How Brands are Built with NextPath Career Partners' James Hawley

July 28, 2021 | Episode 4

James Hawley of NextPath CP is this week’s guest, and he’s here to talk about how people can find a better kind of job and recruiting tools that help people find a position that’s a great position for them, not just a convenient option. 

Eric talks with James about how he got into the business of finding people’s perfect match jobs, how he built his business and found success doing it. Eric goes back to his favorite theme for Becoming Legends, the origin story, and how Bruce Wayne became Batman, or in this case, how James Hawley became NextPath CP. 

This is really a great podcast for business owners to tune into, not just because of the inspiration of James’s story, but because of the insight he has into the market and how you can start to build an incredible business culture. 

Plus, he’ll talk about finding those hidden gem workers who aren’t just good at the job, but who also help push you and your company forward. 

Of course, one of the special things about James Hawley is that NextPath CP isn’t his first successful business in this field. He and his partner have turned around and took the best parts of their previous business and carried them into NextPath CP. 

Plus, learn a little about how NextPath CP has survived the pandemic and doubled their income in a single year, despite having only been founded a year before the COVID-19 completely changed the jobs market and recruiting industry. 

James really focuses on how brand reputation is critical, especially in moments of business crisis. 


Eric: All right. And we are back on Becoming Legends. I’m your host Eric Grundhoefer. With me today is James Hawley of NextPath CP. You can find him at James, thank you so much for being with us. I really, really appreciate it. Please tell the audience who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

James: Yeah. Hey, Eric, good to see you. Thanks for having me. Yeah, so I’m, basic terms, a recruiter. Most people kind of know what that is, kind of a broker, a middle person that, in essence, helps companies and individuals find each other. You know, most stats out there, people are pretty miserable in their jobs. A lot of people graduated from college, they don’t really know what they want to be. And so we fall into some jobs and a lot of times it doesn’t match, and so what we do is we try and really find those hidden gems, find the opportunity that a candidate wants that they’re going to be able to excel in their career. And then vice versa; help a company that can’t grow without the right individual. We go out and find that person and bring them together. So, really professional matchmaking at its best. That’s what we do.

Eric: That’s amazing. No, I absolutely love that. So, how would you get started? So, I see that you’ve been open since 2018, and I’m just curious of how — did you used to do this prior and then you know, you kind of jumped on, and were like I’m going to do my own. That’s kind of how I started seven years ago. And I was just like, I’m sick of these guys. I’m going to go for myself now. And then I would love to hear the come-up story. One of my favorite things to do on this podcast specifically for anyone that’s listening, any entrepreneur is like everyone wants to know how Bruce Wayne became Batman, like really, everyone. Like, that’s the story right? So, I want to know how you became what you are today, how the company became what it is today, and what the thought process that led you there.

James: Yeah, the origin, right, the [crosstalk] prequel.

Eric: Yeah, origin story. Yeah. 

James: We know this movie, what happened before it became popular. 

Eric: Yeah, exactly. 

James: Yeah, so same thing, you know, similar. Every entrepreneur figures I can do this better, right, myself. And so my partner and I actually worked at a billion dollar company, staffing company. We helped them gross an office and he was a veteran already when I met him. So, Dan Rodriguez who’s based in Tampa, Florida, he basically came together, myself and a couple others and said, hey, let’s go out and do this. So, this was pre-NextPath, so our current company, we built a company called Veritas. And that business was completely bootstrapped, 100% our own. I was 29 at the time, and went out and decided, hey, I’ve got some experience. I want to build this with you. And so we did it all on our own. We grew that company from zero to over 100 million in annual revenue, we had 1,000 employees. 

In essence we were in the top 30 as far as recruitment firms in the nation and we did that all organically, no outside funding, all ourselves. So, we built that up. And so in essence, we had an exit in 2014 and had an opportunity to kind of help the business transition. And then in 2018, pretty much said, “Man, I’m ready to do it again. How about you?” And Dan and a couple other partners, we brought on Gina and Ashley and Stephanie, we all said hey let’s sign up for this and so went back to ground zero. Bootstrapped it all. And last few years have been building up. It’s about a $5 million business today. But that’s double from last year and will double again this year.

Eric: Amazing. That’s absolutely amazing. Yeah, I love that. So, this is the second time around. So, it worked so well the first time you were just like let’s do it again.

