December 16, 2013 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
IT Staffing for Fortune 500 and Midmarket Companies
The son of two Harlemites, Gene was raised in New Jersey; Gene attended Fairleigh Dickinson University where he earned his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. A “Jersey Guy” at heart, Gene chose to stay in his home state where he now resides with his wife and children.
Prior to founding DIVERSANT, Gene was National Practice Director for Infrastructure Services for Spherion Technology where he managed the provision of IT staffing and solutions for large clients nationwide. With an extensive background in the staffing and technology services industry, Gene now combines his business acumen with his desire to help others by developing transformative programs that promote diversity in the workforce and supply chain.
In his local community, Gene
coaches minority youth about how they can get involved with technology and
use it to advance their careers and lives. Gene is an active member of the
Board of Directors of PACE Monmouth. PACE, the Program for Acceleration in
Careers of Engineering, is a science and engineering awareness program in
which professionals volunteer their time to work with local minority high
school students to help prepare them for technical careers. Gene is also a
board member and active supporter of the Marion P. Thomas Charter School in
Newark, New Jersey. A member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the country’s first
African-American fraternity, Gene is very active in many of their community
service programs. Gene was named the 2013 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the
Year New Jersey winner, as well as a 2011 NJBiz Executive of the Year
Staffing & Consulting
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published - December 16, 2013
CEOCFO: Mr. Waddy, what is the concept at DIVERSANT?
Mr. Waddy: DIVERSANT is an IT staffing company. We are a national firm serving the Fortune 500s, providing IT talent for them to leverage when they need contingent labor. I think what separates DIVERSANT in this very crowded field is our service delivery. We are very good at what we do, but we also offer our clients innovative solutions around diversity in various forms. Supplier diversity is one. DIVERSANT is a certified minority-owned firm; our clients want to do more business with more minority firms and we fit the bill in that regard. Our clients are also looking for what we call workforce diversity, meaning they are looking to hire more minorities – women, veterans, and such. DIVERSANT has crafted solutions for those issues. One of which is called the STAR Program, which specifically is tailored to finding our veterans jobs in IT. It turns out that 85% of the veterans that come through the STAR Program happen to be diverse. They are African Americans, women, Latinos, and that allows our clients to kill two birds with one stone. If you look at our tagline, I think that kind of summarizes our concept. It says “DIVERSANT – Empowered by Difference.” We are different in how we are competitors, and that differentiation in the marketplace is what allowed DIVERSANT to go from a $25 million firm in 2006 to $100 million firm today.
CEOCFO: Do you foresee a day when there will not be a need for DIVERSANT? As far as the need for diversity, do you see a time when this will not be an issue, or do you see it never going away?
Mr. Waddy: No, the need for diversity will never go away because the demographics of the country are changing. If I am a large corporation, whether I am a pharmaceutical company, a cable company, or a company that makes cars, you want to be able to align your company and your product with the largest demographics you can to maximize your earnings. As the country becomes more diverse, these firms are smartly and rightly aligning in the marketplace to tap into that buying power of the first demographics. The country is continuing to change, and the need for diversity will change with it. Back in the ‘70s, people just looked at diversity as racial – whether it was black or white. Today, it includes veterans, senior citizens, the gay community and service-disabled veterans. It is changing. It is not just a myopic view of race; it is bigger than that. The short answer is no, it will not go away and it should not go away. As long as there are people who are on the outside looking in for whatever reason, there is always going to be a need for it. As an African American male – one who has a degree in engineering – I definitely see the need for more outreach to these various under-served communities. We as a country are made stronger by our diversity because we are such a varied people. That is what makes America great; we are not monolithic, but we get to pull from the best and brightest regardless of where you come from, what race you are, what religious affiliation, or sexual orientation you are. None of that matters. It is about excellence at the end of the day. That is what makes DIVERSANT a company moving from good to great!
CEOCFO: Are there many companies that specialize the way DIVERSANTdoes?
Mr. Waddy: No. The staffing industry is very crowded and a very commoditized field, but if you look at the demographics of black-owned businesses; there are not many that have revenues above $2 million or $3 million. DIVERSANT, being a $100 million company, can scale to effectivelydo business nationwide with the largest corporations in this country. We stand out. If you factor in the value added services DIVERSANT offers around diversity, the crowd even gets thinner. You would be hard pressed to find a firm that can do what DIVERSANT does, whether they are minority owned or non-minority owned. At the end of the day, DIVERSANT competes with some of the largest staffing companies in the country if not the world, and we hold our own. I think we are pretty unique.
CEOCFO: How do you attract business?
