Creating diverse workforces, with Barfield Revenue Consulting’s Will Barfield

Companies hire Will Barfield to fill positions with diverse, qualified employees, not only white men like him. He says that, by being intentional in making sure candidates from all backgrounds are considered, his clients have inclusive and effective teams. In this episode, Will and Donald discuss why having these teams—and surrounding yourself with individuals different from you—is so important and beneficial to personal and professional growth.


Donald Thompson: Welcome to the Donald Thompson Podcast. Today, I have a good friend of mine, Mr. Will Barfield, founder and CEO of Barfield Revenue Consulting. Will, thanks for doing this. Welcome. 

Will Barfield: Oh, it’s awesome to see you, Donald. Thank you so much for the invitation. 

Donald Thompson: One of the things, Will, I like to do for our audience is just slow down a little bit before we talk business and stuff and let our audience get to know you. So, tell us a little bit about where you grew up, where are you from? Married? Single? Kids? Just give us a little bit about Will Barfield’s story and then we’ll dig into some other topics. 

Will Barfield: Absolutely. So, both my wife and I, native North Carolinians. We’re from here. I got to Raleigh in ’91. And finished high school in this area and then went to college at UNC. Amy went to Meredith. And so, but we met far after college. We’ve got three daughters. So, two of them are out of the house and, you know, starting their lives and going to school and working and figuring things out.

And then we have, our youngest is getting ready to turn 11 and she’s doing virtual fifth grade here from home. But you know, I just– I’ve been in North Carolina my entire life; spent most of my formative years in Charlotte. And then moved up here from Mecklenburg County in the early nineties to finish high school and college. And I’m very, very fortunate. All of our family lives within two hours drive-distance. And it’s just, we’re, we’re truly blessed in that way.

Donald Thompson: One of the things I want to get to when we think about the business landscape in North Carolina, you’ve seen the triangle grow. I mean, now we’re a hotspot. Now we’re on top 10 lists and different things and all these things. What do you think makes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill an appetizing environment, right? For businesses to grow and thrive? As you’ve seen us develop over the years in this ecosystem?

Will Barfield: So, a great question. And, you know, when I got here, Raleigh ended at Strickland Road. I mean North Raleigh did. That was it. I mean, it was trees and forest. And my, my first job was actually, they built the A.E. Finley YMCA just North of where we were at Six Fortune Strickland and my mother and I moved to town.

And that was my first job ever was working for the YMCA, reffing basketball games at the old Jeffrey’s Grove Elementary. But Raleigh is a wonderful community. It’s not super urban, highly concentrated and dense, it’s spread out, it’s got different pockets of people can travel in between and experience. You’ve got, you know, what makes Chapel Hill a unique college town.

You’ve got, you know, downtown Durham and American Tobacco and that scene. You’ve got, you know, downtown Raleigh and the Capital and what makes our area unique. And then you’ve got all these, you know, bedroom communities that have developed with, you know, Wake Forest in the North and Cary in the Southwest.

And when I came to town, I found that much more navigable and open than Charlotte. Not that, you know, Charlotte was some huge major Metro, but it was a very welcoming community. And I think as I got into, you know, working in business around here. And I’ve, my working career began in the late nineties when I got out of college. Not only did I start working as a professional in the community, I got very engaged in the community, you know, with the Raleigh Chamber, with the Society for Human Resource Management, with several non-profits and fundraising and causes. 

And, but Donald, since I got here in 1991, it has remained a welcoming, warm community that’s easy to navigate. And from a business standpoint, when I got into fundraising and economic development and all the other things that I began to touch, that thing never changed. You know, the folks that are from here were welcoming. The folks that came here, came here because they wanted to be in a community like this.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s phenomenal. I appreciate the backdrop in terms of you know, 20, 30 years ago, it’s still, even as we’ve grown, kept that family-friendly construct. And I think that’s really important. And, you know, also know, right, you have the opportunity to talk to people from all over the country–

Will Barfield: Yes.

Donald Thompson: –And see that growth. And so, as we look at the macro lens in business, you know, one of the things that, that my latest project is I’m the CEO and founder of The Diversity Movement. And–

Will Barfield: Yes.

