I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Kosnik. Tom, founder and president of Visus Group, is the staffing industry’s leading expert offering a unique combination of business consulting acumen and expertise to independent staffing firms. Tom advises staffing firms across the country on how to improve operations and financials. Tom is most notably known for establishing the Presidents’ RoundTables to improve leadership capabilities of independent staffing firms’ management through peer networking and strategic collaboration.
Thank you so much for your time! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I got started doing what I am currently doing by developing peer networking groups for staffing firms, IT & Engineering project and staffing firms. For the first three years, all I did was build and facilitate President/Owner peer networking groups. I had over 100 independently owned firms in 8 different RoundTables. After I built this business up, I pursued a master’s in organizational development from Bowling Green State University. I never looked back.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
- We sent out a mailing soliciting attendees for the Chief Executive Network and the “x” was a pair of golf clubs. We got some interesting feedback from potential attendees, mostly not good. Lesson: think though your marketing tactics
- I had an Owner’s group talk me into hosting a meeting Puerto Vallarta Mexico. Lesson: the playboys attended the meeting and the serious owners stayed home. I lost half my group by giving into a vacation meeting.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss
Flawless Consulting by Peter Block
Both these authors gave me a rapid education on how to succeed in the consulting business. One time I took part in a survey with the Institute of Management Consultants USA. I found out that I was in the top ten revenue producers for persons with a consulting practice. I work hard, but I owe a lot of my success to what I learned in the two resources listed above.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
What is the purpose of businesses? To generate wealth. I work with people that own their own businesses. I start at the top. If I can help that person or that small group of owners to change their behavior, then I can help effect change throughout the entire organization and get the company back on the growth track. If companies are growing, they are creating wealth and opportunities for every employee up and down the food chain within that organization. It is as simple as that. My vision, my purpose? To help entrepreneurs reach their dreams.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Care. I authentically care for the success of all my clients.
Quality over Quantity. Reference: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Anyone that believes that philosophy is a useless endeavor is a fool.
Never, ever, ever let money get in the way of destroying a relationship.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis?
My oldest son was born with down syndrome and is on the autistic spectrum. First, he is a one-on-one situation. Secondly, all his programing was canceled. Third, my wife, my son, his receipt care worker and I were all working out of our condo in the city of Chicago. This is what you call challenging with a capital “C”.
In addition to that, all my consulting projects were put on hold. So, the cash in issue was a big stress.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We figured out how to get back into our office in downtown Chicago.
Commitment to exercise and eating good healthy food and getting enough sleep.
Increased communication with my wife.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic?
All consulting project were put on hold. Everything in the pipeline as put on hold. Work from home was not working.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Increased social media activity
We are launching two new initiatives. One has to do with something new in very challenging times.
Jeff Bezos = “double down on existing relationships.”
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
First, the basics: exercise, good food, enough sleep. These are the things that will decrease one’s body to deal with stress from a physical perspective. One must make a commitment to do these three basics. Position the body for success.
Second, support circles: I have kicked up communication with my wife about several items and issues during long walks in the evening. I attend a men’s spiritual meeting every Tuesday morning. I have another group that I meet with on Zoom once a month. These support circles are critical to a healthy disposition in the face of uncertainty and fear.
Third, spirituality: commitment to daily prayer, AA meetings, yoga…doubling down on a spiritual commitment.
One can think of the human person as mind, body and soul. When one of these dynamics goes sideways, it effects the other two. So, the thought is to take care of all three. Put a tactical plan in place to make sure each of these human dynamics are getting the attention they need.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
- OMG, just think about the access to talent, the utilization of talent. A little company out of Erie, PA or Mesa, AZ now has access to millions of more talent. This mindset of “having an office,” or “working out of an office” has (past tense) exploded. Clients of mine that were conservative about this topic are much more open. Opportunity = organizational structure with defining roles, work tasks, communication, feedback loops, etc.
- Business Model: namely, brick and mortar. Business across the board are going to adopt a work from home / some brick and mortar business models. Opportunity = assisting companies figure out the business model that works best for their organizations.
- 5G is going to revolutionize Zoom meetings / meetings in general which means how people communicate. Think about Star Track. I believe we have the technology now where I can have a virtual meeting where a full life size image of Tom Kosnik will show up in the room. Opportunity = technology consulting and support.
- Security issues from a technology will become even more critical. Opportunity = technology consulting and support.
- This 9 to 5 day, 40 hours a week, working out of an office in downtown somewhere is being redefined. In fact, if one does the research, the way we have been working over the past 100 years is not how humans have worked for most of the time we have been on the planet.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
In America we “live to work.” COVID is going to help us transition to “work to live”. This is going to be a seismic cultural shift for America.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We have to pivot. Historically, I have consulted to only the “staffing” industry. This is changing. We are currently building new practices into two areas. (1) An on-demand platform for the dental industry and (2) Recruitment Process Outsourcing for large buyers of human capital.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
First, some businesses have grown during COVID and due to COVID. They are essential businesses. Is that a blip? Will that growth recede once we get past COVID? One has to cash flow for a potential post-COVID recession specific to their business. Take janitorial services, for example. They are off the charts right now due to the cleaning requirements. Well, what happens to this business post COVID? It is going to go down.
Secondly, some businesses are down 20% to 30%. Well, this is a “retraction” and “ramp up” exercise and economic modeling. Take staffing, for example. Staffing is not going away. If a staffing business fell 30%, then you must retract the business expenses by “x” amount to achieve breakeven status. Then when the economy starts to come back, ramp back up with adding intern sales reps and recruiters.
Third, some businesses are decimated. I have an associate that works at the Ritz Carlton and they did 1mm a month in meetings and such. They are now doing zero. What does management do here? The hotel meetings will come back, but these businesses are in crisis mode and need to adopt a crisis game plan.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Eistein
“The world is not my home I’m just a passin thru.” Tom Waits
How can our readers further follow your work?