The Best Business In The World

I know the best business in the world. Yes, I do. And not just for me. Not just depending on where we are in the economic cycle as you read this for the 50,000 others in this business. For you!

I am referring, of course, to Search and Placement. Or, if you prefer, Third-Party Non-Internal Recruiting.

If you’ve been in our business for a while, you already know the truth of this statement, though this introductory chapter to the book Search & Placement may remind you of some things you have forgotten.

But, perhaps, you are new or inexperienced, or you are just not sure about your future in the Search and Placement. If that’s the case, you’re undoubtedly questioning my initial statement. “He doesn’t know me,” you’re thinking. “How can he make that statement?”

I can make it because I have been observing all businesses for over 25 years as a recruiter. I’ve worked all desks and what you have in front of you is the best profession in the world! And I can prove it.


Let’s take a look at what makes the ultimate occupation. We’ll have to be reasonable, as openings for Rock Superstars or Heavyweight Boxing Champions are sort of limited. But, within the limits of good sense, what do you want?

First of all, I think you want to stay interested and even challenged! We’re not talking about a quick six months, but a Lifetime Career. If you’re bored, the rest doesn’t matter.

Secondly, it’s important to consider an absence of negatives. We can joke about being a Rock Star all we want, but a 40 week-a-year travel schedule gets a little wearing. And there are certainly interesting corporate jobs, but many require frequent relocation if you are going to climb that corporate ladder. Moreover, some professions have lots of positives, but if you have to regularly work 60 hours a week, is it worth it?

Thirdly, it would be nice if we were doing something good for people and, yes, beneficial to society. We all work to support ourselves and our families. But there is much to be said also for being proud of your business and feeling good about yourself.

Fourthly, you’ve got to factor in the amount of time (and cost) to get into a productive state. Being a doctor is a pretty good job for some people, but the time and cost to get there are both astronomical.

And finally, we have income. How much do most people make? How much can you make? How much is reasonable?

Let’s take a look at the modern Search and Placement industry, and see how we stack up.


What is the Search and Placement business?

At bottom, it is the most complex sophisticated intellectually-challenging multi-step sales job in existence!

We are not just “intermediaries” or “distributors,” as would be the case if we handled industrial steel or printed circuit boards. We are not just “consultants,” as in business or HR consultants. We are all of these … and much much more. We are unique.

Does this mean you need a hard-driving sales personality to be successful? Of course not! The variety of personalities that can be outrageously successful in our industry is endless. Including yours.

It does mean that the depth of intellect and knowledge required to totally master this business is vast.

Think of it this way. In the mid-70’s, a well-known trainer of the times named Phil Ross produced an audio series entitled, “The 28 Steps of the Placement Process.” According to Mr. Ross, there were 28 distinct portions to “putting a deal together,” and earning a fee. Moreover, a competent search consultant must perform effectively at every one of them, every time, or risk losing the fee.

Wow! Complex? Challenging? Long “learning curve” involved? You bet! But learnable? Absolutely!


Here’s another strong positive.

If you are an outside sales rep, you may be “on the road” constantly. Even if you work a local market, you spend a huge amount of time in your car in traffic, traveling from call to call.

Many jobs, where the incomes match ours, require 60-hours-a-week, work on weekends, or being “on call” constantly. In the corporate world, relocation sometimes frequent is the norm if you want to move up.

How much of that applies to us? None. None at all.

Oh, sure, many people in our industry do put in long hours. As we’ll discuss, you have to learn this business, and that requires reading books, watching videos, taking notes, listening to audios while driving to work or at home. There is no business that you are born knowing. Talent is not enough!

But once that is mostly done, this business can generally drop to around 40 hours a week, more or less. Some work more, but most of the time, it’s because their inefficiency in the office forces them to do so. That’s why my book Search & Placement starts with the not-too-exciting subject of desk management and planning. If you’re sensible, you’ll enjoy all the enormous benefits of our business without any inherent negatives.


What do we do? We help people. We help candidates. We help clients. And we even help “source companies.”

