The constantly evolving labor market makes a knack for reinvention key to a long-lasting staffing business.
Since she started her business in 1993, Kahn has survived by being able to change.
“When one door closes, another opens,” Kahn says. Before starting her business, she was working as a sales manager for a radio station, bored with her job, when she was fired by a new manager. While she considered what to do next, another station asked her to fill a similar position temporarily.
It gave her an idea: She should start a business providing temporary advertising sales reps.
Kahn started out placing part-time and temporary workers in advertising, administration, marketing and finance, specifically in the media industry. She opened an office in New York.
“Then the business changed,” Kahn says. “With the Internet, we were able to move everything back and base it out of Chicago.”
She continued to place the workers nationwide, in both large and small markets.
Then about five years ago, another change: Her biggest clients, due to ownership changes or a quest for smaller margins from less specialized firms, stopped hiring temporary workers from her firm. So she pulled back from the temporary placement business, concentrating on direct placement instead.
Then the economy crashed, necessitating changes from almost anyone who wanted to stay in business.
“We had to get very creative in how to make an income,” Kahn says. She cut her overhead expenses to save money, but she also changed the way she did business.
She now uses independent contractors rather than regular employees to help with her business, and everyone works virtually instead of in an office.
Kahn also expanded her services. She started offering a job posting service. She did career coaching. She emphasized consulting.
Through all these changes, Kahn has found professional connections, especially an advisory board she put together, very helpful. “They were all high-level people,” she says. “They were seasoned.”
Kahn has also found increasing acceptance of her business, which initially faced a lot of skepticism. “If I had a dime for every man that came up to me and laughed in my face and said this would never work… ,” Kahn says. “But who’s the first person they call when they get let go?”