Doing Things Differently – Objectivity, Flat Fees and Getting Rid of Commission Schemes, with Cameron Boyd, Ep #45

The only constant in this world is change. This certainly applies to the recruitment business – in order to succeed, you must continually evolve. How have you adapted your recruiting practice to recent changes in the market? 

In this episode, you’ll hear how Cameron Boyd and his firm are adapting to this challenging new environment by doing things differently.  They have introduced a flat fee structure to bring greater objectivity to the executive search process.  They’re also challenging the status quo with regard to recruiter compensation by getting rid of their commission scheme.  Listen in as Cameron explains why he believes the new model aligns the interests of the individual, the firm and the clients they serve.

Cameron is a partner at Smith and Wilkinson and is a 15-year veteran of the executive search industry. Cameron serves financial services companies in the eastern United States and has completed over 250 key leadership searches. As his firm’s second-largest shareholder, Cameron has been instrumental in growing the revenue by over 600% over the last ten years.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [3:30] Shifting from contingency transactional model to a real client partnership on a retained basis – hear how Cameron achieved this transformation.
  • [9:45] The theme of objectivity and fee structure – how to sell your candidates in a way that is beneficial to your client.
  • [16:52] From contingency to retained shift – Cameron reveals details on the transition. 
  • [19:34] Money-back guarantee? Hear how this approach can work to protect your brand.
  • [24:37] Listen to Cameron’s biggest challenge in his recruitment career and how he treats this as an opportunity.
  • [30:37] Doing things differently in this challenging new environment – how to win new businesses.
  • [35:11] Taking away the commission? A very interesting but unusual approach to compensation.
  • [45:25] What advice would you give to someone shifting from contingency to retained? Hear Cameron’s thoughts.
  • [53:00] Discussion about exercising, running, and managing mental health.

Objectivity and a Flat Fee Structure

In order to serve your clients’ best interests, Cameron firmly believes that objectivity plays a significant part. This is how he explains his concept of objectivity:

“By nature, when one candidate has a fee or different fee or no fee attached to his head than this candidate, then all objectivity goes out the window regardless of how hard we all try. Regardless of how hard the headhunter or client tries to keep in mind who is the best candidate, if one’s gonna cost you 50 grand higher or one’s gonna cost you 25 or zero to higher, you are going to take that into your calculation. So out of the window goes the idea that we are all in the same team trying to figure out who is the best fit for this role.”

In line with his concept of objectivity, Cameron believes that a flat fee structure works best: “A fee structure that allows for the headhunter to be paid regardless of who is hired, his interest is on the same side as the client.” 

Turning a Challenge into an Opportunity

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges for most recruitment business owners, including Cameron who said, “this is my second recession.” But rather than thinking of the recession as a challenge, Cameron chooses to regard it as an opportunity.  He explains, “recessions give you time to think more strategically, contemplate where you want to grow or practice, what talent you should further cultivate.”  

However, Cameron acknowledges that he’s in a very fortunate position in that he’s been financially prudent during the good years.  His advice to young recruiters: “Save your money. I think it allows you to make a more objective view of search. If you are not living or dying by the next commission check, you are gonna be more objective with your clients.”  

Staying Sharp and Avoiding Complacency

The more successful you become, the more challenging it becomes to avoid becoming complacent.  He offers three specific tips that have helped him to stay sharp and may work for you as well.  Firstly, focus on the why.  Cameron says he “keeps a family picture of my wife and my boys” on his desk. Second, seek out opportunities to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Finally, don’t get too comfortable and rely on repeat business from your established client base.  Instead, continue to make marketing calls to the organizations who do not know you.

Cameron Boyd Bio and Contact Info

Cameron Boyd is a 15-year veteran of the executive search industry.  Cameron spent the first 5 years of his search career with a franchise office of Sanford Rose Associates, recruiting attorneys for in-house legal departments and for local, regional, and national law firms.  In 2010 he joined his current firm, now called Smith & Wilkinson, which at the time was a franchise of the MRI network.  While affiliated with MRI, Cameron was the 2011 International Rookie Account Executive of the Year, a 5-time Top 50 Account Executive, a 2016 Top 10 Account Executive, and perennial Pacesetter.  Cameron’s search practice is focused on serving financial services companies in the eastern US, primarily at the C-suite and Officer level.  In his 10+ years with Smith & Wilkinson he has completed over 250 key leadership searches in technology, operations, finance, lending, marketing, HR, wealth management, and risk management.  Cameron has also personally led, or played a key role in, 17 highly visible President/CEO searches.  As the firm’s 2nd largest shareholder, he has been instrumental in the six-fold revenue growth that the company has enjoyed over the past decade and is a passionate supporter of their charitable giving initiatives.  Cameron is a member of the Pinnacle Society, the premier consortium of industry leading recruitment professionals and a graduate of Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York.  He has personally volunteered with the local United Way as a member of its Organizational Development and Human Resources Committee and volunteered as a Meals on Wheels driver during the COVID pandemic. Cameron and his family live in coastal Maine and enjoy hiking, boating, and travel.

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