My First Exposure to Salesmanship, Branding, Customer Service & Goal Setting

My First Exposure to Salesmanship, Branding, Customer Service & Goal Setting

by Peter Cotton, founder and president of Best Sales Talent, LLC


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(This is a personal story that is more than a half of a century old.)

When I reached the age of 13, my Dad wanted me to learn about earning money in a business setting. I had already been earning money from snow shoveling, grass-cutting and fall leaf cleanup for neighbors, but my Dad wanted me to learn other things. More important things. He arranged a job for me where he shopped for men’s clothing.

I started as a stock boy at a place called The House of Doherty in Worcester, MA. I worked there during junior and senior high school on weekends, school vacations, and during my summer breaks. When I was in college, I worked there when I was home from school. I was conscientious and the owner took a liking to me and sort of took me under his wing. He spent many hours telling me about his methods and why he used them at the store, what his business goals were, and how he intended to reach them. My work at The House of Doherty gave me my first exposure to salesmanship, branding, customer service and goal setting. Those things were imprinted on my young mind. What I learned from the owner I later put into practice in my own business many years later and still use them today.

Dan Doherty, now deceased (hereinafter referred to as Dan), was one of two sons of the former Briggs Doherty, the owner of a very unique men’s clothing store in Providence, Rhode Island. The store no longer exists.  Briggs Doherty, Jr., Dan’s younger brother, continues to be involved in the men’s clothing business as Briggs & Adams ( ), but he has moved to the Chicago market. Dan worked at his father’s store while in his teens. His father was a tough task master, very demanding, and he had quite a temper. Dan didn’t go to college, but he “studied” under his father learning about the men’s retail clothing business. What he learned from his father he put to use in his own business endeavor.

In 1952, at the very young age of twenty-one, when his peers were spending their time on their studies, girls and partying (not necessarily in that order), Dan started his own unique retail men’s clothing store in downtown Worcester, MA. Three years later, having reached a level of success, he moved to a larger and more unique address. The new location was a house that he converted into a multi-roomed showroom- thus The House of Doherty. It was at this location that his business flourished.

xhouseofdohertyThe House of Doherty - Circa 1971

Unlike other retailers, Dan made a concerted effort to have his store not look like any other. He didn’t use the standard, boring racks and shelving found in the typical men’s department of a department store. His place of business had wall-to-wall carpeting, but the carpeting was covered with dozens of beautiful, Persian rugs. There was an eclectic and handsome assortment of antiques and unusual furniture, cleverly employed to display merchandise; leather couches and chairs; coffee tables; business magazines and newspapers (for those who were waiting); end tables with lamps; paintings and lithographs (all with a decidedly up-scaled gentlemen’s taste). Great care was taken to be certain that the environment was tasteful and masculine. The furnishings and decorations created an atmosphere that was luxurious, yet relaxed, making the customer feel that shopping there was a very pleasant experience – an experience like none other.

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Matching the unparalleled atmosphere, Dan and his sales personnel treated all customers with the utmost respect and professionalism. Many people felt especially important from the treatment they received there. This served the business well with the benefit of many repeat customers, as well as those referred to Dan by the growing numbers of highly satisfied patrons. People were referred to as Mr. (and Mrs., if the spouse accompanied the male customer). Never by their first name. All customers who shopped there were given a great deal of personal attention, whether it was to select a particular necktie or several custom-made suits. If a person purchased a necktie, it never went into a bag. A special red gift box, with the store logo on it, was used. The tie was neatly wrapped in tissue paper and then put into the box and tied with a bow. Suits and sport coats were sent out of the store on wooden hangers, not on thin plastic or flimsy metal. All suits, sport coats, and trousers were placed on these hangers and then into zippered suit bags. Both the bags and hangars were embossed with The House of Doherty logo on them.

Gentlemen who were there to make sizeable purchases were invited to sit in one of the couches in an interior room. A highly attentive stock boy [that would have been me], who was referred to as a porter, would serve these special customers steaming-hot coffee in large, black, ceramic mugs (with The House of Doherty stylized logo prominently displayed on them). Dan would bellow over the intercom: “Peter! Two coffees. One with milk and two sugars. One black.” I would drop whatever I was doing and immediately attend to the coffee. Just as Starbucks does today, I kept watch on how long the pot was on the heating element. If it had been sitting there for more than 30 minutes, I’d make a fresh pot. It was also my job to see to it that ashtrays were always clean, baskets always empty, and merchandise always neatly arranged. A constant task was to sweep the fringe straight on the rugs. Dan hated to see the fringe any way but straight, because it didn’t look neat and organized. Even today, when I see fringe on a rug askew, I am tempted to make it straight. I smile to myself and remember Dan.

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The rooms in The House of Doherty were each designated for different types of clothing.

The front room showcased sweaters (cashmere and Shetlands) and a complete wall of hosiery. A side room had two walls of shirts displayed (straight-collared on one side and button-downed on the other). I would arrange them by color and size. For no additional charge, the shirts could be monogrammed while the customer waited. The side room also contained underwear, dress trousers, chinos and corduroys; sport shirts, belts (leather and fancies); neckties, silk squares, suspenders, cummerbunds and formal accessories.

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One room was dedicated to sport coats and blazers, while another was known as the custom room. The custom room was where Dan did most of his own personal selling. Here, among the leather couches and coffee tables, customers would drink their coffee as they made their selection of fabrics and linings for a suit or sport coat. These would be tailored for them to their exact specifications. Gentlemen would also be seated here while waiting for their garment to be brought downstairs for a fitting by one of the in-house tailors. The tailors were all highly skilled. They served as walking samples. They never came downstairs to do a fitting unless they were in a Doherty’s suit or sport coat and tie, complete with a colorful silk square in the breast pocket.

A fifth room in The House of Doherty was dedicated to rain coats, top coats, poplin jackets, leather coats and bathrobes, while the sixth was used to display ready-to-wear suits. On the top floor of the store were the stockroom, shipping room, tailor shop and office.

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In 1984, in an attempt to stay as a leading edge retailer, Dan brought his wife, Marilynn, down from the office duties she so aptly handled, to run the woman’s clothing department. There, ladies tailored suits, slacks, sport coats and casual sweaters were sold. When gentlemen shopped in the store with their wives, Dan and Marilynn paid them extra attention. Between the two of them they could ring up some significant sales during these husband and wife shopping trips. The wives enjoyed the personalized attention that was given to them just as much as the men.

In the year of their zenith (1988), The House of Doherty employed seventeen people in the store between Dan and his wife, office help, sales personnel, tailors and a full-time and part-time porter. Their sales at that time were approximately $1.75 million. This was accomplished with the average cost of a custom-made suit at $395. By comparison, at today’s prices, even a ready-to-wear suit will cost at least $700. Custom-made suits are far more expensive – well into the thousands.

Dan thought of his store as his platform. His domain. His stage. He considered himself to be an actor on this stage. The role he played was one of a consummate salesman. He sold more custom-made clothing than any of his staff. For a customer to be dealing with the owner was a big attraction of course, but nobody could deny that Dan was a real showman. On a nice day, Dan would encourage his customers to go outside with him to see the real beauty and color of the fabric they had chosen in direct sunlight. He would take yards of the cloth and literally throw it across the hood of his impeccably spotless, late model, XKE Jaguar (later he switched to a Porsche), kept impeccably clean by the porter [me again]. While the customer would stand there, coffee mug in hand, Dan would describe the fabric and how nice it would look made into a particular suit to be worn on the occasion for which it was needed by the customer. Every customer was impressed by the flair by which Dan sold. They would be equally impressed with the car he owned. An expensive, two-seater, convertible sports car sent a message to his customers – that Dan was highly successful. People love to deal with successful people and Dan knew that.

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A 1966 Jaguar XKE Convertible – British Racing Car Green, Tan Interior – Just Like Dan’s

Dan and his staff created a very high class selling environment. It significantly raised the customer’s level of consciousness in style and good taste. Dan was carrying out a most important marketing strategy -- branding. The House of Doherty brand became synonymous with a certain kind of status. When complimented on how good they looked in a new suit, men would love to show their personally selected colorful silk lining (in so doing, The House of Doherty label would be seen) and the matching colored silk square in the breast pocket. The ensuing conversation would inevitably come around to what a unique shopping experience it is to make purchases there, what a character Dan is, and how catered-to the customer felt. To say the referral business was dramatic would be an understatement. People were curious about shopping there and when they did, they always returned. Dan’s customers referred other people who bought clothing there. The referred customers became champions of The House of Doherty brand and they referred even more customers.

Word traveled fast around town, in neighboring towns, and soon as far as Boston and New York. The House of Doherty was indeed known as a special place for men to go who had good taste in clothing (or who wished to acquire it). Very important gentlemen shopped in Dan’s store. Very well connected gentlemen. Presidents and CEOs, bankers, lawyers, doctors, accountants, even high-level clergymen. Each and every one of them was treated in a most respectful manner. All men enjoyed the idea of going there because shopping in The House of Doherty was a status symbol. Being able to afford such fine clothing meant that the customer was successful – or at least appeared to be successful. As the saying goes: “The clothes make the man.” It was certainly apropos for this group of customers.

