Suck it up princess. This is as good as it gets

Suck it up princess. This is as good as it gets

I rarely ‘go to lunch’. Business lunches, anyway.

But recently I did, with a group of industry veterans including Geoff Morgan, the Founder of Morgan and Banks, and Talent2. In an industry short of true leaders and innovators, Geoff stands out as a remarkably resilient business builder, and creator of careers, as well as shareholder value.

We spoke about a lot of things that day, but one thing he said, simple as it was, shook me, and contains a key lesson for all of us.

Almost in passing, I asked the everyday question, “So, Geoff, what’s your view on when the market will recover”

His answer was short, but mind-shifting for me.

He said, “You know, maybe it has recovered. Maybe this is the new-normal. Maybe, the way it is now, is just… as good as it gets”

And there it is. A paradigm-shifting view. Up until that day, I had been thinking at the back of my mind, “let’s just get through this tough period, and then we will reap the benefit when the market picks up”.

And so are many recruiters and business owners I have been talking to. Toughing it out, ‘until the recovery comes’. But now I say to those people, “build a business that makes good money in this environment. This could well be the way it is, forever”.

And it’s a brilliant discipline for a manager or recruiter. Don’t wait for some magical ‘recovery’ to fix your billings, or your profit. The cavalry is not about to charge over the hill and save us all. You are not going to rise on some magical tide. Forget wishful thinking.

If what you are doing now does not deliver in this environment, change what you do.

Reshape your business, or your offering, or your skill set, to fit the realities of now.

And while you are about it, stop whining about the tough market.

Suck it up, princess. Especially you guys. Because this just may be as good as it gets.

Please, have your say, and  leave me some feedback about this post.


About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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41 Responses to Suck it up princess. This is as good as it gets

  1. Aaron Dodd May 14, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    Greg, the Mindset of an individual makes a world of difference to the way they think, act and behave. For leaders, their behaviours, both positive and negative, will be mimicked by those they lead. At Mindset we have been suggesting to business leaders now for over 2 years that they switch their mindsets from ‘survive’ to ‘thrive’. As you have noted many leaders are still in survival mode, when a simple switch in thinking and/or attitude could make their businesses thrive. They neeed to stop whingeing and making excuses, and start doing!

    • Victoria Matthews May 14, 2013 at 8:36 am #

      My co-worker has been saying this for a couple of years now. Our business is dynamic, it is always changing and it takes a good business person to realize that things have changed. They will never be the same.

  2. Mark Pearce May 14, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Great article Greg. Strangely, we all sat down as a team a couple of weeks back and discussed whether we were allowing the negative market feedback from some Clients to change our perception of how the market really is. There has to be opportunities out there still and I was concerned that the team were focusing too much on the “negative” aspect of the feedback which disguised the opportunities out there.

    Since then we’ve agreed to accept that the negative feedback is the Client’s feedback, not necessarily our own, and we have regained focus on searching for opportunities. 2 further placements in the past week being the result. It can be as straight-forward as a change in mindsets.

  3. Jane Devereux May 14, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Great message Greg- in these challenging times we all need to find a new normal.

    • Aaron Dodd May 14, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      Jane, even just using the phrase ‘challenging times’ is tacit acceptance that the economy is tough. It’s always been tough, so what? We need to ban the negative words! They have a way of permeating mindsets with bad vibes and making our actions defensive not offensive in the market.

  4. Jeremy King May 14, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    The first step to a market recovery, is an attitude and effort recovery. If you sit and wait for a market to recover, you may as well do it on the couch in front of ‘days of our lives’.

  5. Sephora May 14, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    You can only with what you have. I have said this to colleagues for a long time now. The market dictates what you need to do, and if the market shrinks then you need to make it work for you. Totally agree that it is all about mindset. You can sit and moan about how tough it is, or you can focus on providing exceptional levels of service for your current clients, and using this to leverage into new opportunities – because there WILL be new opportunities as the “woe is me” brigade go bust!

  6. Anonymous May 14, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I’m so blessed to be lead in a company of managers/leaders who teach us to cope, progress and “keep our head above water” in the current market. Where I am, we can see multiple companies closing their doors, letting go of integral staff and focusing more on “when times will get better” rather than living in the now. Proves to be an important factor when the good times come around – staff will stick around for a leader who can prove to lead them in the right direction when the tough times are coming rather than telling the team that “things will always get better/improve.” Great read as always Greg!

