January. Dark, cold and alcohol free. You have stocked up on soup, joined the gym, you’re wearing your new jumpers / shirts / shoes / socks / ties (maybe all of them...) that you were given for Xmas and trying to block out the ‘sporty’ one on the team who is trying to start five-a- side / squash / badminton or even worse, the dreaded lunch time run.
You were 2012’s hero. You had the Xmas party, enjoyed the awards ceremony, went for beers with the Directors and generally celebrated as everyone worshipped your high- flying biller status. There you were at the top of the league table across all the KPI’s but more importantly, you were a country mile ahead of the competition in the only one that really counts, REVENUE.
And then, January. "So what are you predicting for this month?" Reality bites like a cold arctic blast. Hero to zero. "2012 has gone. This is 2013. It’s all about now. How is your pipeline looking?"
January. The recruitment consultant’s most challenging month? There is certainly an argument to suggest so. Let’s look at the bigger picture.
No matter how diligent you were in December trying to land that all important fee to beat ‘Miss Sporty,’ you would have eased off at some stage. Who is going to arrange interviews over Xmas anyway? Between a few client lunches (long ones) and preparing your end of year appraisal, it’s safe to say you were not operating at the level of intensity that you normally do. You may have had a full 2 weeks off or popped in to tidy your desk but whichever it was, the chances are that you were not driving your business.
Before a two week holiday in June, you manage your pipeline very closely and build a high level of interviews before handing over your work to your colleague to manage in your absence. This doesn’t happen at Xmas because everyone is off and there is little work to handover. So, back you come with minimal activity facing a boss demanding that you continue last year’s billings (and do more) now that you had raised everyone’s expectations and clients that are being bombarded by every other consultant in the market doing the traditional January ring round to pick up some jobs. It seems that every candidate in your market has decided that the first week in January is the best time to apply for as many jobs as possible and you need to handle the response. It’s not an easy time in recruitment.
In my many years in recruitment, I have observed the following about this crucial month.
You MUST have a plan and a clear focus about what you are doing and where you are spending your time. While January won’t make your year, it can certainly put you behind the curve and make it difficult to catch up.
You MUST know who your key clients and key contacts are. Do you really understand what THEY are doing in January and how you can HELP them with their business or are you just ringing them to get as many vacancies on as quickly as possible. How many agency calls are they getting? How often are they hearing the same old patter? Are you helping or hindering? Do you really understand their business and sector and the value that you can add? They will be discussing their business plans, succession and manpower plans for the next 12 months. What value can you add? What market information do you have that could prove to be very beneficial to them during this process?
Visiting your clients is absolutely key in maintaining and developing your relationships. Should you be aiming to visit them all in January or are you just trying to get your activity levels up? Is this the best time for them or merely convenient to you?
You MUST have written your personal business plan for the forthcoming 12 months with a specific focus on the next 6 months in particular. If not, why not? A clear strategy may alert you to key actions you could be taking NOW to improve the quality and productivity of your business in 3 – 6 months time. Have you really taken the time to analyse your Personal Development Plan and identify where you need to make improvements? More importantly, what actions can be taken to close your skill gaps and push your development? Do you have a clear idea of the support and guidance you need to build upon last year’s performance and deliver even more? Have you identified who else in the business can help you with these development opportunities and have you approached them to be your mentor and coach?
It is essential to service your new candidates as they apply for roles in the New Year and a timely registration conversation is paramount to this. Surely this is also a good time to catch up also with those key candidates that you have already got good relationships with. Again – what can you offer them in the form of advice and guidance? How can you add value to them as individuals?
In my experience, "Plan your work and Work your plan" is often spouted by senior management shortly followed by the banging of the ‘do more’ drum: "send more CV’s, make more calls, get more interviews, do more client visits etc..." which in my opinion somewhat contradicts the aforementioned.
Yes, the pressure is on in January. Yes, it is a key month to get right. You must push for high levels of activity to generate opportunities and ‘push’ the market and you must ‘own’ your output and drive your business. However, before diving head long into high levels of activity it is worth thinking very carefully about what you are doing and why, keeping in mind the short, medium and long term.
The most successful billers I have met over the years all approached January with passion, drive and energy. Above all they had a clear focus, a clear plan and a clear strategy that meant their time was thoroughly thought out and they always had an understanding of what their clients and candidates needed at the start of the year.
It can be a long, hard month so make the most of it with a clear focus.