

One of the most difficult things about TriCom’s staffing/consulting business is that we simply can’t help the great majority of people who come to us for help in finding Information Technology (I.T.) work. It’s heart wrenching at times, there are so many good people out there who are still unemployed and have been for some time now.

The main issue we run into is this; when any organization comes to TriCom for help in staffing a future, or ongoing I.T. project, they almost always need someone that can come in and “hit the ground running”. Mostly though, the specific I.T. skills this Consultant needs to “hit the ground running” with, are almost always at the very elite of the skill-set hierarchy (.Net, Java, Oracle, etc). So any organization that is going to pay an hourly contract fee to TriCom, is going to demand that any professional who’s engaged from TriCom, already has an extensive background in the technical skill they are being contracted-in to perform. So there’s simply no “learning curve” expected or granted. On top of that, the person with the hiring authority for these organizations typically expects to see demonstrated past experience with the given I.T. skill they’re seeking. When a hiring authority first glances at a resume, the immediate place their eyes go is to what this person has been doing for the last few months and years. If the most recent couple projects an I.T. person lists on their resume doesn’t precisely reflect the exact skill with demonstrated “hands on” work, the resume usually goes to the bottom of the pile. As unfair as that may sound to some, that’s just the way it is today’s world of I.T. staffing and consulting.

So, many times here at TriCom, we find ourselves in candid conversations that are difficult. Having to tell the vast of majority of I.T. people who we genuinely WANT to help, that we simply can’t place them with the current job orders we’ve been engaged to fill by our corporate clients.

“…be helpful, that’s the mission!”

Having said all this, back in October of last year, I went to a conference put on by the American Staffing Association in Las Vegas and the very first session I attended really made me stop and reflect.

It was a session put on by Eric Gregg of Inavero (, a customer survey, research, and satisfaction firm that had done extensive research with both organizations that hire staffing firms like mine and with what Eric termed “the talent” (meaning the general population of I.T. candidates we talk to and try to help).

The session, called “Marketing and Sales Metrics: How Does Your Firm Match Up?” relayed some hard-hitting and pretty sobering facts about how our corporate clients and candidates (talent) view staffing and consulting firms today.

Inavero research showed:

  • 27% of client organizations can only name their primary staffing firm
  • 35% of talent can’t name a single staffing firm
  • Most staffing firms are failing to engage both client organizations and talent with social media efforts
  • Clients differentiate between staffing firms using three main criteria; past experiences, quality of candidates, and reputation and focus less on bill rates, relationship with sales representative, or referrals.
  • “Talent” is looking for two main differentiators when deciding which, if any, staffing firms to work with – reputation in the industry, and helpfulness in overall job search.

Towards the end of the presentation, Eric talked about “dissatisfies, satisfiers, and exciters” and he went on to say that it’s not enough to stop at “satisfiers”. To go beyond to “exciters”, and then he said something that I scribbled at the very top of my legal pad. I don’t remember his exact words, but I do remember him blurting out this specifically: “Be Helpful – that’s the mission!”

As I sat there in this enormous and fancy meeting room at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, I reflected back to when I first started this little company called “TriCom Technical Services” out of my one bedroom, studio apartment (circa 1994).  I vividly remember one of the things I always tried to do is just keep things very simple. Back then, there was an acronym about being in sales called “K.I.S.S.” which stood for “Keep It Simple Stupid!” I already had the stupid part down pat (and probably still do today) and perhaps it’s my grade school understanding of the world, or perhaps it was something else, but I always felt that at the end of the day, it was about “being helpful”. So Eric’s words rang in my head for the next few days and I thought about all the people we don’t help: The I.T. folks that don’t have the top-tier technical skills, the unemployed, the people just getting started out in Information Technology.  I then thought about all the “talent” that is currently on our staff, or have been on our staff in the past, I thought about our customers, past and present, and what would really, truly “help” them…

Next steps

Once I returned to Kansas City, and after just pulled through one of the worst economic recessions ever, and finishing 2010 with growth over 50% and things beginning to thaw out somewhat, I decided that I wanted to make “being helpful” matter more at TriCom. As we put together our business plan for 2011, there was a very strong emphasis on finding ways to help people on both sides of our service transaction.  So, we have decided to take some active steps this year to provide better care for all those who TriCom “touches”, just to help people, whether they make us money or not!

Below are just some of those “next steps” we are taking:

1)      We are currently in the process of rolling out an eTimesheet system that will dramatically improve our current consultants’ hassle of dealing with physical timesheets, as well as our current customer’s ease of approving of those timesheets. It’s also the “green” thing to do!

2)      We hired a Social Media Marketing Manager earlier last year, Jennifer Kurzava, who you probably know by now if you’re reading this. She has been diligently building TriCom’s online presence through the various social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc). We task Jennifer daily with finding “helpful” articles, surveys, and information for anyone who happens upon our website or reads one of our monthly newsletters, or this blog.

3)      We will soon roll out a career portal on our website called which is a portal solely dedicated to people actively seeking new employment. This portal will be a one-stop-shop for those who need help finding new employment. Now, every person TriCom can’t fit into one of our current needs will have a place to go and have access to over 1000 different job boards, weekly free job-seeker webinars, videos, a web-library full of articles on job hunting, as well as have a free, comprehensive, and personal resume review.

4)      We will provide our own, TriCom based research of the Kansas City I.T. marketplace to our corporate clients and candidates. We initiated our first survey last month, and while it definitely wasn’t perfect, we did gain some insights that we think will be helpful to share with talent and clients alike. Next month, we will present some of our findings

5)      Last, but definitely not least, a week ago we hired a “Customer Care Manager”, Lindsey Blakeman who used to work at TriCom a few years ago. Lindsey will be the dedicated point person for all our current consulting staff. She will handle all issues related to someone’s employment and satisfaction with TriCom, including on-boarding, timesheets, benefits questions, exit interviews, etc. Her sole focus will be on “being helpful”. We think keeping our current consulting staff happy will not only add to their experience but also make them more productive for our client organizations.

There is more (“happy hours!”) but that’s most of it. In general, I’ve always felt a deep need to be of help, especially today, when you see so many people who are really struggling. I know quite a bit about struggling myself… it brings out the best and the worst in life, so starting this year, I want it to bring out what’s best about TriCom.

My most favorite fortune I ever got from a fortune cookie that I still keep in my desk today reads “The best times in your life have not yet been lived”. I know that’s true for me – I truly hope this for you too, but mostly, I hope we can be of some help to you.


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