SSi People: While Everything Changes, Some Things Stay the Same

A History Lesson in SSi People

It was boom-time in the tech staffing industry in the late 1990s, a period of tech innovation and cash infusions known as the “dot com bubble.” With the looming threat of Y2K wreaking havoc on critical digital systems, companies were in need of tech expertise—fast. Always driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, Ron Seibert, the Founder, and CEO of SSi People, saw a window of opportunity – and he took it.

office picture of Software Specialists, Inc.It was the first of many wise decisions that supports the notion of SSi’s panache for being “early adopters” in the industry and taking chances on new ideas. The new company, called Software Specialists, Inc. at the time, was cash-flow positive in under 12 months! Specializing in SAP staffing resources and partnering with SAP integrators in the ERP space, Software Specialists, Inc.’s connection to Fortune 500 enterprises grew. They were diversified across industries, and their “Smile and Dial” approach was well-received for providing critical talent for eager hiring companies.

Landscape of Pittsburgh, PA where SSi People began

 

Amidst the backdrop of the three rivers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a hometown connection to major organizations, it’s no wonder the Pittsburgh Technical Council named Software Specialists, Inc. one of the fastest-growing companies in the area.

It was an exciting time, fast-paced, on the cusp of everything ‘new’ in tech and business.

Then the bubble burst.

Fortunately, the pop didn’t have an immediate effect on the young organization. It would be a few years post-Y2K that Software Specialists, Inc. started to see some concerning down moments.

“We almost went out of business one or two times,” says Ron Seibert. Against lending issues and some business partnerships going south, the company was forced to lean out and reorganize.

This restructuring even meant downsizing in real estate, giving up a 6,000-square-foot space and relocating to a small office perched above a plumbing company.

That was a fun time,” said Scott Poliziani, CFO, SSi People. “We got back to basics, knuckled down, and refocused.” That small office perch is where Software Specialists, Inc. regrouped and slowly restaffed, turning their eye to the MSP staffing model.

The Next Chapter of Early Adoption: MSP

Early days of SSi PeopleAround 2003-2004, the ERP space had dried up. It was time to seek out new customers. Software Specialists, Inc. was buoyed once again by the Pittsburgh marketplace, and they built back locally, specializing in IT services. Soon the reemerging staffing firm was building up its clientele with a refreshed IT focus and an embrace of the MSP model. A few large Fortune 500 organizations were early logos that helped get things going.

A game-changer was when they signed with a major healthcare insurance giant, growing beyond Pittsburgh into South Carolina— and that was the anchor.

It was time to ramp up to service new business. True to today’s name, the focus for SSi People (still Software Specialists, Inc. at the time) remained on people. In fact, most moments on the historical timeline can be traced back to who was hired and when and the impact they had on the organization.

Along with their first H-1B sponsor hire, Software Specialists, Inc., started to grow again with new team members. At the time, the firm was operating heavily in corporate-to-corporate staffing business, which requires a great deal of resources, given its reliance on the use of individual W2s. This, too, started to change as the next pivot point was coming.

By 2008, tech-based organizations were facing new challenges; to the contrary, Software Specialists, Inc. experienced growth, by embracing change and adapting services, even with curveballs thrown at them by some of their larger MSP customers:

  • One large MSP was going strong with Software Specialists, Inc. as their #1 supplier. Unfortunately, the MSP folded, causing a $600K setback. Thankfully, with Scott Poliziani leading the charge with book-balancing prowess, Software Specialists, Inc. weathered through.
  • A local Pittsburgh client was purchased by a large health technology company elevating the threat of Software Specialists, Inc. being bounced out as a supplier. Instead, with the fortitude of leadership and business savviness once again, the staffing supplier firm evolved to Platinum status, a badge only applied to their top three suppliers.

Naturally, again thinking ahead, these transition points were the catalyst to Software Specialists, Inc. adjusting their service model to one of Account Management — recruiting-centric, scorecards, compliance, and delivery excellence.

Continued changes lead to 2011 Global Expansion

With a growing company, the organization saw yet another opportunity for being an early adopter of new business ideas: opening recruiting operations in India. This is one of the most significant turning points in SSi history. Having celebrated its 10-year anniversary during the Pandemic, leadership is quick to note how much this expansion has meant to the organization.

“We measure ourselves by our people and the impact we can have on whom we do business with and where,” notes Ron Seibert. “Throughout our SSi changes (officially the shortened company name by 2016), we have had an impact locally in Pittsburgh (our roots), on the US East Coast as our MSP reach grew, and then the greater United States as our footprint grew, and now also continents away in India, with outreach to the families and communities there.”

He continues, “It’s fascinating to be part of the culture and people in India. Opportunities for making a great place to work, a place where people can balance family life. We’ve had terrific people build SSi there; they were empowered, they were trusted, and they’ve made a difference. I am here to be a coach, a guide, and a mentor, and trust them to build what it is we do there. It’s fulfilling to see the success.”

In this instance, Seibert is referring to the success of the talent at the Bengaluru location. Under that leadership, the mission of SSi People (now formally known as) – putting people first – is felt not only at work but also within the community. With Foundation days and countless charitable efforts, SSi People aims to make their mark in the community.

They embrace diversity through their actions, uplifting individuals of all groups and endeavoring to create gender equity. In fact, in 2022, SSi People India was honored by the Great Place to Work® Institute as one of India’s Best Workplaces™ for Women.

Director of Marketing, Christina Vinson, shared when it was announced,

“This award is incredibly important and special to me because I feel that our organization is truly doing what they say they will do. We are made up of 42% women at SSi People, with 15% in leadership roles, and we strive to do more. This award is a testament to that.”

What’s on the horizon for SSi People?

SSi People will continue to mark its timeline based on graduating classes of people. It’s almost yearbook-like—with the onboarding of committed team members in the 2010s stateside and key leaders in India. This, along with hundreds of consultants across the world today. It’s remarkable; nearly 15 % of the company celebrates work anniversaries of more than 6 years!

SSi People is simply resilient. It continues to thrive, even throughout many of the most significant moments in modern business—bubbles and bursts, recessions and rebirths, and even an unprecedented global crisis like the pandemic.

As SSi People emerged from the pandemic disruptions, they continued to see yet more change. The leadership team has been integral in strategizing SSi People’s business continuity plan to weather the storm and align with new thinking in vertical recruiting models that would maximize strength in specific markets. Ron notes, “During and post-pandemic, our requisitions tripled, and we had to have the resources to service them.”

To accommodate a changing work world amidst the pandemic, SSi People leveraged fully remote environments. As industry and business needs ebb and flow today, additional in-person opportunities will continue to be woven into the work environment, particularly to accommodate volume. Sourcing is being reimagined as well. It’s exciting, as SSi People has been building relationships with colleges in India to secure graduate talent early and engrain them in the HR industry. Through assessment and screening structures to find well-matched candidates, the goal is to impart industry knowledge through osmosis, having mentors sitting alongside new talent.

The new talent will be the future generation of SSi People.

SSi People Award Ceremony 2023          SSi People 25th Anniversary Group Photo US Team

Upon reflection, Ron said it best when asked, “When did you know SSi People was going to make it?”

“Failure wasn’t an option. We just kept going, working hard, and figuring things out. Some years were harder than others — not necessarily financially, but the stress factors in making it happen. The key has been building an organization and adding key players to the team. Coaching them up to be successful, and the more success they have, the more success the organization has. That’s really been the ticket to this. It’s been the team that has gotten SSi People to where it’s at today.”

 

 

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