top of page

EP 35: James Hornick, Partner and Chief Revenue Officer at Hirewell

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  

Hello, and welcome to Talent Acquisition Trends & Strategy. Today we are joined by James Hornick. James, welcome to the show!


James Hornick  0:18  

Hey, thanks for having me. Happy to be here!


James Mackey  0:20  

Well, we're really pumped to have you here. I'm really excited to speak with you to kind of pick your brain on what's happening right now in the world of talent acquisition. So I know we're gonna have a tonne of fun and hopefully learn from each other. 


Before we jump into it just for everybody tuning in, do you mind just sharing a little bit about what you do? I want everyone to know what perspective you're coming from.


James Hornick  0:39  

Yeah, sure. So one of the partners at Hirewell, I'm also the Chief Revenue Officer. So I've been here since 2005, which seems like yesterday. I realize it's been a long time. We've grown a lot since then. So when I first joined, the sales pitch that I tell people many times every day, we were like a four-person shop. Now we're just over 200. So we've grown a lot in that time span.  


I was a tech recruiter for 10 years. So did all that. My kind of next thing I did here was I actually built out along with my colleague, Dawn Maragos, our marketing recruiting division. So I know a lot about that competency as well. Kind of been doing that I'm sure you've seen as you're hosting a podcast now. 


There was a point in time where like, I'm talking to all these like old school stodgy businesses that are doing digital marketing for the first time. And I'm like, Why the hell aren't we doing this? You know? And because no one in our industry does this, or shouldn't say, no one, there's maybe five of us, right? And so that really kind of because I took on more of a business development capacity when I was building that division out. And I realize, Wouldn't it be easier if we just, like, communicate with people like the way they're used to, like, you know, through content and stuff like that? So that's been a huge game changer for us. Not just like, because I really focus now, like, my personal focus is its business development, strategy, marketing, a lot of that is training up others in the organization to do content marketing, or to do sales, or like that aspect of the business. 


So I'm not a big fan of it, I like keeping the individual sales force small, within recruiting. But those people should also be very skilled and know the background setting to see a more strategic and consultative focus. But I think it's important that everyone on your team, not be focused and always selling but at least have that in their DNA a little bit to just know when they see opportunities in front of them and know how to better serve their clients, which is ultimately what it comes down to.  So yeah, I'm the sales guy and the marketing guy, but I try to help others in the organization like, take on that mindset. 


James Mackey  2:49  

Yeah, for sure. So maybe we just actually start there. I think it's very interesting that on the recruiting agency side, obviously, there's a tonne of delivery models, and we could get more into that, but like just say high-level recruiting agencies, right, regardless of how they're delivering the solution. It's just such an old-school antiquated strategy. 


I think it'd be accurate to say like, literally, probably less than 1% of agencies are really optimizing several revenue channels and are being forward-thinking about their revenue strategy. And I know that you're doing it, we're doing it right at SecureVision. So like, both Hirewell and SecureVsion are doing that. But in terms of tackling several channels, Hirewell was the only company that I've seen come up in more than one channel that we're also targeting. 


There are a couple of other companies where I'd like okay, I might see, they're investing in high intent on G2, or one company might be investing in content, but like, you guys are showing up in several areas. It's just odd, right? Like, it's just kind of interesting, how basic and unsophisticated a lot of agency revenue strategies are. What do you think, like, got you on the right path? 


For me, it was working with a tonne of tech companies, right? Because I would see how robust and how tech-forward and process-oriented their revenue strategies were. And so just being kind of surrounded by the ecosystem enabled us to learn more about different strategies than maybe what I learned from the early days working at Kforce right? So what was it for you like how did you kind of get on the right path with the revenue strategy?


