Breaking Free From Transactional Business Practices
CEO & Founder
Coffee Lunch Coffee
Owner & President
Chief of Staff KC
As a leader in the recruiting business, Casey Wright, Owner and President of Chief of Staff KC, develops a genuine and diverse connection base by avoiding transactional business practices.
“Are they going to get paid for it or not, is the focus. And I've always tried to take the exact opposite approach of that: let's build these relationships. Ultimately, the business will come. But if you're just focused on closing deals, I think you're doing it for the wrong reasons.”
Alana Muller 0:09
Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.
Alana Muller 0:41
Hello, listeners, welcome back to Enterprise.ing podcast. With more than a decade of recruiting and business development experience, Casey Wright is president and owner of Chief of Staff KC, a well-rounded, experienced group of professionals who specialize in identifying and placing qualified candidates in the workforce, from entry level roles to executive positions. Casey Wright, welcome to Enterprise.ing podcast.
Casey Wright 1:04
Thanks, Alana. Thanks for having me on the show.
Alana Muller 1:06
Great to be with you. You know, in today's business world, with so many things shifting in terms of workforce and workplaces, I'm guessing you are busier than ever, in terms of working with clients to bolster their teams. Talk a little bit about the staffing, business and industry and in particular, how Chief of Staff KC brings value to the organizations at startups.
Casey Wright 1:25
Yeah, so we focus on culture first, second, third, fourth, and so on. That's definitely our primary focus. I've been in the business for about 17 years before, fortunately, being able to acquire Chief of Staff a little over four years ago. Never thought I'd be a business owner necessarily, and certainly didn't think first year in business ownership, I believe we'd go through a pandemic. But we rode that wave, about nine months after I started here was when the pandemic hit.
Casey Wright 1:52
And it's been interesting to say the least, we've had to pivot in a lot of areas. After those first couple of months of the lockdown though, we've done nothing but grow and have grown pretty rapidly over the last few years. And added clients, added divisions, added great members to our team and don't intend to slow down anytime soon.
Alana Muller 2:10
That is amazing. Well, as they say, "you should live in interesting times," and we certainly are. So that's impressive that you were able to, I guess, see the future, right? You purchased the company and look what happened.
Casey Wright 2:23
I'm not gonna take that much credit.
Alana Muller 2:26
I was gonna give it to you.
Casey Wright 2:27
No, no. I'm surrounded by the best team in the business, that's for sure. We've grown about fourfold in employees since I, since I joined. And better than that revenue-wise. And we were basically kind of one division when I took over. We've got about five divisions now that we specialize in. And last year alone, we placed people with over 200 different companies here in the Kansas City area. So I think we are making a pretty big impact on the Kansas City market, both for the job seekers and those hiring people.
Casey Wright 2:53
And anywhere from, like you said, the top executives, to entry level and everything in between. We do finance and accounting, HR, sales, operations, and administrative are our divisions here internally, but we partner with several other firms in the area and beyond Kansas City as well, that specialize in areas that we don't focus on.
Casey Wright 3:11
So, we want to be a one-stop-shop for anybody that's looking to hire the best talent, anyone that's looking for a better career. And ultimately, we do that by getting to know our team, getting to know our clients, getting our candidates and putting people in a room together that we think are gonna get along and be mutually beneficial.
Alana Muller 3:29
Super useful. And, and I'm sure that, you know, that comes with building trusting relationships on both sides of that equation. So I know that that's what you do. And in fact, since most businesses, and yours in particular, are built on those relationships, talk about how you've built your network, and the ways in which you're actively able to engage your clients.
Casey Wright 3:49
Yeah, I probably get that question asked to me about as much as anything like, “how do you find your clients? How do you find your candidates? How do you expand your network?” I am out and about a lot. I've got a coffee, lunch, happy hour, dinner — you name it — frequently. I am a social person. I always, I like to get to know more people. And I've gotten a compliment several times… that compliment, maybe it was meant to be an insult, I don't know, but if you walk into a room, I go directly to the person that is least like me in a room. And I find that interesting.
