Originally published in Staffing Success Magazine (May-Jun 2006)
By Mark Hersberger
There’s trouble, right here in Staffing City, because ASA board member Mark Toth has a guitar, and he (almost) knows how to use it. And he sings—though that term can be liberally applied. “I’ve got no musical talent, and I sing like a frog,” admits the Manpower chief legal officer, chief compliance officer, and vice president of franchise relations for North American operations.
Singing like a frog may be OK in a family band composed of his wife Christina, and 14-year old twins Ryan and Bailey, but how would it play for a live audience of Manpower employees and franchisees? Toth and some colleagues formed a band that made its debut at a recent annual conference.
Manpower vice president of North American sales and operations Michael Ford explains the group’s origins: “I really wanted to get everyone organizationwide involved in sales. So I came up with the idea for a band, and got Mark involved because I knew he was also a musician. He suggested some blues songs with the lyrics adapted to selling, and our name: the Schmooze Brothers. We started asking around and found enough other musicians at Manpower willing to participate and then played before 500 people at the meeting in Las Vegas. The crowd went crazy, and what was expected to be a one-time thing is still going because everyone said we couldn’t stop.”
The group also played at a rebranding event, and hopes to stay intact for future gigs. Toth has aspirations to compete in a corporate battle of the bands. “People have been wildly enthusiastic about it,” he says, “and it’s enjoyable to poke fun at ourselves.”
For those who know Toth, a playful demeanor is part of his personality. “Mark is very jovial, and extremely funny,” says Ford. “He could have been a comedian in another life. For someone with a very serious job, he knows how to incorporate humor at the appropriate time. But Mark is also a trustworthy individual with high standards, and he’s very committed to the success of our business.”
Legal Liability and Levity
Perhaps Toth could have been a real-life Schoomze Brother, rather than just a part-timer. “I have a real love for people,” he answers in response to several questions, such as what motivates him and what he likes about the staffing industry. Instead of pursuing sales or politics—two schmooze-heavy, people-friendly professions—he went to law school. Yet his interest for human relations led him to specialize in employment law.
“Earlier in my career I was doing drier types of law, which bored me, so I looked for areas that let me interact with people.” That phase of his career included a stint at a major law firm in San Diego, where he and Christina moved after college graduation and where the twins were born.
The sun, sand, and surf did not suit the pair as they thought it might, and the pull of family ties guided them back to their native Wisconsin. “We couldn’t wait to leave Wisconsin,” he explains, “but three years later we realized it was home. We found that we appreciated it a lot more once we got back. Plus, Wisconsin is a very humorous state,” he adds.
Toth started working in employment law in Milwaukee, and joined Manpower in 2000. “If you’re a people person, what better industry is there to work in?” he muses on the staffing industry. “It’s pretty rare to find an industry that focuses exclusively on people. I love having such a positive impact on people’s lives.”
The diversity of Toth’s position exposes him to many facets of Manpower’s operations, including business development, franchise relations, and legal affairs. He enforces legal compliance at Manpower, and he urges all staffing companies to be equally vigilant.
“One rogue company could bring us all down,” he warns. “Not only can you expose your company and clients to risk, but bad practices expose the entire staffing industry to risk.”
Toth cites helping firms follow the law and remain ethical as one of his most important roles on the ASA board of directors. He says he’s “impressed by the depth and quality” of the ASA Certified Staffing Professional™ and Technical Services Certified™ programs, and he has led Staffing World workshops and InterAction Webinars related to employment law.
To those presentations, he brings the same free spirit that keeps things loose at the office. “We try to have fun, even if ‘legal affairs’ and ‘fun’ create a paradox. As a profession, lawyers take things way too seriously, so I want to make work fun and engaging and never take myself too seriously.”
All in the Family
Mark and Christina met as undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin. Christina described Mark as a “groupie” of a local band, and the pair went to many concerts.
Years later, as the twins’ interest in music evolved, son Ryan acquired a drum set while daughter Bailey took up bass guitar. Then Mark taught himself electric guitar through studying how-to books and videos.
A home recording studio was installed, and Mark and the kids now compose songs for Christina’s classes (she’s a Spanish teacher) and their own amusement. “It’s kind of like a midlife crisis band,” quips Toth, “but it’s nice to have creative outlets.” The studio also plays host to the Schmooze Brothers’ jam sessions.
If not a lawyer, Toth could envision himself as a minister. “Mark is very servant-hearted,” notes Christina. “He strives to be a good role model by treating people how he would like to be treated.”
The family is active in its church, with the Toths hosting Bible study groups, and naturally a church band made up of a dozen junior and high school-aged kids. The Toths are also involved in the administration of a nondenominational Christian academy where they send their kids, and appreciate the values it instills and the diversity it offers.
“I keep telling the kids how blessed they are to have Mark,” Christina explains. “He’s so devoted to his family that I feel like the luckiest wife in the world because what he likes to do in his free time is do stuff with us.”