James Hornick  4:36  

So when you say revenue strategy in terms of marketing channels, but also in terms of business lines. Because I think it's part and parcel to it is that's what got my brain kind of thinking differently about it is   when I first got into this business like every recruiting firm did one thing, and that's still most recruiting firms like they're just a tech recruiting firm, you are marketing recruiting firm you are a creative recruit firm., 


But we realized years ago that we wanted to go on to solve the whole problem and create a full solution. And to do that, you need a lot of different experts, you know, because it doesn't work having like a recruiting firm, that will just take on any wreck, and everyone does everything. You do have to have some level of specialization. But you can build things out in a way where you do have, like, we have a whole team focused on tech recruiting team folks in HR, recruiting, marketing recruiting, sales recruiting, finance accounting, recruiting. When you have all these things together, you can go into companies and actually solve the whole problem they have. Not just hey, I can work on these wrecks that can help you here, you can actually make something more comprehensive. Then we also said, No, you know, kind of the on-demand model. 


So we have the traditional model where we're able to kind of help people with individual wrecks then we just had the model where it's more of a flat rate because as you know, some companies will never pay on a wreck by wreck kind of individual fee basis. Anyways, the point of the story is I think, realizing how having different services and being able to attack the problem and create bigger solutions, getting good at one thing, then moving on to the next thing, then moving on to the next thing is kind of how we went about it right? You have to get great at one thing before you move on to the next. 


It's the same thing, I think with marketing, and it's kind of a sales strategy. Like there are certain things you do need to focus on, one or two things, and get good at them and get competent. But once you have that down, move on to the next and stay on top of what other people are doing. 


So if I had to go back to our first strategy on marketing, like it was kind of a flop like redo the website, hire a content strategist write a bunch of blogs, you know, and the funny thing was, is that I got asked to speak at an American marketing association conference for job seekers and Hey, can you help us promote this? You know, I'm like, Yeah, sure, whatever. And this is like, right when LinkedIn launched video, and so I just like pick up my phone, shoot a selfie, post it, the first video ever posted. And it got like 10,000 views compared to like, the 100 views some stupid blog post got and that makes your dislike mind blown. Like we're doing this all wrong, you know. 


So then, I guess you kind of said it yourself, like from other tech firms. Looking at what other industries that are more progressive are doing, from a marketing standpoint, from a sales standpoint, and realizing if you can just follow the leader in more advanced areas, but do it in a frankly suckier industry like ours, you're cutting edge.


James Mackey  7:34  

Right, exactly. I'm sure people are looking at what I'm doing or what you're doing, like How do they think of that? but it's really about the ecosystem that you're surrounded by, like, I'm in the DC area. So a lot of the companies run here like gov con, right, which is kind of funny because I don't work with any gov cons. Like all my clients are in New York, and San Francisco, I guess some are remote, and some are internationally headquartered, but we're helping them scale US teams. 


So I'm affiliated with the tech industry, but I'm in DC, which is even more old school. It's antiquated and like none of the recruiting agencies I mean, even like the branding, like I'm not saying branding is everything but like most agencies, like the branding, the Logos, the websites, yeah, super text heavy. They look like the websites could have been made in the 90s. Right. 


James Hornick  8:25  

I think that's just an extension of corporate speak. Like, that's not exclusive to recruiting. That's like, I guess what you're saying, that's, every company. Like, why is everyone obsessed with the safe bet sounding like everyone else, the approved marketing message? But everyone makes fun of that, like look at this they're online, like look at this crappy message I got. Look at this crappy website, crappy logo, you know? And we've added some tech components, we acquired a couple of tech companies, and we're like, okay, we're doing a lot of things. Now we know we can sell some technology, some other things like How are we going to talk about it? And internally, we're talking about how we created an ecosystem, right? I'm like, How old is that term? Like? What are you trying to say here? Can we just say we do a bunch of things? Like, isn't that what people want to hear? And like, I guess we can say that. 


James Mackey  9:15  

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I mean, it's definitely for us. Okay, I'll be honest, like the first few years that I started the company I didn't value branding at all. Like  I came from that old-school kind of corporate mindset of it's the quality of my work that matters. Like nothing else matters. Of course, quality is probably the most important thing but, baseline. 


But what was wild is when we updated all of our branding and all the stuff online and everything and how we were showing up, the quality of our clients skyrocketed. The quality of the people we can attract to work here skyrockets. It gave us a massive lift which honestly surprised me and made me think, Damn, I should have invested in this a lot sooner, and really, really glad I did. But yeah, just it makes a difference. And I think, the agencies that are going to thrive tomorrow, they're gonna have some combination of tech enablement,  they're gonna be forward thinking in terms of revenue strategies. And, as you mentioned, part of a component of that is delivery strategy revenue models in terms of how they're paid.


But the other aspect is mastering several channels. I think, too, just to get into kind of where we are in the current market like I tried to stay on top of like, who's doing well, who's suffering? You know, who's going through cuts, like in our space, right? And I think the companies that seem to be thriving or at least doing the best right now, are the ones that have multiple channels that are producing revenue. I mean, relationship-based sales are incredibly important. But if you only have one channel, or there's just one person pulling in revenue, or you know, anything's where it's like that bottleneck, or it's like too, highly leveraged on one source, that's really dangerous. And I think a lot of those companies right now they're getting hurt badly.


James Hornick  11:10  

I mean, that's what we learned from the 2008/ 2009 debacle. Because we were doing this back then. And we were in it, we were in a spot there were, we were still very large in tech, I think we're just getting an HR at that point. But luckily tech was held up, you know, it wasn't a great year for us, but like we were, we were fine. But we saw the firms that were positioned, maybe in certain areas, like in the contract space, were killing it, and others, like creative recruiting firms, got crushed. And we realized that it also had to do with the clients we had. 


Like we had a few consulting clients that killed it because everyone cut their staff and hired consulting companies. So we were like supplying these companies, people, but just diversifying your client base, diversifying the types of roles you fill, diversifying all these differences is how you stay recession-proof. That doesn't mean you can't be affected by a downturn, but my advice, whether someone is getting into recruiting, or whether it's any industry, it's like, you can't be tied to one industry, one type of sector.


I mean, it's business 1on1. I think people are overly obsessed with things like, I have to master this niche. So I think it's having and it takes to scale, you need more people to do it. But I also think that we wouldn't be 200 people who didn't have all these divisions, you know what I mean? So you can only hire so many tech recruiters, you know, but if you can serve as a company, in multiple areas, you can have more staff and make more revenue from one client. Again, business one-on-one. I just don't think people in recruiting think this way, though.


James Mackey  12:59  

No, they don't. I mean, I always came from environments where it's like, we're gonna feel like, you know, one type of position or one function, right, like salespeople or whatever, for several companies. And yeah, you're right. A couple of years ago, we shifted over to the model we are in now, which is like, we want to be the go-to across the board for every position besides executive like we don't really mess with executive search. Like, that's not really what we pursue yet. Maybe one day in the future we'll add that. I mean, like we'll do like regional VPS. But primarily director level to entry level is what we focus on. And, you know, we just kind of made that shift.


And first of all, it's great from an account management perspective, because you have fewer accounts obviously, you still need a lot of clients to be stable and to be healthy. But we can get deeper within accounts, we can kind of get stickier within accounts, where it's like, okay, engineering, recruiting is slowing down, but sales are picking up, right?  So there's, it's easier to have less, you know, churn essentially, within your client base as well.


James Hornick  13:57  

Yeah, I mean, sticking with everything that was like an early age, and we only did tech, like we would have clients where we totally knocked out of the park and needed to hire 30 people, we filled them all, and then they didn't need to hire any more. And then two years went by, and everyone we knew left or the management changed. And you know, like, the thought was in those early days, like that's just what happens. Like, you know, eventually clients outgrow you, or but then you realize Wait, but they were hiring all the other areas, you know what I mean? So it's like that also kind of drove it.


James Mackey  14:24  

I think it's important to really know the environment of the customer, right? Like you really have to know, for instance, if it's like the tech industry or services firm, like, what are the challenges? What are the opportunities in front of them? How are they thinking about scaling their team holistically? But you have to understand that stuff. And that can be your expertise. 


