World Staffing Podcast #1 with Jon Beck, CEO of Ursus


Intro: This is a brand new episode of the World Staffing Podcast. The interview podcast brought to you by, where we meet with entrepreneurs, successful business owners and the greatest minds of the staffing industry. We're interested in what drives them, what inspires them. We want to know what their everyday work looks like and what keeps them up at night.

We should all learn from them and at the same time, have a good time. And this is your host, Jan Jedlinski.

Jan Jedlinski: Welcome to the world staffing podcast, where we speak with successful staffing owners and operators learn about the things that keep them up at night, their success stories, learnings and failures, while building a successful staffing company. And obviously your thoughts on the future of staffing. I'm your host Jan Jedlinski, and I'm super excited to have a very special guest with me today.

He's a free time and all American and two time national rugby champion at US Berkeley. He's a psychology major and member of the screen actors Guild and appeared in numerous national TV advertisements. And he's also the founder and CEO of Ursus IT staffing is a very successful staffing business. So welcome to the world staffing podcast Jon.

Jon Beck: Hi, Jan. Thanks for having me and your introduction, highlighted all the things that I've done many, many, many moons ago. So thanks for that trip down memory lane.

Jan Jedlinski: Yeah. Thanks so much, Jon, for being here. So before we dive in, I would love to learn more. How does a rugby player and psychology major and actually actor become a staffing owner, but tell us a little bit about your story and, and yourself.

Jon Beck: Sure. I think like a lot of people in our industry. You wind up sort of serendipitous or backing your way into the end of the industry? I am not a staffing lifer by any means. I started my career that early 90s with one of the first internet service providers. And when they were really only a handful four to be exact, and over the next 20 years worked within the internet infrastructure space with various companies that were, were involved in building the infrastructure that we know today.

So I grew up with it. And I had always wanted to start my own business. I had a partner when I started the company who was under a non-compete with uh, his prior company that he had sold with the exception of technical staffing. And so the original blueprint for versus was to start with technical staffing and then move into professional services and managed services.

And what happened was I fell in love with staffing. It took me about a year to understand the operational model and the lexicon. And along the way, I just fell in love with the cadence. You know, you're going to get knocked down 10 times to get up on the 11th. And here we are six years later and we built a company that's managed to double in size six years and running.

And I love what I do, and I love our team and I love the industry.

Jan Jedlinski: Great. That's a great story. Super fascinating. I love those stories where actually everybody sort of somehow drifted into the, into the staffing market. It's true for me and my business as well. So yeah. Exciting, exciting to hear that we actually just spoke on your podcasts and I actually wanted to ask you the question right now.

How did you end up with the name Ursus?

Jon Beck: Again, my partner at the time had recently sold his company. We were both Cal Berkeley grads. The Cal mascot is the golden bear. His prior company had a bear name in it. And so over a couple of cocktails, we had the big decision of whether we would go Latin or Spanish also versus we chose Latin.

It's a bit of a double entendre, hence the star in our logo. Because there's the constellation Ursus and the best part of it, Jan is most people probably do what they do with you if they ask the question or they mispronounce. And hopefully they remember it as opposed to throwing two technology words together and coming up with a name.

So it's served us well with the brand and we have a lot of fun with it. And but I I'd like to take credit saying that there was a master plan in there really wasn't.

Jan Jedlinski: Yeah. It's usually like that. We had a similar story that you can listen to on Jon's podcast, where I was talking about how the name for Gustav of one of our products actually came about.

Jon Beck: Right. The story is worth listening to, far more interesting than mine, by the way.

Jan Jedlinski: Yeah, for sure. So, Jon, I always like to ask the question and this is a very open-ended question, but what keeps you up at night, these days as a staffing owner? What do you think about then? What do you worry about?

Jon Beck: Yeah, I'll start Jan with. Acknowledging that whether you're on a staffing business or any other business as a startup and an entrepreneur, there's always going to be something to keep you up. And the interesting thing about a year, maybe two years into starting the company, I went back to all the people that I worked for. I've been fortunate enough to be part of some great management teams with some fantastic founders and CEOs.

And I reached out to all of them and either sat down with them or had a conversation and just said, thank you. And I appreciate how difficult.. Being the founder and CEO is there's nothing that can prepare you for the job until you do the job. You can be part of the management team. You can go to business school, you can read books until you walk the path.

You'll never know. And it's lonely at times because there are certain things that you can share with your team and a lot that you can't, you have to be the cheerleader and the front person to all parties involved. But it's incredibly rewarding. And having the team around me that I'm fortunate enough to do, makes it worth a while to specifically answer your question.

