Meet Jeff Nugent: Always one step ahead of the next big thing

Jeff Nugent at a Glance

  • Born: Hamilton, Ontario
  • Family Life: Married with three children
  • Education: Bachelor of Business Administration & Organization Behaviour
    Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • Best Career Advice / Favorite Inspirational Quote: “One must always take the long view. It pays to build for the future even at the cost to the present. Eventually success is worth all of the effort” – Roy Thompson, 1969

Jeff Nugent, founder and CEO of Contingent Workforce Solutions, has an uncanny ability to anticipate the future and be in the right place at the right time.

At university he wasn’t content to just study and hang out in the pub. Noting the lack of quality student housing, he bought a house with a friend and rented it to fellow students. That one house turned into 10. When he graduated, he had tasted entrepreneurial success and wanted more.

The technology sector was exploding and Jeff felt IT was the place to be. “I applied to an IT consulting company, thinking it was an traditional consulting firm. It turned out to be an IT recruiting firm and that’s how I landed in the recruiting business.”

It opened his eyes to a fascinating career opportunity.

In his first recruiting role Jeff quickly became one of the company’s top account managers, uncovering a talent for building client relationships and developing a reputation for being honest and reliable.

“Nothing will stop me from acting ethically. It’s about thinking long-term versus money on short-term gains. In this industry your reputation is everything. I will always be honest with my clients and industry partners,” says Jeff.

After a brief stint with the US sales department of a Canadian software firm, he was lured back to the recruiting industry by a small but growing IT recruiting company called Procom. As one of its early hires, Jeff helped grow its presence within the financial services industry.

“I will always remember my first placement. The candidate was a new Canadian with strong IT skills but challenging language skills. I worked hard with the client project manager to find a team that would hire him. To show his gratitude, the candidate brought me box of Tim Hortons donuts. I was touched by his Canadian way of saying ‘Thanks.’“

After steady success, Jeff saw the opportunity to develop solutions to consolidate Procom’s client staffing vendors and directly sourced contractors through a single process. Procom’s owner allowed Jeff to successfully launch its Flextrack MSP, VMS and payrolling solutions. It was the first MSP program in Canada and spurred the company’s significant growth. Procom was a $35 million staffing agency when Jeff joined and when he finished his 13.5 year tenure, it had more than 3,000 billing contractors, with revenues of more than a half a billion dollars.

“It was an awesome experience bringing so much value to our clients. They embraced our offering and I saw opportunities everywhere. With so much change in the contract recruitment sector, I had a different vision of the future.”

Jeff saw the number of contractors his enterprise clients hire increase exponentially. With this trend, governments were, and are still, trying to keep pace by evolving legislation about hiring contract and temporary workers. “The contractor arrangement is complex and must be managed properly to ensure compliance with laws and employment standards. If steps are skipped, the risk is costly.”

Jeff knew he could create the solution to help corporate and staffing agency clients mitigate risk.

So in 2009, Jeff set up Contingent Workforce Solutions (CWS) to fit this market gap. So certain of this business model, he bankrolled the company himself and has never looked back. The contingent or gig workforce now represents a quarter of Canada’s workforce and experts predict the entrepreneurial-leaning Millennials and retiring Boomers are poised to boost that number significantly.

“Our corporate and staffing agency clients hire the workers and we manage the administration. We’ve eliminated the barriers to provide opportunities for workers and protect our clients.”

He believes ‘simplicity’ sets CWS apart. Simplicity is not just how it does business but also the name of its technology platform, which automates administration for hiring and paying contract workers. When Jeff couldn’t find the perfect platform to meet these admin needs, CWS built its own system to help the business scale efficiently.

Jeff credits social media as a driving force in raising CWS’s brand awareness and expansion into the U.S. and Europe. Today, he is managing editor of the 7,000 member Contingent Workforce Strategies – LinkedIn’s largest global group focused on contingent/contract workforce management.

Jeff makes it a priority to give back to the industry he loves. He regularly speaks at industry conferences, is cited in industry research articles and has served on ACSESS’ national board of directors for two years. There, he enjoys his industry advocate role, which includes debunking dated perceptions.

“You get a global view of our industry and firsthand insight about the hard work the industry is doing to serve its clients and the economy. Most importantly we help people find jobs to provide for themselves and their families. As an industry, we are making a difference and are committed to doing the right things.”

As a member of the ACSESS Safety Group, he’s proud of his work in advancing the best health and safety standards for workers. More than 70 ACSESS members participate in the group and are armed with the tools and resources to develop and effectively manage their program using WSIB’s five-step Management Plan.

“In our industry, ACSESS has helped companies develop best practices for our contract and temporary workers that are as good or better than what full-time employers offer. As a participant in the ACSESS Safety Program, our workers’ safety is the top priority. Even with white collar administrative environments, we ask our clients for their health and safety policies and inspections upfront. If they’re not abiding by proper safety regulations, we step in. Our contractors must complete health and safety training and do the site and job-specific training checklist on their first day of work. If there’s anything out of line, we act immediately to rectify the situation. Complacency is too risky.”

With so much success already, what is Jeff dreaming of next?

“CWS has been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I feel strongly about advocating for self-employment and efficient employment models. I look forward to what the future holds, as an increasing number of workers choose contract and freelance work, while employers look to flexible work arrangements to meet their goals.”