Jon Osborne's Blog

Where there is distress, there is opportunity

Business is in the business of solving other people's problems.  Case in point: years ago staffing entrepreneurs took note of corporate short-term labor needs and over the last few decades built the entire $75 billion temporary staffing industry as a solution to that problem. 

But pain points can come and go sometimes, and no one knows that better than firms currently operating in the healthcare staffing segment. 

Whereas hospitals once were desperate for temporary nurses to fill gaps in staffing, in today's economy their need for temporary nurses has sharply diminished, as full-time nurses are taking more hours. 

Now, many temporary nurse staffing firms are like super-heroes in a city where crime has vanished, sitting on a park bench, stunned to find that they are no longer needed.

Message to stunned super-heroes: arise, your skills are still wanted.  There are still pain points out there, just different ones.

At our recent Healthcare Staffing Summit, I heard from staffing firms that were continuing to do a good business in many allied niches, such as physical and occupational therapy, pharmacy and speech pathology (occupations for which the skill shortage remains severe).  And even within otherwise beleaguered nurse staffing, there was a consensus that direct hire is alive and well -- hospitals may be down on temporary nurses right now, but they still need help recruiting full-time workers.  And it hardly needs to be said that locums is doing well.

Even on the buyer side there is opportunity for the skills of staffing firm operators, albeit as an employee rather than as a business owner.  One of the buyers attending the conference had once worked at a major staffing firm and was hired, because of his staffing firm skills, to run the internal contingent labor pool at a hospital. 

But the bottom line isn't just that there are specific opportunities out there.  The people who know about these are doing one thing in common: they are, "as though moved by an invisible hand," making an effort to know the pain points of their customers. 

So don't forget what got you into this business in the first place -- to solve someone else's problems, at a profit.  If those problems have gone away, seek new ones.

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