  7. Tania Howard May 14, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Yes indeed! That is why I completely changed my recruitment model offering three years ago when I set up in business – it’s doing well in a tough market and if things ever went back to the ‘old normal’ then my only problem would be being way too busy 🙂 but then would just have to change again. You’ve been giving the recruitment industry great advice about adding value over recent years Greg but many companies are still doing the same old…

  8. Kerry Merrett May 14, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    Great artical Greg. This very short but direct message should go out to all our Members.

  9. Neil Damerow May 14, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Well said Greg, succint, and in my opinion – spot on.

    The new reality is that structural (permanent) change is diminishing the effects of cyclical (non-permanent) change.

    For many industries (including recruitment), the structural changes are becoming more rapid, pervasive and permanent. They are making cyclic changes almost redundant. Most of what we are experiencing in recruitment is structural and not cyclical change.

    The accelerating pace of change is the “new black” and the disintermediation of previously accepted value chains are occurring in many industries..

    This creates opportunities. To define your problem. To ask better questions. To come up with better solutions to the problem.

    In recruitment this means delivering more compelling value propositions for our clients. Sometimes the truth may seem unreal compared to “norms” of the recent past, until the unreality becomes so real that what seemed “preposterous” yesterday becomes something we need to act on today, to make sure we ensure a relevant business tomorrow.

    Does anyone share these sentiments? It would be interesting to sit 100 recruitment leaders and business owners in a room and give them all a truth pill and see how everyone is really feeling, thinking and seeing things.

    Neil Damerow, Brisbane

  10. Brian Cooper May 14, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Great article Greg, succinct and so right. Over my career we have gone from candidate short to candidate rich, recessions we had to have, GFC and a whole variety of market situations. What is normal?
    The old lessons, specialise, build strong and deep relationships and act with integrity at all times and the fluctuations in the market will be minimised.

  11. Gordon Alderson May 14, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    A few years back I was advised to stop working IN my business and to get working ON my business.
    Wise words.

    • Taryn Kendall May 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      Love this quote very inspiring – great Article Greg …spot on!

  12. Mark Seinor May 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Agree totally with the central premise of the article. The GFC triggered the deepest and slowest recovery since WWII, especially in terms of employment norms. This is especially the case in the US, with a growth primarily in part time/ contingent roles, not full time. Having 20+ quarters during this extended event has companies driving down costs, aggressively restructuring, especially middle management cost/numbers and making permanent structural changes to drive rev/exp ratios. Some companies are in fact more profitable now in terms of cash to the bottom line than pre-GFC. Therefore the current tough climate in large measure marks fundamental changes in the market. This is further exasperated by the EU, which is another worse story with unemployment especially I the youth market at unsustainable highs and all this with an ageing population and de lining rev bases, and it is no where near a turn around. So yes, totally agree with your tag line for this article. We have and are still changing to a different, leaner, flatter employment future.

  13. Kevin Chappell May 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Part of the reason why the industry is facing difficult times is that it’s taken so long to jump off its high horse and recognise that the “new normal” has been with us for many years now. If the “doyens of our profession” have only just come to this conclusion, then that’s a real worry! Perhaps some of your earlier comments about internal recruitment being our biggest competitor, and how as an industry we are perceived, supports this view. Or may be it’s just the cynic in me!!

    As an industry, we have always been slow to react to change – so these comments aren’t surprising. There used to be a pattern and we could easily forecast the peaks and troughs, but today there’s no pattern, nothing to “hang your hat on”. We are really at the mercy of the elements!

    In essence, as a profession, we lost control of our market as dissatisfaction and high cost prevailed, opening the doors to alternatives. We will never get that “control” back unless we collectively change how we do it and have a key point of difference to the alternatives – not just our competitors.

    Some will of course accuse me of being negative, but I’m just stating facts, facts that are now coming to pass.

    We responded positively to what was emerging and made the right adjustments years ago and have ridden out the storm here in NZ, and are doing “OK thanks”. It seems in Australia, the storm clouds are brewing, so it will be interesting whether many make the hard calls before, or wait for the inevitable, and ring their collective hands in despair….

    The “not-so-new norm” has really been with us for some time now. The challenge is to face it and do what’s needed to take advantage of it – and of course in a positive manner!

    • MelbRecruiter May 20, 2013 at 8:32 am #

      Most recruitment leaders and therefore agencies are stuck in the 90’s way of doing things. As an industry we are slow to adapt to the ever changing way of the world.

