The O’Connor Group provides talent acquisition and human resource solutions for Life Sciences, Professional Services, Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship industries.  

In this episode, Marcia O’Connor the President shares their key differentiators such as: 

  • How they listen deeply to truly understand their clients’ needs  
  • Their team-oriented internal culture that values employees 
  • Their ability to quickly fill hard-to-fill positions 


Read more about how to properly value employees to find success.


The Transcript


Brad Wolff 00:02

Welcome to the “It Is About You Podcast”. Today I’m honored to have as my guest Marcia O’Connor with “The O’Connor Group”. Marcia, Welcome to the show!

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 00:16

Thank you, Brad. Glad to be here.

Brad Wolff 00:18

Absolutely! So if you would tell me a little bit about yourself and “The O’Connor Group”.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 00:25

Absolutely! So I am a Mom of one and I have a company that is now 12 years old and “The O’Connor Group” basically offers outsourced HR and Recruiting Services for “Mid-Sized Companies”.

Brad Wolff 00:42

Okay! Now when you say “Mid-Sized Companies”, how are you defining that?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 00:47

Mid-sized typically is usually under 100 employees but we noticed that we’ve actually changed a little bit on the recruiting side.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 00:54

And we become an arm or a function of the recruiting team so we’ve noticed that our client’s size has changed dramatically.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 01:03

And we’re now hitting clients typically over 500 employees and my recruiting team and we become that recruiting arm for them or a compliment to their current recruiting team.

Brad Wolff 01:15

Okay! So is there a minimum size organization that you work with?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 01:22

There is typically we try not to work with companies that are under 3 million.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 01:27

We realized, sometimes they’re not really quite ready for us yet. And typically, when we have about 20 employees. They are ready to bring on an HR consultant to help them to get started and get moving with their compliance and their HR handbook and pieces like that.

Brad Wolff 01:43

Got it! So if you would tell me a little bit about your journey that brought you to where you are today?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 01:49

Absolutely! Very different journey. I started out as an accountant. When I graduated college I did the public accounting role.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 01:58

I noticed quickly after I started it that I really didn’t enjoy it but I did love the culture, I love what I was doing, I love the client connections.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 02:08

And I loved how a company worked how the process worked how the widget was being made and I was so…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 02:16

Excited about it. I just started reading a lot of business books regarding how to run a company from beginning to end and what it took.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 02:25

And I’m also a process flow junkie. So I like making things rendering smooth. I actually went into recruiting working into public accounting firm and then I ended up heading up the entire division there. And then I actually went on my own. I would say several years later after knowing retained search after knowing…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 02:45

Each other consulting knowing how to basically build out my services and that was in 2007 and I did it right before recession and who knew, but I did it survived and I have no regrets whatsoever. So far so good.

Brad Wolff 04:06

That’s some great information about what brought you to what you doing today as the CEO of “The O’Connor Group”.

Brad Wolff 04:16

So what is it that excites you the most about what you do?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 04:22

Oh my gosh! I would say it’s helping companies become super successful with their flow and process of their company.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 04:31

And figuring out like what’s really the calm that’s holding them back from being super successful

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 04:37

And then working with them on the people side to really put the right resources in play to make that happen, and make it real and smoother.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 04:46

There’s no greater compliment for us for basically helping a client become successful because they’re growing

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 04:53

Their revenues are growing their team is coming together their culture is awesome. And if we had a big part of that. And we try to from the HR side and the recruiting side.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 05:04

It’s such a wonderful feeling because you’re helping these companies grow and be successful no better feeling than that.

Brad Wolff 05:11

Terrific! So Marcia, what do you see as “The Keys to your Success” in the Staffing and Recruiting Business?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 05:19

Great question Brad! I would say the key is a lot of “Listening”.

Listening to not only your employees but to your clients.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 05:28

To the economy to the triggers out there and just like sucking it in and listening. I think a lot of times people do too much talking and they don’t really listen to the true concerns and problems that our clients have as well as your employees, you have to listen about what’s working well, what’s not working well and we are not…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 05:50

As the CEO, you’re not, you don’t know all the answers, but you have to be able to listen to be able to help fix things because you also have to have that clientele that are not afraid to speak up to you.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 06:01

As well as your employees not afraid to speak up to you because I don’t know what I don’t know. And I’m willing to learn. I don’t have to agree with everything, but I do put in place a lot of times their suggestions they offer me

Brad Wolff 06:14

That’s a great point for any leader is that you’re not going to have all the answers, you’re not expected to or need to have all the answers. It’s about listening and being open rather than this, or have you don’t have the answer. Something’s wrong.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 06:30

Exactly! Yes!

