I was in the middle of a search for one of my best clients when, out of the blue, he asked me if I would be able to help them with a position that they were struggling to fill. They were in need of replacing one of their sales people who had decided to go back to school to finish their Master’s Degree, which is usually code for, “This Place Sucks”

Anyway, this position was going to report to the new Vice President of the Sales and he wanted someone completely different from the group currently reporting to him. This VP was very well known in the community and the marketplace as being a gunslinger. He didn’t really care that much when it came to the quality of the sale; he was more intent on the quantity and he felt the current sales people that he had, got bogged down too often in the minutia. I was expecting a lot more people resigning in order to continue their education. Unfortunately, I completely missed this “teaching moment” and moved forward with the search.

I spent a number of hours with the new VP of Sales developing the job specs and creating a build sheet for the characteristics that he was looking for in a new Team member. I then met with his current team of sales staff, paying very close attention to the senior ones and the successful ones and realized that their concept of what they needed was almost the exact opposite of what their leadership was looking for. I realized, almost immediately, that this task would be one that would have many pitfalls, but I was sure that I would be successful. We agreed to a competitive salary and anticipated bonus for this person and that was used to establish the First Year’s Total Remuneration clause in the contract. Retainers were based on that number and agreed to by the client.

The search lasted less than 45 days as I was able to quickly find a young man who had just spent a couple of years in Healthcare sales and was looking to grow his career. He was a self starter who was aggressive, young, proactive, all the characteristics that we were looking for. Within a two week period, he showed up at the client’s office and started to get to work. Everyone was happy because he fulfilled the wishes of my client and the incumbent got along famously with his peers and the search was quick.

Unfortunately, my client felt that he was not getting his “bang for the buck” because he didn’t feel that we worked hard enough on the search. Also, he didn’t like the fact that he had to pay the search fee based on salary and the agreed upon bonus for his first year. In my discussions with the client, I tried to explain that there is never a set amount of time that a search takes. You could take 6 months to finally sort the best candidates possible for the position or, as in this case, my candidate came to me through networking and we had a very small window to get him in, get him interviewed by the VP and his peers because he was going to go to another job quickly and get an offer.

Our fee discussions were a little more involved. He said that he didn’t think we would charge him for anticipated bonus. I informed him that he had agreed to those parameters when he signed the contract plus he had agreed to the first retainer and had approved payment. He then informed me that he had worked in the past with a family member who owned a search firm and he was not charged for anticipated bonus, just base salary. I informed my client that the firm that he was referring to was a “bucket shop”. That’s when it all went downhill.

In the end, we were eventually paid what we were supposed to be paid. Our candidate was very successful in the organization and the team did exceptionally well, especially after the departure of the new VP of Sales. No one moved on to expand their educational experience. Everyone walked away from this experience a happy person…except one.

The lesson of this story is very simple. When dealing with someone that you have never dealt with before, make sure all parties are aware of the contract’s parameters. Don’t assume that just because you have worked with the same client for a number of years that all parties are “up to snuff”. We live by our contracts and ensuring that all parties understand and agree, is paramount to a search’s successful end.