Casey Wright 4:20
I like to get to know people of all sorts of different walks of life. If I'm asked to go to two or three happy hours in one day, sometimes the easiest one would be the people I know the longest that I have the most in common with. I intentionally try and choose the one I know the least and have the least in common with to just continuously expand my horizons and expand my contact base and get to know more about people that aren't the exact same as me.
Casey Wright 4:47
I mean, that's the way our team is made up too, comprised of a wide variety of different people from all sorts of different backgrounds, ages, demographics, etc. And when I meet with someone, I don't think "ooh, what business are we going to do right now?" And I try and teach my team that, too. Don't go in there and say, "Hey, who's gonna hire for me?” Or, “What job are you looking for? Who's gonna pay my fees?" Look at, “What's our relationship gonna be like, you know, three, four or five years from now?” Like, “What do we have in common? What's gonna be fun about this relationship?” Business will come. But people do business with those who like them. So get to know good people, spend time with good people and work hard. That's all I asked of my team.
Alana Muller 5:12
Well, what I really like about what you said, is just taking that long-tail approach to relationship building. That it's not about a transaction at any specific point in time. You know that eventually those transactions, as necessary and as appropriate, will come, but you're establishing trust, you're building a long-term relationship, not something that's transactional in nature.
Casey Wright 5:42
Yeah, and honestly, not to throw shade or anything, but I think that's what a lot of my industry is… it's very transactional, and it's a volume-based business, don't really care that much about the quality, quite frankly, don't really care that much about what's best for the individuals that are looking for jobs, and those that are looking to hire. Are they going to get paid for it or not, is the focus. And I've always tried to take the exact opposite approach of that. It's, “let's build these relationships.” And ultimately, you know, the business will come. But if you're just focused on closing deals, I think you're doing it for the wrong reasons.
Alana Muller 6:11
Yeah, I totally agree with you. I totally agree with you. Casey, what's something that you're working on now that you're especially excited about? And you have any new projects? I know you said you've grown your business with some additional departments and divisions. Are you working on any specific projects that you want to share with our, our listeners?
Casey Wright 6:26
Yeah, I mean, that's, that's a great question, some of it's confidential, some of it I can't say too much of. Some of it, though, you’re reading the paper, different companies that are moving to town. We're involved in a lot of those, with staffing up their teams that are building out operations here. Back to the pandemic, I signed a five-year lease on a new space two weeks before the lockdown. We tripled our square footage, and obviously increased the rent a lot, too. Two weeks before, we built out this beautiful space and then didn't use it for almost a year. That was a big "welcome to the bigs" moment for me, if you will. And that was a challenge.
Casey Wright 7:03
Well, after close to a year of not using this, our space, at all, we came back in and we came back in full force, and now we're out of room. So, we've still got nearly two years left on our lease, and we're out of space. I signed a five-year lease thinking that we were eventually going to grow into it. Now we're like, "oh, shoot." Now we need something to... So a big part of it is figuring out where next. You know?
Casey Wright 7:25
Looking at buying buildings, and we like where we're at in town. But that's a challenge, too. I think everyone thought that the commercial real estate market was going to drop drastically after the pandemic. And from everything I've seen, that hasn't happened yet. So that's become a fun challenge. But a challenge nonetheless.
Alana Muller 7:43
Casey Wright 7:44
But we are looking at expanding additional divisions. There's some other divisions we'll launch here in the near future. We're just trying to find the exact right people and the right timing to roll that all out.
Alana Muller 7:54
Well that's super exciting. Well, so you kind of brought this up, you know, on the flip side, everybody likes to hear about successes. But we're always faced with different challenges that, you know, the pandemic notwithstanding, and any business, there are challenges that we all have to overcome. Talk a little bit about how you have faced some of those challenges and overcome obstacles to emerge stronger, not only as a business, but for you, personally.
Casey Wright 8:18
Whew, that's a good one. There's challenges every single day. Being a business owner, obviously, every single day is completely different. I don't know what I'm going to do, you know, what's going to hit my plate that day. I am a player coach, I'm still involved in the recruiting and the business development, I enjoy it. I love that part of it. But there's other challenges that come with running a company that are hard to anticipate every single day.
