Thinking of starting your search firm? New executive search firms appear every week. Many are breakaways from established firms; others are created by former in-house recruiters looking to swap sides; while others are created by people who are new to Search. Some will be founded by solo recruiters; others by small teams. Each will follow a different path.
One of the first decisions you will make when starting your executive search firm will be technology. Those with experience at a boutique will often select the CRM system they are most familiar with – often with limited review of the alternatives. Other firms undertake a wider review of the executive search technology market but what is notable about many of the startups that we speak to at Dillistone is this: firms are often focused on the short-term needs of the business. While some decisions can easily be changed later – there is typically no need to open on Park Avenue on day 1 – certain decisions are more strategic.
Selection of a platform is one such decision. We often hear from firms who have made a short term decision to build a database in a generic or entry level tool and have subsequently grown beyond it. This can be an issue because, contrary to what many people assume, there is almost always a cost when switching systems.
This cost can come in a variety of forms. The most obvious is data conversion. Every database tool has a unique database structure. Changing from one to another typically takes time and work, and those things never come free. But the opportunity cost is often higher. For an established business, reviewing systems, converting data, and retraining all take time. As the old saying goes, time is money.
Of course, it would be short-sighted to buy a system to support a behemoth when your business is still in its early stages. Single users typically need to focus on finding information and getting it into the database. This means integration with LinkedIn, GatedTalent, and Outlook are far more important that KPIs, financial forecasting, and branding.
However, that shouldn’t mean that buyers shouldn’t be thinking about how the business might develop over time. How may your business develop? After three years, your firm might be a boutique with half a dozen people. You now have “data”: the challenge has gone from one of simply finding information, to finding and maintaining that information. Beyond that, as the head of a business, your personal focus may have moved onto management – whether that be business or performance management.
After five years? Well, technology will certainly have changed. You’ll be using new devices in new operating environments. You’ll be finding information in new ways and interacting with executives and clients in new ways.
By then, your firm may be in a very different place. Most search firms never grow beyond 10 people – but some do. Some are acquired. Some join international networks. By that stage, founders may be looking for an exit. What’s important, then, at that stage? Flexibility. Technology that will attract new hires by allowing them to work from anywhere. Technology that will fit the needs of a buyer. Heck, technology that will increase it’s valuation in the eyes of the buyer!
FileFinder Executive Search Software allows us to meet the needs of any search firm. If you are thinking about establishing a new search firm – or if your current platform is not meeting your current needs – do contact us and request a demo. We’d love to talk to you about the various options that we offer.