Why I Left Corporate Recruiting

As many of you may have read in my previous post, “What Drives Me Nuts About Staffing Agencies,” my belief is that there’s not strong differentiation in the staffing vendor world. Too often sales pitches don’t strongly reinforce their key differences in building a business case. Said another way, most firms seem to be focused on business development and not recruiting quality.

That’s a broad brush to paint the industry with and there are certainly several very strong local and national firms, but that seems to be the overall client perspective of staffing firms. With that in mind, I recently decided to move out of corporate recruiting and start a recruiting practice (actually two different firms) with an eye to doing things differently.

Our primary business which makes outbound candidate cold calls to licensed professionals, primarily in healthcare. Our second firm is a contingency practice focused on the dental space.

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I decided to make the move to:

  • Control my destiny — As a corporate recruiting leader I was fortunate to work for companies that allowed me to move up the ladder and make more money; however, that path does have a cap. Budgets do exist and even the best corporate recruiting talent doesn’t earn what top-notch third party recruiters do. Additionally, the ability to build equity in my own business is an attractive long term incentive. But for me the main driver was not economic. It was the ability to make an impact on the industry and have control over the direction of a company.
  • Make an impact (by doing it differently) — I didn’t simply want to hang my shingle and do the same thing as everyone else. I wanted to do something that was different, serve the recruiting community, and carve out a niche. I enjoy the fact we aren’t competing with internal recruiting teams, but supporting their work.
  • Upward mobility/business direction — I grew up in a family of corporate gypsies, moving from job to job as opportunities arose. When I decided to have a family, I made the personal decision to set down roots, which is great for my family. But most certainly limits career growth. For the last few years that has been a sacrifice I gladly accepted. But I always knew I wanted to shape my path. Starting my own firm satisfies my desire to stay in one place and also have a stronger claim to my own destiny.

Taking an entrepreneurial step was necessary for me. I needed to take on a new challenge. I needed to carve out my own path and, hopefully, benefit financially from such a move. I know a lot of corporate recruiters who have the same thoughts and I would encourage them to take the step. I’d love to hear from others who’ve made the step out of corporate recruiting to see if their “whys” were similiar.

Matt Lowney is the CEO of Practice Recruiters and The Recruiting Call Center. He was previously the EVP of talent & operations at The Buntin Group, Tennessee’s largest advertising agency. Prior, he was director of recruiting for HealthSpring and recruiting manager at DaVita. Connect with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mattlowney


8 Comments on “Why I Left Corporate Recruiting

  1. Congratulations, Matt.

    I imagine as you’re outbound calling you’ll hear of those holes you’ll hopefully be able to fill with your contingency practice.

    The important thing is you’re outbound calling.

    Outbound calling will get just about any business up and off the ground running.

    It’s time consuming but – hey. It keeps your mind off a lot of the other things that worry entrepreneurs, like, “Where’s my paycheck coming from?” and all the other troublesome thoughts that keep them awake at night.

    The important thing is you’re outbound calling.

    It’ll go A LONG WAY towards meeting new customers, learning about market conditions and your competitors, other opportunities, best deals and all the other great things available to inquiring minds. Your blood will be coursing through your veins and you’ll be living.

    It’ll be a roller coaster.

    A few words of advice.

    Start keeping records now. It sounds like you want to sell this thing. If you’re trying to build equity in something do it right and don’t listen to the siren call of those who tell you to do things on the “down low.” Buyers (and bankers -it’ll be hard enough to sell a recruiting business!) won’t assess any value to another set of books.

    When you get discouraged it’ll probably be because you’re exhausted. Go to bed and sleep when that happens. Sleep when you’re tired – even if it’s the middle of the day and work even if it’s the middle of the night.

    Don’t be a fool. You know the tricks internal recruiting firms play on contingency recruiters and I was hoping to read some of them in your article. Don’t fall for them. Find the right companies to work for and spend your treasure (your time) wisely. Your first few months in business will tell the tale if you’ll be in business next year this time.

    Stay on the phone. That’ll way up your odds you’ll be in business next year even if you make a couple mistakes.

    Most businesses fail – don’t let this discourage you. It doesn’t have to be you. They fail mostly because they have unreal expectations of what’s expected. This is no cakewalk. You have to work TWICE AS HARD AS YOU DID BEFORE.

    No kidding.

    If you’re a woman you have to work more than that.

    No kidding and for you men reading this I don’t went to hear it.

    I picked up somewhere there was a partner? It’ll be hard. Invariably there will be resentments. That’s why there were partner desks back in the old days – SO ONE PARTNER COULD SEE THE OTHER PARTNER WORKING AS MUCH AS THEY WERE WORKING RIGHT ACROSS FROM EACH OTHER. Partnerships are like marriages – difficult at best. Think ball and chain (about the desk (and maybe the marriage thing too.)) Good luck with this. Do a buy-sell agreement now. While you’re still talking with one another.

    You asked for advice.

    There’s mine.

    Maureen Sharib
    Telephone Ensorceler <– The new path in phone sourcing

  2. Maureen, I’ve owned several recruiting firms. I almost stood on my chair and screamed “Yes! That’s it!” while reading your comments. Dead on.