Your expertise doesn't have to be like, I only fill engineering roles, like you can hire the specialists that know how to hire for these different roles, which I had my own thoughts on like the need for a specialist, some of our clients, really want the specialist so we provide that but honestly, I feel like a great recruiter is going to do a great job for most openings. But, I think you just have to be the expert for that type of environment. And I think it's less important to focus on one or two specific roles and more or so just be the go-to partner across the board. For companies that are similar in some regard.


James Hornick  15:17  

Yeah.  I mean, yes, and no, I 100% agree that a great recruiter can figure it out and that's part and parcel of being a great recruiter. Is like being able to take a search, and understand the functional nature, the problems they solve, and where they came from. I do think there are some areas that are easier than others, though. Like building our marketing and sales teams, like we're all like, former, like, people who recruited tech or other areas like that typically got those things going. Finance and Accounting is a different game. You know, like,  our finance, and they're all former accountants. Like, when your CFOs talk to people like you need to know your thing, like, you can't fake that, you know what I mean? Either you came from that world, or you didn't. 


But even then still, there are certain people on our marketing team who've just been doing it for so long at this point, that they can talk circles around generalist recruiters when it comes to the specificity of certain things within the field. That I mean, I started that practice years ago, and when I have some of these guys on sales calls, talking to clients, like even I don't know what they're talking about anymore. It's like there's a level of getting.  But to your point, like, I think that's for really specialized searches, and we have lots of clients who need specialized searches, but not every position that companies need to hire for, that complex


James Mackey  16:41  

Quick question on that. Because sometimes I feel like clients over-index or overvalue like somebody being like, a detailed expert on like, every little facet of what they do, right? Whereas to me, it's like, does somebody really need to understand everything at such a deep level to do recruiting? And my thoughts are no. I mean, yes, there are specialty searches. And I think, particularly when you get into leadership level roles, or very senior level roles, it's going to be more important.


But I think like a strong recruiter that just understands the core, like vetting core, you know, matching up skill sets, matching up background experiences coming from similar environments, particularly for sales, like past performance, these types of things, being able to dig into quotas, and that kind of stuff. You know, I feel like, that's ultimately more important. Sometimes hiring managers are like looking a little bit too much for like, their understanding is very kind of nuanced, very, you know, things that typically only salespeople would know, for instance. Like, I just don't know how important that really is, it's more of just like, it helps win the business I feel like, for us.


James Hornick  17:49  

Yeah, you just nailed it down. So it helps win the business because when you're talking to that person, versus at generalists, when you certainly rephrase that, when you're a hiring manager, you're a CMO or your CTO or whatever. And you can talk to someone that can speak in your own language, or pretty damn close to it versus a generalist. Like you always go with that person. For sure. 


That being said, though, as I said before, like our, again, our marketing practice, like everyone, we had in that practice, they came from technology recruiting like they learn this, and they're experts now and can talk at that granular level, because they've been doing it for so long,  not because they just nerd it out. And they're not former marketers who got into this, you know, so it's just timing.


 I think, really, it's what we're talking about is just senior staff who know how to talk to like, when you've been doing this longer, and you've been focusing on the same niche longer, like, you're gonna be able to outperform more junior people, which is an obvious no shit statement. But that's why it just also pays to build your organization to have lots of, you know, senior leaders and people who are, take this seriously as a career because I think you need, you need a mix. Like you definitely have to be training your own talent, but are, but you also need to make sure you're able to kind of attract and retain senior people as well, too. 


James Mackey  19:04  

Oh, yeah. 100%. That's very true. Very true. Yeah and a lot of that comes down to it's like, one of the issues with traditional agency recruiting old school agency, recruiting is just not putting together compelling employment opportunities and compensation packages. I feel like there's a kind of like this old school mentality, a lot of search firms put into place where it's like, oh, people have to be like, really low base salaries, terrible work-life balance. You know, we all started at a place like that, right? We all did, we don't, right? Like, it's so it's just one of those things where it's, it's like you have to, I think, to be successful and 2022, it's like, you have to think for yourself, you have to really think like, does it is this logical the way that this industry has been doing things for the past 50 years? Is that really what we should be doing? Everything from, you know, revenue models in terms of how we deliver in terms of how we sell, and also how we're attracting and retaining talent, like everything that I'm assuming Hirewell is doing, that I'm doing is drastically different than the environments that we came up in, right? Before working where we do now.


