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Executive Q&A: Tom Porter, president of Marquee Staffing

Tom Porter is president of Marquee Staffing, a provider of staffing, recruiting and placement services in Southern California, with three offices in the region. He founded the company in 1989.

Prior to building Marquee, Porter worked with two successful startups and two Fortune 500 companies. He is an active member in several human resources organizations.

He is also a member of the fundraising committee for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The San Diego Business Journal recently asked Porter about the current state of the staffing business.

How did the economic downturn change the staffing-placement business?

Many staffing firms did not survive the last economic downturn for a variety of reasons — elimination of bank lines, clients who had major reductions in their sales, bad debt, overhead costs, etc.

The staffing firms that did survive are now well-positioned to partner with companies for their recruiting needs. Staffing firms that survived also invested heavily in technology, which has helped automate the recruiting process for both.

Do companies seem willing to train those with general skills for positions where it is possible?

Most companies today are not interested in training employees when working with staffing firms.

They come to us because they want us to provide them with “A” candidates — candidates who have the education and experience that is required for the job.

Does technology bring new challenges to staffing?

The best staffing firms are well-positioned to recruit strong candidates with the technology skills companies’ demand today.

What is your role in deciding the ideal candidate?

We often have a very strong pipeline of strong candidates for our clients — including passive candidates. Passive candidates are those currently working who do not post their resumes on the various boards.

If we have a strong relationship with our clients and their hiring managers, we will know the type of person they are looking for in most cases.

How much effort does a staffing firm need to put into familiarizing itself with its clients’ businesses?

If a staffing firm wants to become a real partner with their client, they must invest the time to understand their client’s business.

The more we know what our clients do, the better we can recruit for them.

Describe the level of the competition among staffing firms these days?

There is always competition in the staffing industry but not as much as some might think. Many companies understand how important it is to work with a local staffing partner who is very well-connected and knows the local market. Companies want to work with staffing firms who have strong internal recruiters and who can provide them the best candidates; price is often not the most important item for many companies.

Are there common mistakes that are made in hiring decisions?

Yes, the biggest mistake that hiring mangers make is not having a major sense of urgency when deciding on a candidate. Many “A” candidates have other opportunities and will not want to wait long to hear if they have been offered the job. Snooze — you lose, as they say.

What is the biggest issue facing staffing-placement today?

Competition for the best candidates. … The market has changed drastically. Pay is often higher than a client is hoping to pay.

Has being a member of many HR organizations been a big help to you?

Yes. Most of the clients we work with want to know the CEO. Since we have been in the [Southern California] market for over 25 years now, the HR associations allow me to get to know clients and prospective clients well.

The better I know them, the better resource we can be for them.

They can go directly to the CEO with Marquee — totally different from many of our competitors.

How did you get into cycling?

I have always been active but was introduced to cycling via a good friend of mine.

Unfortunately, he passed away while riding with me and a few friends about three years ago.

Describe your experience cycling behind the racers in the Tour de France?

My wife purchased this trip for me for my birthday three years ago. She did not tell me she was going to do it since she knew I would not leave work for that long. … So within three weeks of giving me the gift, I was on my way.

It was honestly one of the best experiences I have ever had!

New friends, beautiful country, great feeling of accomplishment, etc. — so much more.

You’ve done fundraising for diabetes research. Is giving back to the community important?

My two younger children have more than five young friends with type 1 diabetes.

As a result, I decided to volunteer with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation a few years ago.

This year I am the JDRF OC Walk Chair at Angel Stadium.

The cause is very important to me.

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