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As most men do, they talked about their cars. The vehicles they owned were representations of the owner’s success. An extension of their ego. When I turned 16, having just obtained my driver’s license, I was in absolute awe of the types of cars men drove into The House of Doherty parking lot: Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, Mercedes Benz, Aston Martins, BMWs, and even a Rolls Royce. Every one of them wanted to show off their latest car purchase and for Dan to acknowledge their success. Dan stroked their egos (even if the car was leased and not owned outright) and invited them into his “inner sanctuary” where the men would sit for hours, drink coffee, smoke cigars and talk about politics, business and world affairs. None of them escaped Dan’s ability to steer the conversation to clothing and few ever left the store without making some major purchases.

Success breeds success as they say. Dan used it to his advantage in every possible way. This “rubbing elbows” with the rich and well-connected is what fueled Dan’s own ambition to serve these men. Perhaps he had not attended college like them, but on his stage, in his theater, he was in command of these powerful and influential men. He made it a game to himself to see how much he could sell them. It was not at all unusual for one of his customers to spend several thousand dollars in one visit. To keep track of his success, Dan kept a “Beat Yesterday” book. It compared the day to the same day last week, last month and last year. He was driven by his sales goals for himself and his sales people. There were times when he would run to his calculator by the hour each day to add up sales slips to see how they were progressing with that day’s sales goals. I learned goal setting from Dan. To this day I have a “Beat Yesterday” book that I use in my business.

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It is interesting to note, however, that the sales personnel at the store were not high-pressure salesmen. In fact, Dan paid them a salary (and a bonus for going over a sales goal) instead of the usual minimum wage draw verses commission, typical for other stores. Dan didn’t want his customers to feel pressured to buy a thing. He used a reverse selling psychology. By making customers entirely comfortable and feeling catered to, they were so relaxed they succumbed to suggestive sales techniques in a very unthreatening way. The salesmen were perceived as fashion consultants. All the customers wanted the status of being served by a House of Doherty sales person. They all wanted to look good, and they all liked being seen and seeing others who were “in the know” who shopped there. They all wanted the status of owning clothing from The House of Doherty. This was a very important aspect of Dan’s “master plan.”

Dan and his staff duly noted interests, likes (and dislikes) of every returning customer. They all knew exactly how to deal with each particular person. Over time, it was very common for these gentlemen to share their news of their business dealings in the community, who they knew, who they were friends with and who they wished they knew. Dan made it a point to know about their business and in very tactful ways would sometimes make introductions of one customer to another if he felt that they would benefit from the mutual contact from a business or professional perspective. He became privy to not only their business dealings and financial issues, but also various aspects of their personal lives. He befriended as many as he could. These friendships led to more business from these customers and of course, they referred others to him as well.

The customers became so well known at the store, so connected to Dan and to other customers, that in a way, it became a “club.” A club of gentlemen. A club of movers and shakers.

There were times when a customer would confide in Dan about a particularly difficult time they were having in business. Dan kept everything confidential. On one occasion a customer admitted to him that if he didn’t come up with $350,000, he was going to lose the building in which his manufacturing business was located. He was terribly concerned that he would have to shut down his business and put people out of work. The customer was apparently having great trouble raising the financing he so badly needed. With the most tactful aplomb, Dan quickly introduced this customer to the president of a local bank who shopped in the store. In a matter of hours, the funds were made available at attractive terms. Needless to say, this customer became eternally thankful. Dan relished doing this for his customers. He loved to put deals together. He made introductions of one customer to another for their mutual benefit quite often. As a result, these gentlemen would continue to shop in his store and they would refer others to The House of Doherty.

Despite his uncanny success at the store, Dan’s business felt the same problems of other retailers of the time, particularly those who experienced the malaise and resulting decay of the downtown Worcester shopping area. He weathered recessions of course, but one recurring problem created serious financial difficulties for him. A real dilemma.

All customers like easy credit, so the easier, or more relaxed, the credit policy Dan made, the more sales there would be for the store. Conversely, a tighter credit policy would lower sales somewhat. To ease credit policy, Dan did such things as increase the credit period from 30 days to 60 days; ease his credit standards so as to offer credit to customers with lower credit scores (who are likely to pay late or sometimes not at all); and use less tough collection methods to avoid offending customers. All of the easing actions tended to increase annual sales.

The easing actions would also increase the receivables collection period. Increasing the time customers had to pay their bill would obviously delay collections. Selling to customers with low credit scores and being less tough on collections would also lead to slower payments, or in some cases, defaults on payments.

Although many of his customers paid for their purchases with cash, Dan allowed a fairly large number of them to charge their purchases to their account. They would be billed monthly for outstanding balances. Like any retail business, Dan had significant fixed overhead and a hefty investment in inventory, not to mention the salaries of his people. When a number of customers were late in making payments on their accounts, it created some real hardships for his business. Late payers were part of doing business, of course, but it became very costly. It was bad enough to have slow payers, but it was worse was when a customer charged a considerable amount of clothing and then, for any number of reasons, never paid for it at all, and was never seen or heard of again. Too many slow or non-payers would bring his business to a halt. In effect, Dan was giving the slow payers interest-free loans equal to the value of the merchandise they had charged. Dan was aggravated by this. He once confided in me that he wasn’t in the clothing business. He said he was in the “interest-free loan business.”

There is a phenomenon that takes place in this purchase-and-delay payment scenario for a specialty retailer. Although a person may have been a frequent customer at the store, when their account grew to a high balance, they tended to be embarrassed about coming back to shop at the store – even if they really needed some clothing. Dan and his office staff would walk a fine line between alienating a customer by tactfully asking to be paid and hurting themselves by allowing the same customer to make additional purchases on his charge. Too many customers like this could spell disaster. Of course there was the added work and expense for the office to keep track of the account, do the paperwork, prepare and mail monthly statements, and make collection calls. Inevitably, too many slow or late paying customers meant that The House of Doherty would have to dip into their line of credit at the bank, just so it could pay its own bills. These line of credit loans would be at the then prevailing interest rate – an added expense for the business.

Therefore, the problem the customer had of meeting his own monthly obligations, for whatever reason, became transferred over to the store and became the problem of The House of Doherty. This was a constant problem until one day Dan came up with a solution.

Dan had a very basic software program in the office that kept track of his customer’s purchases and would generate monthly bills. Dan approached State Street Bank of Boston. He convinced them to make a custom-made credit card, with his store name and logo on it. Mind you, this was decades before retailers all started offering their own branded credit cards. Dan was ahead of the trend. He ended the charge accounts he carried and offered a House of Doherty credit card to his customers. He explained to his customers that the bank would be handling all billing.

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The daily sales could be transmitted to the bank using Dan’s software, and the bank would deposit the funds for those sales dollars into Dan’s business account, minus a percentage (the merchant fee) on a daily basis. Since the bank took over the receivables and billing, the customer had the option of paying the full outstanding balance, or paying the minimum payment due indicated on the statement. Paying the minimum due on the statement meant that the customer would pay fairly high interest on the revolving balance, but that was no longer the “problem” for The House of Doherty, since they were not carrying the receivables. Moreover, the possible scenario of alienating the customer was no longer to be an issue, since no more collection letters, calls or in-person requests for payment in the store needed to be made by Dan or his office staff. This was a time and money saving move for Dan’s business and it eliminated a lot of stressful times. Dan removed himself from the “interest-free loan business.”

Dan’s business was to no longer suffer from the monthly financial problem he was having with late paying customers. The members of his “club” would be comfortable in returning to his store, Dan could maintain good relations with his customers, and they would be able to buy their clothing. It was a win-win scenario and everyone was happy. Since The House of Doherty credit card carried the logo of Dan’s business on its face, Dan reinforced his branding strategy once again.

xHouseofDohertyLogo copy

Coupled with Dan’s salesmanship and goal setting attitude, The House of Doherty thrived for many years until a deep recession and a life-threatening illness befell upon Dan, causing him to retreat from his business. There were attempts to keep it going with others in management, but without Dan at the helm, The House of Doherty lost the flair of the owner and it ultimately went out of business. Today, where once a strong and vibrant business stood is now a parking lot for a bank. It was a sad ending to a real great business.

Dan Doherty had a very positive and long-lasting impact on me. What I learned from him about salesmanship, branding, customer service and goal setting I put to good use in my own business since 1977.   I think of Dan often and of the special relationship I had with him. I am grateful that my Dad had the foresight to introduce us.

xDan Doherty - Copy

Dan Doherty standing at the entrance to the ready-to-wear sport coat room.

What Do I Do?


What Do I Do?

by Peter Cotton, founder and president of Best Sales Talent, LLC

The other day someone asked me what I do for a living. The standard answer many people in my business give is: “I’m a recruiter” or “I’m an executive search consultant” or “I am a headhunter.” All of these are just labels. They really don’t tell anyone what it is we actually do. It’s very easy to respond that way, just like an accountant would say she is an accountant, or a teacher might say he is a teacher, or a lawyer might say she is a lawyer. Most people have a reasonably good understanding what it is that those professionals do, but few outside of the recruiting business truly know what WE do.

You can be educated in a profession like accounting, law or teaching, and you can get a degree in those fields. Not in recruiting. When people are young, they may dream about becoming a lawyer, accountant, teacher (or any one of countless other professions), but I seriously doubt any young person ever dreamed about growing up to become a recruiter. People usually enter the recruiting business inadvertently. Usually because a recruiter told them about the profession, the person became sufficiently intrigued, and then took a chance by becoming a recruiter themselves. Most have tried and failed in my profession, only because they never truly understood just how complex the role of a recruiter is. Those people weren’t willing to put in the sufficient time and effort to learn every facet of the business in order to become a success. There are few people who start out as recruiters and then early-on become real failures. They are just early quitters.

