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The Resilient Recruiter

Mar 22, 2023

What does it take to level up your billings from six figures per year to seven figures? 


To answer this question, I asked my friend Andrea Colabella of the Cardea Group, to share her journey and the key changes she made to increase her billings from $550-750k per year to over $1.2m.


Andrea shared relatable insights and learnings from running a successful search firm including both her wins and losses. She presented golden nuggets about exclusivity, how to prepare for critical conversations, as well as the value of learning to say no to some searches. 


Andrea has been recruiting since 2005 and has placed over 800 individuals throughout her career. She started her own agency, Cardea Group, in 2009 and is a member of the Pinnacle Society, the premier consortium of Industry-Leading recruiters in North America.


Episode Outline and Highlights


  • [01:57] How Andrea got into recruiting and how she started the Cardea Group.

  • [06:01] Highlights and lessons learned as a recruitment firm owner.

  • [12:14] The biggest challenges Andrea had to overcome as a business owner.

  • [16:50] Qualifying criteria what makes a good search.

  • [22:20] Discussion on exclusivity, commitment, and boundaries.

  • [30:20] Andrea reveals the 3 important changes she made to level up her billings

  • [38:00] Dealing with stress and pressure.

  • [42:20] Cutting off the noise and focusing on the clients and candidates that make the most sense.

  • [47:10] Rehearsing and preparing for key conversations.

  • [50:44] How to respond to a client who asks you to reduce your fee percentage.

  • [53:45] Learning from mentors and getting golden nuggets of wisdom to further your recruitment career.

  • [57:40] What does Andrea’s typical day look like?


Key Learnings as a Recruitment Firm Owner


Andrea’s journey as a recruitment business owner is a colourful one, full of learnings and challenges that a lot of recruitment firm owners can relate to. She shared how they won major accounts as a boutique agency against well-known and established larger retained and contingency firms. She also revealed key learnings when they fail, doing retrospectives when they lose a pitch. 


Highlights of lessons that she shared are:


  • Consistently reviewing both the accomplishments and failures.

  • The value of qualifying your search and starting to say no.

  • Learning to cut through the noise and spending your time closest to the money.

  • Having industry mentors and people you can lean on is hugely beneficial.


The 3 Changes That Enabled Her to Increase Billings to Over $1,000,000


Andrea and I discussed how she was able to level up from being a consistent biller in the $550-750K range to finally passing $1M+ per annum for the past two years. She acknowledges that it is also market driven but highlighted a few steps they took to make this happen. 


So what are the 3 most important changes that enabled her to level up her billings?


  1. Learning to say no to a number of searches that will waste a lot of time and focusing on more senior positions

  2. Getting commitment fees upfront helps them to align themselves with the clients who are committed to making the hires.

  3. Shifting their fees from guaranteed compensation to including their target bonuses included in their fee structure.


Listen to the full episode to hear Andrea elaborate on how she almost doubled her average fee!


Our Sponsors


This podcast is proudly sponsored by i-intro and Recruitment Entrepreneur.


i-intro® is an end-to-end retained recruitment platform. Their technology and methodology allow recruiters to differentiate themselves from the competition, win more retained business, bigger fees, and increase their billings. Their software combined with world-class training enables you to transition from transactional, contingency recruiter to consultative, retained recruiter. Instead of being perceived as a “me too” vendor, you’ll be positioned as a “me only” solutions provider. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Book your free, no-obligation consultation here:

Recruitment Entrepreneur is the world’s leading Private Equity firm specializing in the international recruitment industry. If you’ve dreamed of starting, scaling, and selling your recruitment business, this is your chance. James Caan and his team at Recruitment Entrepreneur are actively seeking ambitious recruiters in who they can invest. They provide everything you need to grow a successful recruitment business including funding, financial expertise, coaching and mentoring, operational strategy, back-office support, marketing, and talent attraction solutions. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Start a conversation here:


Andrea Colabella Bio and Contact Info


Andrea is a Johns Hopkins alumnus with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  She has been recruiting since 2005, initially across all industries, and over the past decade with a focus on the investment management space. Her excellence in the industry is highlighted through her admittance into The Pinnacle Society, an influential group of industry-leading recruiters. She started her own firebrand agency, Cardea Group, in 2009 focused on assisting private equity firms, hedge funds, venture capital funds, family offices, and traditional asset managers in staffing their non-investment functions. Based in New York City, Andrea is also an active board member of several not-for-profits.



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