Do you have this loop running?
“I’d like to grow the business. I should hire a consultant. Ah, where do I start to find somebody decent? Maybe I should just stay small. It’s too hard. But really, I think I’d like to grow the business…”
I get asked the question “Should I grow a team of recruiters or even just hire one recruiter?” almost every week.
It’s a biggie, especially for agency owners who have been operating as one-person businesses and are committed to growing.
The other question I’m often asked is:
“If I don’t hire recruiters, then what should my structure look like?”
In this article, I’ll share my two cents worth in an effort to steer you toward what’s right for you.
There is no right or wrong. However, understanding the benefits and potential drawbacks of your choices will help.
If you have never hired a recruiter to work under your leadership, the following words may see your jaw hit the floor; I apologise. For those of you who have, much of this will resonate with you! And, you might feel better knowing it’s not just you!
What’s the big deal in hiring recruiters?
On the surface, it’s ironic that recruiters should have such a hard time industry-wide recruiting for themselves, but recruitment can be a hard job. Until they are a few months in rookie recruiters often see the role as much easier than it is.
That’s why there is such a huge failure rate at the junior end. It takes a lot of training, support, and commitment in time and money to get a rookie through to being a significant biller.
When it comes to hiring experienced recruiters, the demand far outstrips supply, so if you are looking for an experience you need a great employee proposition to entice people to choose you over your competitors.
A few not-so-fun facts
Recruitment has one of the highest turnover rates out of any industry; globally sitting on average between 42% and 47%. Ouch!
80% of recruitment companies worldwide have less than 10 staff. And most of those have less than 5. Mostly (not always) because they can’t find or keep recruiters.
80% of people entering the industry left in the first 2 years!
The overall average operating cost per recruiter is increasing whilst in contrast, GP is dropping due to increasing wage pressure. That’s not pretty!
Hiring internal staff is the most significant cost by far in terms of both monetary and management time.
Hiring and retaining good people is hard and getting harder.
I don’t like to be a negative Nancy, but unless you are prepared to go in boots and all to build a high-performing team, don’t do it. (We’ll talk more about what that looks like further down.)
On a positive note, if you get this right, you will be well above the curve and no doubt go on to build a thriving and high-value business.
The fact is though, if you want to grow a sizeable and saleable business you will have to employ additional revenue earners.
Going in with your eyes wide open to these challenges will help you plan and get it right.
- If you are a 1-10 person business it’s likely you are still a significant fee earner. That percentage, of course, decreases towards the higher end but if you are only a 1,2 or 3-person business you are going to be spending most of your time recruiting.
- The first thing that will happen when you bring on a recruiter is your billings are likely to drop significantly while you try to find that person, train them, operationally onboard them, invest in tech and systems to support them, coach them day-to-day and answer the myriad of questions they will have for you.
- If it’s your first hire and until now everything is done on the fly and in your head, there is a lot to be done to democratise this information within an operational framework that supports scalable growth before you make your first hire.
- It’s time to assess whether or not your business can take the hit if your new recruiter turns out to be a mis-hire and for reasons too numerous to list leaves inside of a year.
- Sometimes hiring a recruiter or recruiters is the next natural step in the growth of an agency. However, if your business isn’t ready and you don’t prepare properly, it can (and I am not being dramatic here) cost you your agency.
Side note: I believe one of the great things about running a small recruitment or search agency in the US is the number of recruitment contractors engaged through 1099. This makes it a much easier first step than in other countries where using outside recruitment contractors is far from the norm.
Let’s think this through and help you decide if hiring recruiters is the way forward for you.
Firstly, what do you want your business to look like in 5 years from now?
- Are you looking for a lifestyle business or do you want to build an asset to sell? Or maybe something in between.
- Is building short-term wealth more important to you than greater long-term wealth? (Short term wealth being more suited to a lifestyle/smaller business.)
- What do you want to be doing day to day (and not doing) in your business?
- Are you willing to invest the time and money into building a team?
- Developing the job function and how that changes your current structure
- How you will you stand out from an employee proposition?
- Career path – is there one?
- Creating and driving a unique culture
- Regulatory compliance, contracts etc
- Setting your infrastructure up to accommodate growth
- Digital technology and automation
- Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
- Operational standards/expectations
- Rookies or experienced?
- Training (not just initial training) – inhouse/external/both?
- Retention – how are you going to keep them in your team for the long-term?
- Management System (eg performance measurement and goals) How will you manage under par performance when it happens – and it will? If you don’t manage this your profits will erode; so plan ahead.
- Time out to manage/have meetings
- Remuneration and guarding against overpayment on commission plans
- Cash flow – how long can you sustain their salary against various levels of billing? Consider percentage of all operational costs, not just salary. All before they make you one dollar or pound.
- Projected loss in your billings
- Do you need bigger offices?
- How are you going to keep them feeling connected if they are working from home?
- Additional resources and cost (ie training, finance, admin, licenses and tools)
- Driving more clients and candidates to your agency through marketing
- Market potential?
If you want to build a formidable team, YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN.
Why? Because growing and leading teams is NOT a superpower😊. It’s something where natural flare helps, for sure, but it can also be learned. You don’t have to know it all today; you just need to uncover what you don’t know that you don’t know and go from there.
Invest in the skills you are missing, seek mentorship from great leaders in the industry, and most importantly be committed to it for the long game because there will be plenty of bumps along the way.
Ask yourself what is it you value.
Why did you start your business?
Was it to earn a decent living and spend more time with your kids before you turn around and they are leaving home? To keep things simple.
Or, do you have raging ambitions and a fire in your belly to go national or even global?
The answers to these questions and knowing what it takes to grow a high-billing team will help you decide which path is right for you.
The good news is you can always pivot (I really do hate that word!). It’s your business and you make the rules. If it makes sense to you to hire and go big, with the right approach you have every chance of getting there.
And…if I don’t want to build a team?
Don’t worry you have plenty of options too.
If you are a solo operator or have a small team now but don’t want to go too big, there are so many ways now that you can grow your business to a certain point without the significant commitment of growing a larger team.
There are tens of thousands of pieces of tech and automation tools at your fingertips and probably just as many offshore and outsourcing companies and people ready to help you build an engine to support you and take away the myriad of distractions keeping you from doubling or even tripling your current revenues.
So, if you are thinking of looking to hire a recruiter to double your revenue, it’s important to know that this is also entirely possible to do with external resources and tech for a fraction of the cost or risk of building a larger high-performing team.
It just comes back to what you and the people you care about want.
I hope you find this helpful and if you have any comments or suggestions on this topic that would help our community, I would love to hear them.
Thanks for reading!