The professional contract staffing industry has changed dramatically over the past decade. Contract job seekers who once had only limited options when it came to distributing their resumes now have virtually endless possibilities thanks to social media and a plethora of online job sites. Staffing companies have had to adapt their business models and strategies in order to compete and prove their value. One such IT contract staffing company who has successfully integrated itself into this modern playing field is Sullivan and Cogliano. Established in 1966, Sullivan and Cogliano has succeeded in large part because its ability to evolve with industry, technology and social trends. I sat down with Herb Cogliano to discuss how the company has been able to remain one of the most progressive personnel placement companies in the United States.
Tell me about Sullivan and Cogliano.
Sullivan and Cogliano is actually two companies: the 47-year old Sullivan and Cogliano staffing firm that my father started, and a 20-year old nationally-accredited post-secondary education company called Sullivan Cogliano Training Center that I started. Our headquarters are in Massachusetts and our people are deployed in all 50 states.
What makes Sullivan and Cogliano different from other staffing companies?
Reputation and longevity are everything in this industry. Since 1966 we have been a trusted advisor for more than one million people who have connected with our company. Our reputation is that we are a high-quality provider of on-demand contract staffing services. We have a program called The Right Hire Solution™ that ensures our clients get the right person with the right productivity. That’s our value differentiator. You can like me as a sales rep and like that we get your billing correct, but the contract professionals that show up to get the project done on time and on budget is what really matters. Ninety-six percent of our company clients would rehire our contract professionals for future assignments and 85 percent of our contract professionals are offered project extensions because of the quality of their work.
Describe your typical customer.
They are companies that have IT departments of typically 50 or more people that have projects where they either need a specialty skill set they don’t have internally, or are growing and have a strategic need. For example, one of our customers is a massive international retailer who wanted to upgrade an internal system. They needed a group of developers to come in for six months to write the user guide, perform the upgrade and train the employees. It would have taken them months to find the right contractors but instead, hired us to find and send qualified contractors immediately.
We obtain our contractors through extensive recruiting and referrals. They seek us out because of our reputation and access to great employers. We’ve been around a long time and aren’t going anywhere. We have longevity, experience and a history of success.
What has changed in the past decade in how you do business?
The depth and breadth of the technology skill sets needed are evolving faster each year. IT departments used to have a simpler structure. Now they have a much more complex structure with multiple groups specializing in certain areas. At Sullivan and Cogliano, we know how to source and identify the talent at that level whereas that can be a time-consuming challenge for a company. They rely on us to do it for them because we have the level of knowledge and the extensive network to find the right people in any segment.
Has anything changed about your customers’ expectations about doing business with you?
The speed to find great talent has quickened due to my clients’ need to satisfy their fast-changing customer needs. We try to support our clients’ shrinking budgets by helping them leverage the benefits of technology with fewer people who have better skills.
Have you had to overcome any difficulties transitioning into this fast-paced, social world?
It’s getting more challenging to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, particularly locally and overseas. Anyone can put up a website, say they are a staffing firm and send a company a blast of resumes. My clients don’t want 100 resumes. They want a few resumes of qualified people who can not only do the job but do it now and at the right price. My client doesn’t have the time to do the vetting of the resumes or of the staffing firm. They know with us they won’t have to worry about taxes or insurance, co-employment issues or if we’ll stay in business. They understand the liability of dealing with the wrong staffing firm. Sullivan and Cogliano offers what many of these other staffing firms can’t – peace of mind.
How does Sullivan and Cogliano utilize social media, if at all?
Social media is a great way for candidates and clients to get to know the heart and soul of our company – our core values, what we stand for, community service initiatives, milestones, and recognitions/awards. Social media enables us to put our brand out there in a variety of ways.
Social media is all about connections. We post job listings but candidates want to know if you have the right job, right now, for the right pay. Social media allows us to post jobs real-time and make updates easily so candidates see what’s really out there.
How do communication tools play into the way you do business and how have they changed?
Our telecommunications capabilities have significantly improved over the past two years. New technology and functionalities enable us to do things now we could never do in the past. I now work from home two days a week but my phone system makes it look like I’m in the office. Even if I’m not at either office, a call will automatically route to my cell phone. I still have access to internal applications and company directories, so it really is like I am a mobile office. There are a host of other features on the phones that make my job easier and allow all of us to be more productive.
What else should people know about Sullivan and Cogliano?
For the past four years, we have been voted one of the Best Places to Work by the Boston Business Journal. We succeed because we stay true to our roots but are agile enough to change with the trends. We are passionate about what we do, have identified a marketplace with a true need and are willing to work hard to service that need.