Monday, April 16, 2007

The best clients

Good post from Dennis Howlett (an accountancy blog that is a riveting read and interesting even if you have no interest in accounting).

It got me thinking about clients in the recruitment sector. Dennis' list should apply to clients in this market too but I'd wager it doesn't for most people. I went to a talk in Chicago last year where the speaker was from the HRO Buyers Advisory Board. The board is an independent HRO buyers group and the membership is a veritable 'who's who' of organisations that outsource some or all of their HR function.

Most of the audience were potential buyers, looking at the possibility of outsourcing. I went to get the 'other-side' info and pick up any tips I could. What I remember best from it though is the following assertion:

All of the groups membership expect and want their outsource companies to make money.

Now this isn't really a surprise when you think about it logically. Yet still, it made me stop at the time and at the end I went over that particular note a couple of times to really make it stand out. Buyers should be thinking of long term relationships and they expect providers to make money over the period of the contract. Something as radical as outsourcing your HR function (or just your recruitment function) is not to be undertaken lightly. So why plan to scrap it in 6 months? Exactly, no one does. Yet that's what happens time and again. The blame for this is often attributed to poor service (and I don't doubt for one second that there is a heck of a lot of poor service out there, I hear about it all the time). Yet maybe more of the responsibility (because I don't like the word blame) needs to be on the buyers, the clients.

At Omni we've got (and lost) clients that are indeed gold standard. And I think we're getting a lot better at saying no to those who just won't be up to scratch. Yet does anyone tick all the boxes from the list? Do any of your clients? If not, what can you do to help them get there?


Dennis Howlett said...

Thanks for the hat tip. The key seem to be that you really have toset your stall out and make it clear what you stand for. Most people won't be so keen on that but in doing so, you're effectively saying: 'This is who I am so take it or leave it.'

As in all relationships, whatever that 'who' is will either be attractive or not. When it's attractive then it gets tested. But in getting that 'who' tested, we learn, grown and get refined into something just that touch better.

If that appeals, great. If not - go find someone at Gartner or one of the other cookie cutter, process bonkers crews that has a menu of 'stuff' but no soul.

James said...

Hi Dennis, thanks for the comment and a point well made. I definitely agree that defining that 'who' is vital, for both parties, in any relationship.

We recently sat down over here and made almost a tick list of what appeals in a potential client and then what would appeal about us to certain clients. Having well-defined frames of reference like that makes it a lot easier to make good decisions but I've found that as a by-product it also makes you a more robust outfit. When you can actually identify why two 'partners' aren't right for each other there's a lot less 'hurt feelings' for all involved.

We're going to be bringing something to market very soon that will be a first for the field. Literally no-one is doing anything like it at the moment, which for me is really exciting. Yet at the same time I know that we're going to alienate a lot of people in some ways; they won't 'get it' and it's not for them. Fair enough I say. Lets be great at doing it for the guys who are interested and not worry about those who were never going to love our stuff no matter what.

Dennis Howlett said...

I'd love to see that when you're ready.

James said...

When we've got some of the finer details of the gig together I'll happily email a copy over to you. The more meat we put on the bones of this the more it interests me at the moment. It's one of those ideas that's amazingly simple yet has the ability to impart a 'warm and fuzzy' feeling in the client, win-win for everyone hopefully.