Identifying seasonalities is key. And it’s crucial that mature or at least established staffing firms excel at it.
At JBCStyle we typically know within days or weeks when we will have highs in volume and when we will have lows. This knowledge typically allows us to know when we are going to be busy and how to catch that wave instead of being drowned by it. In past years, I have always felt empowered by my theoretical crystal ball – and I’ve led my colleagues and our growing offices with confidence. But 2016 has been different.
There have been numerous challenges this year that we have not seen before in the life of our group of search firms. JBCStyle, our global fashion and retail search firm, began in 2006. JBCconnect, our Creative and Digital search firm, and Janou Pakter, our Executive search firm, both began around the end of 2011. While some of these elements were potentially present in the recession that we pushed through in 2008, our companies were not necessarily large enough to see or feel them yet.
1) Tourism and Retail Sales
Our large size allows us to look at domestic tourism and retail sales in two regards. First there are the factual reported numbers and then there is the personal relationship with hundreds of mid-tier to luxury retailers who rely heavily upon us to support their hiring. Both of these great indicators have pointed to the same thing in 2016, which is a real and measured slowdown in tourism and retail sales. These slowdowns have had the same immediate impact on retail, and there’s a complementary slowdown in hiring for store-level retail and corporate hiring for these retailers.
2) The Weather
A very mild winter also had a measured impact on retail sales and in turn has affected hiring. Warmer-than-normal weather meant U.S. retailers sales fell dramatically short against sales projections because consumer spending on cold-weather necessities was down.
3) Political Uncertainty
This year’s Presidential election has created an atmosphere of uncertainty in our country’s path and some visible economic uncertainty. This is only exacerbated by a growing jobless rate, little-to-no economic growth, a national debt that has doubled to 19 trillion in 7 years, increased domestic terrorism fears, and the list goes on. Yet there is a silver lining. The whole world is talking about it, and we are all focused here domestically on our election, which, no matter who you vote for, will be behind us in November. Our country can then begin to focus on the positive growth we need to overcome much of this list.
In our niche areas of expertise, there are many large household names that have hit a wall. Their businesses have become stale and stagnant, and they are attempting to revitalize with big change in leadership, vision and/or approach. They are shedding large pools of their talent to support new ideas, new passion and vision to reinforce the concept of transformation. These large scale changes or transformations have created a pause, shift and/or several restarts in 2016, which have created some uncertainty and disconnects in traditional hiring that these monster Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies typically create.
5) Cash Money!
What is a tell-tale indicators directly tied to the economy or our country’s political uncertainty? It’s the green that makes everything move: Cash Flow. Cash flow has come to a screeching halt in 2016. Our terms with our client base are really simple, and we have always built our business on a personalized relationship that has afforded us great collection with our clientele (on average stayed well below net 30 days from the transaction date). This year everything has changed, and in a measured way cash flow has moved from 30 days to often 60 or 90 days.
Is doom and gloom expected for 2017? Not at all. Our businesses are up 31% over last year, which for us at our size is a monster move. We are growing in almost every area, but it is not without its own unique and new set of challenges. Having our finger on the pulse and continuing to build as an agile and evolving enterprise has allowed us to effectively forecast trends for the year ahead. As we continue to boom as an enterprise, we also continue to mature and reinforce what was once a young fledgling infrastructure with brilliant minds.
If I could make one suggestion to all of my fellow entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders, it is to invest in your people. There is nothing more rewarding here at JBC then the success of removing “I” and focusing on “We.” Our Glassdoor profiles have allowed our employees to share their thoughts, which in turn has proved our company’s values and culture. Together WE have been successful as a company in being able to foresee the expected and unexpected. This has afforded us the opportunity to continue to grow in 2016 for the 10th straight year. In 2017, we are anticipating steps forward with an increase in growth.