A Look Back at 30 Years in Staffing

A Look Back at 30 Years in Staffing

By Julie Ann Bittner
President / CEO

It was October 1989. A television show called Seinfeld had recently premiered, and people were diving into the new book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People while listening to Milli Vanilli’s latest hit. In Wisconsin, a group of staffing industry veterans had decided it was time for a better way to deliver total staffing administrative services, payroll/billing analysis and processing, and payroll financing. The result was TRICOM.

When TRICOM first began operations in October 1989, the staffing landscape was vastly different. Cell phones were large, bulky devices not in general use, and the Internet and email had yet to transform daily lives. How we went about the business of staffing was not the same as it is today.

Following are some of our reflections on the last 30 years, as we look back on some of the big changes we’ve seen, as well as how some things never change.

Technology Pushes Us to Do Better
Technology has had the biggest impact on how we do business, interact with our clients, and deliver our services. It’s allowed us to enact better security measures through encryption and electronic delivery systems, and keep better, more easily accessible records for compliance.

Payroll is one of the biggest areas impacted by technology. We now offer online paystubs with ability to review past paystub information and electronic W2s, in recognition of the demand for quicker access to information. In 2001, TRICOM developed our current system that analyzes payroll and billing together, so any discrepancies between the two are quickly identified and remedied. Previously we would review payroll line by line and catch mistakes manually. We realized this still meant that errors could slip through. We now have dozens of flags and benchmarks in our system that stop the process for a TRICOM employee to review if something doesn’t add up. The result is fewer errors, more accurate payroll and invoices, and happier employees and customers.

Juan Diaz, President of ProStaff Solutions enjoys knowing that TRICOM’s accuracy is working for him. “I always make a joke here in my company. When we have issues or problems when it comes to payroll or billing or invoicing, I always tell them you guys can be assured it’s not a TRICOM mistake. It’s our mistake. We always go and we try to find the mistake within our company. I tell them, ‘They don’t make mistakes. Don’t even think that it’s going to be on their part.’ TRICOM is very professional and mistakes are very rare.”

We also use technology to provide peace of mind in the form of a full-blown disaster recovery site. Should anything happen to disrupt our systems, we have a backup site ready to go so that business can continue without major interruption.

Technology has allowed (and encouraged) us to adapt, change, and grow, and we’re happy to bring our clients along for the ride.

It Pays to Be Prepared
It was December 31, 1999, and staff members at TRICOM were on high alert for the beginning of the New Year. “Y2K” was threatening to upend business practices and cause unknown headaches and disasters. Organizations around the world (including TRICOM) prepared by setting up disaster recovery sites, bought and installed massive generators for potential power outages, and updated software programs in the hope that we were prepared for the worst.

We processed two weeks of payroll in advance and forwarded it to all our clients in the event that the banking system collapsed as some were predicting.

And then the clock struck midnight. And nothing happened.

Y2K was probably one of the most over-hyped potential “disasters,” but we were prepared. It’s when disaster strikes when you least expect it that “always being prepared” becomes critical.

When we watched in horror the events of September 11, 2001 unfold, we had no idea what the following days, weeks or months ahead might bring. We just knew that we needed to be there for our clients. We worked overnight, wired money to stunned and distressed clients nationwide, and came together as a team to help in whatever ways we could – even if it was just through offers of prayers and support.

What we learned is that we may not see the unimaginable coming, but when we come together, there is very little that we can’t do.

The Economy is Cyclical
We’ve been fortunate to experience times of great growth with our clients in good economic times. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen what happens when the economy starts to slow, and the impact it can have on our industry.

Staffing is unique in that it feels the effects of the economy about six months ahead of the rest of the economic landscape. So when things start to slow, staffing will feel it first. When the economic landscape starts to change and growth begins again, staffing is also the first to feel those positive impacts.

Being ahead of the curve means that you need a partner who understands these economic challenges and stands by you through thick and thin. We’ve learned through the decades how needs change when the economy changes – and how some things need to stay the same, such as the level of service you receive, the expert resources available, and the strength of a partner that has your back.

