How to Grow Your Recruitment Agency from Start-up to $2M in 3 Years, with Joel Slenning, Ep #144

I’m a firm believer that success leaves clues. 

If someone was able to scale their staffing business not just once or twice but multiple times, that can’t be based on luck. To produce those results over and over, they must have a winning formula. That being the case, you’d want to know their formula, wouldn’t you? 

Well the good news is that’s exactly what you’ll learn from my podcast interview with Joel Slenning.

This is Joel’s second appearance on the show. Last time, he shared the story of how he scaled his previous recruitment firm, ICON Medical, to $16M before selling it in 2019. I found that story fascinating – especially the part where he started his own business in the middle of a global recession and how he strategically scaled it during the most difficult first year.

This time, Joel is back to reveal the strategies he’s using to grow his new staffing firm, INNOVA People from a start-up to almost $2M in revenue in less than 3 years! Joel talks about his business model, leveraging offshore sourcers, and inbound marketing, and much more. 

Joel is the President of Innova People, a healthcare and IT staffing agency based in Oregon. Joel and I run a coaching program together called APEX which is a mastermind group for owners of 7-figure recruiting firms who want to scale to 8-figures and build a business that runs without them that they could potentially sell one day.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [02:00] Joel talks about his current company, INNOVA People, and what he is doing differently this time. 
  • [05:15] Building a sustainable model where business development is side by side with the delivery team.
  • [14:48] The blend of contract and permanent direct hire.
  • [22:26] Leveraging offshore resources and automation.
  • [32:31] The 9 Pillars of a Scalable Recruitment Business
  • [34:33] Joel’s approach to marketing and generating inbound leads.
  • [48:32] The ToMA (Top of Mind Awareness) Model and how to create it in today’s environment.
  • [52:58] Joel’s mindset on the economic slowdown and how we should prepare.

Structuring a Very Sustainable Business Model 

After successfully scaling and selling ICON Medical Network, Joel is now the owner of a successful IT Staffing Agency, INNOVA People. What he has been doing differently with this new agency is the approach to a sustainable business model, where business development works side by side with the delivery team. He segregated business development from the delivery team by creating a talent acquisition leader for delivery and sales development reps on the business development side.

How does this work for Joel’s team? With this strategy alongside a number of automated processes, the team was able to scale rapidly. Contrary to a 360 model, this approach is really agile and avoids having recruiters having to switch-task which reduces productivity. Each person is dedicated 100% to what they are doing. The business development team is able to fully support the delivery team, which results in consistent hiring and scalability. In its third year, they are pushing close to $2M in revenue.

Joel further shared key factors in his current business model such as leveraging offshore resources and automation. If you are hesitating in employing an offshore team member, Joel’s insights on the matter can be very helpful. What to look for in an offshore colleague? Does location really matter? In his own experience, making the right offshore hire is critical to Joel’s success in scaling his business.

Top of Mind Awareness and Inbound Marketing

The last time we had Joel in the podcast, he alluded to the fact that the majority of his leads on both clients and candidates were generated using inbound marketing. We ran out of time to get into the details of how he does it, and so we are truly fortunate to hear the details from him this time around. Joel shares their strategy for applying the ToMA or Top of Mind Awareness approach in their marketing. Here are some of the practices that Joel discussed in this episode:

  • When and who to hire as marketing staff.
  • Platforms that they are utilizing the most in their marketing.
  • Calendar and timeline on running social media content and posts.

You will enjoy the very practical and no-nonsense approach that Joel shared in this part of our conversation.

Outworking the Global Economic Slowdown 

Joel also shared his insight on having the right mindset to deal with economic downturns or recessions. This is a relevant topic to a lot of recruitment business owners who are concerned about a global slowdown in hiring activity. The media has amplified this message to the point that there’s a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt in the market.

But if there is one thing that I learned from the 2008 global recession and the COVID19 pandemic, is that taking a proactive approach and having the right mindset are the game changers. Joel shared his thoughts on how to outwork whatever potential economic downturns that may come. 

Our Sponsors

This podcast is proudly sponsored by i-intro and Recruitment Entrepreneur.

i-intro® is an end-to-end retained recruitment platform. Their technology and methodology allow recruiters to differentiate themselves from the competition, win more retained business, bigger fees and increase their billings. Their software combined with world-class training enables you to transition from transactional, contingency recruiter to consultative, retained recruiter. Instead of being perceived as a “me too” vendor, you’ll be positioned as a “me only” solutions provider. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Book your free, no-obligation consultation here: www.recruitmentcoach.com/retained

Recruitment Entrepreneur is the world’s leading Private Equity firm specializing in the international recruitment industry. If you’ve dreamed of starting, scaling and selling your recruitment business, this is your chance. James Caan and his team at Recruitment Entrepreneur are actively seeking ambitious recruiters who they can invest in. They provide everything you need to grow a successful recruitment business including: funding, financial expertise, coaching and mentoring, operational strategy, backoffice support, marketing and talent attraction solutions. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Start a conversation here: https://www.recruitmentcoach.com/vc

Joel Slenning Bio and Contact Info 

Joel is a talent acquisition expert, talent strategist, tech investor, and tech startup guru based in Portland, Oregon. With a recruitment career spanning for more than 20 years, Joel has always been a consistent top performer and an award-winning billing manager. He is the president of INNOVA People, a Human Resources Solutions agency that utilizes AI platforms to solve complex HR problems mainly focused on healthcare and information technology.

  • Joel on LinkedIn
  • Email address: joel@innovapeople.com
  • Innova People website link
  • Innova People on Facebook

People and Resources Mentioned

Connect with Mark Whitby

Related Podcast You Might Enjoy

Subscribe to The Resilient Recruiter

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, please take two minutes to leave a review. Your review is greatly appreciated because it helps us attract a bigger audience and help more recruiters.  “Support the podcast and leave a review here”.

Related Articles