Transcript – Episode 7

Fred Dunayer:             Welcome to the SCORE small business success podcast, “Been There, Done That!” To get free mentoring services as well as to see the wide variety of resources available for small businesses, visit our website at www.score.org or call 1-800-634-0245. Here’s your host, Dennis Zink.

Dennis Zink:                Episode #7: Boomerswork.us. Fred Dunayer joins me in our studio today as co-host, SCORE mentor, and our audio engineer. Good afternoon, Fred.

Fred Dunayer:             Good afternoon.

Dennis Zink:                Our guests today are Tim Heron and Rick Emberly with Boomerswork.us and Boomerswork.ca in Canada. Timothy Heron has a strong career track record in management, sales, and building successful technology startups that have been acquired by global telecommunications companies. His 15 years in telecoms involve setting up regional offices, building sales teams, and delivery of complex software solutions across North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. His latest software venture was with jNetX, where he led sales for Europe and Asia. Fostering OEM relationships with Ericsson, Nokia, Siemens, and others, jNetX was purchased by Amdocs for $50,000,000 in October 2009.

Timothy recently changed his focus from software to recruiting. In 2012, he launched a permanent staffing operation as part of the Global Recruiters Network in Sarasota, Florida. He focused on telecommunications, IT, and health care sectors. Timothy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Baylor University, and he completed his Master of Arts in Economics at the University of Texas at Austin.

Rick Emberly has been a leading marketing, communications, and research expert for over 25 years. He is senior counsel at the M5 group, where his principal responsibility lies in corporate, business, and new service development with the MQO research division. Rick currently sits on the board of NSCAD University, is chairman of the board of the Discovery Center, and is a director of the Halifax Partnership and the Halifax YMCA. Serving on the board of directors of the Advertising Standards Council of Canada, he is a member of the World Presidents Organization, International Association of Business Communicators, and the Professional Market Research Society. He is also a former president of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

In 2012, Rick founded Boomerswork.ca, Canada, along with several investors, and the company is now actively marketing across Atlantic Canada and into Ontario. Boomerswork.ca is an online web service designed to connect recent retirees to term and part-time assignments with organizations in need. Rick holds degrees in economics and political science and has completed graduate work in business administration. Gentlemen, welcome to Been There, Done That!”

Rick Emberly:              Thank you.

Tim Heron:                 Thank you.

Dennis Zink:                If you could explain the basic concept of your innovative service, Boomerswork?

Rick Emberly:              Yes, happy to do so, Dennis. I guess what we’ve done is we’ve built a web or a technology platform that’s designed to reach out to boomers. Exponentially, there’s an ever increasing number of them in the market, obviously, and that age wave is moving through the society and moving through the economy rather rapidly.

We’ve really created a matchmaking service that will connect those boomers, because many of them wish to continue to work, with employers, employers, frankly, in just about any area. They can be private businesses, private corporations, can be public sector organizations, can be not for profits and so on. We’ve chosen specifically to focus our efforts on what we call senior boomers. They’re essentially people who have 15 or more years experience holding senior management, executive roles and so on, particularly in the back ends of their careers.

Dennis Zink:                What makes this service so timely? Why would boomers sign up, and why would employers want these kinds of employees?

Rick Emberly:              We think, frankly, that the convergence is a rather interesting one. At the same time that you have this rapidly increasing cohort of boomers leaving the so called traditional work force and coming to the back end of their regular careers, we’re also hearing an awful lot these days about the talent deficit, which is why it’s spread across almost every industry sector that you can think of. Some of that is in fact created by the exiting boomers because they held onto those positions, those senior management jobs, for 10, 15 years and even longer. Of course, when they exit the organizations, they leave these talent gaps that are not necessarily easily and quickly replaced.

We think we’ve arrived at a point here right now where that convergence of large number of boomers, lots of expertise, don’t necessarily want to stop working, but don’t want to be working in the traditional mode. They don’t want the 9 to 5, and from lots of them, of course, it was a heck of a lot more than 9 to 5. They were the 60 hour a week people, not the 40 hour a week people, typically.

As I say, the organizations have increasing requirements to find people to fill some really, really important skills. I think the other element in this, actually, at the end of the day, is that the economy is such and has been now for a while and will be with us for a while, that organizations are frankly looking for economic ways to control costs. Bringing in senior skilled people on term type assignments as opposed to full time employment is a wonderful tool that can be used by them to maintain and manage those costs.

Tim Heron:                 Just to reiterate that from the employers’ side, quite frankly, a lot of them are scared to hire people for a full time employment scenario when there’s a general unpredictability in the economy with costs rising over overhead costs associated with all these things. It’s a wasted opportunity not to leverage this talent pool in a more innovative way.

