MBO Partners recently confirmed that Jay Lash has been appointed VP of Market Strategies. Lash, formerly with Allegis Group Services, brings over 25 years of experience in contract talent management and contingent workforce solutions.
Knowing that there has been a lot of buzz about Jay’s career move, we brought him in for an exclusive interview.
MBO: Jay Lash, welcome to MBO Partners. I know our team is excited to have you on board. We’re also noticing a great deal of buzz in the industry regarding your career move. How did you first get to know MBO Partners?
Jay: While with Allegis Group Services (AGS), an important part of my role was to build custom workforce management solutions for our clients that were outside the norm – business process outsourcing, enhanced Vendor Management System (VMS) and Managed Service Provider (MSP) models, Optimized Staffing supply chains, global solutions, and so on. One common request was the need for businesses to safely and efficiently engage Independent Contractors (ICs) and Statement of Work (SOW) Consultants.
I went shopping for partners able to provide independent contractor compliance and engagement solutions and who could do it well, do it differently, and complement the high adoption contingent workforce staffing mode of AGS.
In that process I discovered MBO Partners. The MBO Partners model for independent contractor engagement has a unique approach, where the business is aligned with the independent contractors, the individuals themselves. The business wraps around them and is focused on them as a customer, providing a platform with a full range of solutions designed to make it easier for independent consultants to operate their businesses.
Traditional independent contractor compliance programs can be a tough sell, especially to the consultants. Often, they are forced into a process that isn’t a good fit and can result in poor program adoption or talent loss. Because MBO Partners is focused on aligning with the independent contractors and delivering rich services for the contractors, we felt if we engaged MBO Partners we’d see greater adoption and success with the solutions.
More recently, I saw the opportunity to build a stronger alliance for AGS and also bring my expertise in strategic market development to MBO Partners. Someone around here quipped that AGS isn’t losing a son, they’re gaining a strategic business partnership, and I really feel that. There is a tremendous need for these independent contractor engagement solutions to fit into contingent workforce management programs at the enterprise level, and at the same time all the independent contractors out there are looking for better ways to operate. It’s an obvious win-win.
MBO: In the press, you’ve been quoted as saying that you believe MBO Partners holds a “special key” for the future of contract talent management. Can you explain?
Jay: When I say it’s a unique key, I mean that the MBO Exec program, the flagship platform for independent contractors, offers an engagement solution for self-employed consultants that simply doesn’t exist in a traditional payrolling and IC compliance offering. The IC’s can be engaged safely and compliantly without being stripped of the control, independence, and all-important tax breaks that are so valuable to them, and without having to jump through all the hoops that becoming a truly compliant vendor must entail. They can operate like real businesses, for multiple clients, while maintaining a consistent legal and financial infrastructure. At the end of the day, with this special approach, the engagement is smooth and seamless for both the consultant and the company.
The return of our economy is not bringing regular full time jobs with it. Contract talent is not a temporary or interim solution; rather, it is the new way that work is done. Small businesses, SOW consultants, project-based companies-of-one, re-engaged retirees and alumni -- all are being brought back on a contract basis.
Businesses need a reliable process that is attractive to the consultants and also fits into the larger talent management programs – after all, a compliance program only works to the extent that it is used.
This model results in quicker on-boarding, a much higher adoption rate, better engagement, vastly improved visibility, and of course real compliance results (recently verified by Aberdeen) that just aren’t seen in other approaches.
MBO: What is your new role focused on at MBO Partners?
Jay: MBO Partners has been very successful in developing their core market, the professional independent contractor looking for a portable operating platform. We think there is tremendous opportunity to get the message out there to this audience -- which is the fastest growing segment of the workforce -- and also develop new markets the solution can be adapted to. MBO Partners has evolved some unique processing abilities on a system level with MyBizOffice®. Each individual is treated as a separate P&L, which means you have a transaction processing system that can handle thousands of micro-businesses, money flowing in and out, with business expenses and taxes being accurately accounted for.
There are many markets with professional SOW consultants and single-person micro-businesses that would jump at this solution. So one of my primary roles will be to look for opportunities and help customize the offering, similar to how I helped design enterprise MSP and VMS solutions for large clients.
In addition, I see an immediate opportunity for staffing organizations and project-based organizations to get greater access to this talent channel via the MBO Partners Staffing Industry Alliance. They need highly skilled professional workers that can fill project-based assignments. Most of these opportunities represent major Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies. It would be foolish to think these opportunities aren’t under the management of the staffing companies, so if the independent contractors are going to get access, they’re going to need a kind of passport to get across that red-tape border, and vendor credentials that act like a visa that lets them work in a compliant way wherever the work is waiting for them. MBO Partners becomes this super thin intermediate layer that mitigates the business friction and can plug individuals into large corporate networks more readily.
MBO: You’ve been with Allegis Group Services for a long time now, and moreover this new position is quite a bit different from your previous focus. What is it like to make such a dramatic shift, and how do you think your perspective will be adapting to meet these new challenges?
Jay: I was with AGS for a close to 6 years, and contributed to their growth and development as a manager of contingent workforce programs. On one hand, I learned a lot, gained great experience, and got a front seat for witnessing the emergent changes in the talent landscape. On the other hand, the work got me further away from my roots as a recruiter, where I was working hand in hand with professionals to help them build their careers. I have missed that. This new position with MBO Partners will bring me back where I started, in a way, putting the focus back on the individual.