Donald Thompson: –You are one of the early partners that believed in what we were doing. Why did you pick to rock with us? Like, like what, what did you see in The Diversity Movement, both in what we were doing, right? The cause. There’s a reason there, but then us in particular that you spent time and recommended folks to us and been a great advocate and partner for what we’re doing?

Will Barfield: Thank you. So there’s really two reasons. First reason is Kurt, Sharon, you, the team. So, I mean, I already had relationships with you, with Kurt Merriweather, with Sharon Laney. I knew your crew. And when that ask came, it wasn’t even a consideration of “Yes/no,” it was, “Thank you.” It was gratitude. Because I have the benefit of being, you know, working in national recruiting of, you know, I’ve got clients in San Francisco, I got clients in New York, I got clients in Chicago, I had clients in Austin.

I had clients in lots of major metro areas across the country. And in some of those places, you know, because of the businesses that are there, they, at times, maybe more innovative or forward-thinking in some of those communities than we were two, three, four, five, six years ago.

But as I was talking to those CEOs and business owners in other markets, and as I was talking to candidates, Donald, who were thinking about coming here, I’m starting to hear things way before last year. Way before, you know what happened with Mr. Floyd and be like way before that, where these folks were talking about, you know, diversity and it was D and I then, right?

Diversity and inclusion. And, you know, these candidates were asking me, 2019, 2018, ” Hey, these companies that are in your area, do they have practices around these types of things?  What are they putting into place for LGBTQ?” Before there was even the IA added to it? Or, you know, “I’m a, I’m a 55-year-old candidate. Am I going to deal with issues related to my age when it comes to applying to jobs and companies in your areas? It can make it hard for me to transition.”

And I’m talking to executive business owners and heads of people at some of these companies in other cities saying, “Hey, we’re thinking about dropping an office in Raleigh, Durham, maybe having you staff up the sales and marketing team for us on the revenue side. But we’re bringing some of these D and I things to the table when it comes to hiring in your market. Do you practice that? Are you going to be able to help us go after diverse candidates? Are you going to be intentional about your recruiting to help us broaden the spectra of the look and feel of our office in your city? Because we want it to match our business imperatives about the way we do things here.” 

And another factor too, in that same vein, is when you’re looking at the, you know, I’m, I’m playing an interesting role as a recruiter, right? I’m, in some instances where I’m trying to help a company hire, I’m trying to talk about all the things that make being there great. And on the flip side, I’m spending time every week knocking on somebody’s door, trying to tell you why coming over here is more awesome.

Donald Thompson: Right.

Will Barfield: And honestly, from an attracting talent standpoint, around the time that you all were reaching out to me about this, I got people in my ear telling me, well, you know, “I don’t think that I’m going to fit in, in this place because I feel this cultural inequity.” Or “The next job that I take, I want it to be a diverse setting.”

So, I mean, all angles, ownership, talent, I was hearing it from other places and that you all were out in front of that and making sure that it was part of the way we were doing business around here and that you’re consulting nationwide. I mean, for me, not only was it because of you and the crew, but it was really because as I was hearing that groundswell, other places, I wanted to be on the crest of the wave here and be with you as we led the way.  Because like we said, in your last question, we want Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, the Triangle, this part of North Carolina to be a place people want to be. And if that’s going to be the case, then we needed to be on the bleeding edge of stuff not coming behind everybody else. 

Donald Thompson: That is powerful. And you know, what you described from your business perspective and the lens that you have, is very similar to why we created The Diversity Movement. This was two years ago, and I was invited to speak, and this was really the genesis of it. I was invited to speak at NC State for their summer marketing symposium. And this was 2018, early 2018, in the summer of 2018. And then all of the marketers at NC State come together and my talk was multicultural marketing for the next generation.

And so, just talking about how to be thoughtful in your messaging and communication to a diverse audience. And as I walked off the stage and I don’t, I don’t even remember the, the person’s name, but they tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Don, that was a great talk. We appreciate it. And it was written– we got a lot out of it, I’ve learned a lot, but you ought to do something with this. There’s more than just this talk.” 

