Pam Wasley is the CEO of Cerius Enterprises. She is a serial entrepreneur who has personally sold two companies and led a management buyout.
Pam serves on several private boards, and is a frequent national speaker and author on topics such as M&A, Startup Hacks, the Workforce of the Future and the Gig Economy for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Week, and Fortune.
She and her business partner recently wrote a book called “How I Fired My Boss and Made More Money: Insider Secrets from Successful Independent Executives.
Pam also has a weekly podcast herself called Cerius Business Today and is frequently a guest on other business podcasts around the world.
Nicole: Welcome back, this is Nicole Holland and I am excited to have you here for another episode. I'm so excited to finally have her here on the show with me and introducing her to you, my listeners, so welcome Pam!
Pamela: Thank you Nicole. And yes, it's about time we actually had a podcast together.
Let's start with a little bit more about what you're doing on a day to day basis.
Great. So, Cerius has about 10,000 executives, interim executives across the United States and Canada today and we place them in part time, fractional interim temporary roles in companies and it doesn't mean that they have to be an interim COO. It can be a operations expert or a financial expert to go in and take care of a project that somebody needs or something they need that's very quick and can be done in about three or four months.
It's been very helpful to companies today because they can actually get talent that can be very strategic, very, competitive. It makes them even more competitive in the marketplace. The reason for that is these people literally, they come in and within the first month they have produced results. They've increased sales, they have increased profitability, they've decreased your losses, they've increased your processes so that you're more efficient.
I mean, they've done all these things starting the first month there with your company. It's been wonderful for companies to hire these people and they can use them when and where they need them. Maybe today I need a financial expert, tomorrow I need a marketing expert and maybe next year I'm going to need somebody in operations. Literally it's talent that you can use when and where you need it.
Awesome. How to actually find that talent at or to get you to help them find that talent. So I think you have some various levels of that, right?
Right. So if you're not sure what it is that you need, we have Cerius advisors and you can go there and we have the best of the best in the industry's functional areas that literally you can talk to. The first one is free. It gives, gives you a feel for the type of talent that we have. So you can ask them whatever questions you want to get a feel for what we offer. Okay, Yep. I think you can help me. Or maybe you find out that executive you're talking to is not exactly what you need because they've identified another issue that's even more prevalent in your business.
At least it gives you somebody that can kind of walk you through this. Once you've made the determination, let's just say you do need a financial executive and that's who you're talking to. Well literally if you want to hire them, it's all done online. You can sign up. They can start tomorrow. I mean this is a very quick process for, for companies to find talent today, especially since it's. It's so hard to find talent and just.
Your platform, you just can purchase 10 hours a month or I want five hours or something like that, is that right? Just pick the package you want and click online.
Yes. For, for smaller companies who don't want to make a big investment, this is great for them because they can get answers to some of the issues that they're having and yes you can. You can buy a package 10 hours, 12 hours, 6 hours and you can call them. The cool thing about this is what they're doing is they actually have a virtual advisory board, which you know, where else can you go and get a virtual advisory board of the top talent.
A lot of people actually sign up with three executives in three different areas because again, that's their advisory board. In fact they can all get on a conference call, they can all do a little brainstorming and okay, so we're here some of the solutions to some of the issues that you're having. It really is of importance to small startup companies today.
Amazing. And then for that next level, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Yeah. Then for the next level, you can still use the service. I mean that the advisory services is awesome because again, you get to talk to these people before you really make that big investment because this is a very inexpensive call that you make. The first ones was free, the second one is $150. I mean literally, where can you get that kind of talent today for $150, it just gives you that ability to use your dollars wisely.
Most of the larger ones will come directly to us and they go to Cerius Executives and they think they know what they want. Again, we asked them a lot of questions, we know the questions to ask them and we get down to exactly what it is that they need. So again, they're not spending money unwisely. Maybe they're thinking they need somebody for six months and we think this person can really accomplish this in three months. Here are your choices of executives you can talk to and you can pick the one that you liked the best. We're always trying to make sure that we were matching the best talent to what their needs are as well as watching their costs.
How did you initially decide that this was what you wanted to do?
Well, we started off as a consulting firm and I knew that was not what we wanted to do. You know, you're really competing against a lot of consulting firms out there. Big, small, large. You just can't get above everybody else. We did some research and found this whole interim model over in Europe and I loved it and there was only one company over here at the time doing it and they were only doing it in finance and we thought it was just perfect for where we wanted to go and sure enough, as soon as we brought the model on in 2008, it just took off.
Now I will tell you, it was still an education. We still had to educate people on the fact that you're only leasing these executives on a part time, temporary basis. Once we got over that hump about 2011, this whole concept is now taken off. The gig economy arrived where they were they're getting more and more used to hiring temporary workers.
Well, all of a sudden they're going, wow, I can also hire temporary workers at the executive level. You know, if you think about it, the cool thing about this is in terms of leasing. You know, when you lease a car, you lease it because you want to get a better car for your money. Right? Same thing here. You want the best talent you can get. Why do you want to hire them permanently? Why not lease them? You can get a lot more for your money and obviously it's going to help your company grow faster than if you were trying to hire somebody.
What is the one piece that potential clients are not understanding before they get to you that they are understanding once they talk to you guys?
Well, it's becoming easier to make that differentiation because it is so expensive to hire executives today. It's also even more expensive to hire the wrong executive today. I mean, it can cost you up to a million dollars and not just benefits and salary and bonuses, but also what happens within your company when you hire an executive and it's the wrong one.