The customer here at MBO Partners is the consultant, bottom line. It’s really refreshing to bring the focus back on the talent and how to serve them. One challenge will be, how do we maintain that same independence and freedom for the consultants but at the same time expand the market, and expand the network they will be able to get access to?
Increasingly, infrastructure is less critical for enterprises, and management is less critical. People are more virtual and flexible, and the relationships are becoming highly variable. Things are moving faster. We want to make sure that the consultants can take advantage of this, enhance their working lifestyle, and give them greater options to build successful independent careers.
MBO: You’ve been dedicated to solving workforce challenges for over 25 years now. You hinted at the shift, but can you describe the bigger trends you see happening in the talent landscape and the way work happens?
Jay: There’s no doubt the dependency of large companies on employing enormous numbers of people in large, complex multi-national infrastructures is on the retreat. We’ve seen the peak – in terms of regular full time employees, organizations will never be as large as they have been, as we saw in 2006 and 2007.
So how will work get done? Through small and micro-businesses, independent contractors, SOW consultants, and non-traditional employees. It’s going to be about the project-based outsourced workforce. And over the next ten or twenty years, companies are going to shrink in terms of number of employees. Most of the work will be done through virtual partners, offshore, and of course closely aligned partnerships with consultants, freelancers, and small businesses.
I don’t really see recruiting or talent agents going away; actually, I see it evolving back to its roots. The relationship between the individual talent and the agent is becoming a much closer working partnership, and the utility of databases of resumes on the internet is declining. The value there has dropped – anyone can do a keyword search – and what companies really need is someone who knows the talent and can isolate and indentify opportunities uniquely suited for the individuals. The new talent agent is the person who knows – and is connected to – literally the top one hundred people in that field, who is connected to the schools, associations, and specialist firms in that occupation. That agent can reach out to the talent network and say, “I’ve got this project; who’s ready for it right now?”
We’ll see people who package up the work, project leaders that manage the talent relationships, and resource managers that make sure the roles are getting fulfilled, that traffic cop moving people around and paying attention to the milestones, the deliverables, the security, and other fundamentals.
Let’s talk another time about what’s happening globally with the commoditization of certain types of work that can be done by anyone, anywhere. But in the end there will always be an incredible demand for individuals who are on the bleeding edge of their field, who are thinking, innovating, and creating new solutions. The flattening talent economy is the reality now – no matter what kind of work you’re doing, you’ve got to stay sharp or guess what: you’re a commodity. Your future depends on YOU developing your talent. That message is not just for the people operating as consultants today. It applies to all of us – including me.
MBO: The MSP and VMS space, and staffing also, have been going through an interesting evolution over the past two years. What’s the bigger picture, and how will MBO Partners (an Independent Contractor Engagement Specialist, or ICES) fit in?
Jay: That should be a separate article! There’s been a lot of consolidation in MSP and VMS, at one phase there was a movement for separation from the staffing piece and now we see things swinging back into integration with staffing. Honestly, things need to shake out in the marketplace before anyone can be sure. The solutions are still maturing and evolving. Philosophically speaking, the world is going to be realigning in a holistic way and will orient around to the independent contractors, the individual service providers. That’s the stickiest part of the whole mix – how to get micro-businesses plugged in to work with mega-businesses. Luckily, that’s our core competency and we have no intention of doing anything else. The only thing changing for MBO Partners is increased demand, so why would we stray from the path we’re on?
MBO: Earlier you said the message about maintaining the sharp talent edge applies to all of us, including yourself. Will you ever become an independent consultant?
Jay: I envy the lifestyle of the real independent contractor, those individuals with an incredible range of skills paired with the business acumen to do their thing independently, while still keeping the business thriving. The MBO Partners platform is increasingly allowing talented individuals to focus on their core competency, which will empower a new class of talent to set themselves free and go build solo careers.
In the corporate world I’ve often gone out and done consulting. I’ve kept my foot in, and will always stay close to that marketplace. I am a consultant, and always have been.
When I was a recruiter in the early days, I would make one placement a week . . .I’d start feeling frustrated that I couldn’t do more. So I started working on more complex sales placements where I was assembling an entire team or project. Next thing I knew, I was working on complex MSP deals where it was about building a custom solution for the enterprise. This is another layer of managing large scale relationships, only now focused on plugging individuals – SOW consultants – into the talent model. Perhaps one day it will all come full circle, and I’ll go back to one person, one project at a time... who knows? Right now, I’m really enjoying the large-scale strategic work and making a difference.
MBO: We appreciate you sharing your perspectives. One more question for you before I let you go. When you’re not solving the contingent workforce problems of the world, how do you spend your time?
Jay: People know I am a road warrior, and I do travel from airport to airport. But at the end of each trip, what’s important to me is the simple beauty of my home in Utah, and spending time with my wife and my family. The independence I’ve clamored for has allowed me to build a life that keeps me focused on what’s really important. I have utilized my skills and experience to get to a place where I am not suffocated in an office, or commuting through traffic. I can work hard and create valuable solutions, but then go home and enjoy some powder skiing here on my home slopes, and have a nice evening by the fire with some fine wine and even finer company.
MBO: Jay, I’ve heard much the same story – that focus on building a career and lifestyle that still incorporates quality of life, creating work that works for you – from our consulting community. It seems you’re in good company. Thank you so much for your time.
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