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Recruitment and Workplace Consulting straight from the heart
Anthony Carbone, director of Parkway Workforce Solutions reveals the great challenges he overcame with his journey helping over 150 people get employed.

Hi Anthony, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I left school when I was seventeen, was the last to jump on to the IT bandwagon and studied IT in TAFE but there were no real jobs out there, so I had taken on roles in customer service and sales jobs working my way right through to Work Health and Safety. But then the economy was turning on the construction side so I went from contracting to no work. Then I landed a job in government based recruitment which was fantastic.

Parkway Workforce Solutions came about when I spotted a gap in the market where other companies didn’t want to invest in client relations, they just wanted to put people into jobs, make money and move on. Someone asked me, ‘Why don’t you do it to yourself?’, and I laughed it off and said ‘I’d rather work for someone’, but one day in August 2014 I decided to take my savings and put it into the business and our first client came in on October 2014.

 

“If you can do business in the bad times, you’ll appreciate the good times, but if you do business in the good times and have no idea about the bad times, you’ll never know how to survive".

What makes Parkway Workforce Solutions unique?

We look at the bigger picture and take great care of our clients. Too many recruitment agencies and consultants don’t listen to the clients and look at what they can give whereas we look at what our clients truly need. Regardless of what staff you need or systems you need in place; we will look into all the necessary information to determine how we can best service that client with our range of services on offer. Then we create a proposal outlining the cost to either hiring the staff, or service they require and how much we will charge based on the information we’ve researched about our client and their requirements. Our clients appreciate the extra work, advice we offer, love our customer service and use our service regularly.

 

What is your key to delivering great customer service?

There are 5 key points in delivering great customer service – Transparency in your dealings, Listening to your client’s needs , Delivering on value, Catering for what your client needs and building long-term Relationships.

Always deliver on value - for one client, she wasn’t happy with one of the placements we made and she didn’t want to get into the confrontation situation so I didn’t charge for our service. I appreciated the opportunity she had given us and just wanted to give back.

Truly listen to what the customer needs, be transparent and really cater for your customer, not what you think is right but what they truly want. If I find customers are being unrealistic, I would tell them straight away. The biggest thing I’ve emphasised on my business in the last few years, is creating a relationship with my customers and truly appreciating them for choosing to work with me. It costs more to attract new clients than retaining them. We had clients that have provided repeat business with us for over 12 months all due to us going above and beyond to deliver the value. I would rather have 20 regular clients than 50 new clients that only work with us once.

 

How complex is the recruitment process?
The recruitment process is made up of many different components. Let’s say the client (Construction Company) requires a tradesperson, after advertising it, you will then begin to shortlist based on the criteria and requirements your client (The Employer) has provided. When shortlisting you look into the experience of the tradesperson, their working history, their tasks, sometimes you have to go through between 200-300 applicants when shortlisting.  From the shortlisting process we then conduct phone and face to face interviews. The short list becomes shorter. We then conduct reference checks, and from that we create a top 5 list of candidates based on interviews, reference checks and the client’s criteria. We then put this into a comprehensive profile which our candidate reads and then selects the candidate/s they wish to meet, providing them with the freedom, choice and time saved in the hiring process. The hardest part of the process is having to turn candidates down even if the person may meet the criteria our client requires, it can be for an assortment of reasons. A lot of my competitors wouldn’t do that, they wouldn’t provide an upfront and honest answer straight away. For us, we are not dealing with a physical product like a car, we are dealing with people’s future here and we are very mindful of our service. To ensure both our Employers and Candidates are treated with the same exemplary service in all our dealings.

 

“Currently the SA business community is more like here is my business that is yours, if you don’t do business with me, I don’t know want to know you.”

Would you say your business focus on giving first?

Absolutely, my business was formed on it. We were created to deliver value for our clients and candidates while being fair.  Running a business is more than getting a pay check, it is about giving people the opportunity. If you have the ability to help someone out, then go and do it. I had a lady who hadn’t been in the workforce for 12 years and keep getting overlooked. It was very rewarding to help her land a job. I even have clients who just need someone for 2 days, I would assist them without charging as they are a regular client who ask for my assistance without hesitation.  

 

Establishing relationships without expectations, right?