Casey Wright 8:40
One thing that, this can be a compliment, but it's something we have to deal with, is our brand recognition is really good right now. I mean, I think we do have a very positive reputation in the market. We want to keep that, but growing at the appropriate pace. I think a lot of people grow as fast as possible. Growth just for growth's sake, though, I've never believed is that the greatest thing. So we want to continue to grow, but a lot of people have been coming to us. We want to grow with the people that are gonna fit our culture.
Casey Wright 9:08
But my real point to that is, we've got a reputation out there. Other people in the industry are trying every single day to poach our people right now. I mean, literally every single day, I'm, you know, one of my colleagues is showing me an email or a LinkedIn message that they're getting, someone else is trying to steal our people away. It is a compliment. We're obviously on their radar. It's kept me on my toes. I'm making sure we're doing everything, you know, possible.
Alana Muller 9:31
Casey Wright 9:31
By offering the best benefits, making it work-life balanced, making it focused on being happy in the workplace. It's not just about pay, but it's about who you work with, your team, your work family. And so those are things that I'm constantly having to evaluate and evolve when necessary, and take care of folks to give them the year and happy long term. It's like after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, all of their guys are worth a lot more on the open market. And so there's, there's a similar sensation at times.
Alana Muller 9:59
You're so right. Well, so have you seen a significant shift or a specific change in terms of what associates are looking for in a workplace? And you talked about your space, and you talked about benefits and acknowledgement of the value that they're bringing. Have you seen specific differences since before the pandemic? Can I call it "the before times" and "the after times?"
Casey Wright 10:19
I was gonna say, we're gonna need a term for that eventually. Because “before pandemic” gets a little wordy. But I mean, certainly the whole work arrangement, whether it's in office, from home, hybrid, is fairly new worldwide. I mean, there were remote opportunities within certain industries. Kansas City being in the Midwest, we probably weren't as quick to adapt to those as maybe some of the East Coast, West Coast companies or even, you know, European and other companies that had more of this work remote situation available to their teams.
Casey Wright 10:51
I think everyone is more understanding of the ability to do it now. But it's… we're still pretty early in the infancy stages of what's this going to look like long term? You know, like I said, for a year, nobody worked here at our office. We built out this brand new, beautiful office, no one was here. Well, I'm hearing all my clients talk about, "Oh they're not going back to work for who knows how long, a year or two, maybe ever?" Well, a lot of my team was like, "When can we get back to the office?" And so I was trying to manage it, you know, people have different perspectives of when the appropriate time was to go back in the office…
Casey Wright 11:23
I didn't want to do anything risky, you know, that was seen as, you know, being careless, or, you know, potentially putting people's safety in jeopardy. But also, I do think there's something to be said for the culture change when you're not sitting there in office, across the desk from somebody in the watercooler talk, and etc. So some of that is just balancing it, because we do offer work, you know, a flexible schedule here. But like I said, we're running out of room now. So we've got to figure out what it's gonna look like long term, before we move to a new space of who all needs to be here, what days and how we can accommodate to make it so there's plenty of room for everyone.
Alana Muller 11:58
Right. Are you configuring your offices currently, sort of in a traditional manner, where everybody has their own space? Or is it all hotelling cubes? How do you manage that?
Casey Wright 12:07
It's kind of a hybrid. Everyone has their own space here, but there's a few people that can only be in the office a day or two a week for various things. Whether it's new kids at home, you know, different challenges. And so some of it will be like a shared office space. You know, if we don't have people in the office, interviewing is a big part of what we do, is interviewing job seekers. We have room for everybody to have their own, their own private space. But then certain days, we'll have five, 6, 7 people interviewing folks at the same time, then it gets a little challenging. We do have other options within our building and whatnot. But it's definitely evolving, that's for sure.
Alana Muller 12:42
Yeah, yeah. Well, and are you finding that people do want to come into the office, as you said, people wanting to get back to work? Are you finding that they want to be there in person?
