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PeopleClick CEO Focuses on Service

March 21, 2007
Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Staffing Management
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Ron Kupferman, the founder and original CEO of PeopleClick, is back as the company’s top executive after a seven-year hiatus. He stepped in after Stephen Sasser, who had seen the company through some tough times, left in late December. Kupferman is taking over during a period of change in the industry. The Raleigh, North Carolina-based applicant tracking system provider is prepared to do some morphing of its own—everything from going public to acquiring other service providers is under discussion. The fluidity of the situation is underscored by news that the company has postponed its annual conference, originally scheduled for July in Laguna Niguel, California, until April 2008, and denials by a company spokeswoman that the firm is for sale. The one constant, according to PeopleClick, is its focus on talent acquisition. He recently spoke to Workforce Management staff writer Gina Ruiz.

Workforce Management: You never fully left the company because you were chairman of the board. You were, however, gone from the CEO spot since 2000. What drew you back?

Ron Kupferman: I came back because I am truly passionate about where the company can go. We have made significant progress. We now operate in roughly 192 countries and have more than 1,800 clients, which include Fortune 100 companies like Coca-Cola, Morgan Stanley [and] Philips. But I believe the market is still wide open with more opportunities.

WM: How is your management style different from former CEO Stephen Sasser, and in what direction will you take the company?

Kupferman: Everybody’s style is different. My primary focus will be creating a culture of customer service. I am keenly aware that some 85 percent of our business will come from existing customers. Keeping them happy is critical. That’s why I spent the first four weeks on the job just talking to customers to understand their needs. As a result, one of my first decisions was to combine the technology division and the customer services division under the supervision of a single person, Tom Bright. This is a major step for the organization. The structure is pretty unique in our industry.

WM: The company recently decided to go after the midmarket segment. This is a seductive strategy, given the revenue potential, but it has landed several applicant system software providers in hot water. What are you doing to mitigate the risk for PeopleClick?

Kupferman: It takes discipline. Some providers have gotten in trouble because they have stretched themselves too thin, going into areas that extend well beyond their core competencies. We want to avoid this at all costs. If anything, PeopleClick is more focused than ever on its cornerstone business: talent acquisition. For us, the midmarket segment is comprised of companies that employ 2,500 to 10,000 workers.

WM: How real is the prospect of going public or making an acquisition? Is there a time frame?

Kupferman: I have been around too long to speculate on specific dates. For now, the most important priority is for us to enhance customer services and continue growth. If the right opportunity presented itself for an acquisition, which would mean to get us deeper into talent acquisition, we would take it. If the analysts think the company has the ability to go public, our board is certainly open to that.

WM: After a period of turbulence, PeopleClick landed on its feet. What did you learn from that experience and what will you do to ensure that the company stays on solid ground going forward?

Kupferman: The customer is everything. One of our biggest challenges will be achieving controlled growth, not sacrificing customer service at the expense of adding new accounts. We can realistically grow our business without putting the quality of customer service in danger by 20-plus percent. At our size, trying to grow in the 40 to 50 percent range could put us into some trouble.

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