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The Resilient Recruiter

Jun 30, 2022

“Turning around worst ever billing through the pandemic, to record-setting results currently.” In this episode, my special guest Wes Ashworth shares his story of the proactive steps he took to overcome a perfect storm of business during the height of the pandemic.  He also explains how he went from 100% contingency to 100% retained!

Wes is the Vice President of Executive Search at Lee Group Search, and specializes in partnering with packaging companies nationwide to find the talent they need to grow and scale their business operations. He joined the company in 2014 as an Executive Search Consultant and was promoted to his current position in April 2020.

I’m especially proud of this episode because Wes credits The Resilient Recruiter as being a “lifeline” during the toughest period of his career, and helping him access the motivation, strategies, role models and resources he needed to turn things around.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [2:27] How Wes finds the Resilient Recruiter podcast value-adding.
  • [4:30] Wes shares his story on how he came into recruiting.
  • [6:45] Why 2020-21 were the worst years for Wes and how he turned it around.
  • [19:02] Key changes implemented to shift from the worst times to the best.
  • [25:18]  “The world belongs to askers,” - how moving to the engaged model drastically changed Wes’ recruitment results. 
  • [33:15] Great ways to pitch the engaged model to your existing contingent clients.
  • [39:30] Turning around the worst ever billing through the pandemic, to currently record-setting results.
  • [42:05] How having a peer group to pace yourself against can give better results.
  • [46:00] How to develop your messaging approach to stand out in a world of noise.

From Worst to Best Times - Key Success Factors

Wes’ recruitment journey is indeed colourful in terms of successes and learnings. He joined the industry around 2014, and three years later he was stable and was billing $550k with his own book of clients. He had high hopes for 2020 and he even got promoted to VP. 

Then suddenly in March 2020, Wes’ high hopes came crashing down. Due to the pandemic,  businesses and clients started to go away. His personal production plummeted and he was feeling the pressure. Being newly promoted, he had to carry his team’s performance which added more stress. Like with many others, the negativity brought about by the pandemic placed a great toll on Wes both personally and professionally. 

Wes was never a quitter. With the support of his wife and the proactive actions that he took, he was actually able to turn from the worst times to the best times of his career. This is a story I am sure you will want to hear. What are the key factors that enabled him to overcome this colossal challenge? Here are some takeaways from our conversation:

  • Revisiting his business development and quantifying his efforts. Wes discussed how doing so made him realize that he lost around $600k+ in billings.


  • Transitioning from 100% contingent, to 100% engaged/retained. This was not easy, but as Wes discussed it, he had to “put his stake in the ground and don’t look back”.


  • Listening to the Resilient Recruiter podcast and reaching out to those whose stories resonated with him.


  • Having a peer group - applying for and getting accepted to the Pinnacle Society.

Wes discussed each of the above in this episode and even shared other best practices.

The World Belongs to Askers

One game-changer that contributed to Wes’ success is how he transitioned from 100% contingent to 100% retained. This was not easy at the onset as he had to be willing to walk away from businesses. Initially, Wes focused on implementing this approach to his new clients. How did Wes transition from pure contingent to engaged? He is a firm believer in the advice that “the world belongs to askers.” Asking the right questions enabled him to apply the retained approach to new clients and to some legacy clients as well.

Wes is confident that he made the right decision, saying “honestly there is nothing in my mind that can convince me otherwise to do anything different.” 

Aside from the outstanding results profit-wise, he found that it makes more sense for him and his clients. With this approach, he is able to foster a working relationship based on trust. To Wes’ realization, if a client would not want to pay an engagement fee, it could be that they don’t trust you. He believes that if a client does not trust you, it will not be a good working relationship and best to move forward.

How to Stand Out in A World of Noise

Wes also shared his best approach to improving his messaging. There is a lot of noise out there at the moment, so how did Wes change his business development strategy? His approach is more niche specific. He also utilizes LinkedIn automation. He explained that it is not overbearing, it’s important to come across as a normal person. His messaging leans more on being raw, real and relevant. You will hear how he turned his messaging upside down and generated better results.

Our Sponsors

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

i-intro® is an end-to-end retained recruitment platform. Our technology and methodology allow recruiters to differentiate themselves from the competition, win more retained business, bigger fees and increase their billings. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter for a 25% discount. Book your free, no-obligation consultation here:


We’re excited to announce that Recruitment Entrepreneur will be sponsoring the podcast! If you’ve dreamed of starting up or scaling up and exiting your recruitment business, this is your chance. James Caan and his team at Recruitment Entrepreneur are actively seeking ambitious recruiters who they can invest in. Start a conversation here:

Wes Ashworth Bio and Contact Info

A member of The Pinnacle Society, Wes continues to find success through his strong belief in doing the right thing, caring about people and fostering close relationships with both the company and the candidate.

His proven process to align talent to grow businesses starts with taking the time to deeply understand what a business needs, the culture they’ve created for their team members and what type of candidate will help them grow. It stretches into getting that same level of understanding from the candidate. This work goes beyond a traditional meet and greet or interview. It’s more than a job description and more than a resume.

For Wes, getting the perfect fit is the name of the game. Finding the candidate that fits the company and the company that fits the candidate are both critical. Only with a carefully evaluated fit will a candidate be positioned for success and find fulfillment in their job. In turn, companies benefit from an engaged employee who is a top performer over the long term.

Wes’ laser focus on fit and long-term success has served him well. Recalling a client who turned to Lee Group Search with a job opening that several other agencies could not fill after more than six months of searching for candidates, Wes took the time to learn about the company and get up to speed on the nuances of the specific job requirements and culture of the organization. Within a few weeks, he was able to fill the position with the right candidate who went on to be successful with the company. Today, Wes counts the company as one of his most loyal clients.

When he’s not matching candidates with positions, Wes enjoys spending quality time with his family and being around the water – piloting his kayak, catching a fish, or simply relaxing at the beach.

  • Wes on LinkedIn
  • Lee Group Search website link
  • Lee Group Search on Facebook
  • Lee Group Search on YouTube
  • The Pinnacle Society website link
  • Danny Parch’s PMC (Cause Wes wishes to support) website link
  • Experience Camps website link

People and Resources Mentioned

Connect with Mark Whitby

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