Casey Wright 12:51
Yeah, I mean, with our team, for sure. I think that's because we do have a good culture. I do feel like people miss out. I mean, we do have a lot of fun. We work hard/play hard is one of the oldest cliches there is but you know, I surprised the team with a new... what do you call it? An old arcade machine not too long ago that has 17,000 old school video games on it. So people are like, "What are they just sitting around playing video games here in the office all day?" No, but 10 minutes over lunch, if a couple of folks want to play each other in a round of Mario Golf, then sure, I love it. It's good for camaraderie and stuff. So we do entertain a lot here. You know, we've got a good entertaining space. We've got a, you know, a big bar setup, and a balcony and dart boards and a bag sets and all that fun stuff. But I think that all is part of our culture. People want to be here, I think they're more productive because of it.
Alana Muller 13:34
Yeah, I love that. I love that. I want to shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit about mentorship and finding advisors. Who's someone in your life who has had a meaningful impact on your career and your personal journey? Do you have a mentor or advisor that you can point to specifically?
Casey Wright 13:50
Yeah, that's interesting. You know, I always say you got to surround yourself with people smarter than you. I'm not unique in saying I know, everybody says that. I don't have a very difficult time with that. I'm the dumbest guy in most rooms I'm in because I do surround myself with some pretty smart people. So I've got countless mentors.
Casey Wright 14:05
And sometimes a mentor to me, though… I think many people think of “mentor” in the traditional sense of, "Oh, he or she came before you doing the same thing, you know, 20-30 years ahead of you." There's people that I hire that it's their first day in our industry, and I hear them say or do something and I consider them a mentor to a certain degree because they're offering advice or suggestions or different approaches.
Casey Wright 14:26
I mean, one of the reasons I chose to come here versus some other options I was looking into is because there was a really, really bright group of younger people here that, they are the next generation. I was the young guy for forever. And now I know I'm not that, but I'm a firm believer if you're not going forward, you're going backwards. And I don't know anything about TikTok, but I know there's a value in it. So my team gets that. So, I'm gonna look at some of my team that are 15-20 years my junior that I would consider mentors.
Casey Wright 14:53
I’d say the one person in this industry I probably give the most credit to is a guy named Rich Diaz, who was an old boss of mine a couple companies ago. [I] respected everything about him. One of my favorite aspects about Rich was when he was on the phone you had no idea, we’d joke around in the office, if he's talking to someone who's a brand new contact, he's never spoken to before, if there's a lifelong client, if this is an old fraternity brother, you know, buddy of his, or if it's a family member, because he treated everybody the exact same, and you really didn't know and I love that about him. I've tried to emulate that. I respect him so much, I ended up hiring his nephew a couple years ago. His nephew is now one of my top employees and absolutely crushing it for us. So shout out to Lucas and Rich on that one, because it's full circle now. I used to work for Rich, then Rich moved away, which promoted me. I moved on in my career and now his nephew is one of my top guys. So I think that's pretty cool how that works out.
Alana Muller 15:29
So great. That's a great story. Great story. I love that. And, and you're right. I mean I agree with you. For me, always sort of surrounding myself with a lot of different people, a lot of different people who I think of as mentors, peer mentors, reverse mentors, whatever you want to call it. And then you know, when I have the privilege to serve as a mentor myself, I think that we learn and we're enriched by all those experiences. So I love how you describe that. Yeah, absolutely.
So I have to say that I was doing a little snooping around about you and I heard through the grapevine that you are a big traveler. So while you call Kansas City home, I know that you and your family love to travel and in fact that you've been to most of the 50 United States and five Canadian provinces, if I'm not mistaken. What, what's your favorite destination? And what travel tips do you have for us?
Casey Wright 16:30
Well, the tip would be, go out there and see the world. I don't, I don't think of myself as a judgmental person. I really hope that's true. I would say the one thing I'm guilty of judging people for is if they have the means, and the means isn't just financial. The means is the ability based on their family situation, obviously financial, work situation. You know, sometimes there's mental health reasons that prevent people from traveling. I'm not judging that. But if someone really has the means they just choose not to go out there and see the world at all, oh I struggle with that one.