James: Exactly. We had that recipe, we had that like this works. We know customers want to buy it. And so you know, we’ve changed a few things. You learn from your mistakes, you take the positives, and then you build on the best stuff. And that’s what we did with this version. And so yeah, we’re enjoying the ride. It’s been a fun journey. COVID last year and year before being a startup, it’s been quite different experiences this go-round from the previous one. But I wouldn’t change it. It’s been awesome.

Eric: That’s absolutely amazing, especially since you’re doubling business every year, like you said, especially through the pandemic. That’s absolutely amazing just to see and continue that growth. So, I’ve heard everything from, you know, a couple different people in different industries everywhere. I’ve heard other marketing companies go, we had to shut the doors, or we almost shut the doors. Like myself, it was almost that kind of scenario. Like the second anything happened, everyone dropped marketing. But then I’ve also heard people like, an attorney, friend of mine was like, 2020 was the best year I’ve ever had in my entire life. And I was like, wow.

James: Don’t say that too loudly, right?

Eric: I was like, okay. Like, that’s pretty crazy. He’s like I know. I don’t know what’s happening. This is insane. 

James: I don’t want to paint like a rosy picture. I mean, when the world stopped last March, I mean, it was a oh-crap moment. This is like nothing in my 25 years of business I’ve ever seen before. I mean, nobody has. It was unprecedented. But the world stopped turning. And of course, hiring, like, who’s hiring? The reality was people were trying to just save their jobs at that point. So, quite honestly your topic, right, your audience saw about brand reputation, right. So, this was a perfect opportunity where we had a chance to either go with the flow, and all of our competitors, everybody across the board was, in essence, downsizing. They were letting people go. Because when you got no revenue coming in, you can’t just — we’re not charity, you know, we’re nonprofit. We’re going concern. 

So, the reality was, that’s actually when we doubled down and we committed to our team. Hey, the world looks like it’s ending. It’s okay. It’ll pass. Like, we know that. All bad things do. So, we said, you know what, you don’t need to have anxiety or stress right now. There’s enough going on in the world, your job is 100% safe. So, we laid zero people off, we told everybody their job was safe. And if this thing was going to last a year, we were going to float payroll for a year. We absolutely made that commitment. And so what happened was, it put everyone’s mind at ease, and realized they weren’t going to suddenly have the key not work on Monday morning, right, virtually to be able to get in. And they knew the paycheck was going to be there. And so that helped us internally build our brand, and then that spread rumors and people out there talking going, wow, do you hear about this company, NextPath, what they’re doing right now? And in essence, it worked. 

And then we actually started hiring people through last summer, knowing that this is going to end. And when it does, we want to be right on the starting, the pole position. We want to be right on the front because that’s what we did previously in our last company through the 08 financial crisis, was we actually hired instead of downsizing. So, we took the same playbook and we ran it again. And the play worked and we came out. In August we were hitting records, and then the first half of this year has just been exploding with growth right now.

Eric: I absolutely love that. And then — so I mean you guys built then you guys got a great reputation. Like you said, word of mouth, your reputation was strong throughout the industry in the area of Orlando and Tampa, and people wanted to — I think that that’s amazing and it says a lot about you guys too, which is just absolutely — Like, the fact that you would even — you’re just like, hey, no matter what happens you guys are good. And I know a lot of people that were super stressed during that time. So, to have that and that verbal job security I think would have done so much for so many people if other CEOs and founders could have done that. You know what I mean? So, my hat’s off to you guys like that’s absolutely amazing. Now [crosstalk]

James: Our financial planners looked at us like what are you doing?

Eric: What are you guys doing? Are you sure? Are you sure we’re going to be the good guys here?

James: Exactly, was like sanity check.

Eric: Yeah, exactly. So, the random question, kind of, but directly related to what you just said. My mind immediately went over to when the pandemic hit and there was a lot of people not hiring at the time. Did anyone hire and specifically asked you guys to help fill the need for virtual? Because I know that that was a jump over for a lot of businesses now that are absolutely like it’s hilarious to me because a lot of them are like, wow, we could have just been doing this the whole time. And now they have the systems in place. But is that something that people came to you and asked to hire for like if they had a certain position that was at their job, and they wanted to make that position, but virtual but didn’t know how to go about it? Did you get any of that stuff going on?

