The following content has been reproduced with permission from the publisher and author of Inside Commercial Construction’s MVPs (Hunting House, Coty Fournier, copyright 2014).
August 10, 2015
Coty L. Fournier
Have you seen the movie Jerry Maguire? If not, watch it. If you have, watch it again, because this time you’re going to watch it from an entirely different point of view. Ignore the romantic comedy plot lines like “You had me at hello” and “You complete me” and focus in on the incredibly illuminating story of the athlete-agent relationship in professional sports. It’s powerful and amazingly applicable to your career. If you want to join the MVPs in the commercial construction industry, you might want to buddy up with your own Jerry Maguire. He can help—in more ways than one.
A SIMPLE ALIGNMENT OF INTERESTS
Virtually every professional athlete, musician, actor, or author has an agent and many other occupations do as well. The agent represents these professionals in their respective marketplaces, and they help procure and negotiate employment contracts and endorsement deals for their clients. In addition to their powers of persuasion and negotiation skills, agents also bring valuable industry relationships to the table, which strengthens their value proposition. In short, excellent agents have excellent connections. They know people. They open doors. And when they’re properly motivated—as in the notoriously famous line from the movie—they can really “show you the money!”
It all stems from a simple alignment of interests. Generally speaking, agents are compensated as a percentage of their clients’ income from employment contracts and endorsement deals. So obviously what’s good for the agent is good for his client. When the agent helps secure his client more opportunities and money, the agent typically gets more opportunities and money right along with him. It’s a true win-win relationship.
In the commercial construction industry, the closest equivalent to an agent is an executive search professional or recruiter. These guys are the potential “Jerry Maguires” of our world. Not just any old headhunter, but rather true executive search professionals who specialize in the U.S. commercial construction industry and do their job well. The ones who’ve built trusting relationships with many construction companies (a.k.a. the teams) and many construction professionals (a.k.a. the players) and are looking to connect the best with the best from both sides, for the right positions, and make a buck in the middle. That’s pretty much their gig. It’s not a perfect analogy, but if you tweak it slightly it works. More importantly, it works for you, and the company you work for, if you work it right.
BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE
There are three things that count in the world of executive search professionals: relationships, relationships, relationships. Top-notch executive recruiters work very hard to develop long-term, trusting relationships with people on both sides of their matchmaking fence, which are (1) the companies they recruit for and (2) their network of construction professionals, from which they pull candidates to fill positions or seek referrals to other candidates. They have to do this in order to survive and develop a good reputation.
Now think money. Executive recruiters in the commercial construction industry are generally paid directly by the companies they recruit for, and the payment is typically either a flat fee negotiated up front or a percentage of the compensation package offered to the successful candidate. So technically speaking, they deem their official clients to be the companies they recruit for, because that’s who signs their checks; however, in a very important and real sense, they also consider the commercial construction professionals they place with those companies to be their clients as well. They may be paid by one master, but they serve two masters, because they cannot effectively serve one without the other. The most-respected recruiters know this intuitively. The ones who don’t are bridge-burners and they make more enemies than friends.
Top recruiters consider themselves to be an extension of their clients’ human resource department, with a fine line of separation. They care about the companies they recruit for and seek to earn their repeat business by helping them attract the best possible talent available in the marketplace for the opportunity and compensation package being offered. Similarly, recruiters’ passion for good matchmaking extends its reach over the fence to the growing network of construction professionals they’ve come to know over their careers. Their network is their lifeline, their connectivity to the industry, their direct source of potential candidates or referrals to other possible candidates. So the good guys work equally hard to earn the respect and trust needed from their network in order to be successful in the placement process, resulting in satisfaction on both sides of the client fence.
JERRY MAGUIRE IS RARE BUT THERE
If you ask around, you’ll likely hear a mixed bag of emotionally charged opinions about what it’s like to work with executive recruiters. Some construction professionals swear by it and some curse it. The ones who curse it do so loudly and emphatically, with all kinds of horror stories about how they were screwed over by so-and-so when they went through a headhunter to get hired or hire someone else. Many of those horror stories are true. There are clearly unethical recruiters who will recruit professionals into your company, and then turn right around and recruit others away from your company. There are also ones who are only in it for a quick buck. Those guys will woo someone into a position that really isn’t a good fit for either party, but it results in a nice fee, so they take it and run. It happens.
When you see that kind of behavior, avoid that person and move on, but don’t write off the value of the entire service just because some executive search professionals—or even many of them—do it unethically. There are bad apples in every bunch of every industry. That just makes the really good apples even more valuable.
Continue to Part II….
Coty Fournier is a U.S. commercial construction executive, entrepreneur, author, and keynote speaker with sustained success in construction operations and business development, on both sides of the Owner-Contractor equation. She is also the co-founder and former CEO of Jobsite123.com, acquired by The Blue Book Network in May 2013. In addition to her leadership role as Vice President of Network Solutions for The Blue Book Network, she continues to serve the commercial construction industry as one of its most prominent thought leaders on industry relationships, executive talent development, and marketing platforms. For more information, connect with Coty on LinkedIn, or email her directly at email@example.com