A few years back, I was in the position of explaining to a substantial recruitment workforce why their contracts had to change to a new recruitment market. Some staff were clearly suspicious of the changes.
Some of the staff were finding the legal language a little hard to understand.
I explained that the new clause was actually much more narrowly focussed a restriction from their point of view, opening up an entire metropolitan area should they need or want to find other work.
Then one of them stepped forward. “Thing is, Alison, we can’t do anything else”, he said. “This market is all we know.”
I have to admit I was taken by surprise. The idea that a recruiter could only succeed in one market was not one I was expecting. In fact, the opposite. Many recruiters overestimate their understanding and assume that what works in one market will work in any market.
Why did this recruiter have such self-limiting beliefs?
- Had been taught processes, but not the reasons behind them.
- Inherited a small but warm desk, where he had been able to “farm” accounts rather than develop them.
- Was working in a sector with which he felt comfortable. Indeed, his Mum and neighbour were both contractors for the business. Socially and educationally, these people represented no challenge to him.
- Had a complete lack of curiosity about anything else.
In good times, his managers had been reasonably happy with his “steady eddy” performance. He followed a routine. They used that well-known phrase “If it ain’t broke…”
Here’s the thing. It was broken.
It’s just that in a market with buoyant demand, they hadn’t realised that this guy was vulnerable. He had no BD skills, no newer relationships, no ability to adapt his style or process.
And now his “clients” had all lost their jobs too.
Sadly, that guy did get made redundant. He has yet to find a new job. He was one of many at that business.
Let me be very clear. I am a committed believer in the power of genuinely learning about your market and forming long-term relationships. What I am not a fan of, however, is businesses which don’t look ahead. And that means “leaders” who don’t lead.
How can you avoid the trap of the “one-trick pony” business? How can you steer your own course rather than just being buffeted on the waves of the market?
Alison Humphries is a highly experienced MD and NED, with 35 years at the top of the recruitment sector.
She advises directors and owners of recruitment businesses on strategy, finance, sales and management to maximise performance, enter new markets, prepare for sale and work more efficiently.
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