New executive search firms appear every week. Many are breakaways from established firms; others are created by former in-house recruiters looking to swap sides; while others are created by people who are new to Search. Some will be founded by solo recruiters; others by small teams. Each will follow a different path.
One of the first decisions often made when starting an executive search firm will be technology. Those with experience at a boutique will often select the CRM system they are most familiar with – often with limited review of the alternatives. Other firms undertake a wider review of the executive search technology market but what is notable about many of the startups that we speak to at Dillistone is this: firms are often focused on the short-term needs of the business. While some decisions can easily be changed later – there is typically no need to open on Park Avenue on day 1 – certain decisions are more strategic.
Selection of a platform is one such decision. We often hear from firms who have made a short term decision to build a database in a generic or entry level tool and have subsequently grown beyond it. This can be an issue because, contrary to what many people assume, there is almost always a cost when switching systems.
This cost can come in a variety of forms. The most obvious is data conversion. Every database tool has a unique database structure. Changing from one to another typically takes time and work, and those things never come free. But the opportunity cost is often higher. For an established business, reviewing systems, converting data, and retraining all take time. As the old saying goes, time is money.
Of course, it would be short-sighted to buy a system to support a behemoth when your business is still in its early stages. Single users typically need to focus on finding information and getting it into the database. This means integration with LinkedIn, Indeed, NotActivelyLooking, and Outlook are far more important that KPIs, financial forecasting, and branding.
However, that shouldn’t mean that buyers shouldn’t be thinking about how the business might develop over time. How may your business develop? After three years, your firm might be a boutique with half a dozen people. You now have “data”: the challenge has gone from one of simply finding information, to finding and maintaining that information. Beyond that, as the head of a business, your personal focus may have moved onto management – whether that be business or performance management.
After five years? Well, technology will certainly have changed. You’ll be using new devices in new operating environments. You’ll be finding information in new ways and interacting with executives and clients in new ways.
By then, your firm may be in a very different place. Most search firms never grow beyond 10 people – but some do. Some are acquired. Some join international networks. By that stage, founders may be looking for an exit. What’s important, then, at that stage? Flexibility. Technology that will attract new hires by allowing them to work from anywhere. Technology that will fit the needs of a buyer. Heck, technology that will increase it’s valuation in the eyes of the buyer!
The technology needs of a firm will change as the firm changes. At Dillistone Systems, we’ve recognised that and so – earlier this year – became the first mainstream supplier to Search to launch two distinct flavours of our product. FileFinder Anywhere Essentials and FileFinder Anywhere Premium edition. Essentials has everything the typical start-up firm needs. You can import from LinkedIn. From CVs, Outlook integration, mobile access. Work on a PC, a Mac, a shared computer – all through a browser. It’s cloud hosted and SaaS-based.
The Premium edition has all of the above, with some additional functionality – things like KPIs, more reporting options and so on – that larger firms may well need.
The two versions of FileFinder allow us to meet the needs of any search firm. What makes the release so popular, however – and we’ve seen our order book more than double this year – is the ease of upgrade from one to another. An Essentials user upgrading to Premium faces no data conversion cost. No installation or setup fees. No retraining – and there is never any data loss. No overhead whatsoever. They simply let us know they wish to upgrade, and we upgrade them. Beautifully simple and the type of flexibility that developing Search firms need. All of this by the largest supplier to the search sector. The only one that is global, profitable, cash generative and publically traded – and able to consistently invest to meet the changing needs of the market.
If you are thinking about establishing a new search firm – or if your current platform is not meeting your current needs – do contact us and request a demo. We’d love to talk to you about the various options that we offer.
Dillistone Systems provides FileFinder Anywhere Executive Search Software to hundreds of search firms and in-house teams, worldwide. Now available directly in your browser with no installation necessary, it offers a combination of search assignment management, CRM, report writing and research tools. FileFinder Anywhere is hosted in the Cloud, in a secure environment and backed up daily for you. All you need is internet access to be able to work anywhere, on any device – which can lead to increased collaboration, productivity and efficiency.