Will Barfield: Yep. 

Donald Thompson: And I was like, “Well, okay. Like, I’m not looking for more to do, but thank you.” Right? You know what I mean? And, and I kind of kept, kept walking, but. But someone can say something to you in a moment of time, that then you can’t let it go.

Will Barfield: Yep. 

Donald Thompson: Right? And so, I continued to think on it and then, Walk West, our marketing agency, we started to get a handful of clients that wanted us to look at their marketing from a multicultural perspective and see what blind spots we saw. They didn’t want to be on the evening news because they made a mistake because they had nobody that was African American looking at their copy or their content or their videos.

They didn’t want us to build the videos. They had a great team. They wanted us to review them and just have a second opinion on what they were producing. And then being an entrepreneur and a bootstrapper, I was like, “Wait a minute. There may be something to this,” right? There might, there might be an opportunity here.

And so, we embarked on building our e-learning and all this stuff that we’re doing. But I only say that to say, the wave of openness is here, —

Will Barfield: Yes.

Donald Thompson: –But the seeds of it have been here for these moments. And George Floyd’s death was a tremendous catalyst. And I think you and I both share that feeling of responsibility to not let that catalyst go to waste. Not let all of the turmoil and the protest and this moment of openness go to waste. And you’re talking with leaders and executives and to be able to influence. So now let me ask a different question.

Will Barfield:  Sure. 

Donald Thompson: And it’s something that I’m hearing as I talk to middle-aged white men that are used to being in that dominant position in everything that they do, right? Life, work, play, everything. And there’s all this diversity talk.

Will Barfield: Yeah. 

Donald Thompson: Right? And I’ve heard them sincerely say, not in a negative– you know, “I feel like we’re starting to think about quotas. I feel like as a white male, I’m getting left behind.” How would you talk to people that they feel threatened by the movement to create more opportunity, but it’s not insincere? It’s a fear of having something taken away or fear of being attacked. How do you, how do you address that? How did you think about that as we’re talking about all this diversity stuff? 

Will Barfield: Wow, great question. There’s a couple of clients I’m working with right now that they are in a place from a recruiting standpoint that they really want that, and I’m just being honest with you, they really want that middle-aged and earlier-career white male to not be the bulk of the candidate pool. Now, let’s think about what I do for a living. Most of the time, Donald, I’m placing salespeople. Okay. So you just, you look at the pie of the makeup of an experienced group of salespeople.

Most of the time, and I can give you a raw percentage, it’s going to be a white male. That’s just, it is. And particularly, as you get into leadership. So, I’m having clients ask me to be intentional about, you know, “We need more female candidates,” or “We need more candidates of color,” or we need more whatever else.

And we want you to be intentional about that. And so I have been. And I’ve been following their guidelines and protocols and making sure. But in those conversations with candidates that are, that look like me, right? I’m 45, white male. I’m in that bucket. They will express that to me too. Like, “Am I being marginalized?” Or “Why can’t I,” you know, “I want to play. I want to, I want to be considered for this.”

And my statement to them is you know, as follows, “My role here is to make sure that the best candidates possible are presented for the position. But I also have a responsibility to make sure that all candidates from all backgrounds are considered. So, you will get in the mix, but really until I show them the ability to put across several candidates in a submittal package that meets the DEI requirements for this particular search, you’re just going to have to wait a minute.” So, it’s not about you can’t come into the party. It’s like, you know, “Hey, you just, you got to wait your turn.” And there’s, there’s nothing wrong with waiting your turn.

I’ll keep you informed. I’ll let you know when your interview package is going to go over, but we’ve got these other things that are imperatives, because we’re, we’re in a moment of change–

Donald Thompson: Yep.

Will Barfield: — Right now, which is sorely needed. And no one’s getting turned away. From my perspective, me and what I do, and just being a 45-year-old white male, if that means that the hill I got to climb is a little steeper, or I got to compete a little harder, that doesn’t break my heart. I chose sales as a career. 

Donald Thompson: Right? 