James Hornick  20:10  

I mean, we've always been that way. That's how I or others like Matt who's our CEO, Mark Slocum, who's our Head of our tech group, we've been working together for, like, 17 years now. That was because we don't want to work with another company. We have all been there before. And it's terrible. But yeah, I've said this before, and this goes for any organization, like, having the best people and being able to retain them as well it's gonna make you a successful business, and do that by becoming a destination firm is what I call it. 


So having a culture people want to work for is really it. We went full remote, just because it was obvious to me that you can attract better talent, and retain better talent that way, paying better. I mean, it's the opposite of the old place, we started, they pay bad, and they treat you terribly. If you just pay people better and treat them well,  you're already a step up. Like actually it's not business 1on1 this time like this seems this is a more advanced concept. People have a hard time wrapping their heads around. But if you'd like to treat people really well, like build a kick-ass place, and pay them better than like, above average.


James Mackey  21:19  

Yeah, I feel like somebody could get more value from listening to what you just said than getting an MBA, like, honestly you have to know how to align incentives. It seems basic but I think particularly when you get kind of indoctrinated into a certain way of doing business like you're coming out, and you start working somewhere, and like this is just how it's been done. It's hard for some people to break through that and realize, like, Wait, what if all this is just, I could do it a completely different way, and produce drastically better results? 


I mean, when I started the company, we actually started out kind of like more of a traditional compensation plan, because that's what I knew, right? That's how I came up. And I started SecureVision when I was pretty young. So it's, you know, I had a few years experience, and I just kind of was figuring it out, right? But I happened to speak with a business owner who owns a firm out of Palm Beach. And, you know, he was willing to do a few kinds of mentorship calls with me a few years ago. And he was just like, he just really just drove it home, just how important like changing the compensation model is, offering high base salaries, just saying like, you know, you're gonna be able to attract much better talent, that talent is gonna be able to produce much better outcomes, quality outcomes for your customers, and that's what's gonna give you the foundation, you need to ultimately grow your business. 


And so we started to kind of revamp the whole model in 2020. And it was just like, instantly noticeable. We kind of moved even a little bit away from a performance culture and really just like hiring senior people and letting them decide how to achieve results. I mean, we're still refining that a little bit and trying to get better there. But it's really more so about just getting the best-fit people, and less about obsessing about metrics. I mean, metrics are important. I get it. But it's like, the most important thing is getting the best people on your team because that's going to be the biggest lift in terms of the results. We can drive for customers, right?


James Hornick  23:26  

Yeah, it's funny. You mentioned metrics. And not this will be a quick tangent, I promise you, but it reminded me of something because, first off, who actually likes tracking that stuff? Like I never understood micromanaging environments, because like, who enjoys managing people that closely anyway, you have to be psychotic to actually enjoy that. But anyway. 


But how the metrics can lie like one example. One of our partners, who was like the top pillar last year, she's always like, at the top. I know she had one of the lowest submission numbers. It's because you don't need as many when you're good. Yeah, so what it only takes you two submissions to make a placement, you don't need to have five or 10 or whatever it is per week, you know.


James Mackey  24:10  

So we sometimes recruit from other RPO,  typically the ones that don't pay well, that are very old school in terms of their business philosophy and how they go about business. So like, there was one RPO like without naming names, that apparently with a lot of their enterprise customers had like submittal, goals per week, and that was what they had to deliver to the customer. And I don't know if they decided to do that or if the enterprise customer requested that.


I mean, who do you think drove that? I can't see why an RPO would like to, unless it's kind of easy to manage, because you're just counting. Or do you think the client drove it?


