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The Resilient Recruiter

Jan 28, 2020

Have you thought about incorporating split fees into your business model but are worried about the financial impact? In the competitive world of recruiting, is it better to embrace this model versus losing out? Is it easier to partner and collaborate with other recruiters to fill a position?

My guest today, Jason Elias, has built a successful recruiting firm specializing in the legal field—while incorporating split fees. He’s found a way to leverage the competitive niche to benefit his business and his clients. 

Jason and I converse about how he got into the recruiting industry and chose his niche. We also cover why he started utilizing the split fee model and how it’s led to success. If you’re considered giving this model a go, be sure to listen to this fascinating episode. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:11] Jason Elias’ journey from lawyer to recruiter
  • [5:16] How did his first split fee come about?
  • [7:20] How he started collaborating with other recruiters
  • [12:14] Why a split fee model is worth adopting
  • [15:30] Learning lessons from building a team
  • [19:45] Jason’s plans for the future of his firm
  • [25:24] What do you do when clients are your competition?
  • [32:41] How does Jason juggle all of his roles?
  • [35:35] Why Jason believes managing is worth the reward
  • [38:00] Jason shares his favorite tech tools 

How did Jason start collaborating with other recruiters?

Years ago—when Jason was self-admittedly a young and naive recruiter—he spent a chunk of money to place an advertisement in a publication. That advertisement failed to get him any leads. While turning the pages, he noticed another recruiter’s ad in the accounting section. So he called him up and they met up to discuss their lack of success with the advertising. They completely hit it off. He also found out that his newfound friend collaborated frequently with other recruiters. 

The NPAworldwide Australian conference just happened to be two days later. They fast-tracked Jason’s membership and he walked in and instantly felt comfortable. Everyone was transparent and honest, and he felt like these were his people. The organization claims to allow recruiters to collaborate with others in a safe environment—and he believed this from day one. 

Fast forward to today, and Jason has been involved with NPAworldwide for over 16 years. He had the opportunity to serve as the director for the Australian region of the NPA for 4 years. Now, he serves on the executive team as Secretary/Treasurer and Chair-Elect. Once he has served his term in this position, he will be appointed the Chair of NPAworldwide for a two-year term. 

The natural segue from networking to split-fees

Jason’s first split came from a fellow council member at the RCSA—she worked for an organization that needed a lawyer. She connected the two parties and Jason provided a lawyer that was a perfect fit. Since that day, he estimates that one-third of his business is from split fees. Jason has reached gold-level with the NPA, which means he had made at least $2,000,000 in placements at the time he reached that level (over 5 years ago). Of that amount, he would estimate at least $500,000 was from split-fees with other recruiters.

Jason continues to see the benefit of collaborating with other recruiters and splitting fees. For example, he has a client in the Northern Territory of Australia. He called her up one day and she didn’t have any placements for him—but she was looking for someone in IT. He told her that while he doesn’t specialize in IT, he knew someone who did. He connected the two and his fellow recruiter filled the position. 

For his effort and cooperation, he got a thank-you fee from his colleague. Jason points out that if he hadn’t connected her with someone else she would have gone to a mega-recruiter to fill the position. In the end, he likely would’ve lost that client’s future placements to them. Instead, he created a happy customer who was excited to continue working with him. 

Split fees are about the best outcome for the client 

Jason found himself in a situation where the perfect candidate for a client had to back out. Instead of being at the end of the road, he was back to square one. His client called him up and informed him that another recruiter had approached them with a promising option that they wanted to interview. They understood he was on retainer and they had signed an exclusive contract.

Instead of informing his client that they must go through him due to the contract he told them to make a call to the other recruiter—he would offer to split the fee with him. He ended up speaking with the other recruiter and came to an agreement that worked for them while benefiting his client and the candidate. 

In this way, the client’s position was filled and they were satisfied. Jason notes that it is about the long-game and getting the best outcome for the client. This decision, albeit a small monetary loss, led to repeat business because he put the client’s happiness first. Per Jason, in the end, “If you help their business grow, then they’ll help your business grow”. It’s a win-win for every party involved.

Be aware of your strengths and your shortcomings—then adjust accordingly 

Jason has a lot on his plate, from his role at the NPA to managing and running his own business. On top of that, he’s working on his Master’s degree and has a side hustle business. With all that he’s juggling, how does he manage to remain so successful? Jason admits it’s because he’s aware of his weaknesses. He’s a great recruiter, a great business-owner, and excels with his position at the NPA. But he believes he’s a lousy manager. 

Instead of accepting defeat, he chose to build a team of experts around himself to offset his weaknesses. He hired a team member that takes on more of the administrative and managerial role. He does his best to touch base with his team daily and they do a weekly Zoom call. But in the end, he believes in treating his team like the adults and professionals that they are. He doesn’t micro-manage, while providing them with the tools they need. He’s made it a point that he is always available if they need him. 

Jason could have gone the route of remaining a high-performing solo recruiter. But with a family to provide for, he wanted to lower his risk. He realized he was better off delegating some of the work and taking a split. It’s worked well for him—Jason has built a national model with great recruiters who are experts in their field. He has a good reputation for being one of the best in his industry.

To hear the rest of Jason’s journey in recruiting, make sure you listen to the entire episode of The Resilient Recruiter.

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