I Quit! How Our Startup Search Firm Went From $0 - $10 Million in 5 years by Tony Sorensen

  By Tony Sorensen  |    Monday November 14, 2017

Category: Expert Advice, Motivational, Recruiting


I want you to think about the past year and consider this: When you really look back, are you a better search firm than you were yesterday? Are you taking market share? Everyone should be growing in this economy. 


How many visitors are coming to your website and what do they see once they get there? What’s your conversion rate?


What percentage of your business is generated through cold calling and finding leads, versus leads coming to you? I bet you know your sendout to placement ratio, but do you know your web analytics? 


What is really stopping your staff from just going out on their own? 


If any of these questions resonate with you, or if you struggle to answer some of them, you’re in the exact same place I was just a few short years ago before I decided to invest in my employees, digital marketing, and transforming my business. 


Beginning My Journey to Growth 


From the beginning, I knew I wanted to grow, but I didn’t know how yet. I started my career in recruiting in 1997 as a sales recruiter. Eager to excel, I quickly became the top person in the company year-over-year, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted more, so I decided to start my own search and consulting firm with three other owners and we grew quickly. However, we reached a point where we felt stuck and struggled with high turnover, a low percentage of successful employees, and stagnant revenue. Something had to change. 


What Were We Doing Wrong? We Weren’t Investing Enough in Our Employees


I built a company based on what I knew, but I quickly realized I inadvertently built the exact company I decided to leave to start my own firm. It was a company that wasn’t innovative, where owners were working desks before training, helping, and investing in the success of employees. In my eyes, we were providing our employees with jobs, but not necessarily fruitful careers. 


In 2010, I was invited to join two business ownership roundtable groups and wanted to learn more about how others were going about growing their businesses. At the first meeting, other owners drilled me with detailed questions about the state of my business, such as what my net income percentage, gross profit, and selling expenses were. Until this point, many of these terms were foreign to me. I walked away intimidated and unsure, but instead of running away, I chose to learn and grow.


Being a part of the ownership roundtable helped me grow as a business owner and see how others do it. It made me realize there was a better way to build a business. I realized I had to build something bigger than just myself, which meant continuously improving, trying new things, and surrounding myself with experienced people who believed what I believed. I wanted to grow a business built on relationships, rather than transactions.


In January of 2013, almost 5 years ago, I started over completely with a new vision. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It was hard, but it was worth it. 


When You Commit to Growth, There Are No Shortcuts


In January of 2013, I, along with a business partner, committed in a number of ways to growing a sustainable company where careers, not jobs, were being built. First, we invested in top-tier employees, including a seasoned 20-year CFO who become a Finance and Accounting recruiter, and 15+ employees with 10+ years of experience. Additionally, I invested in digital marketing tools, including SEO, social media marketing, and search engine marketing to grow my employment brand online and open up new avenues for leads to come to us.


The results truly exceeded my expectations. We went from 0-90 employees and consultants in less than five years. We depend far less on cold calling for leads than ever before. Through investing in digital marketing, the source of our revenue has shifted to the point where 50% is now generated from people calling us. We’ve become a brand name around town and the Midwest and we receive over 17,000 monthly visitors to our website. 


We have more repeat business than ever before because we’re not just providing a service, we’re building relationships and delivering experiences worthy of a referral. Half of our production staff will make President’s Club. Because we value our employees, we have the best culture we’ve ever had and we’re building something together. 


How Do I Get Started?


Get started by first looking at your website and the quality of your employees. Are you showcasing your credible people on your website? Does your website have content necessary to build the trust that clients need in order to do business with you? Maybe you started blogging consistently two years ago but fell off and haven’t published a blog for over a year and a half. 


When it comes to building credibility and showcasing your strengths, content is key. Does the content on your site make sense? Do clients have to dig to learn about your company or whether you have experience in their industry?


The bottom line is that when clients do a search on the internet, they make a split-second decision and ask the question: Do I want to work with this firm or not? What they find on your website will ultimately drive that decision. There truly are no shortcuts to growth. I used to think all the mattered was ranking #1 on Google, but without the content and credibility on my website to back it up, that wouldn’t help much. I ask every new client two things: How did you find us and why did you choose us? Most often, they point to the relevant experience and credibility showcased on our website. Get started by thinking deeply about how well your brand is known, how it is perceived in the marketplace, and what you can do to differentiate yourself from competitors. 


Keeping Up with the Times


Technology is changing and moving at a rapid pace, and it will continue. The way we do business and make decisions is also changing rapidly. Businesses must keep pace with this change to stay relevant, however, it’s never too late to get started. Like I said before, I was stuck and at a dead-end 5 years ago and things changed for the better – quicker than I ever would have thought – and it can for you too!   


It’s never too late to lead the legacy you want, and for me, stagnation wasn’t an option. People often say they want to grow, but you have to ask yourself, do you really want to grow. If you do, you need to start using digital marketing and invest in your employees today. Are you too busy running your business to think about marketing it? 

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