Staffing Company President
Mentor – Lynn Flinn
Lynn is the President and Managing Partner of The Rowland Group, a staffing company with offices in Tulsa and Houston which specializes in the areas of Accounting & Finance, Information Technology and Engineering & Energy. She began her business career as an auditor for a nation-wide accounting firm. She then transitioned to controller for banking, oil & gas and publishing companies before a new career direction, joining a large staffing company. There she became a regional manager of twelve offices. After eleven years with the staffing company, she left to establish the Tulsa branch of EWF International (Executive Women’s Forum International), a peer advisory group for women in business and also established the Tulsa Chapter of OKEthics, a group of business men and women promoting ethical business practices in the state. In 2006, Lynn was asked by the founders of The Rowland Group to join TRG as the company President.
Lynn continues to be heavily involved with the Tulsa chapter of the Oklahoma Business Ethics’ Consortiums as well as EWF International. In addition, she serves on the Tulsa Small Business Marketing Committee and has served as past president on the Leadership Tulsa boardLynn has received several business leadership awards including Woman of Distinction by the Tulsa Business Journal, One of Oklahoma’s Most Admire CEOs by the Journal Record, Outstanding CPA in Business and Industry by the OSCPA and the 2006 Oklahoma Woman in Business Champion by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In her YPNG article, Lynn gives some great advice for young people searching for that first job. She addresses topics including the importance of recognizing different corporate cultures and of company values aligning with your own personal values. Lynn also discusses career pathing, and how taking advantage of opportunities can drive an individual’s success. She shares with you how she evaluated the opportunities that came her way, and the important lessons you can expect to learn as you gain experience.
My Career Path
I decided on a career in accounting after taking an accounting class in high school. I really liked the order of accounting and the way everything balanced. I also had an opportunity to tutor someone in the class who was not doing well. These experiences convinced me that I really understood the subject. So I went to OU and earned my accounting degree, followed by my CPA.
When I started working, I did all of the classic things. I first worked for what was then one of the big eight public accounting firms as an auditor. After a year, I found that auditing was something I really didn’t want to do, but I did enjoy meeting and working with all the different clients so I moved to the corporate side as a controller for companies in banking, oil & gas and publishing.
At this point, I was ready to start a family and knew I couldn’t do that working the crazy eighty-hour weeks. This led me to make a career move into the staffing industry. I thought I could find jobs for accountants like me and if I hated it, I could always find myself a job. I thought there was no downside to making this move. However, some people told me I was derailing my career and my chances of moving into senior management as a chief financial officer.
Once I got into staffing, I found I loved it and knew it was a good decision for me. I always liked coaching, helping people and connecting them to opportunities. I worked my way up to branch manager, followed by promotion to regional manager, a position where I oversaw twelve offices. Eventually, working for a large company was too formal of an environment for me; it was simply not the right fit. I decided I would leave and sit out my non-compete agreement while deciding on another path to pursue.
Shortly after I left, an opportunity came along to organize peer advisory groups for women business owners and women executives. It is sometimes lonely for a woman leader in business, and it is often valuable to have people you can talk to about the issues you are facing. The company, EWF International, was started in Oklahoma City. They invited me to come and sit in on some of their advisory groups. I heard really great stories about people making positive changes in their lives and in their businesses, which made me want to be a part of this group by working with both the business owners and executive groups. I sought out smart women in various noncompeting businesses so we could talk openly about the challenges we faced in our businesses, how we could make ourselves stronger as leaders, and find ways to improve our businesses. I learned so much through this group that I have stayed involved.