So when people ask me what I do, I have to try hard not to give them that usual knee-jerk, quick and easy reply; “I’m a recruiter.” Instead I try to remember to give them a better understanding of what I do by saying: “I am in the business of helping companies grow and prosper and I change people’s lives.” I can honestly say that, because through my service of placing top sales and sales management talent with my clients, their company will grow and prosper. In addition, I will have changed the candidate’s life by doing any (or all) of the following: placing him or her in a better company, in a better location, for more money, with a better career path. All of that improves his life and the lives of his or her family.

There are two major misconceptions in the minds of most job-seekers: (1) they think that they are our clients, and (2) that our job is to find them a job.

Clients are the employers - the hiring companies who pay for our services. We work for them to find top talent for their firms. Candidates are the people we recruit, or whom we have met before and keep track of for possible future assignments. The people we recruit are currently employed. Our job is to attract them to an opportunity at our client’s company, assist them through the interviewing process, help them resign their current job, and start a new career with our client. We are not a social services firm that tries to get jobs for unemployed people. We place only a small percentage of the people who approach us asking for help in leaving one job to get another. To be placed by us, they must have the talent, skills and experience that our clients want. We frequently hear candidates tell us they need to find a headhunter so that they can get a new job. That’s not how it works.

Still, there is much mystery about what we do. It all sounds rather cloak and dagger, since we hunt and find people for our clients. None of those labels (recruiter, executive search consultant, headhunter) really tells people what we actually DO. You can call us headhunters. We aren’t offended by that moniker. But we are of the non-anthropophagus variety (look it up).  However, unlike the aboriginal namesake, we give people the opportunity to use their heads, not lose their heads.

So here, in no particular order are the things I do as a recruiter and what it requires of me skills-wise:

What I do is work in an intensely personal business and in an intensely personal sales job. I don’t travel by car or plane to sell. I travel by phone. I sell two parties with different needs at the same time.  I coach and teach. I am a politician, a financial advisor, a career counselor, a human resources consultant and a marketing expert. I’m a talent scout. I'm your collaborative partner. Your brand ambassador. Your mediator, your colleague, and your extension into the industry. I am a business consultant, a mentor, an advisor, and a psychologist. I am a communicator. I overcome countless objections (as to using my service, to paying my fee, to not wanting to make a career change). I read between the lines, and I provide solutions to problems -- some of them very complicated. I am a good listener. I employ a 6th sense. I have to see the unseen by using a refined sense of hearing. I conduct extensive research. I am a spin doctor. I use lots of patience with people and I handle the endless twists and turns I always encounter which are put in my path by employers and candidates. I help people get what they want. I am creative and very resourceful every day. I employ empathy for clients and candidates at all times. I am ultra-observant -- not just of things I see or hear, but of things I don’t see or hear. I use true grit and I handle what will seem to appear to others as endless rejection. I am a collaborative partner.  I am a mediator and a negotiator. I am a brand ambassador.  I am a colleague.  I am a masterful sales professional and I need to be just as good (or better) than my clients and candidates – who are all in sales. And finally, I close deals.

To add to all of that:

I deal with people, not products.  So things change.  Constantly.  Within the mind of a candidate or employer, there exists a maelstrom of ever-changing thought, emotions, desires, needs, fears, and motivations.  Candidates are influenced by parents, spouses, children, friends and co-workers with regard to any decision about making a career change, with an over-riding concern of avoiding a wrong decision.  Employer’s minds are influenced too. They are influenced by their boss (and their boss’s boss); budgets, competition and even the fear of hiring the wrong person for what it might do to their own career.  So understanding people, truly understanding them, and helping them weigh all their options, is the foundation for being a recruiter. We listen, truly listen, to our candidates and employers, and we provide them the highest levels of professional service in order to help them get what they want.  We help people navigate through big decisions affecting their lives, their careers, and their businesses. It is the very thing that good recruiters do each and every day.

Recruiting IS a profession. It’s a profession where you never stop learning. Like any other profession, it takes study, ongoing study, and constant practice to get any good at it. For those who succeed it is a profession that can make them rich with the many business relationships they will form. They will find it a profession that will give them immense psychic fulfillment. And they will enjoy a very good living.

Peter Cotton is an executive recruiter with over 40 years of experience.  He is the Founder and President of Best Sales Talent, LLC., a Franklin, MA executive search firm specializing in search, recruitment and placement of the very best sales, sales management and marketing personnel. 



Twitter: @pcotton


How Discounting Imperils Search Quality

How Discounting Imperils Search Quality

by Peter Cotton, founder and president of Best Sales Talent, LLC


Selecting a recruiter because their fees are the lowest is rather like selecting the least qualified candidate because he asks for the lowest salary.”


Companies needing to hire people that think they are getting bargains by demanding low recruiting fees from search firms are only fooling themselves. They are actually hurt by discount pricing from search firms.

The pricing equation over the long term, for any smart business person is:


If you want to get a discounted fee from a recruiter, service or quality must also be diminished in direct proportion to the fee. Lower quality means one or more of the following suffer: expertise, experience, understanding the assignment, personal chemistry, less attention to detail, skipping important steps in the recruiting process (i.e. reference checks and covering the counter offer with the candidate, etc.). Lower levels of service means that the quality of the service: evaluation skills, patience, tenacity, length of the search, or response time will take a nose dive. Cuts in quality and service usually are caused by work being pushed down to a less-experienced and overworked recruiter, or to a recruiter who may be “desperate” for a placement, who will accept the lower fee, and with whom the client has no relationship. These are the same recruiters who won’t be there two or three months from the date of the hire when the employer has a problem with the new employee.

In addition, the risk of failure on the search increases with lower price demands by the client. Face it: Recruiters are motivated by the assignments that pay them their regular fees, not discounted ones. Recruiters can only handle so many searches and candidates at one time. They must prioritize which assignments are the most important and invariably, the assignment that is at their standard fee gets the majority (or all) of their attention. Not the assignment that is discounted.

Recruiters send their very best candidates to their very best clients. They will send an “A Player” candidate only to their “A” and sometimes “B+” companies, so they can obtain the best offers for their candidates and accordingly, receive the highest fee for the placement. “C” companies never see an “A Player” candidate because they are not willing to pay top dollar to get top talent. .   (See my post: Talent Wins and Performance Shows )

“C” companies are generally unwilling to pay standard recruiting fees. Even some “A” and “B+” companies insist on discounted fees. It’s a message the recruiters hear loud and clear, so they won’t send those companies the very best candidates. They will send their best to firms that will pay the standard fee. Sophisticated clients worry a lot more about hiring the wrong person than they do about a 20% to 30% savings on the search fee, particularly in sales, where the hired candidate can generate more than sufficient new sales and profits to pay for themselves AND the placement fee.

Clients should choose search firms based on their expertise, experience, understanding of the client’s needs, level of quality of the service, response time, and personal chemistry. Only when two search firms are absolutely equal on all those criteria should price even enter as a factor.

Why are recruiter fees based on the candidate’s compensation?

Historically, the recruiting business and others like it (mergers and acquisitions, or real estate for example) have been basing their fees on a percentage of the transaction in question. It isn’t perfect, but a better way hasn’t yet been devised. Using compensation as the basis for fees gives the client a measure of predictability while also linking the fee to the importance of the search.

The best recruiters will differentiate themselves through the quality and service they provide, not based on price. They view their business relationships with their clients as partners in the hiring process. Most clients will find that their costs of hiring are actually reduced when a competent firm does the search and recruiting for them.

Other professional service firms.

There is more associated with the issue of expecting discounted fees from recruiting firms. Some companies think they are improving their odds by utilizing the services of several contingency search firms on the same search. They also demand lower fees from all of these firms in order to have the “privilege of doing business with them.” They don’t realize that they are minimizing their chances of finding the very best talent.

A good recruiter will ask the employer: “What other resources are you using now, or will use, in conjunction with working with our firm?” If the employer says that they are now working with other firms (or will), the chances are that the recruiter will either not work on the search, or will place it on a very low priority. There are many other ways a recruiter will learn that a company using multiple search firms on the same assignment. Not only is the search unattractive due to the employer’s “company policy” of paying less than a standard fee, but the recruiter’s chances of placing a candidate with an employer are greatly diminished where other firms are involved – so they won’t spend much time on it, if they spend any at all.

Employers utilize the skills and experience of other professional service firms like accountants and lawyers. When they need these services they don’t dictate the terms of fees being charged, nor do they ask for discounts, because they respect the professional providing the service. Moreover, they wouldn’t ask several accounting firms to do the work and then tell these firms that the discounted fee will be awarded to the firm who completes the work first. No accounting firm will work that way. Same holds true for needing the expertise of a law firm. No company in their right mind would ask several lawyers from competing firms to work on the same case on a discounted contingency basis, because they know that no self-respecting law firm would accept such terms.

The most important asset of any company is its people. People who perform well at their jobs are the life blood of any company. Without good workers, no company can survive. Recruiters can provide them.

