It was a year very much split in half. We spent the first half doing what we had always done: working to find the right fit to every single job rec given to us. That’s right, every single job rec. That sounds ridiculous now that I type it out, but it is the truth: all companies. For the first 5 years of my firm’s existence, we almost never said “no”. Less, in my mind, was definitely not more. We tried to grow revenue every year, no matter the emotional cost.
More =/= Better
In our pursuit of growing revenue each year, we began to work on more and more projects. In truth, our relentless pursuit of “more” was beginning to lead us into burnout, anxiety and unhappiness at work. After record months of revenue in early 2018, I began to feel on the verge of frenzy. This pace was unsustainable.
For Spring Break, my wife and I went on vacation to Boston and I decided to dust off a book I hadn’t read in years, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. I was sort of just moving through it dutifully until I came across Chapter 5, “The Hedgehog Concept”, and felt like I had turned the corner and suddenly emerged from the dark. It was so obvious, we were the fox chasing everything and trying like hell to be all things to all people. We needed to become the hedgehog, but this would require a difficult change – saying, “no”, but to what? The answer to that would change the trajectory of our business.
Rather than think about the negative, I had my team talk about the positives of recruiting.
Positives of Recruiting
· Who do we like recruiting for and why?
· What firms provide a good working environment and upside career advancement?
· What Hiring Managers return our calls or emails in a timely manner?
· What Hiring Managers give us good interview feedback so we can better vet future candidates?
· What firms give us referrals?
· What Hiring Managers trust us enough to listen to our opinions of and experiences with our candidates?
· Which firms realize that our services are of value and will work with us on an exclusive or retained basis?
Narrowing the Client List
The answers to these questions helped us narrow down our client list. We began to prioritize the process and partnership over volume. We began to ask to be the only ones recruiting for all our searches. By clearing space on our job board, we freed ourselves up to work on better projects.
We knew this change would likely cause us to have less revenue than the year before for the first time, and it was. And you know what? It was fine. A weird thing happened when we took the leap of faith, and believed that less would end up being more: we didn’t die, we didn’t fail, and we became happier and much more relaxed.
A nice byproduct of us being relaxed and happy? We became much better at our jobs.
New Industry Verticals
Once the summer had passed, we had a nice lineup of great searches for the fall. We began work on our second CEO search, two CIO roles and a Head of ESG Strategies position. We also partnered with two firms to build out their external sales team as they restructured. We finished up the year strong and even took two weeks off during the holidays to gear up for a very busy first quarter of 2019.
Making this change came with the confidence of having put our initial 10,000 hours into a recruiting career. To some extent, the game has slowed down, and we get surprised less by circumstances. This new tactic allowed us to spread our wings a bit and move into new industry verticals like Fintech and Private Equity. This week, we will even deliver an offer for a Practice Leader for a Civil Engineering firm that was referred to us by a great client we did a CEO search for last year.
It took us about 5 years to learn to be patient, say “no” when the deal isn’t right, and to surround ourselves with people who value our services. Because of this, I am far more optimistic about the future now because we are partnering with the right people and we have refined our process down to something definable and repeatable.
If you would like to work with a firm that is beginning to tap into it’s potential, we’d love to engage with you and find out if we would be a good fit to help you in your important hiring initiatives.