We get calls on a weekly basis from business men and women interested in starting a healthcare staffing agency. Our first question is always, why? And this is usually followed up by one of two answers: One, “I’ve heard you can make a lot of money,” or two, “I’ve been in the industry as a traveler, worked at a staffing firm, or own a staffing firm and want to diversify.” We usually follow this up with, “Tell me what you currently know about the industry and how you think we can help you.” It’s so cute to hear all the whimsical and unrealistic responses. It’s like talking to a green recruiter on their first day of work. So precious!
The truth is, whether you’re already working in this industry or looking to start an agency, this job is tough and owning an agency, or any business for that matter, is not for the faint of heart. Here’s what we’ve learned and why most will fail.
1. Like Rihanna says, “Work, work, work, work, work.” If you’re not willing to commit 80 hours per week for the next few years and be on the phone 90% of that time recruiting and hustling to get contracts with facilities, fuhgeddaboudit. Owning a business means running the day-to-day operations AND finding healthcare professionals to fill open job orders. It’s a juggling act, but you don’t make money unless people get to work. Owning a business isn’t glamorous. The successful “start-ups” that you hear about in our industry and in others took years in the making! They didn’t happen overnight.
2. Starting a business takes lots and lots of money! If being in debt and having to live off of the minimum essentials stresses you out, turn back now! If you expected to jump in feet-first and start making money right away…you’re delusional. Everything in the travel healthcare staffing industry takes time and everything you do now won’t pay off for at least 3-6 months. That’s a long and stressful time to wait while you’re dipping into the negative and taking out business loans until you can get travelers working and get those invoices paid (which will likely take anywhere from 30-90 days).
3. Having industry experience may be helpful, but it doesn’t mean diddly-squat. If you build it, they will NOT come. Whether you’re a traveler, former employer of a healthcare staffing firm, or own a successful per diem or other type of staffing firm, travel healthcare staffing is unlike any other staffing industry. While the sales cycle may remain the same, the steps within those cycles are very different. For example, with per diem, there’s no real push for relationship building like there is with travel healthcare staffing. Per diem nurses, for example, are called on for one or two shifts here and there and there’s no real focus on retention. It is also “quick money” (but minimal at best) as the shifts need to be filled immediately, often the same day or within a few hours. In travel healthcare, however, the relationship between healthcare professional and recruiter is a key component and if you don’t have a strong group of recruiters who excel at this and don't have ownership who is patient enough to let them see it through, it can be a recipe for disaster. Having experience as a traveler or as a former healthcare staffing recruiter and having friends who travel doesn’t mean they are all going to start traveling with you because you start your own agency. Travelers are smart; they see the risk. You won’t have the job opportunities or competitive benefits to offer them.
If you’re going to start a healthcare staffing firm, you’ve got to have a lot of guts, especially in today’s market. It isn’t easy! But if you are willing to put in the time and do the work, in a few years, you’ll begin to reap the rewards. There’s no such thing as an overnight success!