James: No, we definitely did. Yeah, the forced virtual, the forced work from home, yeah. No, there was. And a lot of it was, to your point, it was the processes, procedures. How we do what we’ve done in an office, but now virtualize it So, a lot of it was consultative, clients coming to us and saying, hey, how do we make this work? How do we pay people, right? Because if you’re used to paying people in Tampa, Florida, and now suddenly you’re hiring somebody that’s in California, New York, Texas, there’s different laws, regulations, different workers comp, all kinds of moving parts that you’ve got to know what they are. And so ultimately, we help them walk through that for sure. 

And then the other part was, it really opened up some businesses that had always been in-house only, must be local. It opened their eyes to remote, not only can work, but it can actually be the answer in a lot of cases. So, for instance, we do a lot of technology developers. So, a developer isn’t probably your most social person in the world, they like to talk to a computer more than people. And so developers, to be able to get remote, it opened up a boatload of opportunities to where a client was looking just in their local market. And now all of a sudden, we said, hey, you have the entire US population that you now have access to. And so we were able to actually get better people than they’d ever seen before, simply because we were able to actually go to Louisville, Kentucky to find that perfect person. But that never was on the radar, because they didn’t live in their hometown. So, yeah, it really changed the game for sure.

Eric: Expanding a lot. Yeah. Sorry, I know that again, like kind of random, but that’s right where my mind went was like, oh, I wonder if he did this. So, that’s really cool. So, as far as hiring, and all that stuff, for people listening, for even entrepreneurs starting out that are trying to scale their business. And every hire as you know, when you’re starting is like, it’s very imperative that you’re doing the right thing. You know, that you’re making those right hires. You obviously want them to last, you want people to grow with, and things like that. So, what are your tips for those people and entrepreneurs that are just starting out and trying to grow as big as you have and in as much time as you have? Like, what are you looking for in people during those first couple months of business, and when you are hiring and trying to grow?

James: Yeah. No, I mean, it’s challenging, right? Because every environment is going to be different, expectations are different, requirements are different — [crosstalk]

Eric: [inaudible 00:12:31] treated as well too, obviously.

James: Yeah, exactly. So, you’re right, it is scary as hell when you are only responsible for you. You know, at the end of the day, if you’re a sole proprietor, you’re probably maybe not even paying yourself. And then all of a sudden, you have this overhead, this cost, this new employee, and you don’t want to burn cycles, right? I mean, that’s probably your savings, it’s how you’re putting food on the table. So, it is, it’s super scary. I think just due diligence, making sure that you’re doing the right stuff upfront to identify the right person is huge. We work with startups who work with small companies, entrepreneurs that only have one or two employees. And they’re looking for that next hire. I mean, we’re not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll be the first one to say that we’re a premium service. And if somebody is really strapped for cash, and they want to try and go just a toe in the water with hiring someone, then we’re not the best option. But what I recommend to those businesses is to build your brand outside the company. 

So, most companies focus on building a marketing brand, so their clients, their customers to bring in business. My recommendation is you need a hiring brand. And you can get that very simply by putting your story out, putting that together. But why would someone want to come work for you? And then that attraction should get like-minded individuals that love your purpose, love your mission, your story, and they’re bought in. And maybe they’re willing to come over for a little bit of skin in the game, right? A little bit of like equity, and they could put some sweat in, and maybe they’re not going to cost you as much. So, that’s an option as well. YIf you get somebody who’s actually going to row in the same direction and put some of their money on the table through effort and work, that could be a win-win, could be a great solution to someone.

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. I like what you said too. And it’s something that I have my clients do when we’re talking about a strategy on social media or the internet in general. So, we focus on two things when it comes to social media, really. It’s infotainment, so I always — it’s information and entertainment mixed together. So, you’re providing value in some form like that. And that’s a couple different variations of a lot of different pieces of content. So, whether it’s video, audio, written pictures, whatever. And then the other half though, is company culture. So, we’re not just going, Hey, buy our stuff and do this or that, right? It’s like you’re teaching someone about exactly what you do similar to how you are right now. 

And then the other half of your social strategy is showing off company culture and showing that why do you want to work here to attract people, to make people know that this is the place to be, if you’re looking for that type of work. You know what I mean? And obviously, people like to see people. So, when people are on LinkedIn and they see happy employees, they’re like, you’re naturally going to kind of gravitate to that. And those are the type of things that we’re trying to teach our clients to do and the type of content that they should create.

