“I would love to see a massive movement to aid college kids through their career placement by having more training in practical life skills. Too often, kids graduate from school but aren’t fully prepared for what the real world has to bring. Basic skills like budgeting, how to get a mentor, and adding value to an organization, are critical. I would call it “life after college 101”. They’re not getting this practical advice and often making life decisions that will impact the long term. If we could help college-age kids to make more informed decisions, then their trajectory may improve.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of KNF&T Staffing Resources, Beth Tucker, who was a founding partner of the Boston-based company in 1983. This women-owned staffing firm focuses on contract, contract-to-hire, direct hire, and diversity staffing. Established on the guiding principle of providing a consultative approach to staffing, Beth’s vision has led KNF&T to be consistently recognized as a Top 100 Women-Led Business (Boston Globe and Commonwealth Institute), among the largest women-owned businesses in MA (BBJ), and one of the largest temporary placement firms in MA (BBJ).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I began my career at an executive search firm working in the retail industry and quickly got promoted to manager, where I had people reporting to me that were twice my age! The demands for travel at the firm became more intense, so I transitioned to a larger company and worked with clients to meet their temporary staffing needs. This gave me excellent exposure to different industries and allowed me to build up a strong network. From there, I moved to a different search form with big clients and federated department stores, but I missed the thrill of quicker transactions that I had in my previous role. So, when my three colleagues approached me to start a staffing business of our own, I jumped at the chance. I was only 26 at that time. From there, KNF&T Staffing Resources was born and the rest is history!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There have been so many funny moments throughout the years. Recently, I was interviewing someone for a high ranking position and things went well. Later, he and I were both in the elevator at the same time. I was expecting maybe another handshake, but instead he went in for a great big bear hug! And, mind you, I’m not a hugger, at least not in professional settings… so I had a good laugh about that.
How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?
Technology, communication, and great managers. We run our company like it’s a larger organization, so we invest in technology to enhance the ease of working together and to further streamline our business processes. Adding to this, we’re focused on being as transparent with our staff as possible, so they are aware of how we’re doing as a whole and how important they are to the success of our company. Last, I rely heavily on a great management team to carry out our vision of consultative staffing and to ensure their teams are reaching their potential.
What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?
The top challenge is making sure the satellite offices feel they are part of the main stream. It’s challenging but so critical to keep them connected to corporate — this means not just inviting them to big events, but also making them feel included in the growth of the company and deeply connected to its mission.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
You need to empower employees and engage them — make them feel like they’re part of the solution. Give them the rope so they can show what they can do. Trust them at times when maybe trust doesn’t come all that easily.
Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?
Most people don’t just leave because of compensation, they leave because they’re working with a manager they don’t agree with or don’t feel aligned to, and so it’s important that management communicates clearly. Staff has to have clear and consistent goals. They need to know what the management style is, and have a clear view of expectations and accountability. If people aren’t performing, there needs to be a clear and concise plan to get them on track.
Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)
1. Set the example — work as hard as your team does. Have the same set of expectations for yourself as you do for others.
2. Communicate clearly — We conduct an annual company survey that gives us feedback on how our internal employees feel about our culture. It’s so important to communicate with them around that. This means letting your employees know what you’ve found through the data, your plan, progress, etc. In this way, employees realize that action steps are being taken appropriately and feel heard and valued.
3. Set the bar high — people will rise to the expectation. If you expect someone to fail, they likely will. Conversely, if you expect a lot out of someone, that person will likely deliver. Instilling this type of confidence in your team will create a sense of confidence in themselves that ultimately leads to happy and productive employees.
4. Be authentic and have integrity — you have to practice what you preach and do what you say, or people won’t trust you. For instance, our philanthropic mission is assisting women and children in transition. We don’t just say we support this, we actually go out and do it. We offer volunteer days to our employees and often allow schedule flexibility for employees to volunteer their time with mission-aligned organizations. This is in addition to regular sponsorship and involvement with organizations like Crossroads and Dress for Success.
5. Coach out — It’s important to recognize when someone isn’t a culture fit or performing at the standards that you need. Having someone like this on board will negatively impact the rest of the team. When someone isn’t performing, communicate how he/she can provide a positive and respectful influence to the team. If you’ve given them chances that they haven’t risen to, as difficult as it may be, that person may be better off moving on and not letting it fester.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to see a massive movement to aid college kids through their career placement by having more training in practical life skills. Too often, kids graduate from school but aren’t fully prepared for what the real world has to bring. Basic skills like budgeting, how to get a mentor, and adding value to an organization, are critical. I would call it “life after college 101”. They’re not getting this practical advice and often making life decisions that will impact the long term. If we could help college-age kids to make more informed decisions, then their trajectory may improve.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I really relate to the quote from Angela Farmer: “Like a tree, you have to find your roots, and then you can bend in the wind.” A lot has changed since I started my company in 1983. As our firm grew, balancing my personal and professional life became a big challenge. On top of a long commute, I had three young children at home. I was keeping my focus on the business strategy and growth, and I was keeping up with their lives, including very active schedules. I was lucky in that I had a supportive spouse and a very organized schedule. And, at the heart of it, the key to managing my professional and personal life all boiled down to staying grounded and finding a balance. Knowing when to burn the midnight oil, and also when to turn off your phone and just be with your family.
Originally published at medium.com