What you missed: 2017 Owners Retreat

Pure Michigan.

On October 28th and 29th, staffing firm owners and executives converged to New Buffalo, Michigan, nestled on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Rolling hills, grape fields, fresh air (outside of the casino of course) and plenty of sunshine sketched the setting for this year’s ISSA Owners and Executives Retreat. Fifty strong congregated just a few hours outside of Chicago – to build relationships and to learn how to be more effective leaders for their respective staffing companies. The ISSA retreat didn’t disappoint and here’s why…

Day 1

Starting at 9:30am Thursday morning at the Four Winds Casino, the retreat kicked off with a message from Diana Smith, the 2nd year President of the Illinois Search and Staffing Association. Diana’s introduction and thanks to our outstanding sponsors was followed by Tom Erb’s presentation on how technology has changed the landscape of staffing. His expertise on the topic shed light on the plethora of tools that are available to get a grip on the challenges staffing firms face, specifically attracting candidates in a tight market.

Candidate shortage was a common theme of the conference as many of the speakers touched on this topic.

After Tom’s presentation, Greg Cox led an interactive session on Greater Insight for Improved Results. Greg focused on our individual leadership qualities and how we work with our teams to maximize outcomes with staff relationships. We walked away from this session feeling better about our weaknesses and how we can leverage them into strengths.

Once we were situated at lunch, Kevin O’Brien of echogravity spoke in depth about Employer Branding and Candidate Marketing – a new territory facing a high percentage of staffing firms. Creating a unique message, coupled with an understanding of the key audiences at a deeper level is imperative to connecting with them in a way that gives your firm a competitive advantage. Kevin was able to shed light on the steps required to stand out in a crowded space.

After Lunch, Tom Erb spoke again on Building a Winning Sales Structure. Tom’s industry expertise in this area was well received by the attendees, relating with the challenge of hiring new sales staff and how to avoid sales structure failures. Tom also touched on profiles that work well in the staffing industry and financial models for a strong ROI.

Tom’s session concluded the learning opportunities in the midafternoon in order to shift our focus on three of the twenty-one wineries in close proximity to the Four Winds property. Our first stop was Baroda Founders.

Baroda Founders was a pleasant surprise, located in the small town setting of Baroda, Michigan. A local owner with a long standing history of historical events dating back to the 1960’s, Leonard Olson was a local icon before passing away in 2014. Despite the non-traditional winery setting (winery used to be a car dealership!), we felt at home as the servers were very friendly and welcoming; frequently filling our glasses with delicious wines.

Our next stop was in a more remote location, driving through the rolling hills and vineyards to the site. Lemon Creek was at a beautiful location, set with a small pond adjacent to a building resembling a farmhouse store. Once inside, we bellied up to a long bar and were served with six options of tastings. Lemon Creek offered a wide array of wines, ranging from sweet whites to table reds.

This well planned adventure continued as we moved up the value chain by ending our journey at Tabor Hill, a renowned winery known for their exceptional dining and award winning wines. As we arrived at the facility, the wait staff stood ready for our entry by welcoming our guests into the wine tasting room. During the course of our tastings, we were treated with a view facing the sunset, overlooking a vineyard just outside the window behind the bar. With not a cloud in the sky, the setting was perfect for relishing the third and final stop.

Dinner was in a private room overlooking the same vineyard as our tasting. The retreat attendees were offered a variety of dinner options, which included the likes Filet and Salmon. Capped with an outstanding spread of desserts, it was doubtful anyone was walking away hungry.

We ended the evening by rolling out of Tabor Hill and heading back to Four Winds.

Day 2

Day two was kicked off by Jeff Mariola, President of Brilliant. Jeff’s presentation focused on the strategic elements of company culture and what it means to drive excellence in each of our organizations. Jeff’s experience truly stood out, providing all of us a better foundation to implement in our own companies.

For the next session, Glenn Eckard of People 2.0, enlightened owners on a very hot topic: Selling the Business. Glenn provided a step by step tutorial on the thought process and considerations that every owner should be thinking about if an exit is in store in the near future.

During lunch on the second day, Dawn McCartney of Staffing Industry Analysts spoke about the industry and buyer trends ahead. The Gig Economy is in full swing, contingent staffing models continue to develop, and of course technology evolution is a mainstay in the staffing landscape.

Completing the retreat, David Kollmorgen of CareerBuilder spoke about Tech Led Automation. Again and again, David has exhibited his vast knowledge of the staffing industry, with his presentations hitting on hot topics we all face in today’s economy. Statistics on the labor force, technology automation and candidate experience insights, anchored the key points of the presentation. David and Career Builder always step up ready to enlighten our audiences and this session was no different.

As we wrapped the retreat and headed our own ways (on the beautiful Friday afternoon), we each had the opportunity to mentally debrief on the information we consumed. We can now apply a refreshed look at our business, processes and future. But, more importantly, we walked away with new perspectives, new friends, new acquaintances, and a great opportunity to connect with people like ourselves.

Thanks again to our great sponsors for making this retreat possible: Assurance, CareerBuilder, People 2.0, Kronos and ABD.

If you missed this event, you really missed a fantastic occasion. Maybe we’ll see you next year?

For those of you that want to get a taste of what ISSA has to offer, register now for two upcoming events:

November 1, 2017:
Young Professionals: Communicating Like a Boss

November 30, 2017:
Annual Holiday Partner and Owners Panel

Don’t say that we didn’t tell you so!

Kevin is a co-founder and Partner at echogravity, a marketing firm dedicated to the search and staffing industry. Passionate about marketing, coaching sports, building things from scratch, and hanging with my 4 kids!

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