Mr. Waddy: Many ways. I have been in this industry for over 17 years, and I have a network that I pull upon to get business leads. We also attend business opportunity conferences around the country where we get to sell directly to our Fortune 500 clients. We also have a very robust and national sales force that goes after the retail business, which means either small or medium-sized businesses in their own community. DIVERSANTchases after the large, wholesale accounts like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, but we are also going after small and medium-size business. We do not want to leave any stone unturned. It is good old-fashioned feet on the street, it is advertising our jobs on various websites, and it is not about who you know, rather who knows you. We spend a lot of time callingon our clients directly, and I think we have been pretty successful at that. Since our founding, we have added about 100 accounts to our portfolio, and we are opening more every week!
CEOCFO: Do businesses tend to work with you on an ongoing basis?
Mr. Waddy: Yes, our clients have been with us for years. If you look at some of the companies I named earlier, whether it is Merck or Verizon, these are multi-year engagements of three, four, five, six or seven years. Once you get in, you can demonstrate value, you know what you are doing, and you are providing solutions to business issues. In other words, it is great to be a diverse business, but if you are not solving your clients’ business issues, you are of no value to them. You have to be good at what you do first.
Mr. Waddy: At the end of the day, I work with some of the best people in the industry. Our management team is a ranks filled with 15, 17, 20, and 25-year veterans who know this business whole. They make me look really smart. At DIVERSANT, we have our finger on the pulse of the staffing industry, specifically in IT. Because we have stayed close to our clients and our consultants, we are able to give our clients the inside track on the trends within certain technologies. The little-known secret within the IT space is that the unemployment rate is actually around two to three percent as opposed to seven to nine percent in the general population. What that means is that the job market is tight. We actually educate our clients so that they understand that we found a great candidate and they need to move quickly and make a decision to get this person in for an interview because they will not last long. That is just the way it has been for years in IT. There is a war for talent going on, and our clients come to us to help them solve those issues. We see the IT staffing world day in and day out. It is a smaller microcosm of the employment picture as a whole, and that is part of the value that DIVERSANT brings – this is our life’s blood, this is our passion, and this is our reason for living. We know this business, and we love this business. That translates into enthusiasm.
CEOCFO: Do your clients pay attention? Do they understand what you are bringing to the table, or is there an aha moment when they get it?
Mr. Waddy: Yes, there is. Usually that happens when they get to know us for a while. In other words, when you first get in, sometimes clients say we are just another IT staffing company and we will just provide temporary labor. The aha moment comes when they want to engage us at a senior level. We are not just about slamming bodies in seats; we are about solving problems. We meet with the chief procurement officer, chief diversity officer, the sourcing manager, or the CEO in some cases. They are not talking to us about staffing per say; they are talking about a business issue. It might be that they just acquired a firm and they need to integrate two IT infrastructures, which generates a lot of needs. Who can handle that for them on a national scale? Who has lived through that lifecycle with other companies and can bring that experience to bear? That is one aha moment. Another one could be that maybe this company is very patriotic and they want to do something about our veterans, who have a very high unemployment rate, which is shameful. Some of our clients have these veterans initiatives and they need help to make it a reality. They have their hearts in the right place, but they have not developed a program that actually takes veterans and gives them an entry point into IT. In other words, we do not necessarily just want our veterans to have a “job.” We want them to start an IT career, and DIVERSANT can help our clients provide those opportunities by collaborating to give client specific training and ongoing development and mentoring. We are doing that right now with three major companies – a major bank in Charlotte, a major pharmaceutical company right here in New Jersey, and a very large Insurance company. We are doing it; we are not just talking about. We are actually doing it, and that is the aha moment. They say, “Wait a minute, these guys are different. They are discussing business issues. They are having C-level conversations about our needs and how they can help as opposed to just being a supplier. A supplier is only interested in the next order. What is the next job order? A partner is saying, “Hey, in the context of our relationship, let us work on mutually beneficial solutions for this problem.” That is where DIVERSANT separates itself from our competitors.
CEOCFO: Do you find that most businesses are receptive to veterans’ programs, or are there still some that do not understand it?
Mr. Waddy: I would say of our clients that the majority – 80% to 90% -- get it. There are a few that do not get it right away because they do not understand the talent that is out there in the veteran population. They have a preconceived notion of what a veteran is. In their mind, it is a person who was in combat and maybe whose skills on the surface do not translate into the corporate mindset. Nothing can be further from the truth. One of the values that DIVERSANT brings is that we can take the resume of a returning veteran and translate their skills in a way that helps the corporate hiring manager understand that this person is a project manager, a business analyst, or a logistics expert. They get it now because DIVERSANT has acted as a bridge from the military world to the corporate world by uncovering that talent, training them up and providing them with the mentoring and support, they need to succeed in corporate America. You are right; the majority of those people out there understand it and they want to do something for veterans, but many of the Veterans programs available right now provide only training with no guaranteed career, or an entry level position with no development. We are collaborating with our clients to provide rewarding careers with the support system to ensure success.
