ettain group (Private)

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October 8, 2012 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


Staffing and Consulting Company ettain group, Inc. is Delivering Talent Primarily in the Areas of Information Technology and Project Leadership to their Financial Services, Retail and Healthcare Customers

Interview with: Jeff Harris, CEO

Company Profile:

ettain group, Inc., headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a privately-held, award-winning staffing and consulting company that delivers top talent and solutions to accelerate client success.

Business Services
IT Staffing & Consulting

ettain group
127 West Worthington Ave, Suite 100

Charlotte, NC 28203


Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published Ė October 8, 2012

Mr. Harris, what is Ettain Group?

Mr. Harris: Ettain Group is a staffing and consulting company. We deliver talent primarily in the areas of information technology and project leadership types of resources.


CEOCFO: How do you attract people and make sure they are up to the task?

Mr. Harris: We have to attract great talent for our internal organization, and we have to attract the external candidate talent that will be directly working as contract employees for our clients. The exceptional caliber of both are significant differentiators. Internally, we have a very diligent selection process and profile of who would be up to the task and be successful working for us and in our culture. We identify people who share our company values, and display a strong customer service, commitment to quality, and teamwork, mentality. They are attracted to our culture, the caliber of their peers, our committed to continual training, and our career track. We also have a very disciplined methodology and process for how we identify and qualify the candidates that we send to our clients to ensure theyíre up to the task. These candidates are attracted to us because of the quality of our clients, the quality of our internal staff, and the service and attention we provide while they are on a project for us.

CEOCFO: What are some of the intangibles that you look for when interviewing a potential candidate?

Mr. Harris: In todayís world, those soft skills and those intangibles are becoming more and more important because business and technology are so much more aligned together than they used to be even ten years ago. Especially in those areas of project management, business analysis, and business intelligence. Our candidates need to understand how to manage and insure all of the technology aspects of a project are delivered. But it is also critical that they can have a conversation with a business person to understand what the business is trying to achieve.


CEOCFO: How do you decide if a person is right for a position, is it gut feeling?
Mr. Harris: I think there is a level of gut feeling. But itís also heavily about evaluating their technical skills, past experiences and track record. We will never send a candidate to a customer unless they have had a personal interview. That helps us get a gut feel for soft skills, passion for the position, cultural fit, and commitment to completing an assignment. We are also not sending out entry-level people, so what their past employers say about how they would perform in the position for which we are considering them carries a lot of weight in determining fit. We share this information with our clients for every candidate so we can help make the decision together.

CEOCFO: Do you find that previous employers willingly give you the insight you need?

Mr. Harris: Yes and No. Itís less about willingness. Itís more about us helping them understand the kind of feedback we need. Itís important that we clearly describe the culture, the skills and the type of project for which the candidate is being considered and get their feedback on how relevant their previous assignment was. I just read a statistic last year that 50% of what is on a resume is not completely accurate. So gaining insight from a previous employer to validate technical skills and role is important. But when someone voluntarily or involuntary leaves an assignment early, itís usually a personality or a cultural issue more than technical proficiency. Most previous employers can provide that insight, but they arenít necessarily considering all those variables that also tie into determining the likelihood of success on the next assignment.

CEOCFO: You do staffing and consulting. What are you doing in the consulting area and how big a part of the business is that for you today?

Mr. Harris: When you think about our organization, what shows up on our website is that we do staffing and consulting. But we really simply deliver talent to our clients in a way that makes the most sense for how they need it. That may be an individual staff augmentation contractor, deploying a whole project team of resources or providing a critical subject matter expert. From a P and L perspective, roughly 85% of our business is delivering staff augmentation talent to supplement our clientís needs. The other 15% is consulting where we are deploying an entire project team or solution under a scope of work. There is often a grey area there in terms of what we are really doing because a great deal of what our customer is calling staff augmentation resources are very senior level or are leading critical projects. I would guess that nearly half of our resources are doing work equivalent to those from the Big 4. We donít ask whether our clients want staffing or consulting. Weíre understanding how we can deliver the best talent, in the most efficient and cost effective manner to accelerate their success.


CEOCFO: Do most of your clients understand that difference or do they just know you give them the service they need?

Mr. Harris: I think that our end client, meaning the technology customer, understands that very well. The people that are in contracts and supply chain or procurement, tend to put us into either a staff augmentation or consulting bucket, but weíve seen that improving.  We look at it as just a talent solution overall, but budgets are often set up to differentiate the two. So we often find ourselves having to package our solution in one of those buckets There is no reason why we cannot go in and say we will manage a project, but we are going to staff aug80% of the resources with contractors for it because it is going to provide you better talent at a reduced cost.


CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach today and do you see it expanding?

Mr. Harris: We have nine offices in the southeast, including Dallas, Texas. We see it expanding especially in the mid-size markets in close proximity to our existing markets, or where a client needs us. Currently, we have contractors or consultants working in 19 US states where we have a customer that has a big enough demand there. We also have to stick to our company vision of creating opportunity for others. If we have a person internal to our staff who is really showing exceptional leadership skills and they have an interest in opening up a new market or a new service offering for us, we will give them that opportunity to do that. Our RPO services, and our Winston-Salem and Nashville offices started that way, and they are some of our best performing segments.


CEOCFO: How do you keep up with all the newer technologies when things change every day?

Mr. Harris: Ironically, we are not as much of a technology company as we are a talent delivery company, so our methodology and our process is about finding great people and building pipelines of talent that our clients need. We can build a very effective pipeline of talent for a new technology within thirty days... But we absolutely pay attention to what our clients are telling us. They are our best source for whatís coming.  And we spend a tremendous amount of time with our industry analysts, and attending regular seminars to insure we know what the latest trends are and will be. We incorporate all this information into our annual planning cycle.

CEOCFO: How do you reach potential customers?

Mr. Harris: We reach most of our clients through traditional on-the-street business development and direct relationship building. But our consultants and contractors may finish a project and go work somewhere else, and refer us to a new client as well. In terms of reaching the candidates and contractors, I canít begin to describe the variety of ways we connect with them. We do a lot using technology tools and good old fashion phone work to reach them And our referral network and program is exceptional. We also leverage social media networking groups, and online locations where potential candidates are thought leaders, and we brand ourselves in those areas to reach them.

CEOCFO: Your site shows that giving back is important at ettain group; where do you focus your efforts?

Mr. Harris: We have a behavior framework and company values that everybody lives by called APART, which stands for Attitude, Performance, Accountability, Respect and Teamwork. And our vision is that we earn respect and opportunity for ourselves by creating opportunities for other people. Internally that translates to talk about sacrifice, thinking of other people, and working together as a team as a recipe for success at ettain group. Our philanthropic efforts support that. We could not be that organization internally if it did not flow out to the community. We have put a lot of effort around the Autism Speaks Arts Council, YMCA, and various cancer charities. One of our partners, Rob Eubank passed away last year at the age of 42 after a very courageous battle with cancer. That has been a big motivator for us, which drives much of our philanthropic efforts supporting cancer research. If youíre in Charlotte on March 13th, 2013, join us for our annual charity Texas Holdem fundraiser, ďAll-In-For-CancerĒ. Itís an amazing event and a time for us to reflect on how lucky we are.


CEOCFO: How is business these days?

Mr. Harris: Business is fantastic! We do a lot in the financial services, retail, and healthcare spaces. Healthcare in particular is booming and we are seeing a tremendous amount of success there. All areas of our business are doing very well. Many people talk about unemployment these days. Within technology, in my opinion there is a negative unemployment. We cannot find the people that meet the demand. There are many candidates out there but actually finding the ones that match to the positions that we actually have is the challenge. I know from spending a lot of time with our peers, they are all feeling the same thing.


CEOCFO: Why should investors and people in the business and investment pay attention to ettain group today?

Mr. Harris: We work with about 130 clients today. And at every major client that we have brought on in the last 5 years, we have become one of their top partners. From a new client perspective, we are very careful about who we commit to work with because our expectation is that we are going to build a long-term relationship. So, if Iím an executive, I would be looking at us as a top partner of choice to bring them the best talent in the industry. From an investor standpoint, Iíd be looking at us as a potential platform for growth. We donít have a strategy to sell the company anytime soon. But we would consider some small acquisitions to accelerate our growth. Certainly investors ought to be looking at our industry however. Right now roughly 5% of every technology worker is a contingent worker or contractor. Nobody has a crystal ball but I would expect that companies are going to utilize more contingent and contract resources as a percentage of their total workforce moving forward. I see the potential for it even achieving levels of 10-25%. There is a tremendous upside for our industry and any companies within it. Weíre already seeing it at our clients, and you can see that optimism showing up in the value multiples in our space right now.


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Business is fantastic! We do a lot in the financial services, retail, and healthcare spaces. Healthcare in particular is booming and we are seeing a tremendous amount of success there. All areas of our business are doing very well. Many people talk about unemployment these days. Within technology, in my opinion there is a negative unemployment. We cannot find the people that meet the demand. There are many candidates out there but actually finding the ones that match to the positions that we actually have is the challenge. I know from spending a lot of time with our peers, they are all feeling the same thing. - Jeff Harris


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