What keeps me up. And again, this, I think applies to not just the staffing CEO, but any CEO is, you know, we're in order for us to continue on our growth trajectory, we're going to need to continue to find really, really good talent. And we're in the business of talent. So most of my days start. That in mind.

And I spent a lot of time interviewing and screening candidates, recruiters, and salespeople and back office people to support our business. That's first and foremost, number one, are there other things? Sure. But if we create a company that has really good, talented, and happy employees, the rest of those problems typically take care of themselves.

Jan Jedlinski: I agree. I agree. And thanks so much for sharing that and the middle. Maybe it's a good segue. Actually, when you talk about talent and your team, and know, since COVID hit, everybody went remote and I would love to hear your story in order, you guys have been working remotely for a long time already, and I would just love to hear from you.

How do you manage your team? What things do you do to actually keep them motivated? And what could other staffing owners may be that haven't been remotely with their teams so long as you guys learn from it.

Jon Beck: Yeah. At the time I bought my business partner out. Let's see, that was 2016. I made a conscious decision to take the company virtual.

We had offices in San Francisco and we're about to open an office in Sacramento. And the, the eye-opener I guess the aha moment for me was we were trying to hire a couple of recruiters that were with well-known firms also based in San Francisco that were spending by their estimates two to two and a half hours commuting back and forth from the south bay to San Francisco.

As was, I live out in the east bay of San Francisco. People know the geography and for what we do and how we do it. It's a job that can be done really from anywhere provided you have. A laptop and good communication tools. And so we made the decision to do it that opened the door for us to start to look for talent.

In other places throughout the United States, we tried the offshore model a couple of times and just couldn't make it work for our business. Not that it's not right for any business, but for ours, it didn't. And we started to hire people in places that we never would have imagined, like, you know, Birmingham, Alabama, and Tennessee and Minnesota.

And that continues to be a big advantage for us. We've learned a lot about managing our employees remotely and it does take a lot of work and good management skills. I think the really interesting thing to watch as we go forward is. A lot of companies and staffing companies in particular were embracing the remote model because they had to out of necessity during COVID, as things start to open up, a lot of those companies are asking if not forcing their employees to come back to the office.

I think that's going to pose problems for them. I think people have gotten a taste of what remote life can look like, and that it works. And again, it's not for everybody because some people do want to go to the office and we lose candidates in that case as well too. We are. But I think more often than not, if not a flex model, if you're not embracing that at the very least, I think that you're putting yourself at a disadvantage, but we'll see.

And we have no intention of going and building out office space all over the place. At some point, maybe we'll add a few for training purposes, but the model has proven itself out. And, and, and we have covered to thank for that.

Jan Jedlinski: Yeah, I agree. And you just mentioned from the last sentence streaming it, that brings up an interesting thought.

You mentioned the obviously candidate, candidates like assumed candidates for your internal team, but also candidate sourcing for your clients is obviously a big topic for you. How do you see when everybody's talking about the talent shortage, what things do you see could be done for a staffing company to maybe improve their sourcing is training, for example, a big topic.

And I see, you know, companies that are currently coming out in the market and there is a company like flock J or busy Lambda school. Training, you know, their candidates. So to say, or training people on specific skill sets and then embracing the traditional staffing and recruiting model to place them with specific employers that are looking for those skills.

Do you think that this is something that could be interesting for traditional staffing companies to bring sort of this training aspect or specific niche skill training into their overall business?

Jon Beck: The shorter answer is I do. Although I think you have to be very mindful about where you fit and who you are.

You are a business. And if you decide to embark on training, it's very difficult to be broad because the training company and a staffing company are two very fundamentally different companies in and of themselves. We have a program called certify you. Which is still in its very early days, which is aims specifically to add cloud talent and even more specifically a Google cloud talent.

And we did that in conjunction with a number of conversations we had with Google, really to address the issue of lack of talent and the thesis. The quick thesis summary is when a client comes to us and says, I'm looking for, I need 10 dev ops people that are Google certified. My first response was.

My next response is that there may be people that are sitting at your company today, employed by your company that have the aptitude and the desire to go get those certifications. They know your business, they know presumably a lot of your legacy systems. If they're on an on-premise data center, folks that want to move into the cloud, the time and money and energy you would take to train those folks versus versus, or any other staffing company for that matter to go find those 10 people.

You're probably going to get there faster. If you invest in the core people that you have on your payroll today, then asking me to go find them today.

Jan Jedlinski: Re-skill essentially right?


Jon Beck: up-skilling leveling up. Re-skilling yeah. And you know, there's a lot of companies, there's boot camps and there's, there's a lot of options today.

