Not only do I think he'll be remembered as one of the towering figures
of our time (as were Carnegie and Ford in theirs), I believe the
principles that underlie his success can be applied to recruiting.
Take time management, for example. If you consider time as an asset that
can be invested, then why not utilize the same strategies as the
greatest living investor in order to maximize your returns?
Where To Put the Eggs
Most financial advisers want you to invest in mutual funds. They'll tell
you it's foolish to put all your eggs in one basket.
Yet that's exactly the opposite strategy that made
Buffett a multi-billionaire. In his view, diversification is okay--if
you're looking for average results.
To get outstanding returns, forget about diversifying. Do your homework,
ask tough questions and make an informed decision. Then, invest heavily
in one or two stocks-as opposed to the hundreds that make up a typical
mutual fund-and stick with them over the long haul.
The same strategy applies to recruiting. You can adopt the "mutual fund"
mentality and divide your time, trying to serve many different clients.
Or, you can do your homework and carefully choose one or two
clients to work with, based on objective criteria, such their
willingness to work with you, their ability to attract industry talent,
and so on.
By building "key accounts" with a small number of companies that have
multiple, ongoing hiring needs, you'll focus your energy, deepen your
understanding of their needs and establish long-term relationships.
Risk vs. Reward
True, there's an element of risk any time you concentrate your
resources. But the payoff can be huge. Top recruiters know that it only
takes two or three key accounts to put up big numbers, and that the more
scattered your attention, the harder it becomes to work efficiently.
Besides, you can always hedge your bets by keeping your eyes open for
new clients. When you need them, they'll be there.
Here a few more gems from the Warren Buffett playbook that directly
apply to recruiting:
1. Focus on what you understand. It's not necessary for
you to be able to perform your candidates' work, but if you can't
visualize or explain in plain English what their job entails, it'll be
difficult for you to match up jobs and people.
2. Make decisions with your head, not your heart. We
sometimes maintain relationships that are no longer (or were never)
useful. By breaking dysfunctional attachments, you'll do yourself a
3. Sidestep problems that are beyond your control. As
recruiters, it's our job to fill positions. And by so doing, we solve
personnel problems. But if the company is unwilling to pay a competitive
wage, or can't put together a realistic set of requirements, or make
decisions in a timely manner, it's no longer a personnel problem.
Rather, it's a structural problem.
Occasionally, we can coach our clients to correct their mistakes; or
serve as management consultants to address some of the business issues
But when employers act as their own worst enemies during the recruitment
process, there's not much we can do, unless we want to fight with them
or spend countless hours trying to solve a problem that's not of our
making, and beyond our control.
The Running of the Mills
When Warren Buffett gained control of the Berkshire Hathaway textile
mills in the 1960s, the U.S. textile industry had already begun its
slow, downward spiral. Rising to the challenge, he spent the next two
decades trying to turn the business around.
Finally, in 1985 Buffett closed the mills. Despite all his efforts--and
his reinvestment of millions of dollars in new equipment-Buffett
couldn't solve the underlying problem: offshore competitors could
produce the same products at a fraction of the cost.
Though his failure was painful (and expensive), Buffett learned an
important lesson, which he summed up this way:
"After 25 years of buying and supervising a great variety of businesses,
I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems.