A Roadmap to Building Your Practice and Business

My business coach once told me that a leader’s responsibility is to make people feel un-comfortable at a rate at which they can absorb. In other words, it is a leader’s responsibility to help people achieve their potential by encouraging and challenging them to let go of the things that are holding them back and embrace the things that will propel them forward. This is no different than the personal trainer whose responsibility it is to help you improve your fitness level and who does so by putting your body through torturous exercises! Ultimately, the leader’s challenge is to determine what the absorption rate is for each person and identify what helped them grow in the past that may now be the very thing holding them back.

My experience tells me that people, like plants, are either growing by looking toward the future or decaying by focusing on the past. It is from this vantage point that I share this month’s “Next Level” perspective.

There are various stages or levels that a recruiter passes through in his or her career, and each of them presents a crossroad. Should I stay at my current level or move to the next one? If I stay, how long will it be before I start regressing? If I go, what will it cost me? Interestingly, these questions apply not only to our professional life but also to our spiritual, physical, cognitive, social, and ethical lives. Consider the following levels as examples:

Level One – You are a solo producer. Do the benefits of growing the practice, adding new skills, and concentrating on the most rewarding functions, and long-term potential financial, mental, and professional re-wards outweigh the risks and challenges? How do I feel about empowering others with fewer competencies that must be compensated in part before results are ultimately achieved? How many must I hire and who will train them? What direct and indirect costs will there be? There are dozens of questions just like this at each level!

Level Two – You’ve hired one to two researchers/project coordinators and increased your revenue as a result.

Level Three – You’ve developed the researchers/project coordinators into project managers and directors who, in turn, have become responsible for hiring and managing additional re-searchers/project coordinators.

Level Four – You’ve removed yourself from most of the placement-process activities in your team/core area and have begun focusing on building a new practice area/division/ business unit either by you with a team of project staff or with other search consultants.

Level Five – You’ve built an entire practice area/division/ business unit that can function without you. At this level, you begin playing a much bigger game as it relates to your personal and professional growth.

When recruiters lack a vision for themselves or the inspiration, motivation, or support to achieve it, there is a devastating side effect that occurs – BURNOUT! Perhaps you became disgruntled with your previous office because “they” did not give you the support you wanted to get to where you were going (even if you did not know where that was). Perhaps you hired people who you felt great about and they left you (I wonder if any of them are reading this article). The retention rate in the search industry is terrible. So many people experience burnout with one office and leave for another or to start their own. Some blame the ease of entry into the search business. Others blame it on greed. I submit to you that it is a lack of vision, strategy, and tactics by the recruiter/ manager/owner.

The leader/manager/coach must help each recruiter navigate his or her way through these various stages, or otherwise be faced with questions such as:

“What value are you providing me for the percentage I am giving up to you?”

“I am bored doing the same things over and over again, like a hamster on a wheel, and I want to do something different.”

“Why don’t you give me more _____ or pay for more of my _____ or provide me with _____?”

“Is this all there is for me?”

“How do I get to the next level?” (forgive me for the shameless plug)

On the surface, these questions can be seen as negative or subversive. Or they can be seen as gateways to a different future. Pain or frustration is a powerful stimulus to creating positive change!

Since the problem (or opportunity) is multifaceted, so too must be the solution. Maybe changes need to be made in the environment or culture that will promote innovation and growth. Maybe systems, processes, and procedures need to change. Maybe new resources, tools, or training are needed. Maybe the economics have to change to include the sacred cow of equity. Only by creating a vision, outlining the strategic objectives and tactics, and then executing them can true growth occur.

It is neither complicated nor easy. If it were, we would see hundreds of search firms generating revenues in excess of $5M/$10M/$50M/$100M+. Kaye/Bassman was recently list-ed by Hunt-Scanlon as the 10th-largest retained search firm and the #1 largest single site search firm in the United States. In 2006, we generated $18 million in revenues with just over 100 associates. What number ac-counting or law firm would that be? Every recruiter/ manager/owner/firm should periodically evaluate what level they are on and make a conscious decision to either remain or grow.

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So, what are you going to do? If not now, when? If not you, who? Do you want one or multiple desks/practices, or do you want to build a business of substance that has real value in financial and psychic terms and create a legacy that one day you can reminisce about and reflect back on?

A wise Buddhist once said that at times one should just live in the question itself and “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Otherwise, as Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “Alice came to a fork in the road. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

On a more tactical practice level, this month’s top producer tip comes from Eric Dickerson, who has been at Kaye/Bassman since 1997. He became a managing director in 2006 after generating over $1 million in revenue that year. He also co-created the soon-to-be-released best PC Recruiter training ever produced!


Often recruiters are so hungry for the “deal” that they rush past the little details that can bite them in the end. In particular, there are the financial and benefit details related to the offer. I regularly walk the candidate and client through each and every piece of the offer: base, bonus, vacation time, relocation (if needed), sign-on bonus, stock options or equity portions, and long-term growth potential. With the client, I also highlight how the candidate fits into the hiring authority’s “sweet spot” and how they may fall outside that area early on in the presentation process. The phrase I use is “Please look at this candidate with a $______ price tag. If they still look good, then let’s proceed and if not then let’s discuss.”

I cover this with the candidate early in the process to create a “baseline” where the candidate is currently and where he or she would ideally like to be. This helps me “match” the candidate to the position and allows for discussions about the benefits of the new opportunity and the candidate’s willingness to bend in certain areas.

The next time I cover this is between the telephone and face-to-face interviews. This is a shorter discussion, but it allows me to ask the question “So has anything changed practically or conceptually in your compensation and benefits requirements based on what you have heard and where you are currently?” By doing this now, I continue to solidify the value of the opportunity in the candidate’s mind and make sure that nothing has changed in his or her mind.

The final discussion happens prior to the actual offer being extended. This is one of those big areas where the “rubber meets the road” and where you earn your client’s respect and appreciation. I walk the candidate through all the details, high-lighting what has been agreed to previously and ensuring that we are still in agreement. When red flags pop up (and they will), I walk the candidate through the logic of why the request might not be acceptable. Additionally, I revisit their “hot buttons” to highlight the intrinsic reasons why they are interested in making a change. Once I have the variances identified, I speak with my hiring authority and verify what can and cannot be changed. In areas where nothing can be done, I strategize with the hiring manager on what could be adjusted in exchange for the candidate accepting something less.

Once I have the alternatives highlighted, I go back to the candidate and gain agreement with the adjustments using his or her “hot buttons” and value-added opportunities within the new organization. Ultimately, the number of issues will be minimal if I have covered these items with the candidate and the hiring authority early and often.

Finally, I rarely have my client extend an offer and instead simply allow them to extend their congratulations. By covering the little things related to money and benefits, as well as others, you will ensure a smooth acceptance in the process.

Jeff Kaye is president and CEO of Kaye/ Bassman International and Next Level Recruit-ing Training. This former Management Recruiter National Recruiter of the year has helped build the largest single-site search firm in the country, with annual search revenue in excess of $18 million. His firm has won national awards for philanthropy and work-place flexibility and also was named the best company to work for in the state of Texas in 2006 and 2007. Kaye/Bassman has retained over 30 search professionals whose annual production exceeds $400,000. The same training that helped build this successful firm is now available through Next Level Recruiting Training. To learn how to take your practice and business to the NEXT LEVEL, please visit www.nlrtraining.com to view their product and service offerings. You can also email Jeff a thought or question at jtk@nlrtraining.com.


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