Sure, Dan Reynolds is the CEO of a successful staffing and executive search firm named Talon Professional Services — recently renamed from the Broker’s Group. But if you think he’s all work and no play, check out the “Gone Surfing” sign he keeps near his desk.
The youth vibe is one of Reynolds’ strongest hands to play. He’s energetic and athletic, with the kind of perspective only a 35-year-old guy who surfs, skis, golfs, studies mixed martial arts, and has an engineering degree can have. He is the kind of guy who will tell you, “Youth is a state of mind, not an age,” and hand you a little yellow toy that giggles when you squeeze it, because he doesn’t want you to be stressed out.
But if you think Reynolds is all play and no work, ha! Firmly ensconced in the work hard/play hard school of business, Reynolds is every bit a CEO. More than just the guy with the biggest office at his Carnegie Center headquarters, he is the boss of 20 full-timers who stake the company’s reputation on its ability to find the right candidate for the job you’re trying to fill in the IT and clinical trials sectors.
The re-branding of the Broker’s Group — which was actually the second name of the company Reynolds founded in 2001 as Info Tech — came because of potential clients misinterpreting the type of business. A lot of people thought it was a financial firm, not a staffing firm. So in September the Broker’s Group was renamed Talon.
The “O” in the logo is a colorful whip of orange and yellow that looks like a cross between a yin-yang and a cooling evening sun. Among the logo’s other black, bold lettering, the orb pops, and its statement is clear: This is a young company, proud of its adventurousness, yet firmly rooted in the sober maturity it takes to run a successful tech placement firm in a market like this one.
Reynolds’ business acumen has been largely self-taught. His 1997 bachelor’s degree from Rutgers is not in business, but in chemical and biochemical engineering. So why is he not an engineer? Well, he started out to be, as his father was. And his brother. And his cousin.
But somewhere amid the academe, Reynolds listened to a friend who told him he would probably be good in the business world. So he took a job that had him working with other working people. At 27 the Boston native founded Info Tech.
His timing in starting a tech staffing company — in the summer of 2001 — could not have been worse. Fresh off the Y2K panic, the tech sector shattered right alongside the dot-com bubble. “2001 was the worst crash in the staffing market,” Reynolds says. Little did he know how much worse things were going to get that September.
His wife, “a beautiful girl from Ocean” whome he had met at Rutgers, and the one to introduce him to the world of surfing, told him to hang on. Reynolds says he had no intention of letting go anyway, but at a time when he needed overwhelming moral support in his vision, she was there. She worked night and day with him getting the company off the ground and now takes care of their four children.
The thing about the end of 2001, Reynolds says, is that it forced businesses like his to really look at the markets. Things were not the same and they weren’t going to be, and he needed to know his strengths.
“People compete on speed or on price,” he says. “We are the quality resource.”
Quality is a special animal. To attain it, you have to “prove it, do it, and have a system,” he says. “System” is the word he zeroed in on when defining his company’s philosophy. “You’re not hiring an individual from us,” he says. “You’re hiring a system.”
It is an obvious line to tow in this industry. Reputation for any businesses is everything, but in staffing your reputation hinges on every single person you place. Send a dud and the company you sent him to will waste little time looking for someone else to supply a better choice.
Talon has a whole system in place to weed out the chaff, a lengthy search and recruitment process that identifies people who have a career in mind, not just a job. A company’s culture, he says, is its lifeblood. Not just anybody fits into that. A culture is a system of beliefs and goals, and the right person for any company is the one that can get behind those goals.
To find the right fit for a company, Talon combs through the largest repository of workers out there — the already-employed. Even in this down economy, says Reynolds, 90 percent or more of the work-eligible population is employed, and most are not actively looking for other work. But there are plenty who are looking and plenty who would consider a move if a good fit were available.
Talon uses a proprietary database of employees who have at minimum eight years experience in the clinical trials or info tech field, plus job postings, networking, and referrals to entice candidates on behalf of companies. From here the company builds what Reynolds calls a “success profile” that goes past basic job description into defining what a successful person will do in a given job. Behavioral interviewing further sifts out those who would not be the right fit for a company that would need its staff to be 100-percent on-board. Talon places about half of its prospective professionals.
“There’s a big difference between a job and a career,” Reynolds says. “It’s critical to have people work for a greater purpose.”
Reynolds’ approach has made the timing of his startup a non-issue. In short order the business was named one of the fastest growing firms by Inc. and Entrepreneur magazines, and it has continued to grow even amid the tumult that was 2009. While most companies in the field have remained flat or dropped by 20 percent — and Reynolds started 2009 thinking Talon would be doing well if it just remained flat — Talon has grown its business by 25 percent this year alone, and 68 percent over the past three years.
Much of Talon’s placement this year has been to augment staff, but Reynolds says he expects 2010 will witness the return of more full-time workers.
The market doesn’t scare Reynolds, who punctuates his perspectives with appropriately outdoorsy language: “The macro has ebbs and flows;” or “It’s almost like climbing Everest.” By now he has learned to see what needs worrying about and what needs patience. It’s all very Zen.
Talon, 202 Carnegie Center, Suite 304, Princeton 08540; 609-924-8900; fax, 609-924-8929. Dan Reynolds, CEO. Home page: www.talonpro.com.