We are not social workers! Don’t be confused. You must be a hard-nosed practical effective businessperson and well-educated salesperson to maximize income in this industry. But you can “do well by doing good.” And we do.

Zig Ziglar, surely one of America’s finest motivational sales speakers, is the author of the life-changing quote: “You get what you want by helping other people get what they want!” He could have been talking about the Search and Placement business.

Let’s look at the three entities involved in the Search process, and see why they all benefit massively by our efforts.

Client Company

First, we have the client company. The hiring manager has a problem. The better their staff does, the more likely they are to be promoted. No highly productive employees, no success and promotion for them. But what type of employee do they seek?

Generally, the need is for a person with a narrow specific background, and experience that directly relates to the position and goals that must be achieved. But where is such a person to be found?

Only a good search consultant can consistently produce candidates with the narrow credentials and experience to jump in and do a job right now with no time needed to learn or “ramp up.”

Does the client company benefit? You bet it does! Does the hiring official have his or her own career greatly enhanced by hiring the best possible talent? Absolutely!

The Candidate

Now here is an area where we directly substantially improve people’s lives!

If the candidate is actively looking, by definition they get what they want. Your efforts result in the right position for them.

But the real thrill is when we get to be “corporate fairy godmother.” The reality is that many people are not happy at all in their careers, but “fear of change” keeps them from taking steps to leave. There is limited challenge, limited income, limited growth.

The phone rings … and their lives are dramatically changed for the better.

And we even get paid! What could be finer?

The Source Company

Don’t kid yourself. The firm from which you obtain the candidate benefits too.

If the candidate is actively unhappy, they are better off with a more optimistic and motivated employee.

But even if that is not the case, a position must be developed. Every person eventually gets in a job rut of doing things in the same way, revolving around current strengths and knowledge. A new holder of the position keeps the previous strengths and adds more.

The best example of this is sales. Even in a very good territory, a new sales rep will not only keep existing accounts but will obtain a lot of additional customers and distributors. It is not that the new rep is better; they just develop the territory differently.

Apply that to your area of specialization, and the same beneficial results will be seen.

As stated, we are not social workers. But if you want a business of which you can feel proud one that markedly benefits every entity involved you have come to the right place!


This is a difficult area to address, strictly as a result of inflation. I can remember when a thousand-dollar fee was respectable, and I’ve met some “old-timers” who remember $200 fees! So take a look at the copyright page of this book if you think my numbers are low. Twenty years from now, I’m sure they will be!


First of all, I’d like to say that the field you are in, i.e., your area of specialization, doesn’t matter. That’s right. The best producers hit the same numbers, regardless of their niches. A good example is when I was in attendance at a Texas Association Annual Conference banquet a few years ago, and they gave out awards to the top producer in “professional” and in “office support.” The difference in average fees would have been dramatic. But the difference in total production between the top person in “office support” and “professional” was $2000! What makes you successful is not your niche; it is you!


So what can you expect to produce “on a desk,” as we say in Search and Placement?

The best validated survey is that produced annually by The Fordyce Letter, the only monthly publication in our industry. An economic downturn can affect things for a year or two, but that’s not the norm. So we’ll assume at least a pretty good market.

Putting aside those people with less than two years of experience, the average production for the remainder was around 200K per year. By definition, of course, that means half did better. Now it is possible (or even probable) that The Fordyce Letter subscribers produce better than the rest of the industry. But they have a lot of subscribers. And that is not an unreasonable number.


Let’s put aside the half-dozen or so top retainer people who pay major money to public relations firms to get their names bandied about in major financial publications. A few such people do exist, but it is unlikely you’ll do business in that way.

Among the contingency crowd, there are probably a half-dozen people who in a very good market, bill a million dollars on their own. There is very little to be learned from such people, and they may be viewed as an aberration, that is, a radical departure from normality.

The reality is that raw luck can strike; a great niche in a boom market combined with lucking into a very few rapidly-expanding clients can yield high short-term billings. Such production plummets dramatically in a recession, and never returns to previous levels. Then, too, every field has some rare geniuses, but you can’t count on being one. There is nothing to be learned from such people. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle were not very good batting instructors. And unless you have Ted Williams’ eyesight and reflexes (ex-fighter pilot, who flew wingman for John Glenn in the Korean War), it won’t do you much good to emulate his swing.