Brad Wolff 06:32

What do you see as the things that really differentiate you from other organizations, your clients can work with?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 06:39

I would say a few things. Actually! One of them is our “Culture”. We have a “Very Unique Culture” where we take care of our people. We have a lot of fun. We have a Social Committee called the “Culture Club”.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 06:51

That basically promotes all the different fun events that we do throughout the year. We have a Philanthropic Unit called “Connectors Who Care”.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 06:59

Where we basically host variety events to help the community and to give back.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 07:04

And then lastly we have T.O.C.U. Our university where we train our people, so many hours a month I’m encouraged to training to keep them up to date on certain compliance areas and just learning overall because you want your team to be the best out there of clients are going to pay for you.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 07:21

You want to make sure that they feel comfortable that they’re really getting good qualified consultants working on their projects. So I that makes us very different and company my size.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 07:32

Most of times they don’t do all these different things that we have

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 07:36

And actually, a lot of people say, “Hey, can I sit with you and learn more about your culture”? I want a culture like yours as well. So that to me is the greatest compliment. I’ve ever heard.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 07:46

And I’m thrilled to see that too, but it really comes down to appreciating your team and I do send handwritten notes throughout the year. I do appreciate them and we do a lot of fun things and we recognize them. You have to do that.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 08:02

They could work anywhere and you want them to work for you and we’re a small company. So you have to make them feel welcomed and taken care of and appreciate it.

Brad Wolff 08:12

And Marsha, How do you see that this “Culture” of people that really care and are really happy to be your organization? How do you see that benefiting your clients?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 08:25

Well, for one, I think.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 08:28

You’re the people that you put on your clients have that same respect and that comes through at the client.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 08:34

So the client to, like, where do you find your people. Your people are great. They really take care of us and they’ll to my while we take care of them.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 08:40

And so it’s like a trickling effect. And I think it’s really important to show that and also to their pain, a lot of money for us per hour so…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 08:49

You want to make sure they’re getting the quality. There’s such as somebody I for me. I’m going to put some money on that project.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 08:54

I want to listen to and learn about what kind of person is really going to fit with you and your personality in your culture of your company.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 09:01

I have one shot at that. If I don’t have that right person. It’s not going to work. And that HR. If you don’t have that trust factor immediately, it will not work.

Brad Wolff 09:11

Great point! So what else. In addition to that, you’re unique culture. What else are key differentiators of “The O’Connor Group”?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 09:20

I think we have a different kind of way of recruiting. So we do a cost per hour versus a head count cost which is very different out there. And so people are like…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 09:33

How do you do that, how do you make money. I said, Listen, you know, if you do your math.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 09:37

Everybody works pretty much 40 to 50 hours a week, and if you keep them billable for 40 to 50 hours a week, you’re still making your money and your margins and

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 09:46

You know, on the clients are happier because my recruiters are more focused working on their positions.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 09:51

My success rate goes up higher. And then what happens is they come back to us for more. So it’s like a consistent flow of work with our clients and that makes us very different. So since we charge on an hourly basis for both our HR services and recruiting services.

Brad Wolff 10:08

Okay! So with either one. It’s an hourly rate.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 10:12


Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 10:14


Brad Wolff 10:16

And what about the way you work with your customers would make you different and unique to the customers in addition to the hourly going by an hourly rate?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 10:29

Again, I think it’s the “Listening” part to it. So it’s not just filling that role it’s listening and saying, “Hey, Can we just backtrack here? You mentioned that you started this, it didn’t work.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 10:41

I know you wanted to just have an HR person, but I’m going to recommend that we work on some recruiting for you for this and this”.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 10:47

It’s really being an advisor to them to help them grow because they too are entrepreneurs that don’t know what they don’t know

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 10:54

And my job is to make sure that they’re successful and be that mentor be that resource, even if it’s like. Now what we do, I want to provide them that resource to make sure that, “Hey, here’s a person you want to talk to you.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 11:09

I know it’s not going to really benefit us, but I’m not about that. It’s benefiting you to become better and stronger. So I’m gonna put the two of you together just have coffee.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 11:17

And I’m sure you’ll be working with them. I can tell already. But one day, you know, you’ll work with us one day, you won’t. I said, but I want to make sure that you knew that we thought of you and other ways than just, just for ourselves”.