Some better designs than others. I think some of the bootcamps. And I'm generalizing here. Because some of them are really good, but some of them purport to take somebody off the street with no context or prior experience in computers and have them be a developer in eight weeks. Is irresponsible. That's not possible and they're not going to be, they're not going to be trained and skilled to go get a job.

I think the companies that are doing more of the continuing education, and again, leveling up, have real value. We're dipping our toe into it to see if it makes sense that we continue to scale it. But we also are very self-aware to say we don't have any aspirations of becoming a full blown training company.


Jan Jedlinski: Okay, cool. Thanks so much for that. Then when you talk about your customers, you know, with a little bit over six years in the market, I think, you know, versus is still a pretty young company, but already super successful with clients like Tesla or Uber or Facebook. That's just to mention a few that you work with.

Tell us, what are your secrets? What is your secret sauce actually to win those clients or retain those clients or be actually successful with those clients?

Jon Beck: Yeah, and I wish I had an answer that would describe some secret technology or process that was revolutionary and different. And if I did, I probably wouldn't have sold that as a product itself.

You know, our success is because of our process and our people, every recruiter. Whether you're an internal corporate recruiter, working for an agency has access to the same tools, LinkedIn recruiter licenses, and Gustav, and indeed, and, you know, pick your favorite job board and tool by the estimates of all those suppliers and technology companies, themselves, most recruiters leverage maybe 25% of the functions that the tools provide. And so going back to your previous question around training, we invest a lot of time and energy in training folks to become the best versions of themselves. And with that, we look for people that want to get better at their craft.

You can make a healthy living in this industry by going through the motions and, you know, pushing paper and flipping resumes. That's not who we are. We want people that really have a desire to become really good professional sourcers, because you have to be, somebody is looking for that next generation software development stack talent.

You're not going to go post something and get a bunch of inbound resumes and go places. The person is not going to happen yet. You have to know how to go find them and have a conversation where you're credible and can sell the company that you're presenting. Those are real skills and that's why we've been successful.

The other thing is focus. We're good at saying no, it's tempting as a fast growing company in a very hyper competitive and hyper-growth market to take on everything. It's really hard, but we've been good at it to saying we're good at this. And we're going to stay within our lane. And while this opportunity sounds good, it's just not who we are.

And for us specifically, that's within technology and created that to drive the digital, you know, expo, expo expansion.

Jan Jedlinski: So switch gears a little bit, but to your point about saying no, what are your thoughts and what would be your advice for staffing and recruiting companies that are looking to work with you know, the MSP, VMS world when they are approached by certain customers that implement MSPs or a VMS product, and you guys are successfully working in some programs. And you also said to other programs, you know, what are your thoughts and what is your advice to somebody that gets this type of opportunity?

Jon Beck: Yeah, I think MSPs have I'm generalizing here have a bad rap. You know, I talked to a lot of recruiters who say, I don't want to work at MSP. That said, not all programs are created equally. We look for programs where there is a level of engagement and a true, not only belief, but also demonstration of partnership.

If you're going to choose to work with us, we're going to hopefully provide some value to you. And we want that feedback loop to be taken seriously, as we will take your feedback as well too. It's a bi-directional engagement. You. And I talked about it on our podcast. I think with the introduction of MSP, the pendulum swung so far in one direction where you had disintermediation and price compression, a lot of things are really needed challenging for staffing suppliers.

I think that the pendulum is starting to swing back into a more reasonable. Place where there is more fewer suppliers with more opportunity, more engagement, you see the mid-market pieing tools and managing the programs themselves. So I think some of that dust is settling into some normalcy, but you also have to know who yourself, because there's some staffing companies that, you know, Purely transactional.

And they have tons of recruiters and they're just flipping resumes and they can be in programs where that level of engagement doesn't matter. And that's fine too. That's not who we are. We won't sign up for a program, but there's 80 vendors and we never get to talk to anybody that doesn't serve us. Well, that's a waste of our time, but for some suppliers, that's absolutely right.

Jan Jedlinski: Yeah, I agree. Cool. That's really good to hear. I think it's very helpful advice because I think, you know, I've talked to a lot of staffing owners and operators in some, you know, are sometimes scared of the MSP program. Some totally say that they don't want to work MSPs at all and some really love it.

Right. So I think there is definitely the market now being around for a while. Two decades, 20 years almost. Yeah. Staffing, MSP VMs model. And I think over the next couple of years, this will definitely change into direction that will probably swing the pendulum back. As you mentioned towards, you know, the suppliers being, again, more, more prominent and embraced by the MSPs to actually deliver better because otherwise, you know, I've seen this also playing out over the last couple of years.