Maybe they've made a mess of your team and it just hasn't worked and now you've got to fix that hopefully with the next hire or fix it before the next hire comes in or you know, they'd come in and done all the wrong things and now you've lost money and sales, lost money in productivity. I mean it's just a nightmare. You really want to make sure you get the right talent.
A lot of our customers that are still on the fence about whether to hire our lease, we just say try before you buy. What's the harm in that, you know, whether you hire them permanently, that's fine. If you want to do that in the long run, do it, but still just lease he or she for the next two, three months before you make that big commitment that they love.
Yeah, that totally makes sense. I can just take it for a test drive before I make that final decision.
Exactly, and you make that test drive with projects so it's not them coming in and getting used to the company and having conversations with people at the water cooler. It's not all that. It's literally they come in with a statement of work and they immediately get to work and they start producing results right away. It's a whole different premise than it is if you hire somebody.
Literally if you do this right and you write out the scope that produces those results, you'll be amazed. By the way, if they don't end up doing the results or producing the results that you want at the end of the day then you don't hire them. You just get rid of them. Now hopefully interim executives that you hire are the best and they will do what they say they're going to do, but in case you just hired one and wasn't through an agency, there weren't any guarantees and this particular one didn't work out for you. Again, no problem because you can get rid of them right away. There's no labor laws that keep you from letting this person go because he's a contractor. He's there to do particular work and if he doesn't produce the work you, he promised, then you can just cancel this contract.
You mentioned you have over 10,000 executives in your pool. I would love it if you can share a little bit with us about how you built that up and how you attract top level executives.
When we first started, yeah it was slow going a plus since this whole gig economy, the independent workforce wasn't really for the executive level. A lot of people were afraid to get into consulting because Oh, can I make a living, you know I'd much rather have a full time job because I can have a guaranteed salary and benefits.
It was tough to really find the best of the best talent in the world today. It's totally different, but we are also different because what we learned during those tough times of trying to get the best talent when they're still holding onto their corporate job, we learned that they are our client as well as the companies are clients.
We treat them extremely well. Not only do we get them jobs, but we get them paid right away. I mean, literally we ACH the money right into their checking account. We do everything for them. We write out the statement of work. All they have to do is edit it. We have account management in the back end to make sure the communication is running smoothly so that the company and the executive are always on the same page and the client is happy at the end of the day.
Literally, we make this so painless for them that we now after 14 years or almost 14 years, we actually have a reputation around North America that people say, I got a recommendation that you are the intermediary platform that we want to join. We'd like to sign up and talk to you a little bit. Anyone that asks to talk to us, we will talk to them because again, they are our client.
You don't ignore clients. If you think about the executive search business or if you think about the others that are out there and interim management, they just want people to sign up. They don't care about talking to you unless it's in their best interest to talk to you. They don't call you back. They don't tell you what's going on. It's terrible. They have very, very bad reputation out there. I hear that all the time from our interim executives. Any interim executive that contacts us, we respond immediately. Again, a little bit different culture on our part, which we learned over the years.
Can you talk to us about why you wrote your book and what it's done for them because I know that this has been a huge shift for people and what it has done also for Cerius?
Yeah. We wrote the book because remember I said we don't ignore anybody that calls us. For many, many years we got the same questions and we kept thinking it's really easy to answer these questions now because we know all the answers and then Kris and I came up with the thought about why don't we just put it in a book. Why don't we teach all these executives that are dying to explore this whole white collar gig economy what it is. They're trying to explore this whole new area, leaving corporate America now doing independent consulting on their own.
Literally we did surveys, we took all the stuff that we've learned over the years and we also talked to some of the best executives that were making well over a million dollars as a solopreneur just by themselves. We got their tips and secrets and put it into this book. And we made it real easy.
In this book you can learn how to price your services, how to get clients, how to brand yourself, what not to say to clients. It's got all the tips and all the answers to questions that people have asked us over the years. We wrote it for a couple reasons. One, obviously to answer all these questions so they could just get the book and it would be a resource for them. We also wrote it to get people who were still on the fence more comfortable with this area. I actually think that has helped to increase this marketplace for us and that's why we're getting so many people.
I imagining that it's also saved you a lot of time to have this book that you can just refer the executives that reach out to you.
Not as much as you might think. Because it's still a scary propositions to go out on your own, so they still want to talk to us. We still get some of the same questions, which is fine. But, we are in the process of writing our second book!!
I can't give you too much about it this time, but obviously it is still about that white collar gig economy, but this time it's more for the company side because we get a lot of questions from them just like we did from interim executives. This book will be somewhere along those lines of, let me answer all those questions that you were asking and get them comfortable with the whole concept of independent executives instead of hiring.
Well that is exciting and I know it's very, very needed. Any idea of when you guys are looking to publish that?
Probably beginning of next year we'll actually have it out.
I love it. So Pam, before we wrap, any final words of wisdom that you'd like to impart my audience with before you go?
Well, again, you and I talked about it. You and I both have the same philosophy about customers, make sure that you are recognizing all customers in your space. I mean, it's just not the companies that you sell to. It's not just your suppliers that supply the things that help you produce the products for your customers. They too are customers.
You want to keep those vendors working with you. Your employees, you want to keep them. You don't want to lose them to a competitor. Just keep in mind all of these people are all of your customers. And don't forget that because if you don't forget that you will always remember that, then you will always have the best people working with you, which is great
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