Building a client base in a Professional Services Firm : LUSENET : What keeps you up at night? : One Thread

I'm new to a Professional Services firm whose purpose is to place individuals in appropriate career opportunities. My trouble lies in getting organizations to commit to our 'fee-for-service'. We aren't a contingency firm. Aside from utilizing a well established network and being able to speak sensibly to our value adding proposition, what other suggestions do other professionals have? Your thoughtful responses would be appreciated.

-- Mike Kerr (, October 10, 2000


I presume Mike that you work for a retained search firm as you mentioned that your organization isn't a contigency firm. I have always viewed contingency search firms to be transactional and therefore work at a lower tier of of what I call "MacDonalds Recruiting" and who accompany that with shorter commitments to the client. Which of course brings me to the second type of business which should be relational (but more often than not isn't in the recruiting industry).

You have done your value added proposition which is fine which probably outlines that your firm deals with high end searches. We are living in an era where business is hearing (even though they are not really gearing up to) more and more towards the relationship rather than transactional mindset. Proof of this is the increasing adoption of customer relationship management (CRM) as a business concept (though maybe not capturing that CRM mindset on an enterprise- wide basis which explains 70% failure rates in technology-minded adoptions because companies are still purchasing the concept rather than buying into the philosophy).

So what I am suggesting is that the more you focus on getting commitment to fees, IMHO the more transactional your going to look. Concentrate totally on your prime advantage over a contingency firm which is the relationship, the same stuff that makes the senior partners of a retained-search firm such happy campers (no wonder there is still talk of glass ceilings and old boys networks in this day age but there is also of course talk of doing away with that mentality).

Well established networks are one thing, value added propositions are a standard arsenal these days in your average salespersons bag, you have to go beyond that and seperate in the customer mind that these days its the quality, commitment and 1-to-1 nature of the relationship which will deliver results. I personally think a company like yours should be addressing the long term and if you should happen to be working for a company that is addressing the short term (transactional mindset) then there is not much I can say, other than that clients these days are beginning to sniff that out in such circumstances that there isn't much of a defining line between going to a contingency firm or going to a firm like yours.

Of course the advantage in most non-contigency firms usually belongs to those who are older and more experienced with the traditional approach which I call "the old cheesy wine and dine club mentality" where the older partners of a firm carve out individual and personal relationships which they bank on for steady cashflow.

That would not be the same thing as adopting a customer relationship mindset which would benefit the entire organization (and one which would be a huge competitive edge in what I have to date considered to be a ruthlessly competitive industry that by its very nature usually ends up becoming transactional despite what a particular value added proposition might say).

I don't know if your particular firm is relational or transactional but if its the latter, all I can say is to keep your eye close on what the successful people in your firm do get organizations to commit, then copy what works. Hopefully that will buy you enough time to find and move on to a recruiting organization that has a business model designed to shake up your industry. Hopefully you are working for that modern day earthshaker organization, so the best to you in your position and hopefully one day I will be reading how your company blew fresh air in an industry that may relabel itself but still operates with more cobwebs than it cares to admit.

-- Mark Zorro (, October 11, 2000.

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