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The Rise of the RPO Bakers Dozen

In a new book, The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, Marc Levinson explains how local mom-and-pop stores — with their limitations — paved the way for national chains like the A&P to swoop in and dominate the grocery industry.

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But this wasn’t always the case. In the early 20th century, a typical corner grocery store fit into the size of a large living room. Canned goods lined the walls, while a small number of root vegetables may have been available behind the counter. Instead of putting groceries into your own cart, you’d ask the shopkeeper to retrieve them for you — and those items didn’t include bread or meat, which would have required a separate trip to the baker and the butcher. Most kitchen staples — things like flour and sugar and wheat — were kept in large barrels and then measured out by the grocer himself.

In a similar way, the RPO market is dominated by a select group of companies. In fact, last week the 2011 RPO Bakers Dozen was released highlighting the top 13 recruitment process outsourcing providers (FYI – Pinstripe, for the 4th consecutive year, was recognized as a top RPO provider).

However, like the grocery world, the RPO market wasn’t always about an elite group of world-class service providers.

In the 1990’s when RPO was developing, there was a number of local service providers delivering primarily local recruiting. The local service platform lasted until several visionary RPO service providers (one of which was a company owned by Sue Marks) saw the bigger opportunity to expand the RPO model by increasing the breadth of services. The new “expanded” RPO firm was the equivalent of the supermarket while the old RPO provider resembled the small corner grocery store.  Companies needing integrated end-to-end RPO services now had one service provider who could delivery on all their requirements versus having to engage multiple providers and piecing together a patchwork solution.

The end-to-end RPO service provider, with extended geographic reach and access to key resources, became the preferred shopping destination for RPO buyers as they increasingly bypassed local RPO shops and their partial recruitment offerings.


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