When I started in the recruiting industry in 1989, I was initially exposed to a number of organizations, trainers and programs offering their then current best practices in an industry that was really still in its infancy. While many of the fundamentals in this field have not changed, there have been some significant transformations; those people that capitalize on the experience and wisdom of others have been significantly more successful than those who have attempted to go it alone. I chose the former as I joined an established franchise organization.
I joined Management Recruiters of Plano, a franchise of Management Recruiters International (MRI) in 1989. In 1990, I was honored to be the Rookie of the Year (Southwest Region), #2 Rookie of the Year (nationally), and Top 10 Account Executive (recruiter) in a field of nearly 4,000. In 1991 and at the ripe age of 25 (my second full year and during a nice recession), I was fortunate enough to be named #1 Account Executive of the Year (nationally). In 1992, I was #2 Account Executive of the Year (nationally) and, after becoming a producing manager (player/coach) was named Producing Manager of the Year. In 1995, I turned my practice over to two very capable recruiters who today are still Partners in the firm that owns Sanford Rose Associates.
From 1995 to 2004, our single-site office in Dallas, Texas grew from just over $2 million search revenue to $12 million with 100% organic growth. We became the largest MRI office and posted annual revenue twice that of the #2 office. We became #1 in the 90’s and held that ranking until our amicable departure in 2005. The experience at MRI was one that allowed me to understand life as a recruiter, and eventually leader and owner, in a franchised office. I also became very involved with the corporate team at MRI and saw what challenges they faced in attempting to deliver a value proposition commensurate with what the franchise was paying.
A profound discovery occurred in 1995 when I transitioned out of my personal production practice into a leadership role at our firm. The history of our firm was like many others: many people were hired, most people failed, some experienced moderate success, and a few succeeded. Those who succeeded are the ones who funded our continued attempt of growth. Those who succeeded loved the accolades and the riches of success! For a few years. What soon followed were the cries of “thanks for hiring me and training me but the value proposition associated with being here is just not worth it anymore”, or “if I had my own firm…” No matter what, they were gone! I used to think the model of search firms was to go work for a good firm to get trained, and then leave and start your own firm, and then hire people to be recruiters to supplement your own production. Then, those recruiters leave and do to you exactly what you did to someone else when you started your firm!
I have seen this same cycle with franchises. The franchisee buys a franchise and gets trained, soon thereafter they begin to question the value of what they get for the royalties they spend, and many arrive at the conclusion that it is not enough. Many leave just as we ultimately did. By the time we departed, we had not even been using the name of the franchise for almost a decade; we were known as Kaye/Bassman International.
My profound discovery when moving into a leadership role was this: I had built my recruiting career on client retention – if I could really serve my clients well by working with them in the way that was best for them, they would always use me no matter if they needed to hire twenty people in a year or just one! As a recruiter, if I could keep those clients and just keep adding a few good ones each year, my practice would grow. Once in a leadership role, I decided to serve those that I hired and trained the same way I did my external clients. To effectively serve them as a leader, I determined there were three primary pillars I needed to provide. The first was Culture; we needed to develop relationships that would allow us all to grow personally, spiritually, professionally, and financially. In turn, this created a culture where people got to go to work rather than had to go to work. Being part of something bigger than oneself is but a part of this. The second pillar was Infrastructure; no recruiter should ever been able to say, “I would have been successful had they only provided me with more ____ or a _____!” I believed that no one should ever be able to fill in that blank; computers, phones, office, training, and models for growing a business within a business are all but a few parts of this pillar. The third and final pillar was Economics; we needed to create programs and models that allowed people to earn more money by being part of us rather than by being on their own. This would celebrate entrepreneurism and help people, in effect, build the kind of business they wanted within the stable walls of our firm. Compensation, benefits, equity programs, and perks are all part of this pillar. I view these three pillars as fires that need constant stoking, and wood needs to be constantly added to each of these fires in the form of new programs, tools, benefits, approaches, and efforts. To do all this would require assembling a world class team of training, technology, operations, marketing communications, finance, legal and leadership professionals who shared this common vision. In short, I needed to surround myself with people far more capable than me, and that is exactly what we did.
The result was that Kaye/Bassman International, the parent company of Sanford Rose Associates, was named # 1 The Best Place to Work by The Dallas Business Journal for five years and The Best Company to Work for in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine for four consecutive years. We won the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility and the Hearts of Hope Award by the Volunteer Center of North Texas for our charitable efforts. We specialize in over a dozen markets and place at virtually all levels within specific verticals of those markets. We utilize an approach we pioneered and trademarked referred to as Client Focused Search™. Simply put, we customize our search process, relationship, and financial terms around the unique needs and expectations for each individual client and search. We have led our industry in the concept of market mastery. We have been published in virtually every national magazine and major newspaper and have appeared on programs ranging from CNN and CNBC to Fox and CBS. We have retained dozens of industry leading professionals for many years. My entire original team remains with the most junior having just under 20 years of tenure at the firm.
This success propelled us into being listed as the largest single site search firm in North America in 2006 by Executive Search Review. I have always been a student of the business and had a passion for our industry, and felt that after this achievement it was time to take us to the Next Level. This was a catalyst for forming Dimensional Search Training that same year; we made training DVDs and spoke at dozens of industry conferences, associations and networks around the world. We developed our own programs but also believed in the concept of abundance and did not want to be about one person or one approach. We got dozens of recruiting trainers to join us in our vision and ultimately built www.nextlevelexchange.com, the world’s largest recruiting training organization dedicated to elevating the competencies and as a result the reputations of recruiters around the world.
In 2011, Rich Carter (the former owner and leader of Sanford Rose Associates) hired us to speak at their spring conference; it was a huge hit with incredible chemistry between our team and the entire SRA organization. Later that year we finalized an agreement and effective January 2012, we purchased the organization. We did so as we saw an incredible organization with an excellent brand, talented and tenured professionals, and a rich history of success that when combined with our resources would be an industry game changer. Rich Carter and his wife Glenda remain in the network as one of the leading franchisees running the SRA San Francisco office. A new franchise of SRA now has owners that were once a franchisee themselves and understand that the franchisee is a client who needs to be served so that the franchisees can best serve the external clients that pay the search fees. A new franchisee has the intellectual capital of a team having trained over 1,000 recruiting firms and 10,000+ recruiters on 6 continents. Success cannot be guaranteed in this business but there is no doubt that starting in our industry as a Sanford Rose Associates dramatically increases the odds, the speed and the level of success! Taking Sanford Rose Associates to the next level is underway and I hope you will consider joining us in our collective journey!