Then, too, many claims of unreasonably high production are due to blatant falsehoods, accounting gimmicks, or massive support masquerading as “total production.”

A Reasonable Maximum

So what can be achieved? Let’s assume you are a generally smart, articulate, hard-working sort of person who is willing to study and learn. What can you reasonably be expected to produce over time in Search and Placement in a decent market? How much can you produce?

For the answer to that, we turn to a specialist. There is a problem in getting real numbers on potential top production that normal good people can reasonably expect in our industry. The difficulty is that with one exception all speakers and trainers in our industry, myself included, have historically focused on new people.

The reason for that is two-fold. First, most of us got our start with franchises, or we are descended from franchises. Franchises, by definition, take people who know nothing about this business, and develop them to a degree of adequacy. They, in turn, hire new people and develop them to a degree of adequacy. Some people, of course, eventually do much better than “adequacy,” but training to achieve high production is not a factor; they do it on their own. The trainer or manager is on to new people by then.

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Secondly, independent trainers, like anyone else, have to be paid. That means they need as large a market as possible, and an owner who will pay for his people to be developed. In a normal growth market there are more relatively new people than relatively experienced people. Further, the manager will far more readily pay to develop new people, as the better ones are “already doing all right.”

Obviously, foundational material will benefit anyone. But from the trainers of many years ago to franchise trainers to the current new “wanna-be’s,” raw rookies are what most people with national exposure focus on. What can experienced people produce if properly developed? Really, they don’t know. That’s not their job.

So Who Knows?

For the answer to that, we turn to the only person who has ever specialized in developing not new people, but top producers Steve Finkel. Steve has taken a different path than myself or anyone else, and this is what he knows. He has developed some terrific products for newer people, but his in-house training for over twenty years starts with decent producers and progresses from there.

I am writing this book me, Larry Nobles. I expect to get some literary proof-reading and editing help from Steve, but this is my material, and it will benefit you enormously. But I am not shy about asking for help in this area, and I did. Here is Steve’s answer.

How Much? The Answer

“It is my belief,” says Steve Finkel, “that the Search and Placement business, or Recruiting, if you prefer, for most people offers the best possible income in the least time and the most pleasant working conditions in the world. And that a normal person with good talent can be trained to achieve that income.”

What does that mean in hard numbers? He continues, “Over time, I can train a good recruiter consistently to bill upwards of $400,000 per year. Some support in terms of one or two part-time recruiters (a tool Steve promotes) can increase that number significantly with relative low cost.

Depending on individual talent and motivation, a person can feel absolutely confident of achieving those numbers over time with the proper training, regardless of the area of specialization. Some people will do better, but they have unusual personal qualities which cannot be replicated. But that $400K-plus in consistent personal production is realistic and achievable, based on a decent market and in today’s dollars.”

Wow! Not bad! Now you’ll obviously have to translate that into your compensation structure to see what that means in earnings for you. And not even Steve can develop that production overnight. We are speaking of years of consistent effort and top training. But I think you’ll agree that combined with all the preceding favorable factors we’ve mentioned, as a long-term career opportunity, Search and Placement offers the best deal around!


So what does it cost, this terrific lifetime career? Can you just wander in, get some exposure to your manager, a little training and then go out and be successful? No.

The reality is that the “turnover rate,” the percentage of people who are not successful in our field, as in any sales field, is high. Why? What can stop you from outrageous success? Or perhaps you are already in our business, and not where you want to be. Maybe the production level quoted seemed high to you. Why is that? What is stopping you from the success that should be yours?

Ronald Reagan was noteworthy for many reasons, but a main one was that he was highly successful in four different careers, spanning his entire life. He made the right decisions. And he had a saying that applies here. “There are no easy answers,” he said. “But there are simple answers.” Here’s how to achieve this outstanding lifetime career.


One might say this is a metaphor for life. The reality is, as noted sales trainer Zig Ziglar said, that, “Winners achieve by doing things that losers will not do.” That really says a lot.

