Why Choose Felix Global for Your Next Retained Search?
Several years ago, marketing guru Seth Godin wrote and spoke extensively about why “small” is the new “big.” He listed a whole host of reasons why smaller businesses often outsmart and outsell bigger ones including:
- Small means the principles make a far greater percentage of the customer interactions.
- Small means the principles are close to the decisions that matter and can make them, quickly.
- Small means you can tell the truth on your blog.
- A small firm is succeeding because they are good, not because they’re big. So smart small companies are happy to hire them.
Let us apply Godin’s logic to executive search. The industry is characterized by two types of companies. On one end of the spectrum are a handful of mega-firms, some of them publicly held, with big brand names and revenues of more than $500M per year. These large firms typically cater to Fortune 100 clientele and have deep relationships with their boards. It sounds prestigious to say, “we’re using a big-name firm,” but, unless you are a Fortune 100 company, your search can get very expensive, lost in the shuffle and they will ultimately recruit from you after their hands-off time has expired.
On the other end, there are a multitude of boutiques, most of which specialize by industry and/or function. At Felix Global, we believe strongly that most companies get better results by partnering with the right boutique firm. Here are some questions to help you better understand the benefits of working with a boutique firm.
Are you really working with the recruiter who will do your search?
When you engage a boutique, you are dealing directly with the person who will work on your project. In contrast, at big search firms, the search may be directed by a “Partner” but, in fact, a significant portion of the work is done by less-tenured, less-experienced associates. These may be people you have never met. Or people with minimal knowledge of your company or your business challenges and goals. As a result, the candidates may possess the functional match to the job description but may not have the cultural competence and traits (or what we call “the spirit”) of the job description. This can result in bad hires who do not fit your corporate culture and perform poorly down the road.
Will you have access to more candidates?
Executive search firms have an ethical (and usually contractual) obligation not to recruit from clients. Big search firms have significant off-limits constraints, which limits the pool of candidates. As these firms get bigger, this problem also gets bigger. While the big firms are becoming shrewder by defining these off-limits constraints around a project or client—and not the company they represent—boutiques can access more candidates because they have fewer off-limits companies. In addition, a little-known fact is that candidates that are active on a search within a firm are also off limits for any other search projects. Large firms can have literally thousands of active candidates throughout the firm at any one time—many of whom are unavailable for your search!
How many searches is the firm or consultant working on?
A typical search firm partner may conduct 15 to 20 search assignments simultaneously, overwhelming their associates and research staff. They operate in a “book it,” “bill it” and “forget it” environment. Unless your search is carrying the highest fees or is relatively easy to complete, it may be relegated to the bottom of the pile. In contrast, boutiques typically work on fewer projects, devoting far more time and attention to each search. We recognize that our partners and associates are performing at their best when they have 4-6 projects at any one time and so we take measured steps to adhere to that.
What about completion rates?
Boutiques have higher completion rates than big firms. Completion rates at big search firms are well-known to be in the 60-65 percent range. At Felix Global, our completion rate is over 90 percent! There are many reasons that a search does not get completed, not all of them attributed to the search firm. But, with a 90 percent completion ratio, you know that Felix Global selects projects that we know we can complete successfully. It is imperative that we do operate this way since a large portion of how we measure ourselves is on successful completions of assignments.
Does the firm have in-depth knowledge of your company?
Because boutiques have a business model that enables them to form a genuine partnership with you, they are willing to take the time to get to know you in the hope that this will be a long-term relationship and not just a transaction. As a result, smaller firms like Felix Global usually are better at selling your opportunity and assessing candidates because we know you. Combining our access to talent with our knowledge of your opportunity and applying our proven performance-based assessment gets results. This is where we combine the art and science of executive search as true consultants in talent acquisition.
How does the search firm add value beyond the search process?
Many search firms operate on something akin to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis—convincing companies that the search process is mysterious and incomprehensible. The reality is that most big firm partners cannot explain their process, nor do they adhere to a proven methodology. At Felix Global, we believe that being transparent is the key to success. That is why we transfer all the research we do on your project to you after the search is completed. This helps develop your database for future needs as well as to fill the specific open position.
The same goes for our fee. Our initial retainer is invested in new research and name generation, while the second retainer goes to our operating costs. In contrast, the big firms often attempt to pad this by charging a high administrative fee (usually 12 percent of the retainer). We do not charge for administrative expenses. Rather, we charge a 3 percent per month Advisory Service Fee for the first three months. Advisory Services includes:
- a detailed compensation analysis conducted by our independent compensation consultant
- an in-depth personality inventory conducted by Facet5 Assessments
- an executive coach assigned to work with the new hire, their manager and the client’s HR team to provide a customized on-boarding and acculturation consulting program for the first 90 days
The big firms have this capability but none, to our knowledge, are providing it as a part of the search. Adding value is the name of the game and we pride ourselves on giving you the most robust search package possible.
Big fish…small pond?
If your company plans to do more than 10 searches a year, you may have enough leverage to get the attention you deserve from the big search firms. But, if your needs for search are more focused, you will get far more personalized and attentive service from a boutique. Typically, the big firms sell the strength of their network as the major selling point. The reality is that their network is full of previous placements that they are ethically obligated to never recruit again. We start each project with fresh research: by getting the specific names and contact information on individuals currently in the roles you have asked us to recruit for. No old names – only new ones.
It’s about you, not them.
Bigger is not always better in executive search. In fact, big search firms face significant obstacles to client service, off-limits and availability of the right candidate pool. Large scale makes it easier for search firms to build their brands, and create their own economies of scale but does it provide value to their clients? Search firms are service providers. When evaluating vendors, look past the false allure of name brands and critically evaluate the quality of service you will receive. Determine the firm’s commitment to your company, assess its process and determine whether the search firm is passionate about serving your company’s needs and providing what you and your company want, not what they want to sell to you.