“It is wise not to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.”     …..John Ruskin, 1819-1900


Peter Cotton is an executive recruiter with over 40 years of experience.  He is the Founder and President of Best Sales Talent, LLC., a Franklin, MA executive search firm specializing in search, recruitment and placement of the very best sales, sales management and marketing personnel. 



Twitter: @pcotton


A Dreadful Manager

A Dreadful Manager

by Peter Cotton, founder and president of Best Sales Talent, LLC

In my work in executive search, I have personally witnessed (or heard about) the management styles of hundreds of sales managers. I’ve placed many of them in their positions. They may have had different titles, but they were all sales managers.     VPs of Sales, Directors of Sales, National Sales Managers, Regional and District Sales Managers and the like. Many of them are excellent leaders. Some clearly know how to create an environment where the sales people feel highly motivated to go to work every day as well as to go into the field to sell. They create an esprit de corps in their team so that everyone is doing their part to help the company achieve its objectives. In contrast, there are some managers who do a horrendous job of managing people. They create negative environments and a workplace where an employee lives in fear of getting fired at any moment. I’d like to tell you a story about such a manager. It’s a true story. He became my boss many years ago, but I have changed the names in this story.


A little background is in order. Before I began my business in executive search, I was a salesman for a division of GAF, known as GAF Photo Service. We processed amateur film for the general public. Those of you born after the arrival of the digital age will not be familiar with the routine of taking pictures, dropping the film off for developing at a pharmacy or discount store, then returning to the retailer to pick up the finished photos several days later. It used to be an enormous business with many competitors vying for the business of retailers.


In the 1970’s the Kodak Instamatic camera and its 126 film cartridge, were king. The Instamatic was a camera that a large segment of the population owned, since it was so simple to operate.   Just point and shoot. No settings, no lens to adjust. No rolls of film to handle. Just drop in a film cartridge. A flash bulb could be placed on top when added light was needed. About 80% of the film we processed was 126 color print film. The balance was 35 mm film or different sizes of roll film from older cameras. But I digress.


In the early 70’s I was the highest producing salesmen in New England and one of the top salesmen in the country. I worked out of the GAF Boston plant. I had a wonderful boss, Steven, the District Sales Manager, who was originally from St. Croix.  He was a charismatic, positive, happy person. He had a charming island accent that endeared him to many. Steven created an environment that made the work fun. He and I were referred to as the dynamic duo, possessing the same high-energy personalities. We both brought in a lot of business and we became good friends. We still are to this day.

One day, I got a phone call from the sales manager of a competitor who tried to recruit me to his company. I was soliciting their customers, had taken a lot of their business away and he wanted to put a stop to it by having me work for him. He offered me a promise of more money if I would come to talk about working for them. Never having been recruited before, I was naive about what was happening, so I told Steven I had been approached. I was loyal to GAF, and even more so to Steven, who had given me my first chance to get into professional selling. Steven became concerned that I would leave. He told me not to make any decisions until he had a chance to speak to his boss.

A couple of days later, the Regional Manager, Steven’s boss, Ted, called me. He told me that he was very pleased with my performance and that he wanted to know if I’d be interested in moving up in the company. I didn’t hesitate to say yes, but I had no idea what he had in store for me. He told me that he would be “moving some things around” (whatever that meant) and that I was going to hear some good news in the coming days. I had no idea what he had in mind during that call, but I soon came to know. Looking back on this now, I can see that the call from Ted was a classic counter offer. He didn’t want to lose me to a competitor, so he made me a better offer – which turned out to be a sales management role and a raise, instead of just a raise to jump ship to join a competitor.

So I became the recipient of what I refer to as the Great Punishment Reward. I got promoted to be a District Sales Manager. In other words, the company took a good salesman off the front lines where he was producing sales, doing a good job, and made him a sales manager – but without any training or orientation in sales management beforehand, or when he first stepped into that role. It was a sink or swim scenario. A trial by fire. I had just turned 26 years old at the time.

A very brief announcement of my promotion was sent out by Ted in the form of a memo. The subject line of the memo was: The Retirement of Bob Jones. There was a single paragraph at the top of the memo, followed by several unrelated paragraphs concerning plant operations. The memo was faxed to each of the 19 plants in the country, including the plant where I was to relocate. The first paragraph of the memo is below:


“As you all know, Bob Jones will be retiring soon. Peter Cotton has been the top salesman in New England. He will be promoted to the District Sales Manager role in the Pittsburgh plant, effective next week. Please join me in congratulating Peter.”


A few important points about these three sentences, which were life-changing to many people:


  1. Although I had agreed to “move up” in the company, Ted had not asked me if I was willing to relocate. I was not consulted and I was not given a choice. He also never told me I was going to Pittsburgh. It was done and could not be changed. But I was smart enough to know that if I didn’t accept, it would be the last time a promotion would be offered to me. In addition, turning it down would be a real embarrassment to Ted, based on this memo. His boss would be unhappy with him and Ted would be sure to remember my turning it down the next time a management position was to open up.


  1. Bob Jones was 63 and was holding the job of District Sales Manager in Pittsburgh at the time of the memo. Bob learned of my promotion, and of his “impending retirement,” for the very first time when he read those three sentences. Ted, in what I can only classify as extreme cowardice, DID NOT meet with (or phone) Bob personally in advance of the memo to alert him of the change in management. A change in his job. Bob could only interpret the memo in one of two ways: Either he was being demoted (though nobody had actually said that to him) and he would report to me, or he was being encouraged by those words to announce his retirement two years early so he could leave with some shred of dignity.


  1. Despite his total lack of decency and sensitivity by sending out this surprise announcement, Ted was smart. He didn’t want to layoff Bob (a nice way of saying to terminate him) in order for me to take over, because he knew that Bob would file an age discrimination lawsuit against the company. Perhaps Ted was secretly hoping that Bob would resign on hearing the news of my promotion. Regardless of his intent, it was incredibly cruel and unprofessional.


  1. Needless to say, Bob was shocked, humiliated and resentful. And rightly so. The two salesmen who reported to him immediately disliked the idea of my forthcoming appearance in town, and were probably resentful of me for taking over Bob’s job, too. News of Bob being replaced was known all over the country. He was getting calls from other District Sales Managers he knew, asking him what had happened. People in the customer service department heard a new sales manager was coming to town and they were all uneasy about it. Some of them came to Bob with questions, but he had few answers. He didn’t know what was in store for him, or them, and he was understandably worried. Rumors started around the plant and Bob began to think I was coming to town to fire him. Even his two salesmen thought that was the case for them, too. They began to talk to one another and they made all sorts of assumptions about me and about what was going to happen. The atmosphere for these three men was filled with anxiety and the weekend between when the announcement became public, and my arrival, caused considerable apprehension for the men and their families.


  1. I became a looming great unknown in their minds. What they were able to find out about me, after having made some phone calls, is that I was considerably younger than all of them, single (all the men were married and two of them had children), college educated (none of them had degrees) and that I was a good salesman.




          Pittsburgh in 1974 and the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers where they form the Ohio River


The result of this is that I was to relocate to Pittsburgh immediately and Ted, a man of about 48, was to become my boss. On Friday, the morning that the memo arrived in all the plants, Ted called and told me to book a flight on the following Monday from Boston to Pittsburgh, with a layover in Philadelphia. He’d get on the plane in Philly and fly with me to Pittsburgh. He said he’d arrange for the salesmen to be in the office on the afternoon of our arrival so they could meet me. Excited and nervous, I bought a new suit, shirt and tie for my “debut.”



                                                                                           Allegheny Airlines (later purchased by US Air)


When I boarded the plane in Boston, dressed in my new, crisp outfit, I found it to be a full flight. The only seat I could find was far in the back and the jet engines were right outside the window. When we landed in Philly at about 1:30 PM, Ted got on board for the next leg of the flight. He expressed his displeasure for sitting so far back. During the short flight to Pittsburgh, he purchased two scotch and sodas from the stewardess. While he was drinking, he told me the Pittsburgh plant was the most profitable out of the 19 GAF plants and that the office manager kept a watch on all expenses to keep them low. I learned there were several major accounts that represented a large amount of the business. Ted told me the names of several of the people with whom I’d be working, but surprisingly, he did not know the names of the salesmen or the customer service manager who would report to me. Then he told me in passing that Bob Jones had been with the company for 10 years and that the salesmen had also been there for a while. He told me I was getting a “stable team” and that I had free will to make changes as I saw fit.

It was the end of May. We were met at the airport late on that Monday afternoon by Frank, a nice fellow who managed the route drivers and the wholesale department. I remember the day vividly. It was unusually humid for May. I noticed that the air had an orange-red, smoggy appearance. Inhaling was a bit uncomfortable. The three of us rode in a two-door car for the 20 minute ride to the plant. Ted sat in the front seat and I was crammed into the back seat with my carry-on bag (the trunk was full of stuff), along with boxes of film on their way to the plant to be processed. I was uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as I would be later at the plant.


                                                                                                         1974 Dodge Dart


Although the car had air conditioning, Frank liked to drive with the windows open. My new suit was getting wrinkled and I felt moist all over from the humidity. I was struck with the intense smell from the steel mills, which were still in heavy production in those days. Frank drove rather fast, weaving in and out of traffic. His erratic driving and the smell of the steel mills made for a very unpleasant, nauseating ride. When we arrived at the plant, I was windblown, sweaty, and sick to my stomach from the ride and the smell from the steel mills. I was understandably nervous about what was to happen and I wanted to make a good first impression.   I didn’t feel as if I would under the circumstances. I had envisioned a very different arrival scenario.

