This HR CEO made a huge comeback after nearly losing her business [video]
“My Vistage group helped me organize my thoughts, prioritize, and guide me. Little by little, things began to turn around.” — Pam Jung, WorkForce Solutions Group
Pamela Jung doesn’t quit. Ever.
Even during that stretch in 2008 when she had to lease out half of her office building, cut her staff to a skeleton crew and take over her business partner’s duties after she vacated her post.
And then it got worse. By the start of the next year, she was leasing out the entire building. Unable to pay the six employees who remained, she offered commission-based packages. When it became clear that she just couldn’t make the mortgage, she was advised to stop making payments so she could renegotiate the terms of her loan. Later, she was told that restructuring her loan wouldn’t happen because she’d stopped paying it. Foreclosure was staring her down.
“I just couldn’t do it. It would have felt like a failure,” Jung says. “My dad would have been rolling over in his grave.”
Instead, she just kept plugging away. Able to eventually get all of her banks to agree on payment terms she could handle, she decided to reinvent her business—a move that would lead her California-based WorkForce Solutions Group to where it stands today—as one of the fastest-growing, female-led company in Los Angeles, and poised to bring in nearly $30 million this year.
“I don’t give up. That’s just who I am. Sometimes it’s to my detriment,” she admits. “But I just knew that I could pull it out.”
First in, first out
Before the Great Recession hit, business was going well for Jung’s human resources consulting firm. With a couple months of money in the bank, Jung and her partner founded the company in 2001 and set their sights on the healthcare industry. With the economy booming, they quickly began receiving calls from businesses in other spaces, like banking and telecommunications. They had grown to a $5 million operation—and then the bottom fell out.
“Having been in this business long enough, I saw the signs, but I thought it would only last a year,” she recalls. “This industry is the first one in to a recession and the first one out. So I could see that people had stopped hiring and were letting go of temporary work staff.”
Down to just three people now, because the other three left when she switched to commission-based pay, Jung did the only thing she knew to do—put her head down and work. With banks calling her nearly every day to collect money she barely had, it would have been so easy for her to pack up and go home. Some may have even applauded that decision as a smart business move.
But self-belief is a powerful thing. And Jung’s got it.
‘There’s a freight train coming’
At a crossroads with where to take her business next, she decided to go back to focusing on the “recession-proof” healthcare industry because it’s a safer staffing space to play in than banking or technology, which are more vulnerable to the whims of the market.
Shortly after her decision, the Affordable Healthcare Act passed. Jung, a self-described “big thinker,” lives outside of the box. So with that transformative law now in effect, she spun off the healthcare portion of her business into its own brand, called HealthCare Talent.
“There was a freight train coming and we needed to get ahead of that curve,” she says. “So we did, and slowly, things began to turn around.”
By May of 2012, she was back in her building with all five of her employees. She was paying them again, in addition to offering commission. With her head still down, she continued making all of the payments she had with creditors.
Since then, Workforce Solutions Group has experienced a remarkable three-year growth rate of 494 percent. With a growing staff, there are locations in Orange County and Los Angeles, and another is set to open in Ventura. In rebranding her business, she set a clearly defined direction for where they were headed, separating herself from the competition.
Standing out in a crowd
Workforce Solutions is not your typical staffing company. More than just playing matchmaker between their clients and prospective talent, they take a “client-centric” approach that ultimately produces greater workforce productivity.
“We really go in and peel back the layers of the onion—how are they positioned? Are they the employer of choice? What are their accounting processes?” Jung explains. “We look at every single aspect from A to Z of how they’re running their business.”
They take all of that information and then examine the client’s workforce and business development strategies. Very few, Jung says, have a business development strategy that mirrors their workforce strategy five years out from where they are now. Based on their findings, they can offer cost-saving, customized solutions for consolidating vendors, streamlining invoices, reducing payment turnaround to less than 30 days, implementing tech solutions to improve efficiency, as well as performing the more traditional functions of a staffing firm like finding talent.
“We’re definitely not cookie cutter, which may sound strange,” she says. “You have to be outside of the box. And people just don’t do that in staffing.”
It’s that very mindset that got her through the bleakest times. But she’ll be the first to say that didn’t do it all by herself. During the most challenging part of her journey, which was getting her former business partner to sign over her half of the company, she looked to her Vistage small group for support.
“The group members were on me constantly saying, ‘Why are you letting this happen? We don’t understand why you’re not taking a stronger stance.’ They were relentless in making me take action and I couldn’t wiggle out of it,” she recalls. “If they hadn’t stayed on me, I would’ve wiggled out of it. And if I hadn’t forced my partner out, my story would be very different.”