KNF&T Staffing Resources celebrates 35 years in business this month. To honor this milestone, we sat down with the remaining founding partner and our fearless CEO, Beth Tucker, to reflect on the past three and half decades in the Boston staffing world.
Before you started KNF&T, had you ever thought about owning your own business?
Honestly, not really. I was in my late 20’s at the time and was more focused on my career in staffing than being an entrepreneur. But, I was approached by three executives at my company and it seemed like a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. The rest is history.
What was the environment like for women business owners then?
It was definitely less receptive to women than it is now. For instance, as a budding female-owned company in the 80s, getting a bank loan to start our company was a tall order. Knowing that we’d face resistance, we took fate into our own hands and all four of us invested our personal money to start KNF&T. At the time, women business owners in general were few and far between. I’m really glad to see the progress we’ve made since then.
You founded KNF&T on a more consultative approach to staffing, what does that mean to you?
This is the cornerstone of KNF&T and what really enables us to find the right fit time and time again. Our consultative approach means actively listening to the client or candidates’ needs. What are the objectives? Challenges? Hiring history? You need to do a deep dive to find out what they’re actually looking for form a career perspective and understand what they need to make the company or job a success.
In our business, especially in the early beginnings of staffing, this approach was really unique. Staffing hadn’t been as thorough – people didn’t take the time to understand the client or candidate needs. It was more of a commodity approach. The consultative approach really set us apart.
What motivates you?
I’m proud of the company. I want it to be successful and leave a successful legacy. Most entrepreneurs feel like they’re going to fail every day, and that’s what pushes them to come to work and succeed. If you feel like you’ve got it all right, chances are you probably don’t. There’s always room to change, grow, and move the needle.
What are you most proud of?
Making it to 35 years! If I had to narrow it down, I’d say the accolades we’ve received over the years have been wonderful, like the Boston Chamber’s Pinnacle Award for entrepreneurship in 2009, but what really what makes me proud is that we’ve been able to put thousands of people to work. To help improve their skills, their career trajectory, and help lift people up.
Years ago, there was a young woman who had just graduated college and was looking to get into human resources – she wasn’t able to find the right fit, so she came to us. I ended up placing her at one of the larger Boston banks at an entry level role and I spent time counseling her on how to approach that job so she could become more visible. She ultimately got promoted several times within the company and was eventually made head of HR. She went on to become a leading executive at a large investment firm. Seeing success stories like that make me feel really proud.
What advice would you give to other women who are striving to become a CEO or own their own business?
Never give up. Work hard. Envision yourself in the role. Assume leadership roles both within the organization and outside of it, so when they’re looking for emerging leaders you’re an obvious choice.
Having gone through the trenches myself, I like to think that I’ve had some influence on the women in my life, like my daughter, to be able to make it – to stick with it. So many women give up because the environment isn’t conducive to supporting them, or daycare is too expensive to work, or they just feel like it is too hard and they don’t have enough support. So having this level of success is gratifying and, I think, helps contribute to other women feeling like its achievable. In the end, you want to feel like you’ve contributed. You want to feel like you’ve had personal impact.
Having KNF&T turn 35 is a big accomplishment. When I’m stressed, my son likes to say, “Mom, do you know the average lifespan of a small business? You’re way past that. Relax.” Well, I looked it up and the average life span of a small business is 10 years, so being able to get to 35 years with the kind of consistent recognition we’ve had is a very rewarding moment. Here’s to another great 35 years!