In sort of the recruitment marketplace model, where you have companies like bounty drops, Kyle, there are a few others, I'll do a data where essentially, you know, trying to, you know, have a couple of thousand suppliers in a program and then pushing, wrecks out to them and then wondering why nobody's actually supplying great quality candidates.

Right. It's, you know, that's, it's, it's obviously a different world, but I feel like it's very similar in some MSP programs where people are just, you know, putting suppliers together and then thinking, you know, and then wondering why is nobody supplying good candidates?

Jon Beck: If you're not willing to listen to the feedback.

And we're very, you know, that's one of our core tenants is communication with contention and integrity. And we have programs, John that are household names, publicly traded, big company names that are mandatory, that employees come back to work and not embracing remote work. Their wages are lower and not competitive.

And we're sharing all this information, like not just telling us we're sharing empirical data from our database and from other clients, obviously not sharing names. And they're still scratching their heads and asking why they're not filling the positions. And you know, if you're not competitive on pay, if you're not supposed to be remote work, that those are the two I could, there's three or four other data points.

We've given them as well too. They're not going to be competitive. And in the long run, that's really going to hurt their business.

Jan Jedlinski: Yep. Yep. I agree. One interesting. Development over the last, I would say already 18 months actually. And you know, we've seen this explosive growth in staffing firms' interest in adopting platform based models, basically like recruiter, less staffing.

Right? So you see it on the light industrial side. What they call deployment apps that are being deployed with staffing firms and enabling a staff and company to essentially run their business pretty much online on an app where the recruiters sort of maybe still monitor some of the interactions, but connecting the employers directly to the candidates.

What are your thoughts about this whole movement of staff and companies becoming more digital, the staffing model becoming more online? Where do you see with your business and generally in the market going?

Jon Beck: First and foremost, I'm supportive of the automation aspect of staffing and not just staffing, but in general, I think there's just amazing new technology advances.

And that's why our industry will look very different 10 years from now than it looks today. I think again, going back to knowing who your client is and where AI and technology fit is really important, your example of light industrial, and even some of the, the business general. Jobs can be filled through a lot of automation.

You don't need to go screen for culture. Well, that's not true, but there are certain things that you don't need to screen for somebody doing a light industrial job or a business general job that you do for a software engineer or a dev ops professional. For us, we've looked at AI in our supply chain, as we, as we like to think of it, to help streamline and save us time at the top of the funnel.

If we can pattern match as much as possible with the inbound that we're getting with our search strings, that has real value to us. I don't foresee at least for the foreseeable future a day where we're going to fully automate and be able to present a candidate that then is hired without some sort of intermediation or conversation or screening from us.

I do think there's ways to drive efficiency in that process. Fewer initial, back and forth over email, phone conversations, zoom conversation. So when the time comes and we are talking to you, and I know that your staff is launching some tools, which we're going to embrace as part of this, by the time we actually get on the phone with the candidate we have gone through a lot of that embedding process through an automated fashion.

There's huge value in that because I just put more meaningful time into my recruiters day than I would have had. I mean, do all the pre-screening. So I'm a huge fan of it. There's a lot of money being thrown at it. Not all of them are created equally. Some are purporting to do probably way more than they can, but I think it's inevitable.

And those companies that don't embrace it, maybe not, you know, tomorrow or a year from now, but over time will become obsolete. Yeah.

Jan Jedlinski: Like you said, it rides with your business. Sort of on the, on the higher end of the market and its professionals staffing right. Where I definitely don't see in the foreseeable future, you know, the recruiter being replaced in any way, but having automation and technology and the better user experience for both the candidate and the customer being really in the forefront.

But as dementia, like on the light industrial side, there might be some options where you could. Replace the recruiter and have more automation to drive more business. So thank you so much for that.

Jon Beck: One more. Why on that to Jan, just, just as, as here's my shadow two recruiters given, if, since we're both in agreement, let's assume that our vision is true.

Those recruiters that have been successful, just pushing paper around and not actually adding value to the recruiting process through either being a subject matter expert or understanding how to. Those folks are also going to become obsolete because the technology will take place with the paper pusher.

You're not adding value. So recruiters are going to have to continue to level up to meet the high end demands because it's going to be, the expectation is going to be that much higher.

Jan Jedlinski: Yeah. I always say it's going to be like a talent curator, a specialized talent curator, and, you know, move away from this as mentioned paper pusher to really specialize talents to read it.

Yeah. Help the client and the candidates to make the right decision. Again, back to my previous example, with the real estate broker, you do have technology that is around the broker, but if you're buying an expensive house, you still have a broker that you talked to, that you can blame on. There is an expert that will help you to make that decision.

