Start A Desk In A Wide Area And Let It Take You Narrow

  By Michael Gionta  |    Monday December 12, 2017

Category: Columns, Expert Advice, Recruiting


I work in the fashion and sportswear industry.  I have been concentrating mainly on the wholesale side of the business vertically.  I am thinking of rebranding.  Should I go wide or retail, wholesale, e-commerce, or narrow focusing mainly on e-commerce which is growing in the UK and Europe. 

 ~Vic, UK


ANSWER: This is a common dilemma I help my coaching clients with quite often.  I will give you some insights as to how to determine which way you should go.  One of the things you have not said is with concentrating mostly on the wholesale side of the business vertically, is what is going on there.  Since I do not work retail, I do not know the competitive environment.  

Wider retail, wholesale, e-commerce or narrower, I always coach people to start a desk in a wide area and let it take you narrow. The reason being, if you start wider in retail, wholesale, e-commerce and you start marketing to multiple segments with dozens of conversations you will see where the trends are.  Are you seeing a lot of openings in e-commerce because like you said, that is growing, or is it your perception that there are a lot of openings in e-commerce but they are outsourcing that work to companies in Asia?  

Here is the other thing, for example, there is always a hot, hot, hot niche.  Let us say it is e-commerce in retail.  Generally that attracts everyone.  It is like spilling an ice cream in the summer on the pavement.  If you come back in 20 minutes it is covered with ants.  A hot market segment in recruiting is covered with low end commodity-based recruiters within months of it materializing, which generally drives down fees, gives you more work with internal recruiter, less cooperation, etc.  

So I would probably start with wider and talk to executives in each one of the segments.  Obviously, most of the people we are talking to, even in a really hot economy, are not hiring in the moment.  So I would say:

“Mr. VP, Ms. VP, what are 2 or 3 things you see going on in your business right now that are going to impact your growth and in looking forward over the next 3 to 6 months what are your plans for expansion?”

That will tell you a lot about the dynamic and the market.  If you want to get more in tune, ask them about their experiences in attracting talent over the last 12 months.  Are there more counteroffers, or more competing offers?  Do they have a defined process for holding candidates accountable to the commitments they make, and those companies are losing people? If so, that is also a sales opportunity.  But I would really be getting in tune to what they are seeing and their ability, if you are not already asking, to attract talent and what is holding them back from getting the talent that they really want?

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