Virginia Poly, President, Poly Placements: The ROI Of Happiness

Virginia Poly is the founder and President of Poly Placements, one of Canada’s fastest-growing recruitment solutions companies.

Poly Placements has earned a lot of recognition in the past couple of years –the PROFIT HOT50, PROFIT W100, Branham300, the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Deloitte Startup Award 2010, and, most recently, one of the Toronto Star’s ‘10 To Watch in 2011’.

Before starting Poly in 2006, Virginia spent more than 10 years as a top-producing sales professional and trainer in IT, getting to know a wide variety of organizations from the inside out.

Virginia launched Poly Placements with a simple mandate: The ROI of Happiness. Happy clients and happy candidates means reduced time-to-hire, reduced recruiting costs, reduced turnover – and, ultimately, a better bottom line.

We talked to Virginia about her tips for entrepreneurs; about her motto and her mentor; and why successful fundraising can be dangerous.

TNW: What was the inspired moment that led you to launch Poly Placements?

VP: It was about 5 years ago, when I was 8 months pregnant with my son and suddenly found myself out of a job through no fault of my own. 

I realized at that moment that I never wanted anyone else to be more in control of my career than I was. 

TNW: In a saturated recruitment market, how does your company distinguish itself?

VP: We have 2 core differentiators.

The first is our commitment to The ROI of Happiness™.  Putting the right person into the right role at the right time can transform an organization, but most people don't look forward to the recruiting process.  We want to change all that, so we work hard to make the recruiting an enjoyable experience for everyone involved:  Our clients, our candidates, and even our employees. 

We're also focused on better results than our competitors.  We're constantly looking to make sure that we've saved our clients money on their recruiting costs, driving process efficiencies, and performance of our candidates once they're on the job.

TNW: In a time of recession, Poly Placements is one of Canada’s fastest-growing recruitment solutions companies. What has been the key to this impressive growth, and what advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to scale their business in the current economic climate?

VP: The key to our growth has been executing against our core differentiators:  Ensuring that people enjoy working with us, and delivering better results than our competitors. 

Our smaller size is actually an advantage for us.  We can be more nimble, more client-focused, and more high-touch than many of our competitors. In a difficult economic climate, clients are more interested in a recruitment solutions provider who can deliver demonstrable results than they are in a 25-year-old brand name.

My advice for other entrepreneurs is to invest in the very best people you can possibly afford, and invest in the tools you need to grow. 

 When you're growing quickly, and every team member has to wear different hats and really pull their weight, investing in top-notch people will make a huge difference to your success.  Investing in the right tools may mean investing in technology, or even office equipment.  If you're spending 15 hours a week running to Kinko's or waiting for your internet to get fixed, it's time to invest in a proper printer or a new IT provider.

TNW: How important is technology to the success of your company?

VP: As a recruitment company, technology is critical to our success.  Specifically, we need our website and internet to work flawlessly, because that's how we connect with and communicate to our clients and candidates.  We also depend on our online Applicant Tracking System, because that's how we manage our candidates.

Social media is also very important to us.  As a smaller company, we don't have a huge marketing budget, so social media is an important way for us to generate awareness and building credibility.

TNW: How did you fundraise for Poly Placements and do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs looking to raise funds for their business?

VP: I was relatively fortunate in terms of fundraising for Poly:  I was able to invest my own money, and was able to turn to close family and friends for initial support.  Today, Poly is self-funded, and the business is funding its own growth.

My best advice for other female entrepreneurs is - unless you're a certified financial professional yourself - to engage a professional business manager or accountant to help you see your business objectively and to be a source of 'sober counsel'.  The right financial manager can also help to introduce you to business partners who can make a contribution to your business.

The best growth is organic.  Raising a huge pot of money can be dangerous for a new company in an uncertain economy.

It's better to raise the minimum you need to get to the next step, then work on generating revenue before you jump to the next level. 

TNW: What has been your biggest challenge throughout the history of your company, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?

VP: Our biggest challenges - and I think it's common to all fast-growing entrepreneurial organizations - come when we take a big step in the size of our engagements, which require significant changes in people, process and technology, as well as greater risks. 

That's why I'm such a big proponent of investing in the best people and the best tools you can afford.  When the opportunity to take on a next-level project arises, having the right people and tools in place mean that you can act quickly.

TNW: Is there a moment in the history of your company which you remember as the highlight so far?

VP: When we won the RBC Women of Influence Deloitte Start-up Award in November 2010 - I will always remember that as a highlight of our history.  

Knowing that we were chosen not just because of our success so far, but because we were doing all the right things to ensure future growth, was a terrific validation that we were on the right track.

TNW: What is next for Poly Placements? How do you see technology as a key growth driver?

VP: We are increasingly moving from basic recruiting services to becoming an insourced recruitment solutions provider, with an emphasis on IT/helpdesk services.  Instead of just providing people to our clients, we'll be providing them with an on-site IT team, which is recruited, hired, managed and administered by us.

Technology will be a huge factor in this, from managing our talent pool via the internet and web-based applications, to being able to measure skills through online testing and assessment systems, to being able to manage performance by implementing improved processes which are automatically tracked and measured. 

TNW: What is one lesson about leadership you learned from a boss or mentor and have gone on to incorporate into your own leadership style? 

VP: I often think that I could not have had a better mentor than my father, an entrepreneur himself.  When I opened my first business, a restaurant, in my early 20s, I got so busy that I ended up hiring my whole staff in one afternoon...which was a huge mistake.

My father told me to shut down the business for a week to get all new staff.  I was reluctant, but he was right.

It's better to slow down and find the very best people than to rush into things, because the business will suffer as a result.  I still keep this lesson in mind today.

TNW: Do you have a motto which sums up your approach to business, and to life?

VP: The ROI of Happiness.

In my experience, when you're happy with what you do for a living, and when your clients, employees and other stakeholders are also happy, a positive bottom line will inevitably follow.

You may sacrifice what appear to be short-term gains, but you'll always do better in the long term.

This also applies to my life. When you love what you're doing, and are happy about doing it, it's amazing what you can accomplish. 

TNW: How has Dell or the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network enabled you to grow your business? What do you see as the benefits of all-women networks such as DWEN?

VP: I'm involved with several women-focused networks such as DWEN, including WeConnect and the RBC Women Entrepreneurs, and I've found these networks to be invaluable as a source of inspiration and information.  

Meeting other women who are further along the entrepreneurial growth curve than I am gives me the motivation to continue to achieve even more.

And meeting women who have faced similar business challenges and have real-world advice has been a great resource as Poly has grown.

The Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) celebrates the wonderful accomplishments of women in business, whilst looking forward at how we can progress and learn from each other. Natural networkers and relationship builders, women have innate flair for entrepreneurship. With DWEN, Dell is helping women in business to expand their networks while offering technology capabilities designed to help them innovate and grow their businesses.

The NextWomen is in partnership with DWEN to bring you a series of 40 interviews with the world's most influential female founders, investors and decision makers: The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series.

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