Dennis Zink:                We see a lot of our SCORE mentors in a similar position, where they want to get back to doing something. Invariably, or fortunately for us, they do come to SCORE, and they become mentors for clients. There are a lot of job boards and recruiting services on the Internet. What distinguishes Boomerswork.us from the pack?

Tim Heron:                 What Boomerswork really seeks to do is to find the right combination of software automation and exceptional customer service, where if you look at the entire spectrum of staffing and recruiting on one side, you would have the traditional recruiting business, which is very resource-intensive, takes a lot of time, and if it’s done right, you can achieve a high degree of quality. On the other end of that, you’ve got job boards, where you get a mass amount of quantity, but you’re going to have to sift through a lot of stuff to find anything you’re looking for, really.

Boomerswork sits somewhere in the middle on that line and combines this extremely complex algorithm which allows the boomers to register a profile in the system and allows employers to register their requirements for the job. There’s a lot of automation in the matching process. When we combine that with actual experts from the Boomerswork team that help moderate the system and offer the right solution for the customer at a very expedited rate.

Dennis Zink:                Just a follow-up: how long does it take to register?

Tim Heron:                 It should be a matter of minutes, quite frankly.

Rick Emberly:              I would be very, very surprised if it would take you much more than 5 minutes to actually register in the system as a boomer. What will typically happen then is that we go through a verification process, which we will probably discuss a little bit later in the conversation. Essentially, it’s not that much longer actually for an organization to register in there either. You can get into the system, be through the registration process, and out in 4 to 5 minutes.

Dennis Zink:                Wow, that’s fast. What types of positions seem to attract the most attention or are employers the most interested in filling?

Rick Emberly:              That’s actually a little bit of a tough one because it seems to vary so much across geography. It has a lot to do with the kinds of industries and businesses in particular that tend to aggregate in certain areas.

To give you one example, there’s a very, very robust energy sector, offshore oil and gas sector, on the east coast of Canada. We’ve had a lot of demand from that sector for skilled people with senior kinds of experience, project management kinds of experience and so on in that sector. I would expect that, and Tim and I have actually chatted about this, that for instance, the health care sector here in the Florida area is big business in a whole host and variety of ways. What we discover is that we tend to track the way industry itself is moving across sectors and across geography.

In terms of professional designations, I would think that the ones that we’ve noted in the early going that seem to have the greatest demand would be finance — people with a finance background, so either holding professional designations such as CPA, CA, that type of thing or Masters degrees in finance from a university and that sort of thing; human resource demands — very high; and we also find ever increasing demands in the field, in almost any aspect, of engineering.

It might be a good point to mention, however, that the not for profit sector generally has found this service very, very interesting because of the types of organizations that have limited resources. They can’t often get the kinds of senior services that they need. They don’t have them readily available within their organizations. They can’t afford full time people. We’ve been quite successful at placing rather senior boomers into those organizations and helping them work their way through term project type assignments and so on.

Tim Heron:                 I think the beauty of that and the model is it is ubiquitous doing a given industry vertical. The model applies where if you have any seasonal requirements, or you have budget limitations, or if you have IT requirements for a project, anything that’s related like that, short term, part time, or less time than 5 days a week, 6 days a week, then the model fits.

Dennis Zink:                What would be some of the key benefits to employers from using Boomerswork.us?

Tim Heron:                 I think it really boils down to efficiency and drastically reduced costs. You can’t really argue with an exceptional degree of high quality at 50% or less than the cost of the traditional recruiting process. The ability to, as we continue to market this solution in the area with 78,000,000 boomers in the US alone, just the market reach that we’re getting on that and increasing quality combined with a vetting quality that our process that we’re doing ourselves and we’re going to deliver to our employers and our clients good matches at a fast pace.

Rick Emberly:              I would say that on an average rate now, we’re running about 12 days in terms of the recruiting cycle from the time that an organization actually posts a position available in our system because the system does a lot of the heavy lifting, if you like, though, in terms of the technology piece of it. We are very, very regularly actually placing people in jobs in less than 2 weeks.

Dennis Zink:                That sounds like it’s quicker than the industry average. What would the average be?

Rick Emberly:              I would say for senior positions and full time roles, it would be 10% or 15% of the time. That process runs 3, 4 weeks or so.

Fred Dunayer:             As a person over 50 myself, I hear from a lot of my peers that employers just simply aren’t interested in employees that are more senior. Either they’re concerned that they won’t stay very long, or they’re concerned that they don’t have the latest skills. Do you have some particular method of overcoming those objections in order to find opportunities for these folks?

