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Tom Daley: On Passion, Perfection, and Prudence

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN STAFFING SUCCESS MAGAZINE (MARCH-APRIL 2005)

By Luanne Crayton

“This is perfect,” Tom Daley said to himself shortly after starting a job in accounting with Volt Services Group in Orange, CA. It was just what he wanted: a position with a company in a service industry.

“I knew what staffing was, but wasn’t that familiar with the industry,” says Daley, now Volt’s senior vice president. What makes it perfect in Daley’s eyes? The people, he says: “The ‘high-touch’ with employees, co-workers, and customers.”

Today, after 25 years with the company, “I’m just as excited to come into work, if not more so, than in the past.”

Daley believes the key to success is drive and enthusiasm. “You need to be organized and have knowledge in the proper skill sets, but most important is a passion for what you’re doing,” he says.

His passion is evident to those around him. “Tom is an extremely hard worker,” says Jerry Shaw, who founded Volt with his brother in 1950. “He comes to work very early and gets a head start on the day.”

Shaw notes that Daley’s love of both the operations and the people in the staffing business is apparent. On the operations side, Shaw says, “As a certified public accountant, Tom is very knowledgeable and efficient with reports, figures, and numbers. He’s extremely sharp in using facts in drawing conclusions.” And when it comes to people, Shaw says, “He treats everyone fairly and evenly. He’s a leader in the company who has gained respect from every department.”

Cheaper, Better, Faster

“Our customers are saying they want ‘cheaper, better, faster,'” Daley says. “It’s what keeps us up at night.”
To meet these customer demands without falling into the commodity trap, you’ve got to be efficient—an area where Daley excels. “Tom is unbelievable in using his time extremely efficiently,” says Shaw.

With Daley in charge of operations, it’s no wonder Volt is a Six Sigma company. More common among manufacturers than service providers, Six Sigma is a business methodology designed to maximize a company’s performance by eliminating the mistakes and service disruptions that undermine customer loyalty.

In Volt’s case, the objective is to achieve near perfection in the delivery of staffing services. The company’s Six Sigma program focuses on four key areas: effective initial response to customers, enhanced employee experience, efficient customer service, and the use of cutting-edge tools and technology.

“Near perfection” may sound more like fantasy than reality, because the one thing that makes staffing so appealing—the human element—is the very thing that can drive a staffing professional to distraction.

“When you’re dealing with people, there are many places for potential failure,” Daley observes.

But the beauty of Six Sigma is that it provides for data-driven decisions, he explains. “It’s a statistical system to align our processes with the needs and desires of the customer, to reduce cycle time, to basically do it right the first time. It’s based on data, not gut feelings.”

So far, Six Sigma is working for Volt. “After nearly three years, the results have been phenomenal,” Daley says. “We’re ecstatic that we went this route. It’s one of our key strategic initiatives.”

On the Go

“They needed a coach, so I raised my hand,” says Daley, explaining how he ended up coaching his son’s seventh- and eighth-grade basketball team.
Daley’s longtime love of the sport, his operations and people skills as a staffing professional, and the talent and passion of the players made the team a formidable opponent on the court. It went undefeated the first two years.

Not one to walk away from winning, Daley says, “After that, I got the bug and didn’t want to quit.”

He stayed on as coach, even after his son moved on to high school. You’ll still find him on the basketball hardwood three days a week for seven or eight months out of the year.

When he’s not on the court, he’s on a bicycle. Daley cycles 50 to 100 miles a week with a racing club—a “big pack of 50-plus riders,” as he describes it.

Daley and his wife take one week out of every summer to enjoy a 400-mile ride. The treks have covered ground in numerous states, including California, Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. His favorites so far: the beautiful mountains of Colorado, and a Civil War tour in Pennsylvania and Virginia, which he says was “neat from a historical perspective.”

Protect Your Assets

Volt Services Group has been a member of the American Staffing Association for more than 25 years, and Daley has served on the ASA board of directors since 2002. He views ASA membership as an insurance policy of sorts.
“Your company is your asset,” he says, “and you need to protect your asset with the legislative advocacy that ASA provides—it’s a must for your business. Adverse legislation could affect the industry and your business. To ignore that is not prudent. It’s like not taking out insurance.”

But membership is about more than paying dues, Daley points out. “Hand-in-hand with having the insurance policy is taking proactive steps to protect your business and the industry.”

“It’s real easy to begin: Join your local ASA-affiliated chapter,” he advises. “Chapters have a structure in place to monitor and act on proposed legislation, and chapter leaders will guide you in grassroots action.”

The next step is to attend Capitol Hill Day, the ASA annual government relations conference, May 18 in Washington, DC.

“Go meet with legislators to let them know who we are as an industry: We’re the jobs people. We need to touch as many people as we can to let them know the good that we do for the economy, the country, and people,” Daley says.

“ASA can’t do it alone—the association can’t hire enough people. We need to be involved.”

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