Companies are like people. They come in all shapes and sizes. Their strengths and passions vary. Some are fiercely competitive; others just try to get by. They go through good times and bad. Some survive and thrive while others go by the wayside. The ones that survive use the lessons from bad times to make them stronger and the ones that don’t learn—well, the bad times do them in.

Like successful people, successful staffing and recruiting firms go through stages of growth. As newborns, they’re full of promise and potential. As toddlers, they fall down a lot, but always get back up. The childhood and teenage years are filled with growth spurts and hard lessons. Reaching adulthood takes work, but it’s always worth it. Successful firms push through the challenges of each phase and get to experience the rewards and responsibilities of full maturity.

The important thing to understand is that successful firms don’t stay stuck. They don’t rest on their laurels. Their leaders recognize that what got them to one level might not get them to the next. They understand that each stage of growth requires a change in both mindset and strategy.

What changes can take your firm to the next level?

Here are seven that don’t require gobs of cash:

  1. Stop competing with other companies.

Curtis, the VP of Sales for an IT staffing firm, spent too much time worrying about the competition. Competitors were making promises to win business. It was almost impossible to compete with these promises, especially when competitors paired them with rock-bottom prices.

How’d Curtis solve this problem? He stopped competing and became the competition. Curtis and his sales team identified several common problems their potential customers experienced—problems their competitors failed to address. These included long time-to-fill and persistent skills gaps. Curtis’ team developed new services to address these issues. Now, other firms scramble to compete with them.

  1. Never have an open seat.

If there’s a magic pill that fuels growth, it’s this: never, ever, leave a sales or recruiting job open. Every seat in your company is valuable. Too valuable to be sitting empty.
Why does this happen? You and your team are busy. When you’re busy staffing everyone else, it’s easy to overlook your most important customer — you.

How do you change this? Make zero-to-fill your internal hiring standard. Zero-to-fill means just that: you reduce time-to-fill to zero. At the end of the day, you have no sales or recruiting jobs open. Every seat is full.

How can you achieve zero-to-fill? Require managers to stop the old way of hiring (keeping a job open until the right person shows up) and instead, engage in the new way of hiring (cultivating top talent until the right job shows up).

What happens when you do this? Take a look at Nicole. In 2015, she always had two to three open seats in her office. In 2016, she’s kept all her seats filled and her branch is over million dollars ahead in profit, year-to-date.

  1. Leverage the power of now. Right now.

The new way of hiring isn’t just for internal roles. It’s for customers as well. When your customers have a hiring need, they need help now, not days from now. That’s why they call you.

Your buyers live in the on-demand economy. The list of what they can buy, rent, or use now or minutes from now grows every day. Delivering the talent they need right away doesn’t just make them happy, it makes your company indispensable.

Where can you start? Pick one role and build a Talent Inventory, which is a pool of people ready to place right now. That’s what Ann did. She’s in charge of recruiting for a creative firm delivering talent nationwide. They’re having one of their best years yet, and much of their growth comes from their ability to provide talent in an instant.

  1. Adopt Simple Strategies

Strategies are rarely perfect. The more complex they are, the less effective they tend to be. David, the CEO of an industrial staffing company, thought his strategic plan was the exception. He spent weeks crafting what he believed to be the perfect strategy for 2016. After a challenging first quarter, David realized his plan was far from perfect.

What was the problem? His staff struggled to implement his complex ideas. He’d forgotten an important rule: simple is sustainable; complexity makes goals unattainable. Complex strategies may look perfect, but they’re hard to execute.

David threw out his plan and rolled out a few simple initiatives to get things on track, including a focus on organic growth through a simple referral campaign. It worked. The second quarter of 2016 was the best ever for the company.

  1. Engage in impact wars, not price wars.

If you want to go to the next level, don’t fight a price war. Competing on price limits your cash flow and jeopardizes your ability to deliver quality service

Money is not a resource; it’s a priority. The greater the impact you have on your customers, the more likely they are to make spending money on your service a priority.

How do you increase your impact? Five critical areas can enhance your services and improve client outcomes. By exploring the questions associated with each impact area, you’ll create true and meaningful differentiation.

Flexibility. How can we deliver flexible solutions that solve more of our customers’ problems?

Accuracy. How accurately do we match jobs and candidates? What do we need to change to achieve “perfect” matching?

Quality. Where is our quality of talent or service inconsistent? How can we leverage our strengths to improve our quality across all areas?

Value. What do our customers value most? How can we best learn what they value and deliver more of it?

Immediacy. Customers typically need someone yesterday. How can we deliver the talent they need the moment they call?
Firms that have enhanced their services in this way improve profitability. Every impact area they’ve improves bumps up their gross margin percentage as much as one to two points.

  1. Pay staff less, not more.

Some leaders seem to have forgotten staffing is a sales job. To attract talent, they offer bloated base salaries. Then they act surprised when their staff fails to meet expectations. But why would talent meet demands when they’re comfortable with the money they’re making?

Comfort kills motivation. That was the case for Mike, President of an administrative staffing firm. He paid his salespeople and recruiters high base salaries plus commission. Base compensation was high enough that they could live comfortable lives. Which meant they had no incentive to excel, other than losing their jobs.

How’d Mike fix this? He lowered the base pay, offered a modest salary, and improved the commission plan. Did he lose some people? Yes. But those who stayed plus the new hires beat production goals and were rewarded for those efforts.

  1. Hire right

Conventional interviews don’t work. Why? Candidates for sales or recruiting jobs are always on their best behavior. They tell you the right things and share only the best parts of their background. Rather than painting a complete picture, a conventional interview narrows the lens, providing a mere glimpse of a person. This is why you’re disappointed when the person you interviewed is not the one who shows up on Monday morning.

How can you spot the best hires? Do what Amy did. She’s the COO for a multi-industry staffing company that does business in the US and abroad. She required managers to conduct Experiential Interviews. In these interviews, candidates must demonstrate the primary skills they’d have to perform in their desired role. Interviewers can only hire someone if they see proof the job can be done well. Experiential Interviews have elevated their new hire success rate to over 90%

Taking things to the next level doesn’t have to be hard, nor does it have to be expensive. It simply requires doing some things differently to propel your firm forward through its next phase of growth.