James Hornick  24:51  

Yeah, our very first, and also I didn't mention this in my lead-up, but I managed our very first larger-scale managed RPO engagement. We were first testing it out. And it's like 10 years ago, right? I had no idea what I was doing. It worked out great. And you're one of our best clients of all time. But that is what we ran into is that like, you know, they wanted a certain amount of submissions. Like, it just seems reasonable. You know what I mean? Like, if we're gonna pay you money, we must see these submissions, you know, what I mean? And, you know, you get a little fast and loose with who you send over when it's, you know, the end of the month or week when you're not near that number. 


Then we had a discussion about and realized, okay, these are hard-to-ship roles, like, we just need good people, like, send us, you know, what I mean? So, it really is about the fill, and you especially when you're when you've got, you know, different types of positions, you know, some things are higher volume than others, you know, but anytime you incent based upon a number of metrics that closely, you're opening yourself up to gamifying things. Using gamifying in a bad way, like people are gonna start playing numbers games, which is common in sales, like every sales manager is aware of this, you know, but I think in recruiting for some reason. Maybe they're aware, 


But I think the reason why recruiting firms do this, and no one cares, is because the firms that do this are the ones that are working contingent, they're paying everyone no money, they don't care really care if anyone's successful or not because they're just going to find some other person right out of school, they're going to train and yell at, you know, and they just run it by making so many submissions per week, and, you know, half of you aren't going to last year anyway. 


So, I think it is part and parcel and you're talking like in RPO terms, but I think it's still the same concept where when you don't really care about your employees, you're not really going to care about if throwing stupid numbers at them. And that's how firms like yours in mind have done? Well, because we've taken the opposite approach in terms of Look, what's gonna be a good result for the customer, and how do we get there? It's deconstructing all these classical systems? Yeah,


James Mackey  26:57  

Yeah, theoretically, I kind of liked the idea of being really highly metrics driven. Like when I look at revenue, orgs, right? And I look at, you know, the best revenue advisors like, particularly on the sales side will say, like, track everything, you know, and like, really try to analyze everything and set clear goals for everything. 


I think maybe submittal goals could work for separate sourcing teams, right? Where there's like the check and balance of sourcing partner to a recruiter, and the recruiter is acting as that gate. But I wouldn't task the recruiter. If there is some type of submittal goal would have to be incredibly situational. And you don't want it to be too high, because then it just drives poor quality. Have you done it for sourcing partners before?


James Hornick  27:41  

Yeah, for sourcing. Yeah, we have for sourcing, I was gonna say not to derail this, like, we do track it internally, but we track it as a nice to know, that's secondary to results, you know what I mean?


So, people who are working, engagements that are getting done well, we don't really care what their submission numbers are, because they're getting the result we want. It's more to track people that might be struggling, might be learning, or might be having a hiccup with the project. Then we look at those numbers to see okay, is there anything like anything out of line here, more of a teaching tool kind of thing, as opposed to like, hit these numbers? 


James Mackey  28:13  

For sure, it's like a retroactive. Like if somebody's struggling, then you can deconstruct like, Okay, what's the what is producing this outcome? What do we have to change to get a different outcome? 


James Hornick  28:25  

Yeah, sourcing is different. We do like in our on-demand group, which is like I said, the RPO kind of version, what we do is we do both full desks and we do sourcing depending on the client's want. There are different deliverables, but it's going to also, again, depending on the type of project it is, you know.  Some of our clients want first-level vetting, some don't they just want lists. Some clients want tech, some want higher volume, things. And we do some stuff on manufacturing where it is higher volume. So it's case by case. 


James Mackey  28:59  

For sure. Well,  coming up on time, we've probably got about 10 minutes left. I thought we could just kind of riff on just overall, some of the different challenges, opportunities, just things that companies can be doing to be effective, hiring nowadays and just kind of dive into that.  Do you feel like there are any conversations you're having with customers where you're kind of like being a broken record right now about changes they need to be making or things they need to focus on in order to be successful with hiring right now?


James Hornick  29:35  

I mean, I could go back to my greatest fits here.


James Mackey  29:37  

Right. At this point, you could say the same stuff for years. Right?


