I have several friends who work for national search firms – you know the names – The Largest in the World and Otherwise Known As We the People. We recently discussed what is happening in healthcare and our respective approaches to the executive search process. They both asked similar questions when I shared my approach:
Before I respond, I feel obliged to make a disclosure. First, I have worked in only two search firms, both of which I founded. I have never worked for one of the majors with their formulaic approach that discourages deviation or innovation. I designed our service offerings and executive search process based on my experience as a candidate and as a client, what I liked and did not like. I just tried to do what I thought made the most sense. This is not me bragging that I am better. This is just me saying we do things differently. In comparison to some of the old-line firms, the differences between our approach and philosophy are fairly significant. But that is not the point. Let’s get back to their questions: Why do you do that stuff when the client doesn’t expect it or ask for it?
Because when you have a team of less than 20 executive recruiters and consultants and many of your competitors have a long history and relationships, you would be an idiot if you did not consider market differentiation. While I keep that truth front and center while building my business, there is another factor, a more important business principle, that is at the heart and soul of what motivates me.
To add some relevance, let me share my beliefs in the context of value-based reimbursement that hospitals and other healthcare providers will live or die with over the next 10 years and beyond. It is all about quality (accountability), costs and patient satisfaction. If hospitals and other healthcare providers are going to be held accountable through reimbursement for their performance, why shouldn’t the people who sell services to those organizations have some elements of the same formula in their business model? Why should we try to hold on to the old transactional business model that while very profitable and comfortable, is hardly designed for the new way healthcare providers must do business?
That is an easy answer. Clients and candidates do deserve a better approach. Interestingly, some of the things I have been the proudest of did not seem to be that important to clients; like our three-year-placement guarantee, for example. Recently we were told in client/candidate focus group interviews, that they felt it was not necessary and carried too much risk for us. They felt that sometimes we gave them too much information in our candidate presentation books. Fortunately, what they liked far outweighed what they thought we should change, or the areas where we could improve.
Other new offerings, which we had talked about internally and begun to use in business pitches, seemed to have greater traction with our clients. This realization sent us back to the drawing board to make them real, the kind of value-added services for which we want to be held accountable.
So, why do we do those things? Because we think that if our clients must deal with increasing financial risks, so should we. There is no rational reason/excuse for not tying our performance and level of service to our professional fee. Because we believe that the terms partnering and accountability deserve to be more than marketing phrases.
The cost of a miss-hire is significant, much more than most organizations estimate in their cost of turnover calculations. Most recruiters take that fact seriously but few are willing to put their money where their mouth is. We will.
In terms of our candidates, we understand that being a candidate in a search is challenging and time consuming. Unfortunately, based on observation and feedback from candidates, many recruiters take their sacrifices for granted. While we have always understood that, our actions did not always match our values. So now, we have created services for our candidates, including ongoing career support.
Until then, the answer to the questions my friends/competitors posed: We do the extra stuff for our clients because we want to be invested in their success. They are being held accountable. So should we.
Service firms that don’t change are transactional. The unfortunate truth is that most prefer a business as usual model. They don’t want to change from 50-years of essentially doing it the same way because they don’t feel they have to.