The plant facility was an unattractive converted auto body garage on the edge of a hill, known as “Polish Hill,” overlooking railroad tracks. It had no windows. Many of the people who worked at the plant lived on the “Hill.” They were good, hard-working, down-to-earth people. The film processing lab and the people who ran production were on the first floor. Downstairs, in the basement, was where the offices were located.


GAF Plant Pittsburgh

                                                                                         The former GAF Photo Service plant in Pittsburgh


On our arrival, I met the plant manager, Linda, a woman in her mid 40’s, who raised her eyebrows on seeing me and gave me a good looking over, up and down. She had been accustomed to an older man running the sales and customer service department. I suppose she thought I was too young.

Ted took me to the sales department office, ostensibly to meet the salesmen. Nobody was there. The room had three old, green steel desks, with a chair behind each. They were lined up one behind one another in a narrow room with wooden-paneled walls and a suspended ceiling with stained ceiling tiles. The room was illuminated inadequately by two fluorescent ceiling lights (one of which was flickering steadily). The office was below ground level so there were no windows. This was in stark contrast to the more modern plant in Boston I was accustomed to that had windows in the sales department and on one side of the plant.


GAF Boston

                                                                        The former GAF Photo Service Boston Plant (located in Somerville)


Moving to Pittsburgh from Boston was a culture shock for me. Language sounded different compared to a Boston accent. Their pronunciation of some words was strange to me and they had words for things I had never heard before. I’m sure they thought my accent was strange. Getting familiar with their accents and vocabulary was the least of my challenges. Ted had not asked the sales team to convene in the plant that day to meet me on my arrival. He said he asked Linda to arrange it, but I learned later that wasn’t the case. It’s possible he forgot to ask her, but I think he was deliberately trying to avoid any sort of negative confrontation with him and Bob Jones.

Ted and I were standing in the sales department office.   He turned to me and said something I will never forget:


“Well, I guess someone forgot to arrange for the men to be here today. Listen. Here is what you need to do. The salesmen come in first thing every morning at 8 AM. You need to get here tomorrow and show them you are the new boss. Two of these desks belong to the two salesmen and the one in the back belongs to Bob Jones. When you get here in the morning, tell Bob to clean out his personal stuff from his desk and move over to share one of the salesmen’s desks. You take over where Bob sits in the back of the room. Show them you are now in control of the sales department.”


                                                                                desk and chair

                                                                                              An example of the three desks in the sales department


I knew this was so terribly wrong on so many levels. The surprise memo, and the subsequent humiliation it caused Bob, would be compounded by the loss of dignity he would experience if I were to do what Ted said – tell him to clean out his desk. He would lose face in front of the men he supervised and he would go home to his wife as a beaten man. Ted didn’t possess any compassion or sensitivity for either of the two men who reported to him – me or Bob. Ted’s actions were downright appalling.

Ted left me to review some spreadsheets showing account activity and then went into a meeting with the plant manager. I was familiarizing myself with the accounts when without so much as a goodbye, Ted left the plant and flew back to Philadelphia that afternoon. Not sure just what exactly I should be doing, I had a choice of staying in the sales office with my head down studying accounts and maps, or walk around the plant and introduce myself to people. I chose the latter and that made for some awkward moments that afternoon.

At the end of the day, Frank gave me the keys to one of the company cars and the office manager told me where hotel reservations were made for me. It was to be my home for the rest of the week. Driving in a strange city with a map was a challenge. GPS devices were not yet available, and the colored beltway system around Pittsburgh was a bit confusing. I got lost on my way to the hotel.

I’d been given three weeks to “get my feet wet” in the job and to also find a suitable permanent residence. The arrangement was that I was allowed to fly home on weekends. Once I found a new place to live, I would be reimbursed for the expense of moving myself by driving a rented 26-foot truck from my apartment in Massachusetts to Pittsburgh. The company would not pay for a moving company to move my furniture and belongings. Since I wouldn’t be able to load a truck, drive 11 hours and unload it by myself, carrying everything to a 2nd floor apartment, I enlisted the help of a good friend to come along with me. Later, when I submitted a receipt to the company for his airfare back home, they wouldn’t reimburse me because “he was not an employee of the company.” So I had to pay for his ticket home.



                                                                                 I moved myself in a 26-foot U-Haul truck.


I didn’t sleep well that first night in the hotel. I tossed and turned all night. I was really concerned how things would go the next morning and how things would unfold in my new job and in my new city of residence, not knowing a soul in town. I had no idea where I would be living. I was uncertain if I should get to the plant before the salesmen arrived at 8 AM, or to wait until I was sure they were all there then walk into the office. However, I had no idea how prompt they would be since they didn’t know I was going to just appear, unannounced.

Morning arrived, and I tried to time it so that I would arrive at the same time as the three of them. I was wrong. I got there first. At precisely 8:16 AM, a man came into the office who was obviously surprised to see me standing there. I instantly realized that I should take the initiative and immediately greeted him good morning and introduced myself.   As soon as I mentioned my name, his complexion turned pale and he became quite nervous. He was standing face to face with his new boss. He was probably thinking: Is he going to fire me? I didn’t tell him anything about me at first, but launched into questions to get him to talk about himself. His name was Paul. He was 56 and was married with two children. He had been a route driver and since people liked him and he wanted to earn more money, the sales manager gave him a chance to become a sales representative.  Based on how little new business he said he had brought into the plant, I categorized him in my mind as a good service representative, but not as a sales producer.

Next to arrive was the other salesman. His name was William. He was also surprised to learn who I was, and he also became visibly pale upon hearing my name. I got him to talk about himself and I learned that he was 59, married with no children. He was a short and stocky man who I felt much taller than, even though I was only 5 foot 10 or 11. As he spoke to me he was very nervous.  He had difficulty expressing himself. He was also a very low sales producer and had been more of a service rep than a salesman.

Finally, at about 8:45 AM, Bob arrived. He stood a little more than 6 tall. Someone upstairs must have told him I was in the office because he walked right in extended his hand and said, “Good morning, Peter. I’m Bob.” I have to give him credit for breaking the ice immediately.  Bob asked me how my trip down to Pittsburgh was, did I like the hotel, and what did I think of Pittsburgh. Paul and William hadn’t asked anything of me. After some small talk, I asked Bob if there was a private place where the two of us could talk. He suggested a small conference room around the corner. As we left the sales office I could tell that Paul and William appeared to be shaking in their shoes as they pretended to look busy at their desks.

This was going to be a really tough conversation for me to have with a man who was 37 years my senior, and who I needed to look upwards at due to his stature. When we sat down across the table from one another we were more equal in height. As with the other men, I got him to talk about himself. He was married for 43 years, was a grandfather, and had served in the Army during WWII. He was fighting for our country and I wasn’t even born yet! He went on to tell me he had been with the company for 10 years. As I listened to him, it was apparent he was a decent person and I could tell he had been deeply hurt by the company (Ted), but he was doing his very best not to show it.

Then came the moment of truth. I told him that I felt what Ted had done was unconscionable, but he was now my boss, and accordingly for Bob, I was now his manager. However, I told Bob he had more experience in sales and life than me and I felt I could learn a lot from him. I explained to Bob that I would do my best to help him keep his dignity in what was a real mess of things. I told him it was not my intent to fire him or to make life miserable for him or the other two salesmen. Furthermore, I told Bob that if he felt that he wouldn’t feel comfortable reporting to me, a much younger person, and wanted to retire early, it was his call, not mine. I would completely understand. However, if he stayed, I would expect the same from him as I would from the other men and myself. We all had to do our jobs and had to share the responsibility of bringing in new business. More business than they had brought in before. After I told him this, the tension and anxiety in his body escaped from him, like air being let out of a balloon which was about to burst. To say he was relieved would be an understatement.

Then we came in the point of the conversation about the matter of the desks in the office. Instead of telling him to clean out his desk, I told him I needed a desk and a phone to work from and I asked him what he felt would be the best solution, since there were four of us now, and only three desks in the sales department. I sort of figured he would ask the two salesmen to share a desk and he would keep his. To my surprise, Bob suggested that I take his desk since he wouldn’t need one now that he was no longer going to be communicating with the regional office (Ted), or the national headquarters in New York City. He said, “That’s your job now, and I give it to you happily. I don’t need the headaches and I’d be better off on the road every day.” Bob was very understanding of the awkward position Ted had put me in and he was being very cooperative. In fact, he was a real gentleman. We emerged from the conference room having reached an understanding.

Managing three men who were from 30 to 37 years older than me was an interesting experience. They lacked the enthusiasm and excitement of going out to get a sale like I had when I was selling in New England. I rode in the field with them and observed their selling techniques. I was able to teach theme a few things that Steven had taught me, and they put them to use with some level of success. Even a 26-year old was able to teach them a few things.

Bob stayed on for two more years, brought in more business than he had in a long while, and ultimately retired at 65 with his dignity intact. He showed a lot of class to have stuck it out the way he did.