And I see they're very similar in staffing,

Jon Beck: All their podcasts, talking about realtors. So that's deal

Jan Jedlinski: You know, talking last two questions, actually, don't talk to you. The market and the future and real estate and the changing staffing, where do you see the market going? You know, what are your projections for the next five to 10 years? What do you think will change? What do you think the staffing owner should look at?

Tell me

Jon Beck: I'm personally very bullish within the segment where we operate, which is within technology and creative. And we call that digital transformation. I think COVID was an accelerator. To what you could argue as the next industrial revolution. I grew up in building the internet and part of the cloud explosion, what we now refer to as cloud.

I think COVID forced those companies of which there are a lot of that we're sitting on the sidelines waiting to make some sort of move, to become digitized, whether that was supporting remote employees or changing the way that they sold their goods online or supply chain, whatever it was. COVID forced their hand to go and participate.

And so that now has set in motion. I think a foreseeable run of years to come because there's hundreds of thousands of companies that are embarked on that journey. And those it'll continue to develop and evolve and there will be no shortage of need for it. Software developers and cloud engineers and creative types to support that.

And that's from my chair. I think you probably have a different perspective if your company is focused on light industrial or business in general, I can't speak to that, but for us, we're, we're incredibly bullish. And you know, with that said, I think the market's property, I think there'll be a pullback.

I think there'll be market corrections. All those things are in line and I'm old enough to have been through a few of them. So they don't necessarily scare me. And we have a balanced portfolio and all those things help, but I'm, I'm bullish Jan, but I do think it's, I think we're going to continue to evolve and how we do things.

And again, we're looking to embrace those technologies to stay ahead of it as well.

Jan Jedlinski: What are your favorite free technologies for staffing or without staff, or like, love for staffing for remote work, but what are the favorite tools that you're using now on a daily basis.

Jon Beck: Well, I'd be re missed if I didn't call out Gustav.

But all kidding aside, you know, we, we found you guys, I think relatively early. And I love when I talk to a recruiting candidate who asks us about, Hey, how do you manage your sub vendors? And I say, oh, we have this awesome tool. And it's basically this mini VMS tool. And we can, you know, push out. It's all automated.

And like, people are blown away from it because they were doing what we were doing, which was managing on spreadsheets. And it becomes very unruly and difficult. So you guys, for one, I would give a shout out to we're Job Diva, ATS. We moved. We migrated off another ATS halfway through our history three years into where we move, which was a very significant undertaking, but we did it because we just thought Job Diva was the right partner and they continue to be.

They're innovating. They're adding functionality. Their support model is great. We have, I think by my last count, we have 11 other applications that tie in to JobDiva through an API. It's the center of our universe. And so Job Diva is where it starts for us, for sure. Including Gustav by the way. It's integrated.


Jan Jedlinski: Cool. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for the shout outs. Last question. Favorite podcast or favorite book that you can recommend to the audience

Jon Beck: I'm going to be self-indulgent and toot our own horn here. We launched a podcast just before COVID hit. It was good timing, too, because I had a lot of time on my hands to build it out.

It's called Hiring University. We take staffing leaders from technology companies like yourself from other staffing firms to candidates, to hiring managers, it's designed to be fun and engaging. So that's my own personal shout out for hiring you. I'm also a Joe Rogan fan. Like everybody else. That's why he gets paid the big bucks.

He keeps it fresh. So yeah, those would be two that come to me.

Jan Jedlinski: Definitely would recommend hiring you. I was just in a session with you recording. So yeah, encourage everybody who is listening to this podcast to also check out John's podcast. And thank you so much, John, for being here on the World Staffing Podcast today, I believe that the listeners of the podcast, specifically staffing owners and operators, really value your advice today and your best practices that you shared with us.

So thanks for that. I'm excited to check in with you in the next six to 12 months again, and have you on the podcast again, to see what's changed and exchange some thoughts, but in the meantime, thank you so much for being here and I'll talk to you soon.

Jon Beck: Thanks for having me Jan.

You've been listening to the World Staffing Podcast brought to you by, the digital storefront for your staffing business.

End: If you liked this episode, make sure to subscribe and leave a review. So you don't miss out on any future episodes. Got a topic you want us to touch base on. Shoot us a message.

Welcome to the World Staffing Podcast where we speak with success-full staffing owners and operators to learn about the things that keep them up at night, their success stories, learnings and failures while building a successful staffing company and their thoughts on the future of the staffing market.

Jan and Jon discuss the ins-and-outs of being a CEO in an ever changing staffing industry. They also talk about what’s next for staffing, as well as their favorite tech stack and podcasts!

Powered by Candidately


No items found.


Jon Beck




Watch Session now