Building a Sustainable Business in Good Times & Bad

by | Jul 21, 2022

We’re living in uncertain times right now—that’s an understatement! But just because the market is looking down doesn’t mean your agency has to do the same.

In fact, there are some specific steps you can take to survive and thrive, regardless of whether times are good or bad. 

Nad Elias, founder and CEO of recruitAbility, has spent two decades in recruiting. As he said in a recent conversation with our CXO Adam Conrad, “I’m one of the few people in this industry that’s never done anything else!” 

One of the biggest reasons Nad has stuck with recruiting is the impact he gets to have on other people’s lives. “The three most important things in people’s lives are family, faith, and career—and we affect two of those things with every call we make. That’s pretty powerful.” 

Fast forward to today, and recruitAbility is in their sixth year of operation, and has a 4.8 star rating on Great Recruiters. Here are some of Nad’s top tips for being sustainable and successful, in both good times and bad.

1. Start with core values

Your core values provide the foundation for your entire business. If they’re not informing and driving every decision you make, then there’s really no point in having them. 

For example, core values are a critical part of your agency’s hiring process. Not only do you need to get quality people onto your team, but you also need people who are going to be a good fit for your organization. If they don’t align with your values, that will never happen. 

This focus on core values should extend beyond hiring recruiters and operational staff, all the way to choosing the candidates and clients you work with. The more aligned you are with the people you serve, the more likely they’ll be to stick with you during difficult times. 

2. Develop clarity on what a quality hire looks like

Great recruiters come in all shapes and sizes. While there are certain things that all recruiters should have in common, each industry and organization will (rightly) have specific things they’re looking for. 

If you’re going to attract and place successful candidates, you need a clear picture of the type of person who will go far within the organization. This can include: 

  • Skill sets
  • Cultural fits
  • Experience in the industry
  • Education background
  • Familiarity with technology

According to Nad, the best way to gain clarity on this is to ask clients to describe their top tenured employees. This helps you anchor their expectations in reality, not some dream of what the “perfect” candidate looks like. 

“You’ll get someone who wants someone in their mid-to-twenties who’s an Ivy League graduate,” said Nad, “But their most tenured employee didn’t even go to college.” 

If you can apply those standards at the front end of the recruiting process, then you can provide a better candidate experience, improve client satisfaction, and increase your retention rates. 

3. Focus on driving candidate retention post-placement

Too many agencies focus on placing candidates and end the conversation there. While candidate placement is important, focusing on candidate retention post-placement increases the value you offer—both to the candidate and client. 

When Nad first started recruitAbility, he asked the hiring managers in his network: what’s the one thing you don’t like about recruiting firms, that you would change? 

“They all said it’s the guarantee period,” said Nad. “We place someone with a company, and then we just cross our fingers, hoping they make it past the guarantee period. And then they never hear from us again.”

With recruitAbility, Nad and his team focused on maintaining contact with both candidates and clients during that post-placement period, working with them to improve their chances of sticking with that company. Examples include coaching them to set up one-on-one meetings with their bosses within the first week, and establishing clarity on their 30-60 day expectations. 

According to Nad, this is critical if agencies want to maintain a committed customer base. “The turnover rate in the U.S. is 47.1 percent. So if you want to have 10 percent growth, you have to hire 57 percent of your people.” When you can avoid that placement churn, you can be more efficient in directing your internal resources toward growth—and avoid headaches along the way. 

4. Make sure people enjoy their work

“When you think about the span of your life,” said Nad, “You’ll spend more time with your work family than your real family. So you’d better enjoy who you’re working with.”

One of recruitAbility’s primary focuses is fostering an environment where people are excited to work. For example, they conduct regular surveys for team members to review their managers’ performance. This feedback is a major factor into their promotions, raises, and bonuses. 

When your people enjoy coming to work every day, they’re going to be in a better position to take care of your candidates and clients and provide them with an exceptional experience. 

5. Understand the difference between culture & environment

When many managers and leaders say they want to work on their culture, they generally default to making a change in the environment people work in. (Think ping pong tables in the office.)

But environment and culture are two separate things. Culture is about who you are as an organization, your core values, and how the market perceives you. You can make all the changes to your environment, but if you don’t work on those core issues, you’re just going to whitewash the problem. 

One example of how recruitAbility works to build their culture is a core value shoutout or happy hour, where people who exemplify the core values in their interactions with a candidate or client receive public recognition in front of the team. 

This helps ensure that everyone sees the core values as important, and it builds alignment and common purpose among the team. 

6. Keep your “why” front and center

As we mentioned earlier, the ability to have a real impact on people’s lives is why Nad was drawn to being a recruiter. So it’s not surprising that that core of “changing lives” sits at the core of recruitAbility.  

“We know that with every placement we make, we’re changing lives. That’s why I want people that are purpose driven. I ask everybody: ‘what’s your why’? Why are you here? Why do you come to work every day?” 

Understanding what keeps your people motivated and coming to work every day is critical if you want to retain them, especially in this job market. 

Final thoughts

By following these six tips, you can set your recruiting agency up for success, regardless of the state of the market. 

If you want a tool that can help you build your agency culture by providing morale-boosting reviews in real time, check out Great Recruiters

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