4 years ago this month I was asked to leave one of the largest contingency recruiting firms that I’d been with for 10 years. I had reached burnout and the grace to carry struggling recruiters had ceased regardless of past success as my company went from 40 recruiters to 10 in no time. As I sent my resume out to sales gigs I had offers left and right for jobs that paid $35k-$40k plus commission to sell a widget.

An independent recruiter and friend called me and reminded me that I wasn’t burned out on recruiting but actually just burnt on being an employee. He was absolutely correct! From 18 years of age I had always been an entrepreneur and desired to own and operate my own company. I sincerely believe that desire led me down a path of becoming a headhunter because it taps into that independent streak of character we have which doesn’t fit in the corporate world. After a long conversation with my friend he reminded me that I was made for this business.

So there I go… Into the world of no draw against commission, No benefits unless I bought them myself, and no tech support when my computer starts failing. Now it’s time to spend money on Websites, Job Boards, renting an office, phone systems, and an ATS. In the early days it was always money going out and NONE coming in.

Here I am.. 4 years later I am incredibly thankful that I took the plunge. My life has completely changed.
I never thought I could do ANYTHING for more than 2 years without getting bored. I honestly have to pinch myself at times what I have before me. Imagine... unlimited income, complete freedom and independence to work with any client and any industry that you deem best.

Not to mention
1) I’m not closing deals to make my manager happy
2) I’m not a hero when I bill and a zero when I blank
3) I make calls that lead to money not to meet a phone goal
4) I get the whole placement outside of Obama’s portion
5) I set my goals which suit me and not my boss
6) I work wherever I want whenever I want.
7) I work 7 days a week and love it with no regrets
8) I vacation when I want in a moment’s notice
9) I decide who to work with and what rate
10) No meetings that interrupt real productivity.

Is it your time to go out on your own?
Just might be the best decision you could ever make!

Note: I am not anti-agency or staffing firms.. I am very thankful for the opportunity I received to learn this business from my past employers!

Views: 515

Comment by Stephanie McDonald on April 18, 2013 at 6:08pm
I did the same thing on January. Zero regrets as I'm too busy with work to even market myself w a website. Thanks for reminding me why I love my boss!
Comment by Mitch Sullivan on April 19, 2013 at 2:08pm

Personally, I'm of the opinion that every time a recruiter leaves an agency to set up on their own doing pretty much the same contingency job they left behind, the recruitment gene pool becomes ever more shallower than the piss puddle of a Chihuahua with a water infection.

Nothing personal.

Good luck with your new venture.

Comment by Mike Hayden on April 19, 2013 at 2:20pm

Mitch... that's a interesting prospective, maybe a bit assumptive that when a contingency recruiter leaves a firm he or she sets up the same model that they found so highly ineffective.

Nothing personal but you might be overstating the negative.


Comment by Steve N Odell on April 23, 2013 at 10:25am

Good luck Mike. In 40 years of business I have seen many of mine leave to do their own gig.The majority of them failed even though they produced at my firm. Even if they are successful they don't bill as much. Once YOU are doing EVERYTHING that someone else used to do that you mentioned it becomes burdensome to say the least.But when you work alone you have lower expenses. Then the tendency is work cheaper since you get to keep it all. That hurts the industry if you do. We are fighting daily to get a reasonable cost of services. I assume and hope you are doing it right.

Comment by Mike Hayden on April 24, 2013 at 9:30am

I couldn't agree with you more! I will admit in the early days of starving for business the temptation was certainly there to undercut the larger firms to earn business. The real truth was the big firms were dropping their fees extending their guarantees in 2008/2009 to ridiculous amounts. I would tell a client 30% and 30 day replacement and many companies would almost laugh! They mentioned the BIG companies head negotiated to 20% and 6 month guarantees I was floored that even some were doing money back of which I could never do even if I wanted too! A desperate independent recruiter is the same as a desperate agency recruiter.

I figured out something in the process that was significantly helpful for my business.
Clients that demanded 6 month guarantees and wanted 20% were painful to work regardless if I’m working from my kitchen table, an office or a large recruiting firm. My chances of filling positions were exactly the same as before, very unlikely!

Many independents do exactly what you are speaking of and are paying a significant price for it. I know friends who had great clients and thought it would be smart to go to flat fees and drop their rates and now that business has picked up they can never return to the higher rate.

It comes down to a feast or famine mentality.
Do we really believe that there is plenty of business out there?
If so, we have no reason to compromise.

I will tell you personally, my average fee was $12,500 over 10 years of working at a big firm. Today, my average fee is $20k. My pay terms at a big firm were net 30.. Mine today are due upon receipt and I am often paid on or even prior to start date. A business owner mentality demands to get paid as much as possible and sooner than later.

Comment by Linda Ferrante on April 24, 2013 at 9:48am

Mike, good for you!!  I've recently done the same thing and would heartily argue that we are diluting the recruiting pool by going out on our own!  My level of ethics and integrity hasn't wavered, but now clients KNOW that the decision lies with my partner and myself and not some big 'corporate' entity.  The service they receive is real and not dictated to meet quota, etc.

What does this mean for our clients?  It means they are dealing with real people who can help them solve real problems.  It means we take a personal interest in making sure their position is filled to their satisfaction.  It's not about filling a req, increasing the spread,or meeting that fill quota.  It's about doing the right thing, for everyone involved.  It's OUR name and reputation on the line here...

For the record, I worked for a large contract house.  I know all about those goals, quotas and that good ole boy network.  I don't fit in well when it's important for me to execute a level of service that may not generate 100 contacts per week.  Then again, I don't need 100 contacts per week to be successful in our company now.  We have our niche and we are doing well.  We don't need to lower our fees in order to get business.  Our reputation and previous successful placements are speaking volumes now. 

Good luck to you, Mike!!  LOVE success stories!!

Comment by Mike Hayden on April 24, 2013 at 10:27am


Your feedback on how this affects our clients is right on!



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