Are Search Firms Expensive?
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A while back I had a meeting with the VP International of a small but dynamic European multinational company, very nice guy, one of his current projects was developing the Middle East market. This gentleman was desperately seeking a General Manager for their newly established Middle East branch in Dubai and was unsuccessfully trying to find the right person by posting classified advertisements about the role on job boards. I somehow found about his search (even though his ads were anonymous) and I approached him to suggest we could perhaps help.
It doesn’t really matter if we won the assignment (which we did) or if he did hire the right General Manager (which he did) – what I want to point out is the following: When we met for the first time I had asked him why he was trying to make this hire, the most crucial for the company’s future in the region, by posting an ad and hoping the right person would a) see the ad, and b) bother to reply to it, instead of working with a search consultant who would make sure to approach and assess the top people on the market. His reply was: “The services of executive search firms like yours are very expensive and without a guaranteed outcome. My boss has been refusing to work with headhunters for years, since he got burned by a couple of them in France and in Eastern Europe.”
I have to say that the particular sale came much easier than I expected after such a comment: I told him that our services are actually really cheap compared to the opportunity cost of a six-month lag in his business plan as a result of not finding the right person through ads. As for the “guaranteed outcome” I suggested he talks to some compatriots of his who are our clients for references, and gave him the names and contact details. He thanked me, left and a few days later he called me from the head office giving me the green light to start the search. “Do a good job”, he said, “or I’m screwed, my boss will have my head!”
A few days back this nice gentleman called me again. He wanted to ask me if InterSearch has an office in Hungary and if I can put him in contact with my colleagues in Budapest since he is establishing a subsidiary there and his boss “doesn’t want to waste time and money.”