James Hornick  29:41  

It kind of depends on what they're hiring for. I guess. I don't know. So it is a bit of a broad question, but I mean, the two big things right off the top for pretty much any position, especially tech, but also like any other corporate function is like Are you doing full remote, and What's your pay? Those are the two things that any candidate checks right now, these corporate functions determine if something's gonna be very doable versus near impossible.


Here's maybe a unique take. I'm sure you're familiar with it but maybe people out there listening might not be because I keep running into it the number of companies that will say something like, we were okay with remote, but we really want someone that can come in once a week. Like, we're not asking that much guys come on, like, like, what's the big deal? They don't realize it's not about someone coming in once a week, it's that the talent pool in your local market like we looked at this in Chicago, right? We're mostly based, like developers in Chicago are like one to one and a half percent of the developer pool in the United States. So you're already cutting out 98% of the developers, just by saying we want you in the office one day a week. And that's pretty much the same for any skill set. 


So not being able to wrap your head around the fact that like, yes, in an ideal world, we were all like, you'd have people but do you want to get these positions filled or not? And can you make it work without that or not? Because your talent pools are exponentially larger if you can figure out how to manage your organization in a way where you don't need people in the office.


James Mackey  31:25  

Alright, so my follow-up question. When you present that data, right to a prospect or a client existing, How often are you able to actually use the data to change their mind versus how often are they just like, Nope, this is the requirement?


James Hornick  31:43  

It depends, we have definitely changed a lot of minds. I guess it's the age-old challenge in talent acquisition, HR. You know, this, and hopefully, I don't upset any HR people out there, some HR people are great, and they've got the juice like they can make changes in the organization, they have a voice, they can get in the leadership's ear, they can make them see the bigger picture, some can't. And when you're talking to someone who can't, you know, right away, and when you're having those conversations, it's very much like, well, leadership will never go for that like, like, it's their first reaction, you know, like, I'm not talking to someone who can actually make a difference, like, this isn't gonna work, you know. 


But sometimes we are talking to leaders, or sometimes we're talking to people in charge of HR that like, this is great data, like, can you send me more on this, you and me? And can you put some figures together? You know, we've worked with some people in those positions where we're able to get back it up. And then they have been able to make changes that make things kind of more doable. So it's, it's going to be case by case on like, just how good your contact is at their own job and how much of a true leader they are versus having a leader title.


James Mackey  32:54  

Yeah, I mean, that's why I personally invest a lot in developing relationships with CEOs. And even at larger-sized companies, I still try to make those connections. Because if you can get that executive buy-in, you're going to be a lot more likely to impact results. You ideally make the change off the bat at the beginning of the engagement, but it's like that balancing act when you're selling to right, where it's like, okay, you want the customer but like, you know, you don't want to push back, If you don't feel like you can fill the roles and you don't even want to sign them because it's just going to if you feel like it's the requirements are just too off, but it's like weird middle ground where it's like, we think we can fill them, it's gonna be hard. But if we still think it'd be a good client, how hard do we want to push upfront before they know us on the importance of going remote? Right? Those are the tricky ones. 


And sometimes we'll get customers where it's like, look, we'll do it your way.  These are the concerns, we're going to do it your way. And we'll check back in you know, in a month, let's meet and see how it's going. And the ones that are difficult get to like a month into a search or like two months into a search. And then they're like, Okay, now we have this data of how it's going, and then they're willing to make a change. So we always try to tell that story of like, look, we just don't want to be in a situation where you change your mind two months from now, but we've lost two months. Like we'd rather do that upfront. Like, I'm just worried that I'm going to be coming back to you a few weeks from now and we're gonna end up making the change anyway. So let's just get ahead of it, please.


