From time to time, I meet great people who understand the rules of business engagement and can agree on terms that work for both parties. They understand that when you make a commitment, you stick to it. Their word is their bond. You just know in your heart that things are going to work out when you shake hands and seal a deal with one of these trustworthy folks. Other times… not so much. I work hard to avoid getting stuck with someone who can’t make a comittment – I study the client’s organizational chart and try to determine exactly who’s going to be the buyer of our services (the decisionmaker), just so that I get someone who’s ready pull the trigger once we’ve agreed on the terms. It’s easier said than done when the person you’re dealing with represents one thing and their actions demonstrate something else.
This exact scenario happened to me recently with a senior-level HR executive I was working with. First it was a series of conference calls to discuss their “human capital” needs, company culture and the “perfect DNA”-type of talent they were looking for. Each call brough more clarity and understanding of the details of how both parties would work together. I was pretty comfortable with where this was heading. It felt good. I mean, we’re not talking brain surgery here. I knew what they wanted, and they had a solid understanding of what my firm brought to the table. The conference calls were followed by a proposal and finally – a search firm shootout. No worries. We were ready to win this account and begin our first of multiple engagements to find the best talent in the land. Everything was going smoothly when the phone rang and I was informed that we WON!
YEAH! AWESOME! WE RULE!
(But I digress…)
My new HR friend then scheduled a conference call to cover the details of our search project with the executive who owned the budget and introduced me as their “new search partner.” Nice ring to it – don’t you think? I like the word ‘partner.’ It really raises the potential value for the type of relationship you have when you move up the food chain from vendor to trusted advisor. We nailed down specifics and an action plan (which always starts with a signed engagement letter) – I don’t enage without a signed agreement. As Ronald Regan once said “Trust but Verify.”
A couple of days went by and… nothing. Radio silence. I followed up (always do) with an e-mail. No response. A voice mail – NADA. All communications had shut down and so I was confused. After all, we’d been selected after we’d gone through the proposal and beauty contest and WE’D WON! So what gave? A week later, I finally called my new partner/HR sponsor to inquire about our agreement and clear up our start date. And then she hit me with this:
“The CEO has not approved using an outside firm yet.”
WHAT?! Are you freakin’ kidding me? All of the work we had invested in this project, and my HR executive didn’t have the authority to pull the trigger?! BIG EGO – BIG TALKER with nothing behind the curtain. In Texas, they have a saying for that exact type of person – BIG HAT – NO CATTLE. What a collosal waste of time for everyone involved.
Maybe this HR professional (if you can even use that term) wanted to get multiple proposals to prove to the CEO how much money they could save by (attempting) to execute the searches internally. If that was the plan – I was the last one to know. Wrong move. I seriously doubt I will work with that company again. Nope.
But… it will be a great place to source candidates from. Oh YEAH!!!
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….