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Sheila Greco, Report from the IACPR Global Conference

SGA is Embedded: Retail, Pharmaceutical, Financial, High-Tech and Engineering Services

Sheila GrecoSheila Greco

Welcome to a special Inside Recruiting Channel edition of Total Picture Radio, with Peter Clayton reporting. At this year's IACPR Global Conference in Philadelphia, I was happy to connect again with Sheila Greco, the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sheila Greco Associates.

We've had the opportunity to interview Sheila on several occasions, most recently to discuss how the staffing industry is adjusting to keeping the costs down and broadening its value. Part of the Onboarding Guest Experts Series we did with PrimeGenesis. Sheila contributed to George Bradt's best-selling book, Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time ( affiliate link). Her topic: Creating A Powerful Slate of Potential Candidates.

In our exclusive interview, Sheila shares her pulse on the business and employment climate, focused on the industry verticals SGA Associates knows very well: Retail, Diversified Services, Pharmaceutical, Financial Services, High-Tech and Engineering. Through customized research, competitive intelligence, recruiting & executive search assignments, and their SGA ExecutiveTracker, Sheila Greco is a thought leader in the disciplines of Customized Research and Customized Competitive Intelligence, in which the company partners closely with clients, helping them identify professionals to recruit, target their best sales prospects, understand industry trends, and find valuable intelligence on their competitors. SGA provides research and customized competitive intelligence to corporations and search firms alike.

Sheila Greco: TotalPicture Radio Interview Transcript

At this year's IACPR Global Conference in Philadelphia, I was happy to connect again with Sheila Greco, the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sheila Greco Associates. We've had the opportunity to interview Sheila on several occasions, most recently to discuss how the staffing industry is adjusting to keeping the costs down and broadening its value. Part of the Onboarding Guest Experts Series we did with PrimeGenesis, Sheila contributed to George Bradt's best-selling book, Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time. Her topic: Creating A Powerful Slate of Potential Candidates.

Sheila, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

Sheila: Peter, thanks for having me. It's wonderful to be back.

Peter: It's hard to believe Sheila, it's been a year since we recorded the interview for the Onboarding Guest Experts series. Tell me about your business climate today versus one year ago?

Sheila: Well, 2010 is obviously much busier. We're loving life again; 2009 was profitable for us but it was a little slow. During 2009, it was a nice time for us to take pause and take a step back. We really took the time to get to know our clients really, really well, understand their challenges during this time period and help them work through it.

Obviously, you have to create results but you have to deliver the high quality candidates that they're used to you delivering, but we also had to stay within the client's budget.

Fast forward now to 2010, and as I mentioned, it is much busier, phones are ringing and like always, we have to continue to under promise, over deliver, and add value all the time. We're happy, everything's behind us now. We hope. The business climate is much better, everybody's smiling again.

Peter: You bring up something really interesting. I interviewed Joseph Jaffe not too long ago, who wrote a book called Flip the Funnel. The whole purpose of this book was talking about your current clients and rather than going out and doing new business development all the time, really take care of the clients that you currently have.

Sheila: It's true. We run our business like that too. We would rather have three or four really good clients in specific industry verticals that they have a lot of them because we want to be able to service, add value, and be a true partnership and the business climate today is actually leaning that way as well.

Actually, I was talking with one of my clients and the recruiting professionals, they were given bonuses based upon reducing the number of vendors that they used and then increasing their benchmarking studies to show that they're adding value and doing it at less money than they were before.

Peter: Right, that's interesting.

Sheila: Yeah, it was kind of interesting but clients are really looking for true partners now.

Peter: Let's talk about some of the verticals you work in. You really have special expertise in retail, diversified services, pharmaceutical, financial services, tech and engineering. Can you give us an employment snapshot of each of these, starting with say pharmaceutical?

Sheila: Pharmaceutical continued to be very strong for most recruiters that played in that space throughout the recessionary time period. Pharmaceutical still continues to be very, very strong. Life sciences is very, very strong as well. We're finding that for us, pharmaceuticals, we do a lot of competitive intelligence work in that area, really understanding new product developments, what's happening in the talent pool areas and tracking individuals, so when they're ready to make a move, we would be their first call.

We really are totally imbedded in the pharmaceutical world, tracking executives before they're ready to make a move and we're doing that for at least two or three of our pharmaceutical clients. So they're trying to stay ahead of the recruiting and talent war.