Brad Wolff 11:31

Is there anything particularly unique on the recruiting in of what you do that helps your clients out?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 11:39

Yeah! We actually have a really amazing sourcing team that a lot of my competitors do not have

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 11:46

And that sourcing team. What they do is a deep dive stores to try to find those purple squirrels and because of that, we become very known in the market and being very fast to find these purple squirrels.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 12:00

And because of that, to be honest with you. We’ve gotten more work than we know what to do it, which is great.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 12:05

But the thing is, is we’re fast. So a lot of clients will say well you know we’ve had enough for six months, we had no luck. So they’re thinking it’s going to take us six months.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 12:15

And then we come around and maybe feel that within three weeks, they’re shocked because they weren’t ready for that person.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 12:22

And I said, Well, I told you we’re fast real quick. We’re efficient and you’re wasting your time. If you’re not ready to pull the trigger now.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 12:30

And so it’s having those kind of conversations and being real about it, but because recruiting is such a high demand right now. People are like, “Oh, that’s not gonna happen”. I’m like…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 12:39

“Well, you haven’t met my team and I said, and once we hunker down and what you’re looking for. We’re pretty successful”

Brad Wolff 12:46

Awesome! And would you share what a “Purple Squirrel” is for anyone in the audience that doesn’t know that term.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 12:51

Absolutely! So, in the recruiting world that is basically when you want to find that one position that

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 12:59

People don’t believe is out there. It’s hard to find. And it’s been really difficult to find. So we call that that Purple Squirrel. And if you’re a recruiter, you know exactly what that means. If you’re not, I apologize, but it is a term that we use quite frequently around here, for sure.

Brad Wolff 13:15

Now, is there a difference between a Purple Squirrel and a Unicorn?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 13:18

You know, it’s funny. I’ve heard is now it’s the Unicorn with Purple dots on it and I started laughing and sitting like…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 13:28

Well, Yes and No! I think the Purple Squirrels. So has to go around recruiting in a Unicorn is usually that really that one position that no one knows up before because there’s all these new roles coming out with Social Media. So I considered more that Unicorn isn’t or more to this new roles that we haven’t heard them in five years where a Purple Squirrel is we’ve been doing it for years, but it’s still hard to find that one person like a certain kind of product.

Brad Wolff 13:53

Got it! So, that is the division of Purple Squirrel and a Unicorn for anyone who was wondering

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 14:00

Exactly! You’ll never know.

Brad Wolff 14:03

And Marcia, what’s the greatest success story that you’ve been part of with the client?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 14:09

Absolutely! I have one in particular that I’m very fond of…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 14:13

And they are a medical device company out in the suburbs of Chester County and we went in there.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 14:23

Just going to feel I was helping out they had let go of their prior talent acquisition manager and my job is to go in there and just fill for roles until they found somebody else.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 14:35

And ironically, I started asking questions to the client about the current recruiting and what they needed to change and they hated the recruiting there they needed it like everybody did their own thing. Everybody basically had their own…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 14:52

Internal recruiter, there was no simpatico and so my job was come in and asking questions and I’ll too and I ended up

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 15:01

You know, just going there to see HR Oh! I’m like “Hey, by the way, we can fix your recruiting, we can get them on top of things and we can change how they think about things and all to and he said

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 15:10

Can we outsource it to you guys? I said Yes! you can. And you ended up after three years of really streamlining their entire recruiting process.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 15:20

And it was so smooth and so organized and we started getting really strong people from large Pharma groups basically applying the resume and the biggest compliment was the hiring manager saying to me.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 15:33

I never thought I would ever see a resume from this large Pharma coming into here. And I said, well,

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 15:40

That is because the process style for recruiting is so smooth.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 15:43

And people get feedback and it’s a quick process. It’s not coming back two or three or four times. It was only two times the most and we made decisions quickly and everybody knew about the position.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 15:56

There was no lack of communication and we moved it really fast and we hit all our goals and we really changed the whole mindset of recruiting

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 16:03

And that was an amazing journey and we were there doing their recruiting for seven years.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 16:08

And the only reason why we would probably are gone, is because they bought a new CEO on board who bought their own team on staff and…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 16:15

They said, hey, we love to have you as a full time person. I said, now I’m on building a company. I love what I’m doing.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 16:21

So they brought their own in house people and all too. So it’s changed dramatically since we’ve gone there, but it was such a great compliment to hear that from the hiring manager.