Unfortunately, William, the older of the two salesmen, violated a strict company policy. He had been drinking at a bar during lunch time and then got behind the wheel of his company car. A customer had seen him stagger into their retail establishment and called me to tell me he was drunk. Because nobody had cell phones back then, I had no way to reach him. Today I would have told him to stay put until I got there to take him home. I had to wait until he came back to the office at the end of the day. Thankfully, William didn’t hurt anyone, or himself, but the liability issue for the company was so enormous, after consulting with my boss and the legal department, I had to terminate him for cause. That was a really tough day for me. His job was his only source of income and his wife wasn’t employed. He was 59 and suddenly out of work. His wife called me that night and pleaded with me to take him back. She cried and I told her there was nothing that could be done. I felt horrible and wished I could have given him a second chance, but there was no way that could happen.

As for Paul, he sort of “got religion” when I hired two younger salesmen to join our team. He began to bring in more business. After Bob and William were gone, he became the oldest member of our team.

I managed for another two years. Then I met the woman I would marry. She was a sales representaitve for Eastman Kodak.  We both decided that we would resign our jobs, purchase a franchise of Management Recruiters (my office became known as Sales Consultants of Rhode Island), get married, move to New England and start our executive search firm in the spring of 1977. I’ve been in the executive search business ever since.

Ten things I learned from all this:

  • ONE: Assume nothing. If you are thinking of promoting someone when relocation is involved, have some compassion for the person. Don’t spring it on them. Be sure the person is on board about the specifics of the relocation before telling the entire company.
  • TWO: NEVER let an employee learn he is getting demoted by a company-wide email. ALWAYS discuss it in person. Have some empathy for your employee.
  • THREE: ALWAYS prepare employees for a new manager coming on board by providing complete details of who he is and what will transpire when he arrives. This will prevent all the unnecessary anxiety as well as the rumor mill.
  • FOUR: As a manager, if you say you are going to do something (like set a meeting for people to meet the new manager) DO IT! Not doing it is a sign of an inconsiderate manager.
  • FIVE: Treat the newly promoted person with some respect and consideration. They have a lot to get used to very quickly. It might be sink or swim or trial by fire, but give them a good solid start in every way possible.
  • SIX: Provide for the relocation of your newly promoted person. Don’t put the burden on him to do his own move.  He is already handling starting the new job in a new city, where he knows nobody, and while he needs to find a new place to live.
  • SEVEN:ALWAYS make certain that the newly promoted person feels welcomed in his new job by making accommodations for him. Make certain he or she will have a place to do the necessary work. Expecting the new guy to tell the former manager to clean out his desk is highly inconsiderate of both employees and is real bush league management.
  • EIGHT: Everyone has feelings. No need to hurt them unnecessarily. Being kind and considerate to people is always appreciated.
  • NINE: Get people involved in decisions that will surely affect them. They will feel they were part of the process rather than feel victimized by the decision.
  • TEN: Just because the people you are managing are not your own age, you can still enlist their support and input. Remember, age brings wisdom, and if you are the youngest of the group, you can always learn from those who have walked the path before you.


Peter Cotton is an executive recruiter with over 40 years of experience.  He is the Founder and President of Best Sales Talent, LLC., a Franklin, MA executive search firm specializing in search, recruitment and placement of the very best sales, sales management and marketing personnel. 



Twitter: @pcotton


















































































Talent Wins and Performance Shows

Talent Wins and Performance Shows


by Peter Cotton, founder and president of Best Sales Talent, LLC (with a posthumous thank you to Ron Fink, former President of The Lewis Group for his thoughts and insight on this subject. Special thanks to Fred Raley, President of Olon Search & Consulting Group and Jack Bourque, President of Wireless Careers, for their contributions to the content of this post.

This is an update to the post with the same title of May 2013

In order for companies to beat their competitors in the marketplace, and to remain competitive, they must be skilled at identifying, attracting, and hiring top talent. Being effective at those skills is not all that is necessary, however. Companies must be equally skilled at retaining the top talent they hire. They need to create an environment where their best employees feel valued. When top talent is recognized for their contribution to the company, they feel connected to the organization’s mission and they become very loyal to their employer. This greatly reduces the probability that these employees will even consider going to the competition. The company size is often not the criteria for success – talent, properly employed and valued IS.

The most talented people are the people who make a real impact on the company – the ones who do their job and then some. The most talented people are individuals that give back disproportionate value to their employers.   They bring more than skill. They bring energy and passion. And their effort doesn't end just because the day has. In the recruiting world, we call these employees the “A” Players.

Famed author and consultant, Peter Drucker, Ph.D. said“The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage, since so few companies are very good at it.”

Lawrence A. Bossidy Chairman and CEO of Allied Signal said: “No company can expect to beat the competition unless it has the best human capital and promotes these people to pivotal positions.”

Bradford D. Smart Ph.D., author of Topgrading said: “The single most important driver of organizational performance and individual managerial success is talent. The ability to actually do what every company and every manager professes to do – hire the best – is what distinguishes premier companies from mediocre firms and successful versus ordinary (management) careers.”

A” Players figure out how to make valuable management initiatives work and “C” Players kill good ideas. Five percent of companies are ‘top-graders’; they pack their teams with “A” Players. The rest ‘make do’ with a few “A” Players, a bunch of “B” Players, and enough “C” Players to cause problems for everyone.”

 “A” Players are defined as the top 10% of talent available at all salary levels – best of class.”

ABC players

Let’s look more closely at what makes “A,” “B,” and “C Players”

A” Players manage their careers and make their own decisions about their professional growth. “C” and some “B” Players allow the company they work for to manage their careers and make decisions about the career path for them.

If an “A” Player is working at a “B” or “C” company, they will actively seek a change as soon as possible so they can move up to work at an “A” company.

A” Players know that companies who pack their teams with the most “A” Players at every level will always win.

A” Players want to play on “A” teams.

“A” Players are the top 10% level of performers in every company, at their respective job, and at their pay levels.

A” Players make things happen.

B” Players watch things happen.

C” Players wonder what happened.

A” Players are well-known in their industries. Only some “B” Players are known in their industry. “C” Players are not known in their industry.

A” Players will not put their jobs at risk by broadcasting their resumes on job boards. In fact, they are not looking at job boards and they are not responding to Internet job postings.

Let’s look more closely at what makes an “A” (& “B+”) Company:

A” companies provide an environment that both challenges top talent and supports their growth at every level.

A” companies sell the opportunity to recruits. They don’t sell the job duties and requirements.

A” companies demonstrate that they are a decisive company by making hires of top talent quickly.

A” companies make attractive offers to “A” Players and are willing to pay top dollar for top talent, because they know it is a wise investment.

B” and “C” companies interrogate candidates on interviews and drag their feet when it comes to making hiring decisions.

B” and “C” companies sell candidates on the job duties and responsibilities. They don’t know how to properly sell the opportunity to candidates.

B” and “C” companies do not pay top dollar for top talent and therefore cannot compete in attracting them. They lose top talent to their competition – the “A” companies.

A” and “B+” companies competitively reward “A” Players for their performance and invest in training “B+” Players to become “A” Players.”

A” and “B+” companies recognize that talent without performance has no value, but talent without a place to perform only produces frustration or complacency. This is the primary reason why “A” Players do not stay in “B” companies or even considering joining “C” companies. “A” companies know this, while it never occurs to a “C” company.

A” Players know that they cannot self-actualize in “B” companies unless they have been hired with the mandate to help move the “B” company into an “A” position – and upper management is in full support of the transition.

 “B” Companies:

Look for talent, but are often unwilling to pay for it.

They find it difficult to attract top talent because they are unable to accept and act on the    cost/value proposition. Therefore, they employ mostly “B” and “C” Players.

B” companies have no specific plan to employ, challenge and reward “A” Players.

B” companies hire only after a position has become vacant – sometimes long afterwards. They only speak to candidates when they need to fill a position. They never entertain a conversation with a top player in the industry if they have no job opening. They never think of top grading their team. When they do interview to fill an open position, they try to attract the best person they can for compensation they are willing to pay, which many times is a low-ball offer.

B” companies are followers.  They follow rather than lead in their markets, avoid change, and are slow to make decisions. When they do make decisions, they tend to make them based on internal politics.

B” companies say: “Because that’s the way we have always done it.” It is a typical response to a new idea.

A” Players avoid “B” companies. If they find themselves working in a “B” company, they change as soon as possible to get into an “A” company.

A” Players who stay in “B” companies become “B” Players.

“C” Companies:

C” companies cannot attract top talent. They are mired in bureaucracy, focused on survival and maintaining the status-quo.

C” companies employ the greatest number of “C” players of any company in their industry sectors.

Diagram a b c

Active, direct recruiting is purposeful. It targets “A” and “B+” Players. For the most part these people are employed, relatively challenged and relatively happy. They are well compensated within their job categories and are “not looking.” They are not surfing the Internet looking for jobs and in most cases, their resumes are not up to date. They can however, be attracted to the right opportunity if a trained professional recruiter invests the time to find them, and who gains their confidence through conversation to learn of their needs, aspirations and desires. Only then can a professional sell an opportunity in just the right way – in a way to address the candidate’s needs, aspirations and desires. And if the opportunity is not a fit, the recruiter will tell the candidate that is the case. The candidate now appreciates that the recruiter can call again with a different opportunity at a future date. Employers who approach these candidates directly cannot offer that to them. [Think: fishing for a big fish in a lake. You approach quietly in a canoe and use a good lure. You don’t barge in on the scene in a noisy speed boat and shoot at the water with a shotgun. Likewise, a good recruiter doesn’t launch into selling the job to the candidate as soon as they begin speaking. He doesn’t sell an opportunity to a candidate unless, and until, he knows the candidate’s needs, aspirations and desires.]

