By Don Kennedy, Managing Partner

I made a career pivot about two years ago. After years of building, scaling, and leading teams in the digital sector, I was burned out, a bit disillusioned with big company politics, and just ready for a change. It’s a dynamic that many professionals face, and it’s driven home to me by the many leaders I hear from each week seeking out new opportunities or some perspective on the professional landscape. As someone who followed their passions around team building and talent development to now lead an executive search practice, it’s an honor and a privilege to interact daily with passionate and talented clients and candidates alike. Regardless of the functional role (CEO, CRO, CTO, etc…) there are clear differences in “A Players” and the rest of the population. The same can be said for the recruiting space, and while this should come as no surprise, it’s a point that has been driven home to me time and time again during my now two years with GM Ryan. It’s a dynamic that I describe as “Making an impact vs making a sale”, and it’s a concept that is applicable across any and all sectors and professional endeavors (and not just sales).

The barrier to entry in recruiting is generally low (especially in a hot economy), and like many professions, recruiters can be stereotyped by the capabilities and behaviors of its lowest common denominator. I’ve seen some backlash comments on social channels lately about “recruiting message burnout”, and I can’t say I disagree with the sentiment. Although I manage this practice now, my background as a revenue leader still gets me caught in the web of some less than stellar recruiting outreach on a regular basis. Poorly written generic notes showing no awareness of relevancy, bad grammar, cheesy buzzwords and clickbait subject lines, etc… It’s a bad look, and tough for my ego to be associated with some of the folks in this profession. Conversely, I have met executive recruiters throughout my career as an operator and more recently as professional associates that are outstanding in their field, with a deep understanding of their given area of focus, and a level of empathy and intellect that make them an indispensable business partner to clients and candidates alike.

At GM Ryan, we define winning by successfully delivering against two critical outcomes:

  1. An exceptionally executed search culminating in the selection and hiring of a top tier leader, and….
  2. That hired leader exceeding the charter of their position and scope of responsibility within the company.

No doubt we take pride in signing new clients. Who doesn’t? But “Making the Sale” is the beginning of the journey, not the end. “Making an Impact” is about a maniacal focus on the process and a high attention to detail. Nobody likes to turn business away, but folks with a long term mindset are willing to do just that if they don’t think they are the best fit to deliver against their needs. In recruiting, “Making an Impact” is about research and relevancy, and when we approach a candidate or potential client, we truly believe we have a unique opportunity to discuss, and have no intention of wasting anyone’s time (including ours). “Making a Sale” in our business is about quantity over quality, with a transactional mindset that results in indiscriminate bombardment of people on Linkedin (remember the backlash I mentioned earlier?) just trying to get to the next deal.  

I talked to an investor recently that told me that the CEO we secured for one of her portfolio companies 18 months ago was a textbook case study in the positive impact that the right leader can have on an organization, its customer base, and its employees. It’s this type of feedback that drives us and validates our mindset. Scaling a professional services practice is not easy, and while there are many tactical marking points throughout the executive search process, our true impact is measured over the long haul, when the combination of talent and opportunity results in a transformative outcome for everyone involved. “Making a Sale” is nice, “Making an Impact” is meaningful.

Regardless of the sector you work in, or the title you hold, you should have no trouble whatsoever identifying those around you who are looking to “Make a Sale” and those striving to “Make an Impact”. Surely people can build successful careers around “making a sale”, but those that look to “make an impact” are the next level leaders and in far higher demand in any industry. As consumers and professionals, we get inundated by requests for our time on a daily basis, and unfortunately the bulk of those requests are the means to a transactional end. It’s time to do better. Go make an impact.