One thing I’m really proud of is how TRICOM stood by our clients during the last Great Recession. We’re all in this together, which means helping our clients through thick and thin.

Karl McCoy, President & Founder of ProTech Search appreciated that support through the inevitable ups and downs. “There have been very high economic periods where we had many contractors. TRICOM ramped up to help us get them payrolled and funded and so on. And then when we hit the more down economic dips, and they were still there with us even when we got down to a handful of contractors. Part of my assumption is that we might lose the services with TRICOM when our sales volumes fell. But instead of that being the case, TRICOM was there with the same friendly service and strong support, which obviously felt more like a partnership.’”

What They Say About Death and Taxes is True
It’s been said that, “the only two certain things in life are death and taxes.” Our Accounting department can attest to the taxes part. The number and scope of changes we’ve seen to the tax laws at the local, state and federal levels over the years are astounding. From paid sick leave to tax credit programs, taxes can be complicated (and expensive!).

We’ve learned that it’s critical that we take a role in helping our clients navigate this often-confusing part of their business.

For example, the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) is a payroll tax that businesses must pay either annually or quarterly to fund unemployment benefits. However, after the economic fallout of 2008 – 2009, many states were struggling to fully fund their unemployment reserves, so many states took out loans from the federal government to meet their state unemployment benefits liabilities. When states didn’t repay those loans within a designated timeframe, the federal government issued a reduction in the usual credit against the full FUTA tax rate. That meant that employers saw a reduced FUTA tax credit (i.e. pay more in taxes).

TRICOM worked with clients to ensure enough funds were being withheld, so that if their state didn’t repay their unemployment loan, they weren’t left with an unexpected tax liability at the end of the year. We’ve found that being proactive when it comes to taxes is critical to ensuring that tax time doesn’t result in unexpected headaches and expenses.

We also help ensure that TRICOM clients are taking full advantage of any tax credit programs for which they’re eligible. In 2010 to 2011, the federal government instituted hiring incentives to help combat rising unemployment rates. The New Hire Retention Tax
Credit was part of the HIRE Act of 2010. As with any new tax credit, there can be challenges when it comes to making sure clients receive the credit to which they are due, and we’re eager to help when we can.

For example, we had a client take full advantage of the New Hire Retention Tax Credit. He had hundreds of new employees across several offices. When the IRS audited the company to make sure they didn’t receive a larger tax credit than what was due, TRICOM was there with documentation (literally thousands of pages) to help demonstrate that they were in compliance. This saved our client tens of thousands of dollars of tax liability.

We take the same approach to workers compensation expenses. TRICOM provides unparalleled, comprehensive workers compensation reporting, which enables clients to identify their actual liability. Clients also save time and headaches by having TRICOM reserve funds for premiums, and we can even make premium payments for clients, removing one more item from their to-do list. It’s all about service.

Mike Bartels, Director of New Business for Becker, LLC, describes his view of TRICOM as a fellow staffing industry partner. “I think their values are so strong. They really want to be a difference-maker within the staffing industry. From all the conferences that they go to, when they speak, how they speak to clients, how they present themselves to the industry, giving back to the industry, and giving back to their community, they’re just a very, very dedicated company. And that, to me, is extremely important. You can’t just dabble in staffing. You have to be all-in. You have to truly be dedicated, because these are entrepreneurs. These are people who give their lives to come up with an idea to form a staffing company. And they’re very passionate. TRICOM does a great job of helping clients reach their dreams. And that’s dedication. That’s true dedication to what they do.”

Looking Ahead
So much has changed in the staffing industry in the last 30 years. Yet so much is still the same: the passion and dedication we share with our clients and partners, the focus on helping others, and the drive to elevate those around us. The last 30 years have had its highs and lows, but we cherish every moment and extend sincere and heartfelt thanks to those who have helped us reach this milestone including our clients, industry partners, and staff. TRICOM is what it is because of all of you. Thank you.

As we look ahead, we face the future with hope and optimism. We look forward to continuing to deepen the bonds we’ve already forged while developing new relationships. We will continue to support and contribute to our industry, while constantly on the look out for new ways to serve our clients, partners, and community. We look forward to continuing this journey together.