Will Barfield: I mean, I compete every day. You know this. I can’t be in a more straight commission lifestyle than owning my own business. Right? I don’t, if I don’t close something today, I’m in trouble. So, that for me, from that perspective, to fight to earn my right, like. Okay. You mean want to make the odds harder? That’s fine. You want to give me a stretch goal? All right. I mean, I, I’m used to that, but there are those that are not.

Donald Thompson: Yeah. 

Will Barfield: They are upset. They are. And it’s an ego thing. It’s a hard conversation for me to have to tell that, you know, high-powered, you know, 52-year-old VP of sales that he’s not going over first because I’ve got to make sure that we’re looking at a diverse candidate pool. And he’s like, “What?”

But I’ll be honest with you, you know, friend of a friend here, I’m still figuring out exactly how to express that. And I think I just need to have more and more conversations with those people and with you and your team to make sure that when I’m navigating that conversation, that I helped them feel better about their lot in that dynamic.

But the time is here that the playing field become one where everybody’s competing at the same level. And they’re starting to race at the same point instead of somebody being two or three checkpoints ahead. 

Donald Thompson: That’s right. And it’s not necessarily that someone’s holding you back if you’re in that position, but it is a new paradigm where others are getting a similar opportunity.

Will Barfield: Yes. 

Donald Thompson: But I don’t discount that feeling. Right? Because it’s real, right? Feelings are real. And you know, when I’m talking to people and I’ve developed the trust enough where someone in that position opens up to me, right? That’s not the moment I’m trying to judge them or correct them. I’m trying to just give them that perspective of– here’s what I told a gentleman the other day.

And this is, first, I like the phrase “Straight commission lifestyle.” Like, that’s just, I’m all about it. That’s, that’s why I couldn’t do anything except be an entrepreneur. Right? Which is another form of sales, right?

Will Barfield: Exactly.

Donald Thompson: It’s running your own business. But that aside, because I, I love that. It’s really interesting that people are like, “Why me?” And they started, got, to get into their feelings. I flipped the script on someone the other day and I said, this very simply, “You need to be thinking about what skills you need to retool so that you can be stronger in this new environment.” And so, why don’t you get some diversity, equity, inclusion training.

Will Barfield: Yes.

Donald Thompson: So, your resume then says the 20, 30 years of your sales experience, but you’re also, as a business leader, on the cutting-edge of what’s next. So get educated so that now you can pitch yourself in this environment as someone that understands diversity, understands equity, understands inclusion so that you can further the company’s cause of building a broader, high-performing team. And the gentlemen sat back, and he said, it didn’t change whether he had these feelings of being left behind, but I did try to give him a couple of things to help him win. Right? To move forward in this moment in terms of leaning into it versus fighting against it.

And it’s not something that I have all the right answers of how to explain, because feelings are really difficult. Right? You know, when people are in their feelings, it’s hard to hear facts.  But I do think that white male has been the dominant checkbox and the “Easy-to-hire.”

Will Barfield: That’s correct. 

Donald Thompson: And that has changed. And there’s some people that are mad about that. And I get it because I used to be in the wrong check box. 

Will Barfield: And you know, that’s a great point. If you’ve, if you’ve never felt that, if you’ve never felt like you were a minority in a majority situation that wasn’t in your favor, and now you have to adjust this feeling, it’s new. When I moved to town in 1991 with my mother and went to Sanderson High School, as a sophomore and was building a friendship base and navigating my way around and just kind of figuring out my place where I fit in, at the end of my sophomore year, my core group of friends were all black males.

What did I choose them? Did they choose me? Did it matter? I didn’t think about it. I liked them. They were my friends. And we would go do stuff together and I’d be with them and their families. And I was a minority. But, you know what? They never made me feel that way. Ever. And that stayed with me because they embraced me as the new kid. Brought me in, I mean, their families were welcoming, and you know, it just, those were, that’s who I hung with all the way till I went to Chapel Hill. 

And you know, that’s another reason why this ask resonated with me because I was like, look, I’ve, I’ve never seen color anyway. And in a situation where someone could have with me and made a judgment, they didn’t. This is a bit of a sad, close to the story. But one of those friends passed away last January for health reasons. And I went to his funeral.