Peter: That's one of the things we heard a lot about at IACPR this year is the whole talent pipeline and people really trying to stay ahead of the curve with this.

Sheila: Financial services remains very strong for us; obviously, many folks would say that the financial services industry put us where we were two years ago but I honestly, am a firm believer that it's taking us out of it as well. We're seeing senior level positions but we're also seeing junior level positions as well. We're looking at originators, private bankers, commercial bankers, IT positions in financial services.

Another hot button for us is consulting. Consulting, there come the big four, we're slammed. I haven't seen this much activity in a while.

Peter: That's really surprising to me to be honest with you because when you look at financial services, has any industry gone through the kind of upheaval that financial services has, especially in New York City.

Sheila: I know. One thing that we did notice is that some of the folks that were actually let go or were no longer working a the bigger companies have started smaller firms and they're actually looking to hire. So we're looking at some of our growth is coming from small companies looking to grow and they're looking for top talent coming from the larger firms. So we're seeing a lot of activity not just with the large financial services companies, but small emerging companies as well.

Peter: In the tech sector, I spoke with a number of people at the IACPR Conference executives in the industry and a couple of things that my takeaways from that is the speed of change in tech today is just phenomenal and it really has become globally competitive.

Sheila: That is very true. Very, very true. Actually we're telling people, if you're offered a position outside of the US, take it, because when you come back, you're going to be valued at a much higher level.

Peter: Yeah, absolutely.

Sheila: So we're encouraging people to do that.

Peter: In retail, most of what we hear, Sheila, in the press is that retail sales have been flat most of the year. Are your retail clients hiring?

Sheila: You know retail is a funny business. Retail has always been strong for us as well and buyers continue to turnover. Merchandisers continue to turnover. So we're obviously always seeing activity at the buyer levels, the merchandising levels, planner levels and so from our perspective, our recruiting has not slowed that much for our retail clients.

Peter: Diversified services - any trends?

Sheila: Diversified services, funny, it's the direct opposite of retail. We're looking at and we're doing a lot of hiring at the general manager position. what happens is I think, again, the diversified companies really take a look at - they do a great job of taking a look at who they have internally compared to who they have externally and they're very good at plucking out a talent from their competitors and getting rid of their B talent. So we're doing a lot of talent management within the diversified industry.

Peter: And engineering, any specific fields where you're seeing a lot of demand?

Sheila: All across the board.

Peter: Yeah?

Sheila: All across the board, yeah. It's not as big as I thought it was going to be though. With all the stimulus going on and they're saying we have all this activity going on; it's increased but I wouldn't say at the numbers everybody thought it was going to be increased by. But, again, this is just what I'm seeing.

Peter: How about geographies, any specific geographies, parts of the country, where hiring is better than others?

Sheila: The southeast is good. The northeast has been really good. I heard the Midwest is very, very slow. Texas has been very strong. I think the governor has done a great job with bringing business from California to the Texas area.

Peter: I'd like to get some of your takeaway, Sheila, from the IACPR Global Conference this year. What did you hear, what surprised you, wow was the event compared to others that you've attended this year?

Sheila: I love the IACPR. I really, really, really do. One thing that I was very impressed with this is when I guess they took a poll on one of the business meetings that they had and they said that 98% of the attendees are busy. Very, very busy. That is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful number to hear. It's refreshing. And it was nice to see all the people smiling again.

Peter: Yeah, isn't that the truth? Unlike last year.

Sheila: It's always a jovial happy group but I mean, they were really happy because they are saying I'm busier than it was last year. It was nice. Like I said, it was very refreshing.

What surprised me, the attendance is good. I was very happy with that, but I always enjoy attending, sponsoring and just being part of the IACPR. I believe that the professionals who are part of this group - one thing that makes me come back year after year is that they're not afraid to speak out. I think you might agree with me there. They continue to be open and share their experiences both good and bad. They're not shy.

The other thing I really like about, it seems to me like it's a pretty tight group of people who are very, very, very passionate about what they do, and they enjoy speaking about it.

Peter: Yeah I would agree.

Sheila: As you can see, I have nothing but positive things to say about them and Kay Kennedy and her team are always very, very, very good and they had good food again this year, Peter. They always do.