Rick Emberly:              I’ll start on that one if I can. I guess if you’re saying that there’s a certain ageism factor at play in the market, yes, that is true. The issue of, “Will they stick with the job?” and so on is almost irrelevant in our model because we are only placing people into term positions and part time roles. Frankly, that’s one of the several reasons why we focused on that particular model. As to the issue about whether or not people hold sufficient skills, we see that in what I would call particularly the older end of the demographic that we’re working with. Our demographic does run from roughly 50 into the mid to late 60s. Even though we do encounter it a little bit, it hasn’t been a major issue for us at this point.

Tim Heron:                 It also caters to the specific types of roles that we’re filling, to the earlier question, so managerial roles, people with managerial experience. A lot of the times, we get people who might have served in a CEO role before, but they don’t necessarily want that kind of responsibility again. They might want to be a manager or a director level or even come in for a post-incubation startup who needs to build and deliver on a business plan, maybe over a 6, 9 month period, as opposed to a full time employment scenario.

Dennis Zink:                How do you handle the geography? Are there limitations to that if you’re in the Sarasota, Bradenton area, for example, and someone goes online … This is .us, so I guess it’s nationwide. Is that correct?

Tim Heron:                 It is nationwide, and the system is set up so that the registration can be anywhere in the states. We don’t care, and we don’t want to limit where the boomers are from. Our goal, if I can just speak to a little bit of the market rollout objectives that we have, is to set this up on a licensed model and have licenses across the US, hopefully 40, within the next 12 to 18 months, licenses across the US. We want to encourage … Certainly, Sarasota is a place where people come in. It’s seasonal, but we’ll be advertising locally, and hopefully people will pick up on it and take the word back where they come from.

Dennis Zink:                Is there a likelihood that someone, if there was a position in Sarasota, but the person lived in Miami, could that happen?

Rick Emberly:              Absolutely. One of the questions that’s posed when a boomer is actually registering in the system is obviously their current location but also, they’re asked to indicate their willingness to travel for an assignment or to in fact move to an area for a period of time.

I guess the thing I would point out here is that what we’ve really done, I think, has zeroed in on a trend that actually precedes our technology. This type of thing has been happening. We’re now using technology to speed the process, to make it faster, more accurate, deeper. Most of this type of thing has been going within very, very small, confined networks up till now because person A happens to know person B, and person C needs somebody. What we’ve done is built a database and are building a database so that your network is not now your near friends and business associates. It’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people and dozens and dozens of companies.

Dennis Zink:                What are some of the key benefits to boomers to register in your system?

Rick Emberly:              I’ll start on that one. We interviewed several hundred boomers in building the business case. They rank ordered the reasons why they would be interested in employment of this nature. It might not come as a surprise. I’m not sure, but money was 4th on the list. The first thing on the list: “I want to stay engaged. I’ve got a lot of skill. I’ve got a lot of knowledge. I’ve got a lot of talent, and just because,” in quotes, “I’m retired, that stopped on a Friday. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be doing anything as of Monday morning.” The desire to have some sort of ongoing engagement and involvement.

The second reason on the list was the fact that giving back … really, really strong sense from this particular group, the so called senior boomer, we’ll call it, that they wanted to give back, give back to their communities, give back to their businesses or their profession, and so on. That ranks second.

The third reason was always the amusing one, and that is they got kicked out of the house. Just in behind that came money. The money thing is probably a practical reality, but again, the fact that we tend to be recruiting somewhat more senior boomers, their personal wealth and so on is typically in reasonably good shape, but nobody’s going to complain about the augments to the income.

Fred Dunayer:             Especially when you’re considering cost of insurance these days. My assumption would be that these positions probably don’t have health insurance as part of them because they’re term positions.

Rick Emberly:              Not very often. In fact, that’s one of the employer benefits. There are no legacy costs attached to bringing somebody in for a 6 month assignment.

Dennis Zink:                What are some of the key features that would attract senior boomers to the site?

Rick Emberly:              That’s our focus. Tim,

Tim Heron:                 Pointing back to the earlier question about ageism and the concern there, this is a site for boomers. It’s your site, so go on and register. Specifically the companies that are enrolling and posting their jobs here are looking for seasoned, experienced, talented workers.

Rick Emberly:              These are not the type of folks who will roam around the Internet looking for opportunities. They will not go to the traditional job sites and see what’s in there. They won’t take that time. Once they register in our site, we contact them when they match to an opportunity.