Casey Wright 17:00
No, but the tips are get the heck out there and see the world. I get asked all the time by clients, "Hey, my son, my daughter, is going off to college, what do you recommend? What's the hottest major to study right now? I think a lot of that's overrated. And you know, there's certain degrees you need for certain fields for sure. I mean, finance and accounting is what I've specialized in. Obviously, accounting and finance degrees are going to help with that. But there's a lot, a lot of jobs out there where the degree matters minimally. But when they get out there and see the world, go study abroad. That's what I tell them. So as far as my favorite place, you know, I've been to 49 states now. Hawaii is my 50th. We were supposed to...
Alana Muller 17:35
Casey Wright 17:36
Yeah, we were supposed to go there for Thanksgiving this year. But, you know, obviously, thoughts and prayers go out to everybody in Maui, what they're dealing with, because that's where we're going. So that trip has obviously been canceled. I would say internationally, probably Cape Town, South Africa might be my favorite. My wife and I spent about a month there a handful of years ago. Absolutely loved everything about it. Domestically, I've done a lot of the national parks, I think Glacier National Park up in northern Montana is my favorite.
Casey Wright 18:03
Pull the Band-Aid off, though, and get out there and see it. I've got lots of friends, we've got an extended travel group of about realistically about 30 or 40 people that if the email goes out, “what are you doing eight, nine months from now?” There's a whole bunch of them who are going to respond, and we travel at the same pace. We just took a trip to Belize with a bunch of these folks, have been to Ireland, been to a bunch of places with them. But many of them had not traveled hardly at all until, you know, their late 20s, early 30s. And I didn't travel much as a kid. I didn't, we didn't have the means to and you know, we did some domestic stuff, but some road trips. But as I got older, I started to get a taste for it. And I know very, very, very few people that have gone on a cool trip to an impressive destination that hasn't gotten the itch and just jumped in feet first. So pull the Band-Aid off and just do it.
Alana Muller 18:48
Love it, I'm with you 100%. So fabulous. Well, there's one question that I ask every guest and so I have to ask you as well. If you could meet and have coffee with one person it could be anybody, fictional, nonfictional, living, not living, who would it be? And why?
Casey Wright 19:03
One person to have coffee with… Could we make it a beer?
Alana Muller 19:09
Yes, 100%. And I have to tell you, my own little secret is I don't drink coffee. So I don't care what's in the cup. You pick, it can absolutely be a beer.
Casey Wright 19:19
I feel like I should have some more profound answer than that, than I do. You know, I think I've said this before to this question. So I'll repeat it. I think Jimi Hendrix is the greatest musician of all time, and just such a different person. I would love to see what's going on in that genius's mind. As far as living, I really love seeing Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal play off each other. So if ever a couple of beers to rib each other and talk sports, I would say those two would be at the top of the list.
Alana Muller 19:51
Okay, so fun. It's so fun. I have to be a fly on the wall of that conversation. That would be great.
Casey Wright 19:56
All sorts of politicians and religious leaders and business executives, there's much deeper answers there. But those are the ones that are coming to the top of my head right now.
Alana Muller 20:06
Those are really good. Well, it has been such a delight to visit with you. Casey Wright, where can our listeners go to learn more about you and about Chief of Staff KC?
Casey Wright 20:14
Yeah, just ChiefofStaffKC.com. There's links to all of our socials on there. We've got social media pages for pretty much all the platforms and don't be a stranger. Hit me up on LinkedIn or whatever. I'm happy to meet new people. And like I said, if you're a good person, I'd love to talk to you.
Alana Muller 20:31
Fabulous, Casey Wright. Thanks for being on Enterprise.ing podcast.
Casey Wright 20:34
Thanks a lot Alana, really appreciate it.
Alana Muller 20:37
Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website, enterprisebank.com/podcast, to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders, one conversation at a time.
Alana Muller 21:01
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