How I Went From a Half a Million Dollar to a $2.2 Million Recruiter

QUESTION: In several areas of my business I could use your counsel and help implementing or improving. I am already getting retainers, candidates, and plenty of work given my experience and specialization with holding national and regional leadership positions in the industry and disciplines. What I need help with is converting my business from a 1-man operation to a 2 or 3-person operation so that I can increase my production capabilities without losing the quality of work and service my clients have come to expect. I need help hiring an admin and other hiring support staff, virtual or local, and setting up internal processes so that each job and candidate that I agree to work with has a higher percentage of being placed or filled. I have not accepted much work offered to me because I do not want to tarnish my reputation, but I am at a point in my life that I know I want to build my business and increase my production. – David, MA

ANSWER: David, that is a common dilemma. It was my dilemma. In the mid-1990s I was doing $300,000 to $500,000 a year which was what I could do without a lot of help, where I did not have to tarnish my reputation, where I could put my seal of approval on every candidate that we sent out, because my clients trusted me. I did not waste their time with bad candidates, which is what I am reading between the lines here is going on with you, and that is fantastic.   

We were at probably a $30,000 to $50,000 burn rate. I had one part-time person helping me recruit, but I was interviewing their candidates before they went out. I was flown out to Cisco and they wanted to give me a project on retainer, but I had to commit to filling 14 position a month.  

Again, it was me and a part-time person, and we were already generating significant, 2 or 3 placements a month.  Cisco asked if we could handle it if they gave me the project. Because they loved my process, I said, absolutely. On the flight back from San Jose I had to figure out how do it. It was hiring humans that I could create into mini-me’s.    

One of the keys is not hiring anyone with recruiting experience. My philosophy in hiring recruiters has always been I would rather train than retrain. If I bring somebody in who I can mentor and teach the craft and the art of executive search, they do not come in with any preconceived notions. The only way they are going to know how to recruit is the way I taught them. 

They can bring their life skills. They can bring their moxie. They can bring their world experience, which is all valuable. But they are going to rely on me specifically for a recruiting process, and that is what I would recommend for you. You hire people and all they do for you is recruit. In the early weeks you will need to double check their work when recruiting candidates for your job orders. Is everything that they said there, is it there? You know how to qualify, so I do not have to teach you that.  

What you are going to learn when you do that, is after 2 or 3 months they are going to say, Mike, our client should interview this person because she is fantastic in these 3 areas. Here is why she is fantastic in area A, here is why she is fantastic in area B, and here is why she is fantastic in area C, and here is why she is a little light in area D. Then you are going to call the candidate. They are going to do this a few times in a row, and you are going to find out that the candidate is exactly as the person described because you have done a great job teaching them that. Then at that point I stop calling the candidates.  

That is how I went from a half a million dollar desk to a $2.2 million desk. I went to a $3 million business, but I created 5 or 6 mini-me’s at any given time that were recruiting on things I brought in because like you, I was well known in my space. I had a great reputation. We did not waste our client’s time. We found them great talent when nobody else could in a really tight market. The exact number I believe was $2,143,000 that we did. The average fee was $22,500, so just a hair under 100 placements as a desk. I could manage that, but I could not talk to every one of those candidates, nor did I have to.  

I went from that part-time person in 1997 to a team in a year and a half of several recruiters. Because with your abilities to bring in business this thing can multiply quickly, very, very quickly. 

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