  14. Adrian Coysh May 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Plan for the worst and hope for the best, and know when to bail out is my motto.

    I personally think the aftermath of the 1987 Stock Market crash had a longer and deeper period of recession here in NZ, but then I was in the Banking and Finance Industry and not recruitment back then. Big businesses with large overhead (especially non billing Managers), and not nimble to change will be feeling it worst. If businesses aren’t as lean and mean as they can be by now they do not deserve any better.

    We have picked up a fair bit of business due to other recruitment companies dropping the ball, together with a “dead cat bounce” effect caused by clients who have tried to do their own recruitment and have failed. Therefore the old story about being in touch with clients is especially true so that you can pick up the pieces.

  15. Peter Conlon May 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Great article Greg, more than just our industry, I think most professions are having to deal with “it will never be the same again” but isn’t that life. We have to reinvent just as our clients are having to reinvent to match a changing world dynamic. More than just recruiters we have to become consultants who participate in a broader offering as client companies manage their “Human Capital” and assets as well as their business capital and assets in an ever changing market

  16. Brian Cartwright May 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Well put Greg, and actually regardless of whether this is the new norm or not its the current state of play in the market you can only work with what you have so we should all accept this, the only way to continue to build in this market is to be proactive and adaptive.
    Adapting the business as you go to fit what the market requires, value added services / diversification – a step away from the classic recruitment model and more into what recruiters should always have been – consultants! – whether thats career or hr/talent management consultants guiding candidates and clients (clients are likely to be candidates at some point and vice versa so view them as one)
    For those that dont already work in this manner take the time to share knowledge and actually consult…the placements (and the revenue) will always follow. Play the long game and treat the quick wins as a bonus….its all about relationships!

  17. Woosy May 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    This is the perspective one should hold all the time. I learnt that idiom a long time ago whilst serving in the army in bleak days. Adapt, Persevere, persist and you will prevail

  18. Linda May 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Is it my imagination or is everyone saying the same thing but in different words? It is tough.

  19. Gita May 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Wise words indeed, and one that can be applied not just to a recovering market but in fact any situation you find yourself in.

    I often hear new recruiters explaining their less than sterling performance in terms of the changed environment or processes or clients needs or….or…or, and this would apply here too.

    Recruitment is not for ‘sissies’ and things will change often – so suck it up, find a way to adapt or sadly you will not survive.

  20. Charles May 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    If you can be sharp and profitable in a tough economy, just think of how strong you will be IF the recession goes away? Never stop sharpening the recruitment knife.

  21. Alyssa May 14, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    well, if you insist, you can call me “Princess”
    the fact is, today is all we have, so make the best of it!

  22. Mark Jacobs May 15, 2013 at 3:18 am #

    Yes, recruiting is a tough business. So is almost everything else, except for maybe being born very rich!

    I’d rather do this than any other job I could be doing now and, recruiting beats what I’ve done before several times over.

    There are things that I don’t like about recruiting; primarily, why a customer cannot see how good a candidate is and how well that candidate would fit the requirement. However, that is another issue.

    The more people who get fed up with and leave our profession, the better I like it. I wish them God speed and good will. The rest of us are here now and will also be here tomorrow.

  23. Tracey May 15, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    Love the “moment of truth” here.

  24. MR May 15, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Out there we have agencies covering professions horizontally across industries and vertically within industries – hope that makes sense. Some P&L’s are brilliant and others have way to much red ink – no matter what approach the agencies take.

    The people within agencies with brilliant P&L’s are not always working as hard as the agencies that are struglling. The struggling ones are often doing way more sales calls, head hunts etc.The agencies that are doing well are simply in sectors that are more buoyant OR sectors that are STILL heavily reliant on external recruiters opposed to having bulked up internal recruitment teams. For one or both of the fore mentioned factors, demand for our services is still high… simple supply versus demand.

    I run a specialist, niche desk. By personally changing my specialism and going into a very good sector at the start of this down turn and working in a high demand area, my billings have gone up by $350K during this period and I am just doing what I always did. I realise many of you who are on this forum are business owners so it is not as easy to just change what you do in order to make more money. But do not kid yourselves, there is lots and lots of money to be made out there if you are supplying recruitment services to businesses who have a demand for your “product”.

  25. Navid May 15, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Good Article Greg.

    I am not sure what is meant by times being tough. I have had difficulty filling really good roles because candidates are extremely picky. Much more picky than even before the GFC.

