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Dan Erling, President and CEO of Accountants One

On June 4, 2018 Dan Erling celebrated a milestone: 20 years with Accountants One, a premiere recruiting firm for Accounting and Financial professionals in Atlanta since 1973. We recently sat down with Dan to talk about his journey and the changes he’s seen within the industry along the way. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

So, tell us about your early days with Accountants One.

I started working with Accountants One in 1998, initially focusing on staffing projects, filling roles like accounts payable and receivable clerks, and other hourly positions. My job was to have great candidates available for short term and long term projects. Over time, I built up that business, and I was able to hand over a lot of those staffing responsibilities.

Then, I started filling high level Accounting and Finance roles in a direct hire capacity with companies like Verizon Wireless, Westrock, and Home Depot.

Do you have a preference in terms of the roles that you work on?

No — I’ve loved this job from the moment I walked in the door. The thing that I enjoy the most is SERVING — clients and candidates. It’s a great joy and honor to serve clients and candidates by solving business challenges for them. That’s what has motivated me to walk through our doors these last 20 years. I’m constantly excited by the changing, dynamic world of staffing and recruiting.

Speaking of change, how have things evolved in this industry since the late 90’s?

(laughs) I remember in my first years at Accountants One, the majority of resumes that we received were via fax machine. On Monday morning, the recruiters would come into the office and divvy up faxes. A lot has changed since those days.

Fundamentally, this is still a people business. Recruiting is all about building deep relationships with customers and candidates. So, the fundamentals haven’t changed. However, the technology has changed the way we work in a big way.

I would say that the biggest change in our industry since I started has been the advent of social media, especially platforms like LinkedIn.

Many people believe that LinkedIn has taken away the need for great recruiters. Do you think that’s the case?

Absolutely not! In fact, I would tell you it’s the other way. LinkedIn – and social media as a whole – has increased the need for great recruiting.

Now, if you simply define recruiting as the ability to shuffle together resumes, then sure, that level of recruiting is easier than it has been in the past. However, aligning the right talent with the right organization has increased in complexity. If for no other reason than a vast increase in the number of candidates who have exposure to opportunities.

So, while it might be somewhat easy have a familiarity with companies who are looking for senior accountants, controllers, or CFOs, it’s very different to align companies with candidates who carry the same cultural focus and are equipped to become long term extensions of an organization.

You wrote about this very topic in your book MATCH. How did MATCH come about?

Before I worked at Accountants One, I was an inner-city math teacher for eight years. While I changed career directions, I have always retained aspects of being a mathematician and a teacher. So, over the years at Accountants One, as I’ve witnessed thousands of hires, I began to “do the math” around what makes a successful hire. I started taking note of best practices and that led to the MATCH process.

Originally, it was just an internal process, just something I’d share with my clients. I’d point out that great job descriptions, the behavior interviewing questions, and focusing on culture over technical skills were strong differentiators in successful hiring.

Well, as I started to collect them, I realized that the companies hiring great people were sticking to these best practices. And the companies that weren’t simply missed many of these steps.

And so, in the process, you found you had a book in you?

Well, at first, I just shared what I saw working in recruiting with others. But then, I realized I could reach a wider audience if I formalized the process. That’s what led to the book MATCH. Wiley was interested in publishing the book, which came out in 2010. I still enjoy sharing these best practices with clients and frankly, it’s what leads to our unbelievable success rate in this market.

What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned in your twenty years at Accountants One?

That is an easy one. The most important thing I have learned is that it is ALL ABOUT PEOPLE. No organization can be better than the people that make up that team. And while bureaucracy constantly tries to fight this point – commoditizing talent and the talent development process, the harsh business reality is that there are no shortcuts. The hardest thing in business is to attract, hire and retain GREAT PEOPLE, but nothing is more important.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next chapter of your career at Accountants One?

I am so excited about what is going on at Accountants One. In my early career this wonderful career allowed earning potential and flexibility – giving me the opportunity to focus on my family. I have two very successful sons and now I can turn my focus to growing the business.

But I don’t want to grow for the sake of growth. I am interested in a healthy organization that continues to deliver value through a fanatical focus on service and long-term relationship building. As long as we never forget that joyful part of business I would like to see Accountants One grow nationally.

In fact, we just landed our first national account. We are serving clients in Florida and Texas for a client that was so pleased with our work in Atlanta that they have asked us to serve them in these two cities. The rumor is that Kentucky is next. Exciting and very fulfilling!

As long as we can retain our focus on long-term relationship building, then I welcome this growth on a national stage.

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