Passive, Internet and web recruiting targets “B” Players (many of whom have peaked) and “C” Players. While this type of recruiting can, from time to time, reach a “B+”, or even an “A” Player, it relies completely on chance to do so. Employers post a job and wait for people to respond, or they send out emails to people waiting for a reply. That’s why it is called a passive process.   “A” and “B+” players do not “float” their resumes on the net. They do not need or want that kind of exposure. Although there can be exceptions, for the most part, passive Internet or web-based recruiting attracts the best and the worst of the unemployed or the employed lookers. It also requires significantly more time to weed through an enormous number of responses from unqualified wannabes.


If you want to hire “A” and “B+” players, ask yourself; “Why would an “A” or “B+” player leave his or her present position to take a new position with YOUR company?”

[A posthumous thank you to Ron Fink, former President of The Lewis Group for his thoughts and insight on this subject. Special thanks to Fred Raley, President of Olon Search & Consulting Group and Jack Bourque, President of Wireless Careers, for their contributions to the content of this post.]

Peter Cotton is an executive recruiter with over 40 years of experience.  He is the Founder and President of Best Sales Talent, LLC., a Franklin, MA executive search firm specializing in search, recruitment and placement of the very best sales, sales management and marketing personnel. 



Twitter: @pcotton


The $10,000 Screwdriver

The $10,000 Screwdriver

by Peter Cotton, founder and president of Best Sales Talent, LLC



You may have seen the 2014 Olympic Gold Medal Winner Figure Skater.  Her short program was just 2 minutes and 50 seconds in duration, but during that time, she had to perform eight required elements. She glided over the ice with graceful ease executing flawless spins and other maneuvers. Sotnikova made her performance look so beautiful it appeared as if she found it extremely easy to do. Yet we know it wasn’t easy at all. She spent many years in extensive training to reach that level of performance. She practiced that short program day and night for many months before her Olympic win.

Usain Bolt is regarded as the fastest person ever on earth. He is the first man to hold both the 100 meter world record at 9.58 seconds and the 200 meter world record at 19.19 seconds. Other athletes compete in individual events that take much longer to finish, like swimming in the 400 meter individual medley, or the grueling 10km marathon swim. One could argue that performing in a race that can be completed in 9.58 seconds is very little time or effort for receiving a gold medal. Yet we know that Bolt must have gone through long and arduous years of training to make it appear that it was easy to win the gold.


You go to the doctor about a pain in your knee and learn you have a torn meniscus. The doctor has done thousands of these surgeries and he tells you it will be an easy fix. He performs a simple arthroscopic meniscus tear repair on your knee in about 15 minutes. The charge for the surgery is $9,000. That’s $600 a minute. We don’t complain because we need the surgery. We also know that the doctor went through college to get an undergraduate degree, then four years of medical school, followed by four to six years of orthopedic surgery residency in a hospital. We don’t pick the surgeon based on his fees to perform surgery. We choose him because he is a good surgeon and we have confidence that he will make us well again. He has the expertise that makes it seem easy.

A lawyer acts on behalf of a client defending a man for a crime of murder which he didn’t commit. It might take weeks or months to try the case. The lawyer went to college, three years of law school and passed the bar exam. She has also had many years of legal practice. She knows the law and knows what she is doing. She is masterful in the courtroom and she proves to the jury, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that her client was completely innocent of the charge. She makes it seem easy, but we know it wasn’t. In order to get an acquittal spending $50,000 to $100,000 on the defense is an excellent investment if it keeps the client out of a life sentence in prison, or worse, from being sentenced to death.

These examples of hard work, study and professional expertise can make things appear to look easy. They are also true in business. Some professionals make what they do look easy, while their customers sometimes object to what they charge. It reminds me of the story of the $10,000 screwdriver:

Early one morning, Bob Sullivan, an east-coast plant manager, who supervised 500 workers in a major manufacturing operation, was met with a big surprise when he arrived at work. His 24-hour assembly line conveyor system came to a sudden and complete stop. His 500 workers were standing around, drinking coffee or playing cards, unable to do their work. This was costing Sullivan’s company considerable money for every hour the line was shut down. He had his best in-house maintenance repairmen attempt to resolve the problem. Try as they did, they were unable to get the conveyor system, which moved heavy parts through the assembly line, to get moving again.

Sullivan called the conveyor system manufacturer, but their only available technician was on the west coast and the earliest they could get anyone out to repair the system would be late the next day. This meant that the 700 units they need to produce each day would be delayed for at least forty-eight hours. 1,400 units or more would not be produced on time. A shut-down like this would prevent them from fulfilling contracts with their customers, costing them even more money.

Sullivan remembered that months earlier a consultant by the name of Johnson, who specialized in industrial engineering repairs and service, had called on him. Johnson had spoken to him about his service contracts that would ensure plant operational efficiency and cost savings on the in-house manufacturing systems. Sullivan didn’t take advantage of Johnson’s proposal thinking his services were too expensive. However, Sullivan had saved Johnson’s business card. Desperate to get his people back to work and his production line moving again, Sullivan pulled Johnson’s business card from a drawer and called him:

“I’m in a real jam here, Johnson! I need your help! My assembly line is down and my 500 workers are twiddling their thumbs. I can’t get the repair technician here for at least 48 hours. The company will be losing big money if I don’t get this fixed right away and my job is on the line. Can you get down here right away? I’ll pay whatever your fee is just to get this place producing again.”

Johnson said, “Sorry to hear of your trouble. I’d be happy to come down to see if I can be of some help to you. I’ll leave right away. I’ll be there in less than a half hour.”

Twenty-five minutes later, Johnson is standing on the plant floor with Sullivan, asking a few questions of the workers and the production supervisor to ascertain what had occurred. Armed with that information, Johnson walks over to the conveyor system’s large main control panel. He studies all the electronics inside the panel for a moment, looks at the schematic posted on the inside door of the console, and reaches into his pocket to take out a tiny screwdriver. Inserting a hand deep into the wires of the console, he can feel that a wire is disconnected. He reconnects it and moves some other wires out of the way, where he locates a tiny, hidden screw, which probably nobody knew was there. He inserts his screwdriver and gives the screw a quarter turn to the right. The conveyor system lurches back into motion and the parts start to move down the assembly line at their usual speed. All the workers went back to their rightful places and the manufacturing process was fully underway once again. Johnson was in the plant for a total of 10 minutes.

Sullivan was thrilled. “Thank you so much!” says Sullivan. “You got me out of some very serious trouble. What do I owe you?”

Johnson pulls a blank invoice out of his briefcase, writes on it and hands it to Sullivan.

“$10,000 !??! Are you out of your mind!??! That’s highway robbery!! That’s $1,000 a minute!!” says Sullivan.

Johnson replies: “My fee is quite typical in my industry. I did come here almost immediately to solve your problem for you. Your plant would have been down for at least two days. I have put your people back to work and I have saved your company far more than my fee.”

“Well, I’m not paying that much for a few minutes of work!” said Sullivan.

Johnson smiled, walked back to the conveyor system main control panel, disconnected the wire he had previously connected, and turned the same little hidden screw a quarter turn to the left. The conveyor system came to a sudden stop. Walking back towards Sullivan, he hands the screwdriver to him saying, “OK. Here's a gift that is easily worth $10,000 -- after you spend 25 years learning what to do with it!"

Peter Cotton is an executive recruiter with over 40 years of experience.  He is the Founder and President of Best Sales Talent, LLC., a Franklin, MA executive search firm specializing in search, recruitment and placement of the very best sales, sales management and marketing personnel. 



Twitter: @pcotton

Employers Find It More Difficult To Find Qualified Candidates To Fill Jobs Today (And Will In The Future)

Employers Find It More Difficult To Find Qualified Candidates

To Fill Jobs Today (And Will In The Future)

by Peter Cotton, founder and President of Best Sales Talent, LLC

Employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified candidates to fill their open positions. One of the reasons for this is due to the ever-increasing competition to identify, attract, hire and retain top talent.

We all know that job openings become available for many reasons. With the exception of the termination of the employee by his or her manager, job openings can be caused by the expansion of a business, a new product to be launched, personnel transfers, promotion of an incumbent, resignations, retirement, and even the death of the worker.

However, there is another reason why employers are finding it increasingly more difficult (and will even more so in the future) to fill their positions with qualified candidates. The reason is not obvious until you examine it more closely. It has to do with our population growth rate. More specifically, it has to do with something known as the Total Fertility Rate, verses a Sub-Replacement Fertility Rate.

The United States has been experiencing a sub-replacement fertility rate for years. This is a total fertility rate that, if sustained, leads to each new generation being less populous than the previous one. In a developed country, like ours, sub-replacement fertility is any rate below approximately 2.1 children born per woman. According to data published by the World Bank, over the last 33 years we have experienced a total fertility rate ranging from a low of 1.8 (in the early to mid 1980’s), to a high of 2.1 (in the early 1990’s and again in the early 2000’s).