CEOCFO: With the job seekers, how do you reach them? Do they understand immediately the difference with what you are going to bring to the table for them?
Mr. Waddy: They sure do. DIVERSANT has a great reputation in the industry, and the consultant community talks. They are people that live in social media and on job boards. If you are not doing a good job and you are not taking care of his or her needs, it spreads like wildfire and no one will work with you. At DIVERSANT, we get all sorts of referrals from our candidates. We have a great referral program for our consultants, and our military heroes just light up the social media boards with great stories about DIVERSANT. That is how we find many of our veterans – through word of mouth. We also do work with the VA and we do a lot of outreach programs and such. We are also hiring aggressively among the college ranks. We hired 40 college graduates in 2013, we are going to hire 80 next year, and hopefully 160 the year after that. We are hiring people right out of college and training them to work for DIVERSANT as sales people, recruiters and branch managers. It is a great company to work for, and we are growing. We need more top notch people.
CEOCFO: Giving back overall is very important for your company. Why? Where else do you focus?
Mr. Waddy: Being a minority-owned firm, giving back and working in the community is in our DNA, so to speak. We do a lot of work with various charter schools here in New Jersey and throughout the country. We are doing similar work as it relates to putting people back to work in underserved communities. During the financial downturn, we actually went on the road and participated in several job fairs with members of the congressional black caucus in LA and other cities, trying to offer employment to people who were hard hit by the financial difficulties we experienced in 2008. That is just who we are. We volunteer. As part of anyone’s job working at DIVERSANT, they are tasked with getting involved in their local community and making the world a better place. It is not just about dollars and cents. It is not just about consultants at work. It is about providing meaningful employment to people so that they can take care of their families. It is about domestic job creation. It is about reducing our dependence on foreign workers with our veterans and such. At DIVERSANT, we are a lot more than an IT staffing company. Giving back is key. I am a firm believer that as so much is given; much is expected. The fact that DIVERSANT is now a $100 million company, it is important to me personally and to the firm to reach back and help other businesses grow, minority or not minority. Our mantra is, “Lift as you climb.” As we go up the ladder and you go up the ladder, it is important to reach behind us and bring other people along. DIVERSANT would not be where we are today if we were not mentored and helped along the way to $100 million. We are taking this thing to two, three, or $400 million. We have a lot of work to do, so we are very busy.
CEOCFO: What surprised you as the company has grown and developed?
Mr. Waddy: I think the amount of DIVERSANT fans that there are. I am surprised at how much our competitors know about us. I am surprised at how much fun being a job creator is. There is a joy in building something and providing meaningful employment to people who have families and children in school and providing healthcare. All of the things that you take for granted when you watch your various political shows, it is very cynical;but when you are actually doing it, living it, and you see the results of your labor, it is quite a sensation.
CEOCFO: Put this all together for our readers. Why pay attention to DIVERSANT?
I think you should pay
attention to DIVERSANT because DIVERSANT embodies what I like to call the
American dream. We have built a company from very humble beginnings to a
$100 million firm in a very short time. on many levels. You know America
works when an African American kid from little old Neptune, New Jersey who
is the son of a chemical worker and a stay-at-home mom, was the first one of
his family to go to college, is one of five children, and wins entrepreneur
of the year for Ernst & Young for the New Jersey Region. He goes forth and
now has 700 consultants deployed in 30 states working with the biggest
companies in the country if not the world. In a lot of ways, this is just
the start. We are just getting warmed up. That is why you should pay
attention to DIVERSANT. We represent what is great about this country.
Staffing & Consulting, DIVERSANT, Business Services Companies, CEO Interviews 2013, IT Staffing for Fortune 500 and Midmarket Companies, African American owned businesses, Project Management and IT Talent across all platforms and all phases of application development, web solutions, network operations, and end-user services, Recent CEO Interviews, Business Services Stock, African-American owned IT staffing and solutions firm in the US, solutions to address business concerns in the areas of technology, diversity, and employment risk mitigation and regulatory compliance, DIVERSANT Press Releases, News, Companies looking for venture capital, Angel Investors, private companies looking for investors, business services companies seeking investors, staffing and consulting companies needing investment capital
ceocfointerviews.com does not purchase or
recommendation on stocks based on the interviews published.