I was the only Caucasian in the church. They asked me to speak. So I got to go up to the front and talk. And it was just warm and welcoming and loving, and it was a really pleasant experience. And that was the first time I’ve ever been to a service at an all-black church. And let me tell you, they do it different than the Presbyterian. But again, they treated me like an equal. And you know what? You don’t get submitted as the first candidate in, in the mix for this sales job. You know, you’re, you’re going to go over in a group of equals. Isn’t that the point?

Donald Thompson: No, that is good stuff. And I think, you know, you made a, a lot of really powerful points. One that I’ll seize on. We all have the capacity to make people feel welcome. Right? Like a lot of times we over-complicate and we have all of the different acronyms and different things and, and I’m, I’m. Okay. I’m in it. Right? But as an individual, I like to really bring things down to a baseline of what do we all want. We want, all want a chance to have a good occupation, a good career, take care of our families, build our goals and dreams.

Right? Like that, that is something that, that universally people want the opportunity to do. And so, what all we’re trying to do is make that truly available to the masses of people. And to your point about having that competitive nature and understanding that, I do think that you have an advantage because you have a sales DNA, and that competition is built in there.

There’s a lot of folks that are used to just getting to skip to the front of the line because of who they are, who their daddy was, or what country club they go to. And so, there is some shockwaves going on in our country as the playing field starts to even. But I do think that everyone has a responsibility in these movements.

If we’re going to have a great, you know, not to go into politics in a lot of things, but. You know, I always chat with people when they’re talking about the greatness of America. And I’m proud of our country and I’m proud to live here and I’m not moving. Right? Like with all our challenges, I’m good. Right? 

But, we have some things that we all are responsible for doing better and treating our fellow citizens better so that we can realize our greatness. And that’s really my take on it. Like, we have an opportunity to be great, but we all have got to do, like, you were welcomed in that church.

How do people welcome in that company? You mentioned the welcomeness of Raleigh as a community. And those are things that will allow us all to have that, that powerful chance. Now that was a great, great segment. I’ll segue to another, another topic and I want to– you talked to a lot of very successful professionals, CEOs, business owners. 

What are some of the characteristics that you see in leaders that are getting it done? What are some of the things that you see consistently when you’re placing candidates and you’re hearing someone talk on the phone and like, “Yeah. I, I can put this person in the mix at two or three different places. What are some of the characteristics that make you light up when you, when you hear a future leader?

Will Barfield: So, I’ll tell you that it, it begins before I hear them. It begins in the, the very first communication exchanges with that individual. Maybe it’s the way that they’re super responsive when I reach out to them to make a connection. Maybe it’s the quality of the writing, where I can tell that they really put some thought into the note that they sent me. And maybe their follow-through is excellent, and they nail it, or slightly overachieve it.

So, there there’s, you know, a little bit of poking that’s already going on before the conversation occurs. So, I know going into that conversation, or that interview, or that video exchange, whatever it is, what I think they’re going to be bringing to the table.

And then when I can tell that they are interacting with me that they’ve got some, some magnetism. I can tell that they did some homework. They’re like, “Oh, I noticed this about your background,” or “I see this similarity here between your LinkedIn profile and mine,” or “I checked out the company and I can see why you targeted me because they do this, this, and this. And in my past, I’ve got this industry history.”

So, they’re giving me some signals about just being high-functioning and there’s another level they’re going to. If I’m talking to someone on the phone and I’m going through things and there’s just dead air, and you know, there’s one or two things going on. They’re not really tuned in, or they got me on mute and they’re doing something else.

But if I can, if they’re giving me some vocal or visual cues, right. I’ve given you some vocal cues and some visual cues in this exchange, just so you know that I’m tuned in and paying attention. I’m like, “Yep. Mhm.” Nodding. If I can tell that they are, they’re there with me. Then I’m feeling good about them as an option.

