Top Books to Read as a Staffing Agency Founder

Top Books to Read as a Staffing Agency Founder
April 21, 2024

I recently read Poor Charlie’s Alamanck, a collection of speeches from Charlie Munger, the famed investor and partner of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Munger died last year, but he was worth north of $2B, and many, including Buffett, regard Munger as critical to Berkshire Hathaway’s rise as one of the greatest companies in history. I’ve read some of Munger’s famous speeches and comments over the years, and one of the things that comes out very clearly is his love of reading and learning. He and Buffett would spend most of their days reading and learning, and Munger credited his voracious appetite for books as perhaps the main reason behind his success

“We read a lot. I don’t know anyone who’s wise who doesn’t read a lot.” - Charlie Munger

What Reading Has Done for Me

I’ve always loved to read, almost entirely non-fiction, and I’ve made it a habit to start my day reading a book for a long period in the morning. Reading allowed me to learn to code–after studying a very impractical Philosophy degree–and then write the software for my first company, which I eventually sold. But while reading is one of the best ways to understand an industry, one of the things that surprised me about getting into the staffing business is there are not so many books to help you navigate the space.

So, what staffing-specific books should you read as a staffing company founder? Below, I’ve listed some of the most important ones to read, based on different stages of your growth. I’ve left out general business books, but if you want my all-time favorite business book, you should read Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy. Porter is a professor at Harvard, and every entrepreneur should understand his brilliant ideas on strategy and markets.

Any Stage

Winning the Staffing Sales Game: The Definitive Game Plan for Sales Success in the Staffing Industry by Tom Erb

No matter what stage of staffing firm you are, you should read Tom Erb’s great book on staffing sales. When I ran a labor marketplace for software engineers several years ago, I read Tom’s book to help me get clients. It worked. We started using Tom’s approach of following up using different message methods, and we started closing recruitment contracts from relatively large clients, given our stage. We did so well that we ended up having bigger problems with staffing back office and funding, which ultimately led us to start Ascen to help staffing companies manage their back office.

Growth Stage

Breaking Through: Leadership Disciplines from Top Performing Staffing Firms by Mike Cleland

The more founders I meet in the staffing business at various events and conferences, I am continually surprised by how some staffing CEOs can break out of being a $10M firm to become a $100M firm. Getting to $10M can be done with a handful of really smart and motivated people. But beyond $10M-$25M in sales, you need strong systems, solid strategy, and organizational structure to help you scale. Breaking Through is the book to help you get there. It covers everything from building the internal talent of your staffing organization to focusing on your client value proposition. A must-read for staffing executives looking to scale their staffing firm that’s already working.

Seed Stage

Automatic Recruitment Agency: Scale to seven figures while working less by James Blackwell

You’ve probably seen content from James Blackwell’s firm, the Agency Blueprint, on Linkedin. Blackwell’s book The Automatic Recruitment Agency does a great job showing how small staffing firms (1-5 internal team members) can automate their operations in the spirit of Tim Ferriss’s 4-hour work week. He covers everything from how to structure your early team, such as where to get and use virtual assistants for sourcing, and how to automate your client lead generation. On the surface, you might think the book looks simplistic, but for a short read, it’s filled with punchy practical tips. We see this all the time at Ascen, staffing firms get stuck at around $10,000 a week in sales. Getting to the $50,000/week threshold takes a certain amount of systemization and delegation. The first step is getting the founders away from doing their own sourcing and account management, and Blackwell’s book will point you in the right direction.


How to Launch a Staffing Agency: Plan to Profits in 90 Days or Less by Suky Sodhi

For those who are just starting their staffing firm, either thinking about it or in the process of setting everything up, Suky Sodhi’s book is a great launch point. I came across Suky’s book a while back, and it answers many questions new staffing firms have. Many of Ascen’s customers come to us before launching their firm, and they ask for advice on everything from how to set up a bank account to what kind of insurance they need. Suky’s book gives practice answers to all of these questions, down to details such as dealing with candidates ghosting interviews. One thing I was surprised with was her focus on ethical considerations, which is a rare treat in the staffing industry known for ethical shortcuts. I’m delighted to speak on Suky Sodhi’s panel at the Canadian Staffing Summit this April 2024 on Expanding into the US as a Canadian Staffing Firm.

Beyond Books

The next best places to get information about the staffing industry are the major associations like Staffing Industry Analysts and the American Staffing Association. Memberships will cost a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on your size, but their research content is amazingly thorough and constantly growing.

Whatever avenue you choose for reading, as long as you go to bed slightly wiser than when you woke up, as Charlie Munger says, you will succeed in the staffing industry in the long run.

Top Books to Read as a Staffing Agency Founder

Top Books to Read as a Staffing Agency Founder


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