Coaching Up
A continuous learning environment fuels growth

When Mark Simons launched The Goal in 2002, he wanted to avoid the sink-or-swim new hire induction processes and high-pressure work environments that had become cultural norms throughout the IT staffing industry.

To create the type of supportive, continuous learning atmosphere that attracts high-potential talent and fosters their professional growth, the founder and CEO of the Reston, Va.-based IT staffing and engineering firm wanted to simulate the personal coaching and side-by-side training regimens found in teaching hospitals. That means that on most days, you’ll find The Goal’s “coaching staff” working the phones, sharing tips and conducting on-the-fly situational role plays with employees, who call themselves “Goalies.”

“I never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself,” Simons explains.

“When I lead by example, it forces my leadership team out of their offices and onto the floor.”

To say that having engaged leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in is wildly popular with Goalies would be an understatement.

“I don’t feel like I have a boss,” says Harold Dill, senior technical recruiter. “I feel like I have a mentor because he’s in the trenches working with us.”

Managers aren’t the only ones doing the coaching at The Goal, according to Beth Farmer, managing director of business development.

Farmer says that consultants dispense specialized technical know-how during lunch-and-learn programs and visiting clients diagram data warehousing or business intelligence projects on white boards so Goalies can better understand the core requirements and the type of skills contractors need.

No one likes feeling uncomfortable, but it’s a big part of improving performance. So when inexperienced Goalies were reluctant to cold call or schedule face-to-face meetings with prospects, Simons and his leadership team taught them the ropes. Within a few months, “Generation Text” Goalies had mastered the old-school marketing methods and The Goal had doubled its client base.

“You could see the light bulbs come on as they achieved success,” Simons adds. “They bring the right attitude; we supply the rest.”

However, continuous education is only a small part of what makes The Goal a great place to work.

Real Balance

Many business executives say they support work-life balance, but few of them actually walk the talk. That’s not the case at The Goal, where Simons starts nudging Goalies toward the exit on the stroke of five.

One of the advantages of being a smaller staffing firm is flexibility, explains Business Development Manager Doug Cruz. Coaches are willing to accommodate personal commitments because they are more involved and staff members are treated in a more personal way.

“They’ve found a way to strike the right balance between pressure for results and support,” Cruz adds. “There’s no one harping at you or peering over your shoulder while you’re working. You have the time you need to develop relationships with prospects and turn them into clients.”

In a blame culture, punishment is meted out for making mistakes, while at The Goal, an error is a teachable moment. If a Goalie is struggling to meet their key performance indicators, the entire team rallies together and provides emotional support. Cruz adds that removing the fear of failure makes you welcome the opportunity to tackle a new challenge without feeling overwhelmed.

“We’re not just résumé slingers, we take the time to build relationships with our candidates,” Dill notes. “I’ve never felt like I needed to pressure a consultant into accepting a position. We encourage them to make a move that benefits their career.” Then there are the incentives, such as unlimited bonuses, open PTO policies and all-expenses-paid trips to president’s clubs and kick-off meetings. Feeling stressed out? Goalies have the luxury of stepping away from their desks and playing a game of foosball or shuffle board to help them chill out.

“The pressure for short-term results at big firms starts wearing you down after a while,” Cruz notes. “They’re a lot more patient here and generous too, and that makes everyone motivated to be the best they can be.”

There’s No “I” in Team

Although Goalies possess a healthy competitive spirit and desire to meet their personal goals, they always find time to help out a fellow teammate. In contrast, the cutthroat cultures at some other firms force employees to work in silos or hoard information. “We’re very involved in each other’s business and we actually celebrate each other’s successes,” Farmer explains.

For instance, experienced Goalies work alongside recent college grads on the sales floor. The veterans voluntarily help Goalies-in-training decipher complex technical requirements and become familiar with terms and acronyms. Since The Goal specializes in engineering, development, big data and project management positions, recruiters need the ability to present an opportunity in detail and explain why it is exceptional in order to establish credibility with highly sought-after candidates.

Having a diverse body of talent on the sales floor invites fresh ideas and perspectives as well as collaborative trouble shooting, but most importantly, it validates the notion that The Goal is a place where everyone works together and genuinely cares about each other. Camaraderie and teamwork are intangible assets that have helped propel the firm’s annual revenue to the mid-$30 million range.

“Our mentality is there’s more than enough business to go around, so we help each other out,” Farmer says. “Our unique approach softens the edges of a very sharp industry.”

The Power of Being the Best

What does being a “Best Staffing Firm to Work For” really mean? Does the accolade have a secret power? Yes. It’s called confidence. “It reinforces everything we’re doing,” Simons says. “It’s validation that you can have work-life balance and complete transparency and still be successful.”

Being the “best” is not only a confidence builder, it’s a key differentiator in a highly competitive industry like staffing. Whether they’re pursuing prospective clients, IT contractors or internal hires, Goalies can point to the firm’s winning culture with pride. “We don’t work with everyone,” Farmer explains. “Being one of the Best Staffing Firms to Work For gives me the confidence to explain who we are and what we stand for when speaking with prospective clients and to select the very best partners.” Goalies also say they are more likely to try new behaviors and achieve higher competence levels because they have unlimited opportunities for professional and financial growth.

And since having a clearly defined culture is the sign of an evolved company, coaches feel more confident about selecting culturally compatible new hires who want to be coached up. “There’s a ton of fake, manufactured cultures out there, but ours is genuine,” Simons says. “Mondays aren’t bad days here; people are having fun so they want to come into work.”

Most importantly, being fueled by a supportive, continuous learning culture gives Simons the confidence to predict that The Goal’s next wave of success is just around the corner. “I feel confident that I can take my eyes off the spreadsheet, focus on the business, and things won’t blow up,” Simons adds. “Now that we’ve exceeded $30 million in revenue, it’s time to move the goal posts again. We’ve set our sights on $50 million.”