Let’s take some examples. I don’t like planning. I don’t like organization. I don’t like checklists or paying attention to detail. That just isn’t me. I’ll bet it isn’t you either. But you know what? It doesn’t matter what I like. I flew helicopters for two tours in Vietnam. I saw that the people who weren’t planned and organized, and who got sloppy about checklists and details after they got good … just didn’t come back.

You, too. It’s easy to fill out your Daily Planner at the end of the day when you’re new. It takes awhile, but you know you have to do it. Your manager will show you how. He’ll show you the second day and the third. You won’t like it, but you’ll do it. But how about after a few weeks or months? Or years? Doing what you don’t like to do because you know you should is discipline. Like some friends in Vietnam, you can skip checklists and get sloppy for a while. But one day, you won’t come back either.

Or how about keeping track or numbers and analyzing ratios in this business? It has to be done to maintain your work pace, and to identify problems at an early stage. It’s tedious stuff, but highly important. If you drift away from doing it, you lose.

The same with conversations around the office, personal calls, just staying on the phone. It’s easy to get distracted and accomplish less than you should, especially when you think you know this business. It’s also undisciplined. You must stay disciplined, even when it’s boring.

Lifetime Learning

This business is a highly complex sales business. “Selling” is not a personality trait. It is a hard and specific set of skills. It must be learned and to do well, it must be mastered. It ain’t easy.

Ask any experienced manager about individuals who say they will do well in this business because “I love people.” If you love people, perhaps you will do well in the ministry. This business is for people who are willing to learn a profession.

Or take those who claim they “love to sell.” I’ve hired a few of those people over the years, and listened to them on the phone. They fail. They don’t love to sell. People who love what they do are excited about learning more, and implementing what they learn. These people just love to talk.

“Born salespeople” don’t make it in this business long-term, though they frequently get off to a quick start. Why not? Because they have a short learning curve. They peak early; they start fast, and then “know it all.” If that is you, quit now. But if you are willing to really study long-term and invest the time and thought to do so, you will do better than you ever thought possible.


I’ll be straightforward with you. This business can and will be frustrating and disappointing at times.

Calls are not returned. Clients hire someone other than your candidates at the last minute. Offers are turned down. You are going to hear “no’s” when you would far rather hear a “yes.”

Can you reduce the disappointment? Absolutely! Can you eliminate it? No. No matter how good you are, some will happen. It’s called “big-ticket selling.” A deal you think is put together will fall apart, causing you anguish and costing you money. Will you get through the disappointment, and stay focused?

That is this business. The rewards both emotional and financial are enormous. What does it take? It takes on-going long-term learning. And it takes toughness.

Required Information

So what do you need to know to succeed? Effective organizational skills on a desk. (Sorry. But it is critical). Obtaining clients. Selecting. Identifying candidates. Recruiting. Presenting candidates. Coaching. Follow-ups. Closing. And then when we’ve put the deal together, we’ll talk about developing clients from a one-time placement source to serious repeat business.

If you’re new, you’ll get a great foundation. If you’re experienced, you’ll see things you may have missed along the way, and will be reminded of things you may have drifted away from over the years. What will you get? Increased production!

To attain that result, there are two keys.

First, you must own my book. You’ve heard the phrase “investing in your career.” That means you must have your own book, then read and re-read it, marking it up extensively. Not investing the time or the money to do so is called “being cheap.” And foolish. Don’t gamble with your career.

Secondly, you must also underline or highlight. Doing so will help greatly to fix this information in your mind, just as in a college textbook.

We spoke of a willingness to learn. This is what it means. Just “reading” will not allow you to achieve all the benefits we’ve discussed. Studying will. Only by doing so will my book become for you what it should… a handbook for success.

So ….

So what kind of business is Search and Placement? A complex, challenging, interesting business. An emotionally satisfying and financially rewarding one, without the negatives encountered in similarly rewarding professions. One not easy to learn, but which will provide you with a lifetime of consistent and major returns on your investment of time and study.

Really, when you think about it, there is only one way to describe what we have to offer.

It’s the best business in the world!


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