Tim Heron:                 That’s what I was referring to earlier. The automation features of the system will, on a daily basis, the system will be looking at profiles vis-a-vis job profiles and seeing what matches up and notifying the boomer, hey, there’s an opportunity that could fit your profile. Are you interested? They indicate interest, and then there’s a match made. There’s no ability even of the individual to go through and scour the database and look at the job profiles and apply to anything and everything. That’s part of the screening.

Rick Emberly:              That’s part of the screening process.

Dennis Zink:                I can see a lot of our SCORE mentors being interested in signing up with you all, even across the country because they want to do something. They want to be relevant and stay involved. Something like this could make a lot of sense. You appear to be focused on boomers who have had more senior positions in their careers. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that?

Rick Emberly:              Yes, there’s several reasons. I think the principle one is that they represent a really serious and growing deficiency, if you like, within the economy. The fact that they’re exiting their traditional careers and so on, they are leaving huge, and there’s just dozens and thousands, probably, of papers and research documents of one description and another that have been written about this sort of talent deficit that they’re creating. That’s part of the puzzle for us.

The second is, to take us back to the comment a few moments ago, and that is these people in fact want to work, but they were the generation that came out of university, went to work, didn’t stop for 35 years. They actually don’t know how to go about finding meaningful opportunities. This is a wonderful place to collect, if you like, and make sure that your skills are more broadly known and recognized.

Dennis Zink:                How do you screen and verify the registrants to ensure quality in the system?

Tim Heron:                 Back to the point about the combination of automation with the software and the personal touch, the human touch, if you will, the registration process is quick and painless, but every person that registers, we actually have the opportunity to go in and look and make sure that things are okay with the profile. The same thing with the job and the employers that register in the system. There’s a process called moderation, to varying degrees based on the employer requirements of how they want things screened, that we can employ.

Rick Emberly:              One of the things that we do, actually, the verification process is a two-stage process, the first phase of which is upon registration. The second phase is upon the transmission of your profile, as we call it, to the employer. There’s a gatekeeping exercise that happens there, as well, that minimizes. To give you an example, it wouldn’t be unusual if you were to post a position on just about any job site, that you would get inundated with hundreds, even, resumes. That would not happen in our system. You will end up with a very, very small handful of highly qualified individuals who match to the profile of the job description. Could be as few as 5 or 6.

Dennis Zink:                How do your costs compare to that of other types of recruiting services?

Tim Heron:                 Just because there’s such a low overhead in the model, we’re able to compete pretty effectively with costs of 50% or less than the traditional recruiting business. That’s, again, matched with the time, 12 days, 2 weeks on average, to find a match. That’s pretty good.

Dennis Zink:                Is there any costs at all to the registering boomer?

Tim Heron:                 No, there’s not.

Rick Emberly:              Nope. It’s free access, free entry.

Dennis Zink:                Can you describe some of the early successes that you’ve had.

Rick Emberly:              Yes. I’ll try and maybe draw 2 or 3 examples for you that reflect the nature of the business in terms of how it’s being used by employers. Let me start with a not for profit example. We had a not for profit organization approach us. They had a $20,000,000 new capital project underway. They were just getting it out of the gate. As you would expect, in a not for profit organization, not a lot of skill lying around to tackle a $20,000,000 project. None of these organizations keep excess staff around, so even if they had the skill, they probably didn’t have the time.

They posted a position for us which was essentially a project management position to help them get this particular idea. It was a new construction of a new facility that they wanted.  They posted the position. They were looking for an individual with north of 20 years of engineering, construction, project management type background. I remember quite specifically because it happened to be a file that I was directly involved with, they posted it with us on a Tuesday. A week the following Monday later, the individual was up and running.

We found an individual in our system, 25 years construction management style experience, all sorts of background dealing with architects and engineers, and even hit a bit of a home run because he’d been involved in a number of fundraising initiatives through his career, as well, which was a nice fit to a not for profit that had to raise some capital during the course of the project.

We had a university approach us not too many months ago that had just started a new research institute. It hadn’t evolved in the business case, if you like, for the research institution. It hadn’t evolved to the point where they were certain that it was actually going to work and that they could properly and completely fund it, didn’t feel that they could go to the market and find a full time executive director, and posted a position with us for a 9 month assignment. The individual that we found for them, again, I think that was in slightly more than a couple of weeks.

Nonetheless, the individual went in, helped them refine their business case, get the thing up and running, actually found some early funding sources for them, both from private and public sector. As I said, the individual actually just extended the contract. It was originally a 9 month deal, and they decided they wanted the individual to stay around for another 3 or 4 months as a part of a transition to a new full time executive director. I think the individual is due to finish up now in March or April. It was originally intended to end at the end of December.