I was on a phone with a candidate last Thursday. Where, and I’m trying to recruit her for a position for one of my clients. And I’m working not only with the end-user company, but I’m also working with the investment group that just seated them. And I texted one of the execs of the investment groups, “I’m talking to your hire right now. You’re going to hire her. It’s happening right now.” I know. “I’m going to keep submitting candidates, but we’re done.” And he said, “Let’s get her scheduled,” because there was just, there’s something about her energy-level. There was something about the way that she was interacting with me. You can just tell when someone’s tuned in. 

Donald Thompson: Yep. 

Will Barfield: It started Donald, with not only how fast she was to respond to me, but how well-written her communication was, how quick she was to interact across multiple platforms: LinkedIn, text message, email, every single one of them. On point.

And then, she was thorough and thoughtful in the conversation she closed. You know, and as a salesperson, you’re supposed to close. In my opinion. And I tell this to people all the time, because I don’t just interview for sales jobs. Every interview opportunity is a closing opportunity. If you, I don’t care if it’s an administrative role, or a sales role, or content role, or, you know, production. If you don’t close the interview by asking for the next step and saying, “I’m super interested, how do I separate myself from the pack? What can I do to move forward? How do I land this role? I want to be on your team.” Every interview opportunity is a closing opportunity.

She closed me and then she sent me an unsolicited follow-up. I really enjoyed the exchange. “I think I’m a great fit for this position because of reasons,” blah, blah, blah, you know, “look forward to next steps.” What do I do? I immediately grab that, bundle it up with my notes, and fire it over to the hiring manager and to the investment group and like, “Hey, here’s what I’m talking about.”

And sometimes it’s in the people you don’t expect, and they surprise you. And you look at that resume, and you look at that LinkedIn profile. You’re like, ” I just don’t know, but I’m going to give them a shot,” and then they blow you away. 

And that’s why, that we ease into this whole conversation about DEI and being open-minded and not making decisions based on muscle memory or stereotypes or history or what somebody told you but giving people an audience. Do I waste time on phone interviews and screens? Absolutely! I do. But I got to give them an audience. I got to give them a shot. And if you don’t give them a shot, then you don’t find that diamond in the rough that changes your life or changes the trajectory of your company. 

Donald Thompson: That is, that is good stuff. Will, here’s the last question that I have for today, and obviously, you continue to chat and keep up. And this is more about you as an entrepreneur. Talk to me about some of the things you’ve learned, like you’ve run your own company for a number of years. And so, when people are listening to this podcast, one, they’ll enjoy the diversity, equity, inclusion piece and different things, but there’s a lot of people that are entrepreneurs or want to be. What are some of the things that, some of the critical things you learn that has allowed you to stay successful and sustain it over that long period of time? 

Will Barfield: So, wow. What a fun question. I worked for somebody else for 19 years and I was a company guy. I worked for Joe Kramer over at the Carolina Mudcats from 1998 to 2004, when Steve Bryant owned the team. And then I’ve worked for Rod and Lee Frankel at Frankel Staffing Partners from the Fall of 2004 until the Spring of 2017 when Amy and I launched this business, this woman-owned, revenue-focused, recruiting firm. 

Several things, number one, the, let me give credit to Joe Kramer and Minor League Baseball. Okay. Work ethic. The work ethic that that job imbued in me is invaluable and irreplaceable. Now, to his credit, Joe broke me. He broke me in a way that my parents didn’t, that school didn’t, that pressure college didn’t. He made a man out of me and I didn’t even know it was happening. I hated every breath he took for a long time. But, when I was done, I mean, man, I was just, he had turned me into a machine in terms of my ability to work and grind and sell. And I didn’t even know it was happening.

I didn’t know it was going on because I was too young to appreciate it. And I saw him at the ballpark a couple of years ago and I told him, I said, ” I want you to understand something.” He said, “You’ve been really successful.” And I said, “You know why?” I said, “You. You were an incredible component of that.”

And I said, “I may not have liked it.” And I said, “You knew I didn’t like it. And you didn’t care because you knew you were making me better.’ And he said, “I appreciate that very much.” He said, “When you left here in 2004, when you left, you were the best salesperson we’ve ever had, and you still are. So, I want you to know that. That I was glad to have you here.”