James Hornick  34:21  

Ideally, you're like a lot. I mean, last time, you're talking to people who already came, like, they're already struggling, you know, so they've already come in a and, like, we've had plenty where they've, they're already halfway there because they realize something is broken, they just can't figure out why it wasn't working, you know, and then you kind of present some data to them and they finally come to that conclusion. But yeah, it's also I don't know if we have enough time left to dump on just contingent recruiters. But that's also the mindset you know, the whole idea of like, Sure, we'll try it. And then you just peace out you know, which when I say you, I mean kitchen recruiters, like don't try anything, and then those bail on it, you know, and so they're putting years of the context they weren't, they're not telling people No. So they're like, you know, organizations think, hey, this, this company is gonna help me hire. And they're on it. They didn't tell me this was impossible. So Why are you telling me this now? So it's also combating that a little bit?


James Mackey  35:16  

Yeah, for sure. One of the things that I had to learn about doing sales, particularly RPO sales, is I could go 15 minutes deep into a conversation complaining about a contingent business model and why that isn't the way to go. And so I had to like, I really had to dial back and maybe give like one differentiator, but really not go down this rabbit hole, because that would just go too far. But on the flip side of the coin, though, I think that companies, it kind of annoys me when companies are just like, they get really upset with contingent partners, right? Because it doesn't, it just doesn't make sense to me like it, okay. So you're hiring a firm, you're not paying them anything upfront, you're not giving them any exclusivity, there's no guarantee that they're going to make any money or that you're going to make them a priority, or that you're, you know, this role is still going to be open in a month. But then you expect a high level of buy-in and commitment and consistency from them. That's not a fair partnership. Like you have no skin in the game, like what do you expect?


James Hornick  36:14  

If the shoe was on the other foot, they wouldn't do it. You know, if this advertising firm that's hiring, like they wouldn't work contingent for their clients for free. They wouldn't give free software, they wouldn't build a house, and they wouldn't do any of these things on a contingent basis. But just like, recruiters, the recruiting industry painted itself in this stupid corner, where we're like, we're the only service where like, a lot of idiots are willing to do it. And everyone's used to it and thinks it sounds normal, Hey, someone else will do it. And then when it doesn't work, they get upset about it, but like no one else in their right mind would go with that model.


James Mackey  36:45  

It's like, again, and I don't feel like this is that complicated. But I guess I could, it just maybe isn't that intuitive or obvious, but it's just like, look, it's a business model that's purely contingent, meaning that they have to have low base salaries, meaning that they're probably going to have Junior recruiters, not all the cases, sometimes their senior people, but you know, meaning that they're not going to be investing in like sophisticated approaches to delivery. And also means that they're going to take the path of least resistance because they have to because their expenses are recurring, but the revenue is not.


James Hornick  37:15  

All relate back to how these companies are run and the type of people they hire, and how long they pay them. And, you know, it's all one saw one thing,


James Mackey  37:25  

I just want to say to companies like what did you expect? Did you honestly think you were gonna get a high-quality solution?  I don't know. It's just interesting, I guess, again, it's really, it's why we'll get on the phone with prospects. And they'll be like, Oh, I, you know, I had a frustrating experience with the recruiter. It's like, okay, right. Maybe it was the recruiter, maybe not, or maybe it's just a broken business model, right? Like, you know, if you put a good recruiter up against a bad business model, that business model is gonna win most of the time, right? I remember what Warren Buffett said about executive leaders, said you put a great leader up against a bad business model, and the business model is always going to dominate. I think it's just that that's very applicable to our industry, right? Like you need business models that both teams have skin in the game that enable high-quality solutions that are scalable, sustainable, and all those things, right?


James Hornick  38:18  

Yeah, well, it's like you're not from Chicago, but like, all shovel low to the nicer hamburger places around like, really, really high. Everyone comes here and waits in line for hours. It's like saying, I don't want to go to the ultra ball because I went to McDonald's once and it sucked, you know, like, I've already had a hamburger. It's the same thing, you know, right? Anyways,


James Mackey  38:35  

That's a good one. I'll start using it. Well, hey, James this has been a tonne of fun. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your insights and what you're seeing out there. And obviously, we have a lot of shared experiences. So it's just been really fun riffing with you. And I just want to say, thanks for joining us today. 


James Hornick 38:40

Yeah, thanks for having me. 


James Mackey 38:41

For sure.  And for everybody tuning in, thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time. Take care. 

bottom of page