It was through EWF that I met Debbie Rowland, and she asked me if I wanted to join her and her husband’s staffing business. The Rowland Group (TRG) was a smaller staffing company than the one I had recently left. I knew that changes could easily be made if I thought they were needed. I knew this was the right fit for me and it kept me in the staffing industry I enjoyed so much. Besides placing people, I enjoy going into companies and looking at problems they might be having such as turnover in a particular position. TRG also has companies which come to us in a crisis such as when key staff leave, and the company needs us to quickly help find a replacement. My favorite of all is when a client needs to fill a position because someone I placed at that company has been promoted and the position that person is moving from needs to be filled. Solving these kinds of problems is what being in the staffing business is all about.
When we opened our Houston office a few years ago, we transferred two of our managers from Tulsa to manage the Houston location. It serves a company best to grow your leaders internally and have them plant your culture in that new environment when you expand, much like the QuikTrip model.
When you are looking at joining a company, consider their policy on internal promotion and find out how many of their key managers have moved up in the company.
Understanding Corporate Culture
One of the things young people don’t always consider is the importance of researching a company’s culture and evaluating how the company’s values match with the person’s values. At our company, we have three principles that define our corporate culture and corporate values:
Integrity – we value truth, honesty and respect in all areas of business.
Performance – we know there is no substitute for outstanding performance and we look for ways to reward excellence.
Quality – We understand that it is our customers that define quality, and we strive to consistently meet their expectations.
We continuously ask new staff members what our core values are so they keep these at the focal point of their daily work. We also have a weekly team meeting. As part of the meeting, a team member recognizes another team member for demonstrating these values in their daily work. We want our staff to understand that our values are not just words on a piece of paper but something they are expected to put into action every day. Of course that includes our leaders.
When looking for a job, it is important to recognize that all companies have their own culture. Make sure the culture is a good fit for your personality or you will be miserable. For example, a larger company is usually more structured. Some people like being assigned things to do and thrive in this type of situation. But if you are a more creative person, a smaller company, where more personal initiative is needed may be a better fit for you. You have to know what type of environment it takes for you as an individual to be successful. This self-awareness is very important in order to make excellent career choices.
Also research if the company’s style of work lines up with your personal preferences and if the company is flexible. While people say they like their employer to be flexible, each person’s definition of flexibility is probably different. You need to ask specific questions. For example, one person may believe their company is not flexible because they had to work nine hours and couldn’t get off early on a day they requested. Another person might discover that, because of their workflow, the company did not want them to leave their desk to go to the restroom in the morning unless it was between 8:00 and 8:30. So ask questions and be sure that when you start, you will be able to blend into the company culture.
Also understand that someone new can be a positive influence. Companies like to have a fresh perspective and people with a high energy level. This means there will be opportunities to demonstrate how you can add value to the company and taking those opportunities will help career advancement.
We keep ethics front and center at TRG. Many people in business assume new employees know right and wrong and the proper way to handle things. But how can they if no one has interacted with them? The company has to set expectations and tell the individual what matters. We always tell our staff that they never have to be dishonest to make a placement. If a person cannot get hired just by representing the person’s merits, then they should not be doing it. I also want people to understand it is okay to make a mistake. Admit the mistake and we will find a way to fix it, but don’t lie about it.
I became involved OKEthics, which was started in Oklahoma City by Shannon Warren, in 2005. Shannon came to me and asked if I would like to start a chapter in Tulsa. We both had the experience of personally seeing some unethical business practices in some companies. We also read the newspapers and were frustrated when hearing about companies like Enron and WorldCom.
Another reason I chose to become involved in OKEthics was my niece. She came to me and said she was not going to pursue her studies in accounting and go into business because people in the business world were not ethical. I told her that was not always true, and the majority of businesses did not operate like she heard about in the media. I believed we had to get out there and show everyone there are companies that put ethics as a priority in business. We started with a few people around one table. Today we have more than 1,000 members and 200 companies represented. It makes me very happy to see companies step forward and say they want to be known as a company that cares about business ethics. To my knowledge, Oklahoma is the only state that has a largely volunteer organization involved in promoting business ethics.