James: Yeah, being authentic, genuine, and real, right? Yeah. Not the manufactured stuff that a lot of people put out there. I mean, people know right through it, they can see the BS, and they’re like, no, no. That’s canned. Like, come on. Be real. Which means you got to be vulnerable, you got to make some mistakes, you got to actually put things out there that are not perfect. And that’s okay. Yeah, I mean, to me, I mean, if I look back on kinda like we built a really good brand with Veritas, our first business, and I think about what were those keys to our success. To me, it takes a long time to build a brand. So, number one, it’s like, you got to really work hard, and protect it like gold, in my mind, because one action could literally tear the whole thing down, right? So, like a house of cards, because most people remember the bad stuff. They don’t always remember the good stuff, right? And so to me, that’s critical. 

The other thing is embrace when bad things happen. Like, we talked about last year, I mean, the pandemic hit. I mean, we didn’t have any control over that. I mean, that was a mess to deal with. But the reality is, we took it and we said, okay, this is a crisis. This is an issue for all of our employees. How do we fix it? Right? And so even with clients, nothing’s going to be perfect, right? You’re going to maybe mess up an account once or twice in your lifetime. And so part of it is, okay, things happen, right? That is natural. What did you do to fix it and solve it? And to me, that’s actually where brands are built. 

When I have a bad experience at a hotel, I don’t expect everything to be perfect. But when that bad experience, and they jump all over it, and they make things not only right, but they make the experience 10 times better and I’m, like, blown away, I remember that for the rest of my life. And I’m loyal to that brand. So, I feel like people run away from mistakes. I actually think solving problems and mistakes that do come up and fixing them the right way, is a great way as an entrepreneur to build your brand much faster, better that will run the course versus just, again, trying to be perfect. Does that make sense?

Eric: Exactly. No, 100%. I love that. I absolutely love that. And it’s one thing that I preach as a boss, and a manager of my team is, it kind of falls in the category of you have to own your mistakes too. Like, I don’t want anyone to be perfect. But I was like, Listen, if I said — One of my speeches that I give is basically verbatim of what you just said. So, I absolutely love that.

James: Did I just steal it? Did I just rip you off? 

Eric: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Is it out there? Is it on YouTube right now? So, I’m basically just telling them, you’re going to mess up. Everyone does. I’ve messed up. I’ve accidentally scheduled the wrong person’s content in my early days of doing this on the scheduling platform that we have. So, I had a pest control company video go out on an attorney client that I had. And I was like, “Oh, my God, what did I just do?” So, the main thing here, and the message that I just got across from that too, is like, you have to own it. You have to go, that’s mine. Like, I’m sorry. And this is what I’m going to do to make it better, just like you said, the hotel analogy. I’ve had so many companies — I’m working with a meal prep company right now they’re not my client, I’m theirs. And so they were messing up our meals and I count my macros every single day. So, my proteins, my carbs, and my fats. And they kept sending me the wrong meals according to the sheet that they gave and they were mismatching and then I had meals missing. 

So, when I input it in there, and I’m missing meals, it throws my entire day off when I’m trying to juggle all these numbers and all these meals. And I just reached out and I was very nice, like I never jumped down anyone’s throat or get like — I don’t ever do it in an entitled way. Like, oh my God, look what you did to me. I’m just like, hey, I’m sorry to bother you. Like, I’ll just give you a heads up, this was wrong. Can we just try to make sure next time that doesn’t happen? I appreciate it. And the girl just made 15 to 20 like, yeah, but and try to cover it up and do all these different things. And their food’s great, but that was such a turn off to the service that I was like, why couldn’t she just say, I’m sorry, it’ll never happen again, and then put things in place to make sure that it never happened again? So, like,  [crosstalk] own your mistake.

James: Yeah, you wanted her to actually own it.

Eric: Yeah, exactly. I just want — And it wasn’t even like, I don’t — I’m not finger pointing. I’m not playing the blame game. I don’t care who did it. I just wanted her to go, like, I’m sorry. I’ll fix it. Like, we’ll make it better moving forward. But it was fifth, it was like literally five to 10. Like, yeah, but I think that this was just the reason why this happened and this happened and then this happened. So, you’re reading it wrong. And then at one point, she tried to make me feel stupid, and I was like, hey, listen, I’ve been counting macros for the last six years. You’re not going to ever outdo me on your little, you know, trying to fix this situation up. So, it was just weird, and it just made me think of that. But yeah, you got to own your mistakes. And then being a boss, this kind of plays into the message, like, I was saying, I was delivering ads to my employees, you work for them. Like, that’s really at the end of the day, what it is. So, it’s like, I’ve made mistakes, too. How can I help you be better and not make those mistakes in the future?

