2010. Twenty – Ten. Just the sound of it has a certain ring to me! A New Year and time to get excited about new possibilities. It’s also time to reflect on 2009 – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
OK – Let’s all take a deep breath – let me make a few points, and then we can bury it. Can we? That would be just awesome. Let’s review…
THE GOOD. The markets have finally started to change and it appears the worst is over. I have spoken to others in my network across multiple industries and geographies and things are definitely getting better. The phones are ringing and search agreements are crossing the wire more frequently. All good. Clients want to discuss talent strategies and are engaging in meaningful conversations like never before. It’s like someone flipped the switch in the past 30-45 days and hopefully this increased activity will spill over into 2010. That would be great! Candidates are taking calls again and I don’t hear the fear in their voices. They are very interested in hearing about new opportunities. Employers have asked them to do much more and to wear multiple hats and they seem tired and ready for a change. More goodness. The RCI index is up (again) which is a very good indicator of things to come in search. So, in a nutshell – the 4th quarter (finally) delivered some much needed good news and was the highlight of the year for me. No doubt.
THE BAD. Some employers clearly took advantage of the 2008-2009 downturn and made the decision to burn bridges (huge flames – HUGE) and change relationships forever. I’ve witnessed it firsthand and heard the same from my collegues. Not good. Bad searches and bad client relationships were tolerated given the economic climate and some took full advantage of the situation. It’s one thing to try to work through a relationship where the value exchange is driven in part by the supply and demand of the job market. I get that. In some cases – it was over the top and became very bad. Ultimatums became the order for the day and win-win’s turned into “I win – you don’t”. Bad model. Very bad. Many of us in the search business experienced longer delays in getting paid. We became the banker for some clients. Net 15 became Net 45 – Net 60 or in some cases (forget Net) 90 days+. OUCH! I hope we’ve seen the worst, and I hope it’s over. I mean really over!
THE UGLY. Unemployment in the US was the most disturbing part of the search business for me personally in 2009. The number of really talented people who were impacted in this economy is just beyond comprehension. It moves me daily. Really. To talk to candidates that you know in your heart are really good people only to realize you can’t help them is painful. It becomes unbearable as a search consultant. All you can do is listen and give advice, and I have certainly done plenty of listening and coaching. Another ugly metric is the number of search firms that were impacted financially by this economy. Some did ok, some found ways to (barely) hang on while others closed their doors forever. Entire industries became a desert-land for hiring, and many experienced a very tough time trying to replace their income. Good people with families just trying to make ends meet. It was just plain ugly. It’s better – but we still have a long way to go. Ugly is the right word in my mind. Yep. Just plain ugly.
MY HOPES FOR 2010. Let’s move on to 2010 – shall we? The New Year marks a new beginning. One filled with hope, new opportunities and much better days. I have a good feeling about 2010. Here’s what I would like to see in the New Year:
– I hope the hardest hit industries of the past 18-24 months start to see some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. Some markets will flourish in 2010, while others bounce back more slowly. One step at a time – right? It will happen. I hope better days are ahead for everyone!
– I hope those in the search business have learned a thing or two during this downturn. Hopefully, many will become better financial stewards and business people in the New Year and beyond. I hope many used this time to sharpen skills, add a new line of business and are ready to get back to business! Ready-Set-Go!
– I hope job-seekers across all industries find ways to learn new skills in a new industry and are able to land a new job where they can make a difference! I know it’s been tough, but things will improve! Hang in there. Network every day and find ways to meet new people who can help you on your road to land a new career. Think about the transferable skills you have and think outside the box in your search. Start an accountability group and meet by phone weekly or bi-monthly to keep yourself in check. Never give up. Never.
– I hope we at FOT can continue to share our experiences in this great industry we serve. Thank you for reading our material and for making FOT a desination for industry information and all of the rants we share daily. I hope we can share an idea, make you laugh or leave you with a nugget you can implement in your business in 2010. My very best to my fellow FOT writers and to everyone who has supported FOT. Let’s keep our attitudes in check as we march onward through the fog in 2010. We can do it!
2010 will be better. Oh YEAH. It’s definitely going to be better! Buckle up! Have a great year!
Tim Tolan is a partner at Sanford Rose Associates and specializes in Executive Search in Healthcare IT. He’s a closer, and you really don’t want to call him unless you’re ready to bring out the bazooka to bag some big game. When I started Fistful, I checked four references on Tim – his wife, his kids, his pastor and a client. The references were great, even if it sounded like they were reading from a sheet of paper. I just chalked that up to them being “detail oriented” in their feedback….