Tackling a Turnaround

How Jennifer Beck rebuilt and rebranded a struggling organization in her first year as CEO of Corestaff Services

“Continuous communication, patience, and reiterating the strategy and expectations were essential. If you have great people and trust, success is almost guaranteed.” —Jennifer Beck

Shaking Things Up

When Beck accepted her position in February of 2012, Corestaff was one of six Impellam North America recruiting brands. Since the organization was complex, she decided to start slowly. “When you go to turn something around, you go in to seek to understand,” she explains.

Beck began by talking to employees, meeting with executives, and interviewing clients. Then, in May, it was time for the tough decisions. Beck’s research uncovered one significant problem—each Impellam NA brand was operating independently under a protective leadership that looked out for its own interests—even at the expense of the company. “Isolation was driving the wrong behaviors in the organization and preventing growth,” Beck says. She quickly eliminated the individual brands’ executive positions, turning over leadership by more than 75 percent.

Since she wanted to grow the business quickly and increase profits, the next step was to add services to enhance the company’s core offering while focusing on client satisfaction. “We had skill sets that had not grown with the market or our clients,” Beck says. She dismissed half of the company’s employees and started the process of creating a new, client-centric company.

Breaking Down the Brand

For the makeover to be successful, Beck had to change the way Impellam did business. “We needed client innovation and company innovation,” she says. By eliminating profit and loss statements by brand and by preaching integration, the new CEO created new front and back offices and updated technology and skills to match the transformation. Those moves have helped the remade company bolster its new client-centered model. A flat organizational model allowed Beck to empower her employees to harness an entrepreneurial spirit to make key decisions.

At first, change proved difficult. The company had many employees who had worked their whole careers without this modern mind-set. “Continuous communication, patience, and reiterating the strategy and expectations were essential,” says Beck, who has found that success comes from finding trusted colleagues that can execute a well-planned vision. “If you have great people and trust, success is almost guaranteed,” she explains. As the company moves forward, its new foundation is solid. Beck has managed to grow the company’s top and bottom lines, all brands are attracting more business than in recent years, and a diverse portfolio has created financial stability.

 Building a Blueprint

Executives who hope to duplicate Beck’s success should roll up their sleeves and be prepared for hard work. “I was on the road for six months,” Beck remarks of Impellam’s revitalization. “I met with every person in the company. I met with our top 20 clients.”

She also discovered something surprising—a turnaround can bring out the worst in even the best leaders. Beck says that in each and every turnaround, she has seen the top wage earners throw each other under the bus. The remedy? “Find out who’s not on board, show them the door, and then rely on those who are left to help you consistently drive a clear strategy forward,” she says. 

Lastly, Beck counsels that the journey requires patience, as results aren’t always immediate. “Focus on doing the right things for the employees, clients, and shareholders—and know the results will come,” she says.