James: I’m telling my team all the time, actually, they get a little annoyed, but I’ll say like, what was the last mistake that you made? Because if you’re not making mistakes, you’re actually not trying. You’re not out of your comfort zone, you’re not actually growing or pushing yourself. Like, comfort and complacency is a bad thing. Right? You know, you want to keep getting better. And so, yeah, mistakes — Again, mistakes happen, how did you handle it? What did you do to help fix it? To me, that’s the name of the game. And the other thing, too, what’s interesting is, I’ve had some of my best clients, I actually, we’ve not made the most placements with them, you’d think, oh that client sings our praises. They’re absolutely in awe of us. You would think that we were sometimes their number one vendor, and sometimes we weren’t, because maybe we weren’t as big, we just didn’t have the bandwidth of delivery. 

But what’s amazing is it comes down to people want to know that you’re working hard for them, that you have their back. And I found, in my experience, that that’s all about managing expectations. If I expect things to be up here, then ultimately, I’m probably going to let you down, right, if that’s the expectation. But if you go into every engagement, every sale, every whatever, and the expectations are not as high, and you can over deliver, over perform, but what they want is they want to know that you’re working hard. And even if you don’t have the right outcomes, it’s not perfect, they see how much you care. And I’ve had so many clients recommend, refer us, and we’ve built brand. 

But again, we weren’t maybe number one on a stat sheet, but we were number one, when it came to, they knew that we had their back, and they knew how hard we were working and that we were out working the rest of their vendors. And that’s powerful. Because I think a lot of times people measure success purely off the analytics. And this is where data doesn’t tell the story. I think brand reputation is really built off emotions. It’s EQ right? It’s how you feel. It’s not actually on a stat sheet. It doesn’t show up there. And I think that’s a big mistake people make.

Eric: Absolutely. See, I love this conversation because it’s everything that I’m honestly all about. I always tell everyone they’re like oh my God, like — I was like I’m not smart. I’m just not. Like, I’ll own it. I’m not the guy that’s going to sit here and read a textbook and then be able to spit statistics out. I was like, but my EQ is just — it’s so high and that alone has guided every single move that I make. So, I absolutely love that, and I absolutely agree that that is how brands are built. Some of my — not my best clients but they’ve stayed with me for the last five years I’ve had someone for marketing — some clients for marketing, and it’s incredible. Because are we getting good results? Some campaigns are harder than others, it depends on what their budget is, what they’re doing, yada, yada. 

But the thing is they like me. They know we work hard for them and they know we care. They know that when they text us at 09:00 PM because they got to get something up the next day that we’re going to make it happen for them. So, I absolutely agree. I love that message. Your brand, it’s all about how other people perceive you. It really is. It’s not as much as it is on paper. But paper and the internet and stuff does help for those that are listening right now. So, if you have five bad reviews on Google, people are still going to probably not think that you’re very good. And you can’t really use the, but that’s just on paper. 

James: True, true. Yes. Yeah. No, 100%. No, that’s a fair point. So, yeah. I mean, to me, it comes down to trust, right? You buy from people that you trust. We have relationships with people that we trust. Trust is the currency, to me, that matters more than anything else. If I don’t trust you, I’m not going to buy from you. I’m not going to have a relationship with you. Right? And so ultimately, it comes down to that, right? Which that’s something that you earn. You know, it’s not normally given for free, you’ve got to earn it.

Eric: I absolutely love that. Actually, I want to end that there because I think that that message, before I start to ramble on and on about nothing and just piggybacking off your amazing message — [crosstalk]

James: I want to hear about these macros, Eric. Talk to me about macros.

Eric: Let me know. Let me know if you need some macros. I can absolutely help you out. But for everyone that is listening, this James Hawley, NextPath. You can go find him at James, thank you so much for being here. I really, really appreciate it. And it was great chatting with you today.

James: Yes, it’s fun. Thanks, Eric. Appreciate it.Eric: Awesome.

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