    I believe the main reason for companies attempting to hire directly (and therefore less jobs for recruiters) is the existence of large MC-Recruitment chains in our industry. High turnover burn and churn recruitment sweat shops that hire any cowboy with skills that include dialing a number combined with making sound while moving their lips.

  26. Tiffany May 16, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    At long last, someone who tells it like it is. It’s so easy to blame anything other than ourselves for the position we find ourselves in. Suck it up, move on, stop making excuses and get smart and innovative…..welcome to the real world.

  27. neil freeman June 9, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    I’ve always tried to be mindful that “Only this moment is Life”
    What we do now can prepare us for the future and maybe influence it to some degree but we have to operate in, and deal with, the present.

  28. Daniel Cheah June 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Thank you for sharing! Totally agree with your “candidate focus”, delivering a better experience and being closer to candidates in their full work lifetime, not doing a one-time transaction.

    You said “If what you are doing now does not deliver in this environment, change what you do.” – which translates to me as ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’

  29. justin Mathews June 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    I have been saying over here for a while ‘companies are trading in the new reality’

  30. Tim July 19, 2013 at 2:53 am #

    i totally agree – the industry like many others is going through a process of value migration and dis intermediation for a great part assisted by Linkedin – the market may very well pick up but that available to traditional agencies will be around the peripheries of tight niche, high level or low cost volume models. Every time there’s a recession the process of change seems to go through a step change – this time it’s direct recruiting previously it’s been the rise of RPO and managed services and prior to that it was the advent of PSL’s using text retrieval to deliver candidates they previously didn’t know they had.

  31. Judy Rudin August 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    Right on, Greg. I said to a colleague the other day that this time must be considered our ‘Industrial Revolution.’

    One shouldn’t feel obsolete; in fact, in my industry, learning about integrated marketing communications with its emphasis on strategic content, digital everything, inbound marketing, social and traditional media should have the synapses firing. The possibilities are fascinating, seemingly endless and there should be real growth opportunities for people in advertising, public relations and promotions within the ‘new reality’.

    And…keeping up is a good way to stay forever young.;-)

  32. Kristin August 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Are times bad? I hadn’t realised.

    I opened the doors to my business in 2010 – the GFC years. I can honestly say, I’ve had a ball. The business has kept growing, I’ve worked my butt off, kept learning and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    Lots of people keep telling me they’re quiet – which seems odd, because there’s business out there. But I guess that’s it, you’ve got to go find it and offer value – rather than in the ‘good old days’ when business came to you (actually it still does, but you’ve got to really help it find you) and you could charge what you like and ‘get away with it’.

  33. Balraj September 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm #


  34. Greg Pankhurst October 14, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    This business is a tougher one that it was 8 years back. Internal teams and LinkedIn have seen to that.

    I still though reckon we are at a bad place in the economic cycle. Unemployment has pushed up from around 5 flat to close to 6. Good candidates are easier to find. Business confidence is low

    So yes we have to get used to recruitment being a tougher game, but I still reckon things can improve off the current level

  35. John January 4, 2014 at 1:03 am #


    This article has bothered me since I read it May 13.

    It’s a fair point of reflection.. most of the comments here are about attitude, working harder / smarter to get work on, and structural change in the industry. But the point has been missed.

    The reality is that the industry globally is becoming smarter at buying recruitment services; the issue isn’t just about ‘how busy it is’, it’s about how cheap you’re prepared to be. Suck it up like Greg advises; don’t be precious about what you do. If your competitors weren’t any good they’d have gone out of business.. do they want they work more than you do? You’ll have to sell to be in with a chance, you NEED a USP, and you’ll do your best to defend your margin. You might decide it’s not worth it.

    You’ve come across turnover rebates right? 1 or 2% back at the end of the financial year.. pretty standard. You’re about to hear about “prebates”; paying the rebate up front to get the work on in the first place. Some recruiters agree and the rest follow or leave the supply chain.
    Temp margins at 8%-10% mark up, dropping after 6 months.
    No temp-to-perm fees.
    90-120 day payment terms with direct hiring clients, pay-when-paid elsewhere. In the UK some large firms make YOU pay an annual fee if you want your money in less than 120 days. A greater number of firms charge you a fee for being on the supply chain (hosting your insurances online).

    Put these numbers into your budget and see how it looks. That might be as good as it gets princess.

  36. Henry Motyka May 16, 2014 at 5:22 am #

    It’s just like job hunting. In other words, don’t say you are out of work because the economy is bad. Say you are out of work because you are not doing enough to find a job.


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