Feb 12, 2020
Developing a strong personal brand is becoming increasingly important to your success as a recruiter. That applies to all recruitment consultants but is especially critical for independent recruiters and owners of small recruiting and staffing agencies.
My guest today—Lauren Stiebing—is a great example of a recruiter who has embraced personal branding as a way to differentiate herself in a crowded market. Lauren started her search firm, LS International, in Barcelona in 2015 and has built a thriving global practice in the CPG/FMCG space. There were many factors that contributed to her success, including her relentless persistence.
In our conversation, we talk about the challenge of building a client base from scratch and the learning curve associated with mastering the ins and outs of business development. She shares the unique challenges she faced and the different strategies she’s used to successfully build her recruitment business. She’s one of my superstar clients and it’s a wonderful privilege to welcome her to the show.
When Lauren launched her business 4.5 years ago, she had little to no experience with business development. She knew she wanted to go out on her own and had the drive to make it happen. She gave herself a deadline of one year to get the business off the ground. If it didn’t work out as she anticipated, then she would begin searching for a job. Fortunately, she turned a profit in her first year and has never looked back.
Starting a recruitment agency is not for the faint of heart, and Lauren’s journey was far from straightforward. From the start, Lauren knew that she wanted to operate a retained search practice. Yet 6 months in, she had zero revenue coming in. Lauren and I started working together at this point. After a month, she made her first placement. She pointed out that making your first placement is the hardest, after that things start to get easier.
Lauren has achieved what many haven’t - starting a recruitment agency and growing her billings year after year, while 80% of new recruitment companies fail within the first two years. She provides exceptional service and is unrelenting in her ability to make good on her promises, as evidenced by the fact she’s successfully completed 90% of her search assignments.
Lauren knew she faced a significant challenge in the industry, going up against well-known established firms. She recommends building a brand for yourself to differentiate in the industry. One strategy she leveraged to build her personal brand was launching her podcast, LS International Career Success. She was adding value to the industry and this helped her build relationships with clients and candidates. But that wasn’t the only thing that set her apart.
Lauren places a high level of importance on professionalism and confidentiality. She explains that clients NEED to know that she takes their confidence seriously. She also believes that you need to have an impeccable response rate—which is sorely lacking in the industry. Even if you can’t answer every question, you can point them in the right direction. This keeps you from burning bridges. Above all, you must be honest and genuine and willing to give hard feedback where others won’t.
Lauren points out that providing hard feedback doesn’t always go over well but ultimately gains their respect and engages people on a deeper level. She shares an example of how she challenges her candidates by asking probing questions.
Being a young entrepreneur, Lauren knew that persistence was going to be the key to her success. As she began breaking into the industry she learned she must keep knocking on the proverbial door. For her, this looked like leveraging multiple channels of communication: email, phone calls, text messaging, and LinkedIn messaging. She tried whatever she could use to get her foot in the door with candidates and clients.
One strategy she uses—which I find compelling—is using conferences to build relationships. This involves identifying which conferences you want to go to and why. Is there a conference that you can attend to connect with decision-makers in your market sector? She notes that it can be a big financial commitment, not to mention the time involved, so you have to do your due diligence and make sure it’s the right move.
Another way to build your personal brand and place yourself as an expert in the industry is by speaking at events. Lauren most recently spoke about creating a more diverse workforce at a LEAD Network event. Not only did she position herself as a leader and an expert in her market, but she also learned a lot and met people relevant to her industry.
Other than building a personal brand that stands out from the competition, there are a couple of key ways Lauren believes her agency differentiates itself:
1. Her competitors may have a podcast, but it doesn’t compare to hers. Lauren notes that many of the big-name firms come across as unrelatable. Their podcasts—if they have one at all—are informational and stuffy, often geared towards those at the executive level. She strives to make her podcast (and her business) relatable to everyone looking to advance their career.
2. Lauren is the first to acknowledge that she faces steep competition. But there is an upside to being a small, boutique search firm—flexibility. Her agency can adapt to each client’s needs from one day to the next. They are small enough to be able to change processes or utilize different tools midway through the process.
LS International is able to keep the business customer-focused because it can be adaptable. She can split-fees with other recruiters as-needed, work with multiple people, or do whatever is necessary to ensure client happiness.
Lauren shares how she got her foot in the door with blue-chip multinational companies, the value she’s found in launching her podcast, and much more. Be sure to listen to our engaging conversation.
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