100% Agreed. Whether there’s someone broken down on the side of the road, a business person who’s struggling, even anyone who reads this article and wants to add me on LinkedIn or contact me by any means, if I can help them, I will. It’s important to help others especially in our business community.

If you don’t help people, you’re selling yourself short. If you go out looking to help people to get something in return, you won’t go anywhere, but if you go with an open mind to somebody, you’ll find your way. Sometimes I have to do work at no cost because the business maybe couldn’t afford the service but needed it. I know if I didn’t help them their business will fall and they could have a lot more to lose than I would.

 

What is your plan for the future?

My future plans are to grow Parkway Workforce Solutions to a sizeable business. To me being an entrepreneur also means helping people and once I’ve scaled and grown Parkway Workforce Solutions to its full potential, I want to give back by opening a business hub that provides up and coming entrepreneurs a place to work where people look after each other, where people can help you with real advice. Instead of people starting out from the bottom this business hub will help people accelerate their progress. I love helping people, if I can help somebody get a job, a business achieve more through their staffing and systems which creates more businesses, as well as better productivity, I would do it.

Sadly not everyone sees it in the same way!

Oh look, people are business minded and some say business is business and that is fair enough but personally I want to help people so I focus on helping people. Good things may not happen overnight but one day it will definitely happen. Too many bigger business look at the little guy not wanting to help them but once the little guy makes it they will definitely not work with those who overlooked them. You can’t have it in your head space that you are at the top and others don’t deserve your time.

With the volatile economy we have now, those leading us today might not be leading us tomorrow. When you run a business, it is a way of life, you can choose to give back or not but when you fail who will be there for you?

With my business I have lost a relationship, all my savings, friends and a lot of self-confidence. There was a point when I lived on my grandparent’s couch for 3 months just to get by while running the business. Many people told me to give up and walk away but I knew if I persisted, I would make it. Now I don’t want someone to go through what I have gone through, I want to be able to support entrepreneurs who contemplate giving up.

 

From your experience, the entrepreneurship journey is not easy right?

Be prepared to make big sacrifices. I started 2 years ago and I haven’t seen a regular pay check. We just got out of a hard period and good things will happen soon but you have to be willing to be in it for the long run.

“Running a business is more than getting a pay check, it is about giving people the opportunity. If you have the ability to help someone out, then go and do it.”

 

In your opinion, how can we improve our entrepreneurial community in South Australia?
My grandfather used to tell me how the community looked after each other when they first migrated here in SA. Someone would be growing tomatoes, someone would be growing capsicums, cucumbers and they would share it around, either by bartering or using the extra items to sell and refer to one another. I was at the Gepps Cross Markets and an elderly stall holder who was really cold and stuck at her stall. Upon noticing her I offered to purchase her a cup of coffee. The lady turned down my offer to buy her a cup of coffee, but I still bought her one and she ended up giving me 3 full bags of Italian biscuits worth $30. I never asked for them and tried to push it back but she insisted so in the end I had to take 1 bag. Can you image if your business community is like that, how much better off SA will be? Currently parts of the SA business community are more like here is my business that is yours, if you don’t do business with me, I don’t know want to know you.

 

What’s it like running the business as a sole trader?

You’re basically the keeper of everything, as much as you’re managing staff, you also are managing, marketing, admin…

In any business no matter it’s size or how it operates. I’ll quote the Mayor of Port Adelaide - Gary Johanson, “If you can do business in the bad times, you’ll appreciate the good times, but if you do business in the good times and have no idea about the bad times, you’ll never know how to survive". I live by that every day because while everyone says it’s bad out there, opportunities in any business are out there.

“Truly listen to what the customer needs, be transparent and really cater for your customer, not what you think is right but what they truly want. If I find customers are being unrealistic, I would tell them straight away.”

 

If you could go back in time, anything you’d do differently?

Absolutely I would invest my business funds more wisely by finding the right staff, narrow down my target market, rather than be broad. I would also sharpen my management abilities.

Looking back I was very naïve, I had just turned 26. I thought I could do it with my eyes shut but I don’t dwell on what happened and see it as a lesson. I take responsibility and focus on the new chapter of the business.

To connect with Anthony and find out more of what he does, please visit  https://yourworkforcesource.com.au/