Our TFR was at 2.1 (a population maintenance level) for only 8 out of the last 33 years, and at a sub-replacement rate (less than 2.1) for 24 years. It doesn’t take a statistician to recognize a trend with these facts. Think of how many siblings were in your maternal and paternal grandparents families. How many children were siblings of your mother and father? How many siblings do you have compared to your parents and grandparents? I am assuming here that the reader is a Baby Boomer, Gen-X’er or a Millenial. As an example: my mother was one of ten children. My father was one of five. I am one of four children born to my mother (one died as an infant less than a month old, then I came along). My wife and I have only two children. The graph below will illustrate the data from the World Bank and the trend, that for the most part, we are experiencing a sub-replacement fertility rate in the USA.

Sub-Replacement gaph 1

Let’s look at job openings caused just by retirement for moment. As people retire and move out of the workforce, the next generational group is supposed to move in behind them to fill the jobs which were vacated. To fill all the vacancies created by departing employees, you need to have a birth rate to sustain it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“Replacement needs exist independently of growth. So if an occupation is projected to gain 1,000 new jobs, and  2,000  people who currently work in the occupation are expected to leave it over the next 10 years, then the total number of positions projected to be available to job seekers is the sum of the two sources of openings, or 3,000.

            Across the economy as a whole, job openings from replacement needs are projected to  account for about twice as many openings as those from growth. This means that 2 out of   every 3 job openings are expected to be for replacing workers who leave an occupation.  (The replacement needs estimate does not include openings created when a worker changes jobs but remains in the same occupation.)”

If the economy is to grow, then the number of jobs must increase, and accordingly, there must be a sufficient number of people, qualified people, to fill them. This assumes that they have the educational level to be effective in the jobs for which they are hired.

The graph below shows the births per generation starting with the Silent Majority in 1928 through and including 2012 with the Post Millenial generation.


4th TV Slides


Looking at the data from the previous chart, we can compare those numbers in the following table:



According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, there was total employment in the USA of 145,355,800 people. Projecting just ten years forward, in 2022, there will be 160,983,700 jobs to fill. That is an increase of 15,627,900 jobs. Comparing the data from the table above to these projections you can see that we need an additional 15 million people to fill the increased number of jobs. The birth rates for the three generations after the Baby Boomers will not be able to support the need, since we are experiencing a Sub-Replacement Fertility Rate.

Looking into my crystal ball for the future, it is quite clear that trying to fill jobs through posting them on job boards or company websites is not going to fill the increased number of jobs. That will acquire only the active candidates seeking job changes. It won’t account for the pool of talented individuals known as passive candidates – people doing a great job where they are, not looking for a new job, unaware of a better job, with no prepared resume, not contacting recruiters, etc. In short, they are not reading the job postings. To reach them, you need a professional service performed by an executive search consultant, a recruiter, or yes, if you must, a headhunter. But unlike the aboriginal namesake, today’s modern headhunters give people an opportunity to use their heads, not lose their heads.

In an article titled: Why Recruiters Will Be at the Heart of Our Corporate Future, by Adrian Kinnersley, Posted on — Mar 5, 2013 it is very well summed-up:

“Talent Is Not an Online Commodity

            Getting the best possible talent to join your company is not the same as purchasing a product online. Talent has opinions, options, and time constraints. Talent can be unpredictable, irrational, high maintenance, and uncommunicative. A product you buy online will always show up if you have paid the appropriate price and followed the  correct purchasing process. A product won’t have any thoughts or feelings that it wants to discuss with a third party. It won’t have any opinions on how well you selected it. It won’t wait for a better company to buy it if it doesn’t like your communication style or your company values. A product won’t consult with family members, professional  acquaintances, and even someone it met on the train to provide fresh objections about   why they aren’t going to show up at your company.

            Recruitment Is a Professional Service

            The reasons above are precisely why a professional recruitment service is uniquely positioned in the digital age. The number of intangibles in any hiring process is the very thing that prevents it from being a replicable and reproducible process. The freedom of  thought from all of the parties involved in the ultimate decision making prevents the viability of a “black box” recruitment solution.”

Recruitment, as a professional service business, provides a company its most important asset: People. With the advent of thousands of job boards, the “latest and greatest” screening software, many company executives think they can save money by recruiting themselves. They think that the day of the recruiter will fade away. I would submit that in a Sub-Replacement Fertility Rate environment as we now have, with more jobs to fill than there are people, a Do-It-Yourself solution will most certainly create more problems than it is supposed to solve.

Kinnersley goes on to say:

            “The Barber Shop Analogy


            “There are many other more tangible reasons why service businesses won’t be replaced in the digital age. A good    analogy is that the Internet won’t put barber shops out of business just because you can buy hair clippers on Amazon and get them delivered the next day. The margin for error and potential for public humiliation when cutting your own hair will prevent most sensible people from trying it themselves.

You may choose your barber shop based on price or service and it’s likely that when you have found one that you are happy with, you’ll not only return many times but also probably tip handsomely for the privilege of getting your hair cut just the way you want it without even having to ask. My barber shop is a busy place and I imagine that for my barber to be able to cut everyone’s hair in the style that they have asked for takes considerable skill, years of experience, and a huge amount of patience.

            Similarly, the margin for error, the potential for embarrassment, and the risk of public failure is huge when attempting to recruit for yourself. If it takes too long or if it turns out to be a bad hire, that can be a lot more expensive than a recruiter’s fee. Just like your barber, a good recruiter makes the process look easy not because it is — but because they have years of experience, considerable skill, a huge amount of patience, and a raft of other qualities.”


The numbers speak for themselves. More jobs to fill than there are (and will be) qualified people to fill them. It will be harder and harder for employers to find qualified candidates and to fill jobs on their own. Professional recruitment services are in demand now and will continue to be even more important for the continued growth of companies.


A Glass of Water - Worries & Stress

A Glass of Water - Worries & Stress

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"

The students called out answers ranging from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "The stresses and worries in your life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."

As you go through your work day, remember to put the glass down.

Yogi Berra and Job Search

Yogi Berra and Job Search

by Peter Cotton, founder and president of Best Sales Talent, LLC



This past week a great baseball legend passed away. Yogi Berra Yogi played for 18 seasons with the New York Yankees as a catcher and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972. He played in 14 World Series and, with his teammates, won 10 of them.

Yogi was famous for more than baseball, however. He is famous for some of his quotes like: “Baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical” and “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

I have a particular interest in four of his quotes, because they could pertain to looking for a new career. For example:

Frequently, employees come to a point in their career where they have to make some important decisions. Should you ask for a raise? Should you ask for a reassignment to another part of the company or the country? Should you begin to look for a new job? Should you take that interview that a recruiter arranged for you? Should you accept that job offer? Should you accept or reject the counteroffer from your current employer? In all these scenarios, you must make a decision. Not deciding – making no decision at all – is in fact, a decision. Therefore, this quote by Yogi will apply in each of the above instances:

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Frequently I am approached by candidates who ask me for help in finding a new job for them. During my initial conversation I hear them tell me that they have no specific idea what they want to do next in their career.

Sometimes they tell me “I’m open” meaning that they would be receptive to hearing about any and all jobs. In other instances, they tell me what they don’t want by describing all the things they don’t like in their current position.

When candidates tell me these things, I ask them when they went on their last vacation and where they went. I am usually regaled by a story about a wonderful trip he or she took. Then I ask them how much thought went into their decision -- how much planning and preparation did they go through as to where and when to go on their vacation, i.e: (1) researched vacation locations; (2) arranged to take time off from work; (3) made flight, hotel and car rental reservations: (4) planned on where they would go each day and what they would see or do; (5) got sufficient cash or traveler’s checks for the trip; (6) stopped the mail; (7) put the dog in a kennel; (8) put timers on the lights in the house; (9) turned off the A/C or lowered the heat in the house, etc. It could be any number of those things. Most likely many more. Then I explain that saying they have no idea what they want to do next in their career means they spent more time planning a vacation (a short-term pleasurable experience) than they have so far in planning their career (a long-term very important experience). I also tell them that when they have nothing specific in mind, they may be influenced by others to take a job, begin working and then realize it’s not what they wanted to do. There are two Yogi Berra quotes that would apply here:

“If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”


“You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

And finally, there is this famous Yogi Berra quote:

“The future ain't what it used to be.”

How does this apply to a career search job? In the old days (post WWII through late 1950’s), an employer could run a help wanted ad in the newspaper and have a line of applicants outside his door the next day. Then employment agencies came into being in the 1950’s or so and people went there to apply for jobs the agency had listed. Candidates paid a fee to the agency when they landed them a job. Then one recruiting firm (MRI) pioneered the business model that employers should pay the employment agency fee (around 1964). The entire industry followed and the days of candidates paying a fee were over. Later, in 1977, MRI elevated the business from an employment agency business model (emphasis on getting jobs for lots of people) to a recruiting firm model (emphasis on getting very top talent for specific positions in their client companies). This was followed by the emergence of email and the proliferation of resumes being sent electronically. The days of sending paper resumes would soon be completely out of vogue. What followed was the arrival of the big job boards – Monster and Careerbuilder – and then the thousands of niche job boards fragmenting the market. Along came LinkedIn, and later software with algorithms which could allegedly remove the human element in the hiring process – the jury is out on that for a long time to come. Who would have thought back in 1950, that the future of job search would be what it is today? What we can be assured of is that it will continue to evolve. Thus, “The future ain't what it used to be.”

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