So, number one, work ethic got me prepared for being an entrepreneur. I just didn’t know I was getting groomed. The other thing that happened was life presents windows; tiny little windows of opportunity where you can jump through that window.

You don’t know how far down the ground is. And there are a lot of people that watch those windows go by, Donald. Like, “Yeah, well, this and that,” or, “I could have,” or, you know, they get scared. And I had a window open up in 2017 to launch this business. I was planning on staying with Rod and Lee and maybe owning a portion of their company at some point because it was, you know, they owned it, just the two of them. I thought I’d just stay with them forever and then opportunity evolved. 

And you know, we can do that in another conversation about how my business kind of got to the point where it was trajectory time, but I had a little tiny window to jump through and it was very scary to go from 19 years of salary, and benefits, and 401k, and somebody is taking care of you, to like we talked about, right? Straight commission life. And the best decision I ever made was making my wife, not only my life partner, but my business partner. She owns this company. And she and I met and talked about it and worked on it for several months and made the decision to launch. And off we went.

 Here’s what I learned. I had no idea what I was doing. For a couple of years, the only thing that made me a CEO is the fact that I had put that on my business card. Truly, truly. And I’ve learned more in the last 10, 11, 12 months and been through more pain, personally and professionally, in the last 10, 11, 12 months than in my entire life or that I could really have ever imagined. And much like Joe broke me and made me better in the late nineties and early two thousands.

We’ve gone through, globally, nationally, and locally, broke me too. Because, full disclosure, if you think about my business, there’s no monthly recurring revenue in what I do. I’m paid to win, Donald. If I got jobs to work on, then I got a chance to win. If I don’t have any jobs to work on, how many chances do I have to win?

So, when the Corona Virus shut down the world. What’s the first thing companies did? Did you freeze hiring? 

Donald Thompson: We did.

Will Barfield:  Okay. So, imagine that every single customer you have stops at the same moment. So, that happened to us and we survived it. I survived it because of her. But we found a way to pivot and pivot and pivot until we were dizzy. And got creative. And I’m going to bring it back.

I’m going to bring it back to you and to The Diversity Movement. Because in that, in that moment in time where we really didn’t know what was going to happen with the world, we didn’t what was going to happen to this company. I didn’t know where hiring or recruiting was going to go. I was able to do a webinar with Kurt; two of them. One that he created for me and one that I created for him. 

I was doing blog posts for you all, I was doing some short videos you were uploading to your website, and I was posting things on LinkedIn. And I was, when I didn’t have any money to spend on branding, I was spending time on branding. But it was quality branding. And for me to be able to associate myself with your organization and for me to be able as a recruiter, to talk about how I look at recruiting through the lens of DEI, that brought me so much brand value and traction, that when the market turned and hiring started to come back and things got better, I got people reaching out to me and saying, “I love the content you were putting out there. I’m really impressed by your company and your messaging and your partnership and what you’re doing. We want to work with you.”

 And it was unintentional. I was just, I wanted to make sure that the market knew that I wasn’t just, “Will, the recruiter,” right? That I had more going on than that. And your invitation to participate in what you all were doing was an unbelievable gift. And now I can tell you that the job market has absolutely returned, particularly in what I do.

And I went from famine to feast at an amazing rate. But you know why? Because I paid in. And I earned the right to get to the position in my career where you would think enough of me to say, “I’m going to reach out to that middle-aged, white guy and see if he wants to join our crew.” So, you know, that was earned.

Joe started it, and then Rod and Lee encouraged me and, and made it possible for me to get to the point where I can start my own company. I’m not the first person that left their business and started their own practice. And then I learned through this unbelievably challenging, painful year of what it’s like to look over the precipice and, and see how scary that is, the DM and CDN, and battle through it. And, you know, good luck scaring me now. 

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome. That’s the title of it, “Good Luck Scaring Me Now.” That is awesome. Thank you, my friend. 

Will Barfield: Be well. I enjoyed it. Thank you so much. 

Full Episode Transcript

The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, The Diversity Movement CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit

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