  3. Congratulations, Matt and hi, Maureeen! Maureen really gave you some great advice. Through that process, your clients: candidates and companies, will be able to see that you are different. They will know this by the words you select, the approach you take.
    I’ll add a bit more:
    – Remember that when you’re feeling scared, that you will be ok, if you keep doing the things that you’ve always done. Don’t get off of your path and second guess yourself.
    – You really do have to work twice as hard as you’ve ever worked. People say to me how great it must be to have my own schedule, be my own boss, etc. It’s not really that way. There are tradeoffs between working for yourself and working for someone else. There is NO PERFECT JOB. So be prepared to work all the time and take breaks when business naturally allows it.
    – When there are added people and partners, it’s very easy to have what you do, be diluted. It’s hard to make that great burger the exact same way every time. How you do what you do that’s made you successful, can never be duplicated.

    In many markets, we’ve seen many of the largest firms fall apart because there were disagreements between partners. They then spun off into some new iteration and now we have yet dozens more firms who all came from the original companies. So be very careful who you hire and who you consider partnering with. Most of my best competitors in this market are also my allies and people that I respect and like. We don’t talk poorly about our competition because our work speaks for itself. My advice from this is to consider to grow slowly.

    I wish you the absolute best of luck, Matt!!

  4. Congrats! I too left the traditional recruiting environment for a quite corner of my dining room for a isolating existence of carving out my corner of the contingency recruitment world. Posted on my wall, right above my computer are a list of 19 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Successful…and here they are!

    1. You have to make the call you’re afraid to make
    2. You have to get up earlier than you want to get up
    3. You have to give more than you get in return right away
    4. You have to care more about others than they care about you
    5. You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody and sore.
    6. You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
    7. You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is
    8. You have to lead when no one else is following you yet
    9. You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have
    10. You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off
    11. You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
    12. You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts”
    13. You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot
    14. You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath
    15. You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
    16. You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
    17. You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong
    18. You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.
    19. You have to try and fail and try again

    Matt, it’s great that you are sharing your story with the rest of us. We all need to hear the stories that will inspire us to do the “hard things”.

    Thank you and good luck!

  5. There’s a lot of great advice here. Maureen, I’ve admired much of what you’ve written for some time now. I think the body of your work and opinions online represent a great resource for anyone involved in recruiting. One thing I’ve seen consistently across both agency and corporate environments is the link between phone skills and performance. It comes down to a combination of core communication skills, tradecraft, verbal creativity, thick skin, and the willingness to call anyone. I think that last one is the most important. Stay on the phone and good things always seem to happen. This is every bit as true when it comes to business development as it is in sourcing and recruiting.

    As someone who has been lucky enough to be involved in getting a couple different successful agencies off the ground, I’ll throw in thee more pieces of advice.

    – As you grow, be very careful about your early hires. Your ultimate success will depend in great degree upon the quality of your first hires as they will become the core of your company. This isn’t to say there isn’t room for mistakes. In fact, if you make a bad decision it’s important to acknowledge that quickly and move on. Look for people that are high energy and driven. When you find the right people, do whatever you can to help them succeed and reward them generously for their success. It’s amazing how easy growing a business can be if you have the right team.

    – Never compromise your integrity or moral compass. On the agency side of the recruiting business there can be times that this is difficult. I’m not too big on mysticism but I’ve been around enough to see that there is something to karma in business. What goes around comes around.

    – Always look to improve your processes and become more efficient. This means refining core competencies (like your phone skills) and also being open to new approaches and technologies. Retain whatever makes you faster and more efficient. If you can find and recruit better people quicker than your competitors can, then you will certainly be successful.

    Doug Friedman

  6. @Leah, I love your advice and that list! Isn’t that the truth?! @Doug, really like how much thought you put into your advice. No wonder you’re successful! @Matt, can’t wait to hear more, although one thing I had to give up for a time was ERE and some other great places to collaborate. I’ve just made the time for it now and shifted some other things. It may help you a lot to know the village is out here rooting for you!

  7. Good luck Matt.

    LOVE the advice from Maureen as she is the best in the business. The phone is CRITICAL and no one knows this, does this, lives and breathes this better then Maureen.

  8. Matt

    I am in violent agreement with your comment below.

    “Said another way, most firms seem to be focused on business development and not recruiting quality.”

    We sell a very robust sales assessment tool that is highly accurate and reliable at spotting talent. I thought when we started the business that sales recruiters could really differentiate themselves and their value proposition by assessing their candidates and presenting a comprehensive report on the applicants selling skills and two behavioral interview guides for each.

    Wrong, most recruiters we approached declined to be involved with anything like that. A. They didn’t want to have the client think their expert eye for sales talent was inferior or secondary to any science. B. They didn’t want to run the risk of having a potential prospective hire be somehow not considered just because an assessment didn’t recognize them as a fit.

    We had little to no reception to the idea of using our science and I think it is for the very reason you stated in your article. Best of luck in the new business. Always interesting to me how early assumptions prove wrong and one must “pivot” the business to make a go of it.

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