Peter: Yes. Nice hotel. I was very impressed. Actually, it was the first time I had gone to the IACPR Conference and I was very impressed by the level of people who attend that conference and like you said, their passion for the business and the amount that they're willing to share about what's their current struggles are, what they're really trying to accomplish over the next year.

Sheila: Yes, and I love it, I really do. Even the sidebar conversations are still, 'how can I help you?', 'what are you doing?' It is just a good group of people. A good mix.

Peter: Here's a question I have for you, Sheila. Your organization has expertise in just about every phase of recruiting that I can think of and you're big in research and competitive intelligence; you have a proprietary database called the SGA Executive Tracker, as well as an executive recruiting practice. For the experienced managers and executives listening to this show who are in career transitions right now, trying to figure out the employment landscape as it exists today and having a very difficult time doing that, by the way, can you give us an overview of the services you offer your clients? How do all of these pieces fit together and perhaps outline for us how recruiting and hiring is done today, especially at the executive level. People outside of the recruiting industry are completely mystified by how this whole thing works.

It's a multipart question but again, I speak with a lot of executives who are in transition and they're all going to the job boards and you and I both know that's not where they're going to get hired, not at a $100,000+ job.

Sheila: No. Let me just talk to the executives that are looking for a job first. Here's what I tell them. Networking, networking, networking. Let everybody you come and contact with, let them know that you are looking, let them know who you are. Don't oversell but at least let them get to know who you are.

For those of you who are sitting in positions and beginning to look because we are beginning to see the tide turn, definitely take every call from a recruiter and if you can help them out and network with them, do so.

In the past, people would not return calls, professionals that were gainfully employed would just shun a recruiter's call, would not call them back, would not network. Now we're seeing everyone call us back, network with us, how can I help you and by the way, if you come across a position like this, feel free to give me call because I might throw my hand in the ring. So, I mean I think it is all about networking and getting in front of the right people.

And as far as if you are looking for a job, yes you can use job boards, but the best way to find a position is to line yourself with a good recruiting firm, with companies that have their internal recruiting departments as well. Get to know the leaders, get to know the hiring managers. There's nothing wrong with sending your resume directly to the hiring manager, and do it in some creative ways. You may even want to overnight them a package saying, 'hey, I'm interested in your company. Here's my resume, are you looking?' There's different ways to really get in front of these people and if anybody wants to, they can give me a call and I can give them some other tips. But again, this is just my view.

Back to what the services we offer, the services we offer, Peter, pretty much are not unique to the industry but what makes us unique is the fact that we offer four distinct services and then no other recruiting company in the world offers the four services we do which is research, recruiting, customize competitive intelligence, and tracker.

Our service is pretty much, do cover all the necessary steps that are involved in the recruiting process. Again, recruiting I always say recruiting is a process. You have to be sure that you're doing every step along the way because not every search is going to be successful right from they get it go.

If you have a process in place and all your I's are dotted and your T's are crossed along the way, if you trip up a little bit, it's easier to find out where you were or where you made a mistake to go back to, as opposed to just trying to recreate the wheel.

Our clients come to us for any step that's involved in the recruiting process because we can just do name generation if that's all they need. If they need someone to do research and recruiting, we can do both. If they are looking for salary surveys or diversity studies are very big right now or as I mentioned earlier in our conversation, if you want to compare your organization to a competitors organization, we can develop organization charts and profiles so you can really take a look and get an inside bird's eye view of what's going on at the competition, so we also do that.

And then tracker, no one in the contrary actually offers a business contact database or a research tool that also offers research. So, it's nice. Many of our clients used both tracker and research because they look in the tracker first, what they don't find, they'll call us up and say can you go do research?

And again, the trend that's happening in the recruiting world is that hiring managers are:

A - taking their time when making decision.

B - they want to make sure that they actually are finding the best people that are available in their potential talent universe, and they want to make sure that the people they're getting basically, they compare the people in the pipeline to each other to be sure that the people that they're ultimately interviewing are the best of the best.

When companies use us or come to use be it a search firm or a corporation, they're making decisions based upon knowledge. We're not just giving them candidates. We're not just showing them here are 5 people that are interested; we're saying here are the 5 people that are interested, here's what their organization chart looks like, here's how they compare to each other and contrast to each other, now you go and make the decision. So that makes us unique.