Social media can be a wonderful tool to learn about jobs and the culture of companies, but potential employers can also learn a lot about you by what is posted on social media by you or others. Whatever you post on social media, understand that employers are concerned if something may negatively reflect on the company. For example, it may not be wise to go out socially and wear the company’s t-shirt while holding a drink in your hand or espouse political viewpoints and mention the company. Be smart and keep a distance between your personal and professional life when posting on social media. If you have any doubts about anything that other people post on your page, whether you don’t like it or it might be offensive to people you work with, the best thing to do is remove the post. Many companies have social media policies which provide helpful guidelines.
Careers in Accounting & Finance, Information Technology and Engineering & Energy
Accounting & Finance, Information Technology and Engineering & Energy are all fields we specialize in at The Rowland Group. All three offer good salaries and excellent futures, but you don’t want to pursue any of them simply because of the money. You want to pursue careers you are really interested in and passionate about. If you work at a job just to make good money and are not passionate about the job, you will be deeply disappointed.
Engineering is one of the highest paid professions, in part because there are shortages of engineers in the U.S. and they are being imported from overseas. It is also a profession that offers more than forty different types of degrees. So there are many different career paths to pursue in engineering. Some examples are civil engineering which includes all types of construction, chemical engineering, petroleum engineering, electrical engineering and computer engineering. Engineering majors had the highest starting salaries of all college majors and all STEM majors in 2015 and 2016. The following link is a good salary reference source.
Accounting as a profession has changed. It had the image of someone with green eyeshades just doing credits and debits. Now accountants are much more operationally focused and forward thinking. They are involved in strategizing on how to grow a company, auditing operations and continuous process improvement. Most accounting jobs don’t require sitting at a desk all day. The accountant is out interacting with people in all parts of the company. The profession has recognized these changes and you can now take tests and get a professional designation as a Certified Management Accountant in addition to a CPA designation.
Information Technology involves learning computer languages and programing computers to solve problems. Nothing is changing faster than information technology and it is a rewarding career. Computer systems run every company’s accounting systems from point-of-sale for retail companies, to keeping track of inventory, to using computer programs to control the robots used in manufacturing. Being able to develop apps for cell phones is also an interesting area of IT in which jobs are easily available. Keep in mind computer systems are so vital to running a business, that the pressure on people in these jobs to meet deadlines and keep things running is high. It often requires working as long as needed to get a computer system back up and running, which can lead to working crazy hours to get projects completed.
What it Takes to Be Successful in the Staffing Business
Working in the staffing industry can also be a good career opportunity if it fits your personality. Here are some of the key personal traits you must have to be successful
- You have to be able to interview people effectively and assess them reasonably and quickly
- You have to be able to understand your client’s needs. This is why we like to hire people who have a background in the industry they serve. It is difficult to recruit and place people if the recruiter doesn’t have a deep knowledge about the field in which they are trying to make a placement.
- You have to be able to learn quickly, be willing to take direct coaching, and listen and follow the advice trainers give you.
- You have to be inspired by helping people find a job.
- You have to learn the laws and regulations as well as the correct way to hire someone. These regulations cover things such as interviewing and completing background checks and drug screens appropriately.
- You have to be willing to do some sales and marketing. You have to be willing to pick up the phone and call people you don’t know, which can be scary for some people.
- You have to be able to multitask and work with multiple employers because staffing is a fast-paced environment.
Many people try and chart the steps they think they are going to follow to reach their goals. But just as I never thought I would be the president of a staffing company when I graduated with a degree in accounting, you too are going to find that you are not going to be able to chart your career path when you graduate. Let your career flow with the opportunities that present themselves and think about what feels right to you. Then when doors open, follow the opportunities that are going to teach you something. Keep in mind that every job will have things you enjoy and things you do not enjoy. Even when “bad things” happened to me in my career, I later realized I had learned from the experience. Some of the jobs I initially believed would be the best turned out not to be. Experience teaches you not just who you want to be but also who you do not want to be.