All about relationships: Ryan Clark explains how PeopleShare has navigated its fast growth

By Marc Kramer 

In 2005, Ryan Clark co-founded staffing company PeopleShare. At the time, the company had a sales team of two — Clark and his co-founder, Dave Donald. Since then, PeopleShare has hired more than 150 employees, and its rapid sales growth has earned it a place on the Inc. 500 list. Here, Clark shares the ups and downs of working closely with a co-founder, and how the two resolve disagreements.

Why did you and Dave Donald start this business?

Clark: It was probably bureaucracy that drove us to it. We worked for a large, publicly traded company. It was called Today’s Staffing and part of CDI — a $2 billion company. We felt we could be more innovative and creative. For example, all of our competitors would just send the standard resume. We came up with an idea to send a hyperlink on the resume that would take you to a 90-second video interview.

Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark

What is the best part of having a partner?

Clark: A great question. Dave and I don’t ever forget that we are fortunate to have a partnership. I feel I got really lucky having an amazing partner like Dave. When you are an entrepreneur and you start the company from scratch, you are making decisions on the fly. When we have to hire or terminate someone, we say we’re glad we aren’t alone when making that decision.

What is the hardest part of having a partner?

Clark: It’s very similar to a marriage. Sometimes you spend more time with your business partner than your partner at home. We are A-plus personalities — very driven, and we’ve had our share of battles. We had the most friction the first two years of starting the company. Then we figured out a way to work through our strong personalities.

How do you handle disagreements?

Clark: We have a really complex and scientific approach: Each of us rates how strongly we feel on a scale of one to10. Whoever has the higher score in terms of feeling more strongly about a tough call, we go with it. We’ve had an amazing partnership for going on 12 years, and that simple system has worked.

What is the hardest part of running a staffing business?

Clark: It’s always the people aspect. All of the challenges are personnel-related. Seventy-five percent of our people are A-type-personality millennials. The biggest issue is understanding what motivates them. They want a work-life balance, and to be successful, you have to work 10 hours a day. The other challenge is recruiting — it isn’t something you can master in a short period of time. … We screen 25 people to hire one internal person.

What is the profile of the type of people you hire?

Clark: They must have a sense of urgency. We had someone who was let go, and as soon as they left my partner’s office, an employee immediately commented that they knew the person wouldn’t work because they didn’t have a sense of urgency. Also, they need a superior work ethic than their peers and [do well with] teamwork.

You are an expert in sales. What does it take to be a good salesperson?

Clark: I am not an expert in much, but I have had 23 years of experience in sales. In addition to the obvious drive and determination, all great salespeople need three things — APA. The first A is for Activity. The P is for Process. … The last A is for attitude, which is self-explanatory.

How do you train your salespeople?

Clark: What you hear when someone goes through training at a large company is a week with large groups. Our program is three weeks, and almost all of it is one-on-one. It is more effective than being with a couple hundred people. Half is classroom and half is shadowing our five most successful sales reps.

Marc Kramer, author of six books, is the executive in residence at the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University and executive director of the Private Investors Forum. Contact him at marc@kramercommunications.com.

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