Not all our clients use us for all four services but they have the ability. Like, right now, we have a pharmaceutical client that's just using tracker and CI. We have a diversified company that's using us for CI, research, and recruiting, and we have others like search firms just using us for name generation. Whatever they need, they can come to it and if we can't do it, we're the first ones to say we can't.

Peter: Are your clients willing to take a look at executives who are in transition or is it all about the passive candidates of people who have jobs?

Sheila: We struggle with that every day. I would say 80% or 85% of our clients say they really are looking for people who are gainfully employed. If in fact they're taking a look at someone who has not been employed for awhile, they're asking such questions as why didn't they find a position yet. What are they doing? Why are they holding out? I don't agree with this but they sometimes think there's something wrong with this individual. So it takes more of a sell.

There are couple other companies, like smaller companies, that are saying, if they're good talent, I want them. So it's a nice place to put somebody that is not gainfully employed. I just say it's all about talent and what fits your client's need. If you find them the best people, whether they're gainfully employed or not.

Peter: You bring up something I think is very interesting because certainly what I have seen, especially with those folks who are in transition and may be so through no fault of their own because the company changed directions or closed a division or whatever, a lot of the smaller or midsize companies are going out and cherry picking these executives because they are really able to build their bench strength and hire somebody that they couldn't have touched two years ago.

Sheila: And that is the case and that's what they're saying, they're saying, 'you know what, here's a great person from this company that 3 or 4 years ago we wanted to recruit but wouldn't even look at us, now we have them.' And they're thrilled. and then you still have the other companies that say, 'you know what, I only want passive candidates that's why we're coming to you. If you are giving us 10 candidates, we'll take one that's not gainfully employed.' We have to sit there and say we're going to present to you the best candidates. Literally, there's no norm. I do not even think there's a norm yet in our industry. This is a new norm.

Peter: Yeah, exactly.

Sheila: There is no norm.

Peter: Whatever it is today, that's the new norm.

Sheila: Yeah. It's still fun though, I'm having a ball. I'm still passionate about it after 25 years.

Peter: That is great. We're coming in to the holiday season here Sheila, is this a busy time of the year for SGA, and is it a good time of the year to be looking for a job? Any tips or strategies that you can recommend for job seeker?

Sheila: Usually, the fourth quarter is very strong for us. It really is. However, 2008-2009, it was quiet. It really was, the holiday season from November on. The advice that I give to folks looking for a job, I always say, it's a good time for you to move when you're not having fun, when you don't feel that you're going to get anywhere within that organization, you're feeling that you are not really contributing to the bottom line.

There really is not a good time of the year, so to speak, when to make a move. It's all about am I happy, am I doing what I want to do, am I reaching the goals that I want to reach, am I having fun any more? Because if not, what are you doing there? I don't think it has to do with the time of the year. It has to do with who you are and where you are within your career.

Peter: Take out your crystal ball for us, Sheila, 2011, what are you seeing for the new year? Are you feeling optimistic?

Sheila: Yes, based upon our phones are ringing, we're having fun, we're busy, we're a day or two out, that's something we hadn't experienced in a while and we've just seen continuous growth since March of this year, so I can only see it continuing.

Peter: Great. Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to share with the audience? Any observations from IACPR or perhaps something that you are working on right now that you think the audience would be interested in?

Sheila: I just tell people all the time, if a recruiter calls or someone either a search person or someone in an internal recruiting department, talk to them, network with them, get to know them. That's the best advice I can give anybody and get to know everybody you possibly can within your industry and be a mentor.

Being a mentor is what's needed today, especially with women. Women need to be mentors to each other. That's about it. Just be the best person you can be, set your goals, personal goals versus what the company has for you to do, and just continue to soar, have fun. Have a good time and if you're not passionate about what you do, change. There are enough options out there.

Peter: I think that's some great advice. Sheila, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us again on TotalPicture Radio. It's always fun to have these conversations with you.

Sheila: Thank you Peter, very much and you are good man.

Peter: Thank you.

We have been speaking with Sheila Greco, the Founder, president and Chief Executive Officer of Sheila Greco Associates.

We're always interested in hearing from our listeners. Please share your thoughts and opinions at our podcast with Sheila. Visit the Insight Recruiting Channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's, to add your voice to this discussion.

This is Peter Clayton, reporting. Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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