Recently we sat down with Tina Belau, Director of Human Resources at Assemblers Incorporated to talk about how the Openforce platform has streamlined processes for their independent contractor workforce, leading to a 500% increase in 1099 technicians with an average onboarding duration of just 2 days!  

Assemblers Inc. is currently operating in 30 states, providing assembly services for various big box retail locations across the country as well as for residential customers. Some of their largest national retail customers include The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Academy Sports + Outdoors. They also have several regional chain retailers on their roster.  

“Our goal is to provide exceptional assembly services to the customer we’re serving at that point in time; whether it’s large volume assembly services for a store, or we’re coming into your home and building one item for your family,” said Tina.    

With their commitment to providing exceptional service and fostering exceptional relationships, which provides value to their customers, their business philosophy is simple yet has had a profound impact on their growth over the past several years.  

Like most delivery businesses, Assemblers saw tremendous growth during the pandemic as people were embracing DIY projects and upgrading their homes, especially their backyards with things like barbeque grills and trampolines. It also brought a new set of challenges – hiring contractor technicians to do the deliveries and assemblies.  

“The pandemic has been a catalyst for many businesses providing in-home services. Since we’ve been in the residential services space for a long time prior to the pandemic that’s where we want our growth to be. We recognize that people are valuing that kind of service more and more. Of course, our continued focus is always creating and maintaining great relationships with the retailers we service as well, but we feel like the residential side is where the growth is going to be.” 

Expanding into new territory – the 1099 workforce model

An Openforce customer since early 2019, Tina notes that recruiting qualified contractor technicians is their biggest challenge just as much now in the post-pandemic era as it was a few years ago. The work Assemblers do for retailers is very seasonal. For example, in cold weather states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, orders from retailers are highest in the warmer months when people are more likely to work in their yards. In a given year they may go from having 20 technicians in the winter to nearly five times that amount once states begin to thaw out. And it happens so quickly that it’s difficult to anticipate just when that jump will occur.  

After reviewing several ways to handle the challenges of seasonal spikes and declines, Assemblers began researching the independent contracting model. “We had used ICs in a limited capacity in the past. Then we decided to look at having them cover a broader piece of the work, while knowing that we needed to separate and differentiate the IC workforce from our W-2 workforce. Having a third-party administrator like Openforce was the answer to that. Our CEO sent over a link to the Openforce website. Honestly, we didn’t even look anywhere else because we really liked what we saw with Openforce. We liked the value of the partnership. It’s been true from the beginning – you guys get us, you get our business model.”  

How Assemblers Inc. uses the Openforce platform 

According to Tina, “Openforce is used for all of the onboarding of a 1099 worker. It helps us manage insurance documents and compliance in a very seamless way so we can ensure that the contractors have their certificates updated. With all of our 1099 administration in Openforce, we don’t have to administer across two or three platforms, or across different departments. And it provides separation between our 1099 and W-2 workforces, which is key for us. Openforce helps us achieve all of this.” 

Once Assemblers implemented the Openforce platform and received more education about the contractor work model, they expanded their seasonal contractor workforce by an astounding 500%! 

Not just a platform; a new, efficient way to operate

Every few months, Tina and her team have check-in calls with their dedicated Openforce Key Account Manager. Tina noted that she and her team walk away from every call having learned something new.  

“It’s always, ‘What can we add? What more can we do?’ It makes us feel like you’re asking yourselves, ‘What more can we do for Assemblers? How can we improve our value? How can we offer something helpful for Tina?’ Most of the time, these calls are a catalyst for us to think about how we could administer things differently.  

Ongoing improvement, ongoing enhancement, ongoing value add. That’s what we feel like we get from Openforce,” said Tina.  

Contractor onboarding before Openforce 

When asked how Openforce made her day-to-day job easier and more efficient, Tina had this to say:  

“Prior to using Openforce, we’d email PDF forms to the contractor. Maybe they had the kind of computer that could fill in the fields, or maybe they weren’t really technology savvy and they weren’t quite sure what to do with it, so they’d have to find a printer and then handwrite the forms. It was just a very cumbersome, manual process.  

Now with Openforce, we can quickly and easily send contractors an onboarding link. That’s it! They can go through and complete it on their phones or whatever is easiest for them. The dashboard is helpful because it’s very clear to see a list of contractors who have the link and where they’re at in the process. That way we can reach out and say, ‘Hey, can I help you? Was there something going on that prevented you from completing the onboarding process?’ It gives us a clear picture of where each contractor is in the onboarding process. 

It’s also easy to see when the forms are completed. With Openforce, we don’t have to scour through every item to ensure that all of the required information is there, so it really streamlines our process. It makes our 1099 workforce onboarding process just as streamlined as our W-2 process. It helps my team be so much more efficient as they’re working through the list of candidates who become contractors. 

These efficiencies equate to dollars. We’re rapidly hiring, we are currently at 4,000 people hired this year (June 2021). Even if the software shaves off five minutes of onboarding time per person, that adds up to a significant amount of time for my team. The Openforce platform has definitely saved our department time and money.” 

The value of partnership  

Tina found tremendous value in her partnership with Openforce not just because of the superior technology of the platform, but also because the Openforce team of experts helped educate Tina and her team about the nuances of a 1099 workforce. Prior to implementing the Openforce platform, Assemblers only contracted with a few independent contractors. As an HR professional, Tina’s experience was mostly with W-2 employees – so she knew she had a lot to learn about onboarding contractors. 

For Tina, it’s all about the partnership. “The Openforce team is truly your partner in business. That kind of says it all, you’re in this with us. Sure, I could go on and talk about the platform and the efficiencies and all of those things, because those are important too. But at the end of the day, for me, the partnership is what’s most important.” 

Tina went on to explain why she didn’t look at other options: “The assembly business is really unique. There are some nuances that you just can’t understand until you’ve been in that seat. Openforce understood that. As we had conversations and learned more about Openforce and how you help us manage ICs, I really didn’t have any desire to talk to anybody else. Again, it was just that sense of partnership. We’ve always felt like you’re in this with us and that’s so very valuable.”