The last quick example I’ll give you is more of a private business situation. In this instance, it was a winery, a mid-size winery. During harvest season, they probably employ maybe 250 or so people. Their normal employment throughout the year is probably 60 to 70. They were looking for an HR individual on contract. This turned out to be a part time assignment, so it was 2 or 3 days a week style assignment.

They had no HR policies and programs in place. They actually wanted somebody to come in and write the book, if you like, on their HR programs. It wasn’t sensible for them to position that as a full time role. It just made no sense, so the intent was the individual come in, actually develop the programs, and then they would go to market in a hire, slightly more junior individual to actually manage the programs. Likewise, I think finding that individual for them took us about 2 weeks, maybe a tiny bit more. I think they’re in now to about month 2 of their relationship.

Dennis Zink:                What do you typically find the terms of employment in times, in months, in years?

Rick Emberly:              We’re at the point right now where we’ve been operating long enough to start to get a sense of it. I’m sure it’ll leave off and change over time. The average running time at the moment is about 5, maybe as much as 6 months as a typical contract period. The part timers, that’s all over the map. It can be 2 days a week. It can be 4 days a week. It can be 2 days a week for 2 years. That one is a bit harder to track for us. The average value of a contract at the moment is running in and around the $40,000 range, maybe a tad higher than that. Again, we’ve seen them as high as $70,000 and $80,000, and we’ve seen them as low as $20,000. Obviously, that usually is dependent on the length of the contract.

Dennis Zink:                Are these positions typically independent contractor positions or employee positions?

Rick Emberly:              I think this is the intent here. We’re trying to make a distinction between having an employee part time or term in your operation as opposed to having somebody there that functions like a consultant might function. Virtually all of the placements that we’ve been doing today fall into the employee category. That’s dictated ultimately by the employer, the precise nature. At the moment, well in excess of 90% of them are falling into an employee structure within the organization.

Dennis Zink:                Tim and Rick, is there anything else that you’d like to go over today?

Rick Emberly:              We’ve covered a lot of territory. That’s for sure. I’d like to maybe pick up briefly on the point that Tim was making a little earlier about where we’re going to try and take this because Tim is leading the charge for us here as we try to expand the business into the US market. The concept is virtually universal. It can work anywhere, frankly. Most of the so called developed Western world was all experiencing this phenomenon of the boomer wave moving through the economy and starting to migrate out of the traditional workforce.

What are we going to do with all that talent, and how are we going to use it? On the other hand, you’ve got all the boomers running around saying, “I just don’t want to be idle. I’m not up for golf 5 days a week. If I can find a way in which I can make a sensible contribution and a rewarding contribution and only golf 2 days a week, that’s good by me.”

Dennis Zink:                That’s what happened to me. I came down here and was playing tennis. There’s only so much tennis you can play or so much golf, and I’m a terrible golfer anyway. Went to SCORE, and here I am podcasting.

Rick Emberly:              That’s where the motivation comes from. There’s no doubt about it.

Tim Heron:                 Just to add, I just want to encourage anybody from wherever in the US to reach out to us. We decided to have Sarasota as the launch pad just because of a couple of reasons. One is the demographics. 32% of the population being over 50 in the area, plus the economic diversity with sectors such as health care and technology startups and manufacturing. Again, the model is ubiquitous in terms of the industries that it can apply to and the geography. We’d love to talk to anybody that’s got a big idea, and we’re excited about doing something big.

Dennis Zink:                That’s just super. Tim and Rick, thank you so much for enlightening us today about Boomerswork.us and .ca. For more information, how can our listeners contact you if they want to learn more about what to do?

Tim Heron:                 You can register at www.boomerswork.us, or you can call us here in Sarasota at the offices down on Palm Avenue downtown, 941-444-5793941-444-5793.

Dennis Zink:                That’s great. Do you have an email that they could reach you at, too?

Tim Heron:                 Yeah, info@boomerswork.us.

Dennis Zink:                That’s great. If you, our listeners, have a story to tell and would like to be interviewed for a future business podcast of “Been There, Done That!” please contact me by email, providing your topic of interest and a brief bio. Email to centreofinfluence@gmail.com, spelled C-E-N-T-R-E. That’s centreofinfluence@gmail.com.

Speaker 1:                   You’ve been listening to the SCORE small business success podcast, “Been There, Done That!” The opinions of the hosts and guests are theirs and do not necessarily reflect those of SCORE. If you would like to hear more podcasts, get a free mentor, view a transcript of this podcast, or would like more information about the services we provide, you can call SCORE at 800-634-0245 or visit our website at www.score.org. Again, that’s 800-634-0245, or visit the website at www.score.org.

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