Brad Wolff 16:29

Absolutely! So do you have any particular failure or obstacle that you’ve overcome that’s been pivotal to your success?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 16:39

Sure! I’m one of them particular was dear old 2008 when money just sort of disappeared from the planet and…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 16:49

I had five consultants on clients and all five had called me within a dip to date period and said, oh, by the way, by your end. I ran out of money and I can’t use your consultant anymore and that was pretty much my bread and butter so I only had one client left and…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 17:08

It was, my motto was “failure was not an option”, since I was the breadwinner, and I remember just doing whatever it took that make that client happy above and beyond and we have…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 17:20

Thanksgiving feast. I put together their training program and internship. I always just given them ideas out the wazoo to help them out. And it was great but…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 17:29

That was it. Like I could not go bad. I had to make sure everything was perfect. And then I get that one call that I’m

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 17:37

In May of 2009 which basically just propelled my company of clients that the client. I just talked about.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 17:45

Madness go in there and said, and the rest was history. And then from there, we basically just built the company from that one company and we started doing business development out there, more and more, and it just took us off, which was the story, the rest is history.

Brad Wolff 17:59

Wow! So that difficulty really fueled a different approach that helped you going forward.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 18:04

Oh yeah!

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 18:07

Absolutely, it was a failure wasn’t an option. And you know I had a dip into my 401K. It was really, really, really tight that deck first that holiday and…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 18:18

You know what you makes you stronger, but most entrepreneurs. We all go through it and we have a time and moment where we just say comment and get out of this and…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 18:29

There’s a will, there’s a way. And so I was really positive and you know crazies and may sound, but I listened to the secret. The story about a million times and…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 18:38

I would tell myself, they’ll be they’ll be just that mailbox and there were just some of that day and that mailbox. But you have to believe it. You have to want it and you have to work really hard.

Brad Wolff 18:50

Absolutely! So Marcia, as we are winding this down. Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t discussed?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 18:58

I know that there are a lot of entrepreneurs trying to make it out there and all too but I think a lot of times, too. When I hear about their story what they’re doing. I think it’s great.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 19:09

What they forget to do is really watch their numbers and write stuff down. I’m a big believer if visualize or so if you write it down. It’s going to happen. And so the bigger we become, the more I am super excited about writing down your annual goals, your quarterly goals, your monthly goals, your weekly goals and attaining and achieving all that I think a lot of times, entrepreneurs, don’t do that or they think they’re too busy.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 19:36

I’m going to say the opposite. I’m like, you’re not too busy and not to do that because once you start doing that it comes to fruition. And then all sudden, it gets scary for success can be scary, too.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 19:48

But you have to basically, you know, write it down where you see yourself going with your company and you also have to have this honest conversations and I have a lot of them.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 19:56

And with our clients and with my own employees about where we’re going. And who’s the right fit? Who’s not the right fit? And don’t be so afraid to make the change sooner than you think, because in the long run. It’s not personal. Its business.

Brad Wolff 20:09

Absolutely! And that’s very sage advice. So are there any websites, books, or other things you want to tell the audience about?

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 20:18

Yes! I think I’ll tell you when I first got started I read the book, “The Alchemist” A L C H E M I S T.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 20:25

And basically it was a book of, you know, of the water should have could have in your life and either go to your deathbed with a black cloud on your head saying, “Oh, I should have done that”.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 20:36

That was not going to be me. And I remember reading that book. I came back and say, I have seen it, leaving my husband’s like…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 20:44

“I can’t take it anymore either, you’re going to do it or don’t talk about it “. And I read that book and I came back and I quit and…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 20:52

I haven’t looked back. Yeah, it was a real I needed to see that book that will resonate with and so well.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 20:57

That I said I don’t want to go to my deathbed, finish it or whatever, should have would have at least I know I tried and it’s, you can do anything you want in life, you just gotta want it.

Brad Wolff 21:08

Absolutely! And what is your website? Marcia

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 21:12

Sure! Our website is easy. It’s www dot T O C G R P dot com.

Brad Wolff 21:21

Okay! Not intuitive, you wouldn’t just come up with that. In other words, if someone, although if they Google you they’d find you…

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 21:29

Absolutely! Yes not intuitive, but if you do “The O’Connor Group” scripted. It’s pretty much the same thing.

Brad Wolff 21:36

Awesome! Marcia, thank you so much for investing this time with me to talk about The O’Conner Group” and what you do for clients and what kind of organization you are to work for as an employee as well.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 21:49

Thank you Brad for having me! Happy Holidays!

Brad Wolff 21:51

Thank you! Bye.

Marcia Zaruba O’Connor 21:52