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A Law School Assignment: Reach out to a "Trusted Service Provider"

I was recently contacted by an adult friend of mine who is in law school.  He is taking a Professional Responsibility class and was instructed to reach out to a non-law related "Trusted Service Provider" and ask a few questions.  I was honored to get the call.  The result - some information you should know about us (Abeln, Magy, Underberg & Associates) as well as the Retained Executive Search field.

Beyond competency, what skills would you suggest to cultivate a reputation for trustworthiness?

  • Responsiveness (if that a skill?):  no one ever calls us with an easy assignment or a long timeframe.  When we get a call about a new assignment, we often have just a few hours to get back to our client to get started.  (Without a fast call, they could call another trusted advisor.
  • Follow-through (is that a skill?):  searches take 90 to 150 days to complete (if all goes well).  The follow-through I reference is the ongoing communication with the client during the life of the search.  They want updates - and frequently.
  • Creativity:  if search was easy, they would not call us.  They expect us to look in places for candidates that they would never think of.  (A common saying at my office: “That is why they call it search.”  The inference - it is not ‘fetch.’)

In your experience what are some things you do with intention to protect your reputation? 

  • Ethics:  there is no common ethical stance that search firms take OR have to take.  An example of a common ethics topic in search is Off-Limits.  How long is an employer we work with Off-Limits to us (where we cannot go in and take people from a client where we recently placed people)?  Some firms have no such policy.  Some firms have a one year timeframe.  Some only have a timeframe for the office location they work with - a specific location even if the company is global in scope.  We are very upfront on this topic - and are proud of a two-year complete (all locations) policy.  The candidate we place - Off-Limits for as long as they are employed by our client.
  • Blog - while often it is only one/month, we put out information that our clients seem to enjoy.  (We are a bit more frequent with our Tweets.)

What are some things that you feel could destroy your reputation? 

  • Firms in our field get in trouble for two things:

o   Stealing people when there is an ‘assumed’ off-limits understanding.  (Most firms never put this in writing - we do).

o   Taking on an assignment where the firm has no expertise.  (We know that we are the wrong firm for certain types of positions.  We let our clients know this up-front and often help them find another service provider to assist them.)

These are areas we want to further discuss with you.

Please ask us - we will also continue to address these items in future posts.