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Playing Good Defense as a Recruiting Firm Owner

by | Oct 24, 2016 | Owner Issues, Top Echelon Blog

As salespeople by nature, recruiting professionals and owners are wired toward action and offense-mindedness. Most of us think in terms of targets such as revenue, number of deals closed, contacts in our recruiting software, and the size of our team. In sports terms, you could say that we think of touchdowns, home runs, baskets, and goals. This offensive mindset is part of the reason why we are able to be successful in a competitive sales business in the first place.

But what’s more important, scoring a lot of points or winning the game? What’s more important to an owner – having a large team or earning a substantial profit? What’s more important for a consultant – your annual earnings or your net worth? Defense is the other half of the game that ensures that all of your hard work that you perform on offense doesn’t get lost and end up costing you the game.

OK, enough with the sports analogies, you get the point. I have spoken to many owners of firms who had 10 or more search consultants on their staff, a bustling applicant tracking system for recruiters, lots of overhead and headaches and, at the end of the year, they had seen a net profit of about $150K.

They had their eye on offense; hire several recruiters, build the office, generate sales, but NOT on defense and profitability. Many micro operators make the same profit in six months with half of the headaches.

Think financial offense and defense

In an uncertain market, you must think about both financial offense and defense whether you are a firm owner or a consultant. Offense, as I’ve said, refers to making placements and generating new revenue, and this is the most important area on which to focus. Throughout the day, ask yourself, “What activity could I be doing right now that would have the best chance of leading to revenue?”

Financial defense refers to controlling spending and keeping more of what you earn. Regardless of your situation, there are probably ways to reduce your spending and run leaner. Set an aggressive goal of cutting expenses by 20% and see where it takes you. Examine each expense and ask, “Does this give me significantly more value that what I’m paying for it?” If not, toss it. You can always bring it back later if you wish.

Our business goes through peaks and valleys and the firms that are able to deliver value to their clients while staying nimble will have the best prospects for long-term success. Focus on building reserves that are larger than you think you will need so that you will be in a healthy financial position. Measure the health of you firm by looking at the per desk average of your recruiters. Add staff when you are comfortable that your current team is performing well.

Defend your golden hours

As an owner or search professional, one of your top assets is time. Defending your time is of critical importance. Golden hours are the prime calling hours in your day. Generally, these are the morning hours when you are fresh and have a planner full of calls to make. You must guard your golden hours ruthlessly and create an environment that is as free from distractions as possible so that you can execute a good number of calls before 12:00 p.m. The only way to do this successfully is if you have planned your calls out the night before and execute the plan at the scheduled time. This means saying “no” to interruptions and time bandits.

M. Scott Peck has said, “You can enhance the pleasure of life by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.”

So, figure out what the “pain” is for you in your daily schedule and do this first. Perform easier tasks such as industry reading, callbacks and research at the very end of the day. By noon you can take a breath and relax a bit knowing you have gotten a strong start to your day.

Playing good defense is, at first, just a matter of changing your focus and perspective. By remembering what is most important you will naturally protect your most important assets such as your time and money.

Having a balance of both good offense and defense will ensure that you have an effective game plan for your company’s success.

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Gary Stauble, a guest writer for the Top Echelon Recruiter Training Blog, is the principal consultant for The Recruiting Lab, a coaching company that assists firm owners and solo recruiters in generating more profit in less time.  For more information or to schedule a complimentary coaching session, visit or call 408.849.4756.

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