Can I Herd My Cool Cats and Still Be the Top Dog?

Dec 1, 2007

I’ve recently returned from speaking at the National Association of Personnel Services Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas. My speech topic might be of interest to you if you are an owner/manager who’s also running your own desk. Here are a few highlights from “Can I Herd My Cool Cats and Still Be the Top Dog?”

Create Reputations for Your Recruiters

When I joined Ryals & Associates, my boss Paul Austin spread a rumor about me. I was supposed to be this Superstar Great Recruiter/Big Biller. I had billed $100K, which was okay in 1988 but far from superstar level. But Paul had spread this rumor so well that when I arrived, everyone said to me, “You must be the new superstar Paul has been talking so much about.” I had a choice: to explain to them I was not a superstar, or to quickly grow into my new “reputation.” I stepped up to my “reputation” and ended up doubling my billings and EARNING over $100K in 1989. What reputation are you creating for your recruiters? I think we need to speak life into the people who work for us and begin to create reputations they can live up to.

Eliminate Hairballs

I have a mentor named John Adams. He’s at least 20 years my senior, and his company is at least $20 million larger than mine. I try never to take advice from anyone more messed up than I am. But when people are $20 mil and 20 years ahead of me in life, I find myself VERY coachable! One day I was explaining the challenges I was having with one of my recruiters when John hit me with this little gem of wisdom. “Why don’t you just fire him?”

“You see, Joe,” he explained, “once you have started down that ‘coaching path’ with someone – not coaching to improve, but coaching to correct behavior – you only have a 50/50 chance of keeping the person, and most of the time if they do make it, they will be only average and never be a superstar for you. However, if you are any good at all in recruiting, you could fire them, start over, and have a 50/50 chance of hiring a superstar.

“Furthermore, Joe, if that person is not self-actualizing under you, they might never self-actualize under you. It is therefore your duty to the universe, Joe, to fire them and give them a chance to go to work somewhere where they might self-actualize. When you start down that ‘coaching path’ with someone, ask yourself, ‘If this person resigned tomorrow, would I be upset?’ If not, you probably need to help them to self-actualize somewhere else. (On someone else’s draw!) Like my good friend Jim Ashworth says, ‘Don’t be more committed to their success than they are.’ ”

Spend Your Time Where It’s Deserved, Not Where It’s Needed

Most managers spend the bulk of their time with their worst performers. You want to spend the majority of your time with your best performers.

Rewarding Your Best

We talked at length about incentive plans and how to hire and keep great recruiters. People stay when they are appreciated and it’s fun, and even more so when they have a stake in the game. Consider making your best recruiters “Partners.” Even a very small equity stake and “Partner” on their business cards can make them more likely to stay with you when the competition calls them or when the entrepreneurial bug bites.

Recommended Reading

There’s a list of recommended books for recruiters on my website http://www.jpspeaking. com; for management, I like these:

Good to Great, by Jim Collins
Topgrading, by Bradford Smart
GMP: The Greatest Management Principle in the World, by Michael LeBoeuf
1001 Ways to Reward Employees, by Bob Nelson

Joe Pelayo is available for speaking and training recruiters worldwide. He is the author of a brand-new DVD program for recruiters, “21 Ways to Increase Your Billings!” Add it to your training library today by visiting His email is

Joe Pelayo is a true “self-made” man. He began in the recruiting business in 1986 at the ripe old age of 17, when he says he “found every way to fail in the recruiting business.” After finally finding success with two recruiting firms, he started his own in 1990. As CEO of Joseph Michaels, Inc., Joe still works an active desk. He is a longtime member of the Pinnacle Society, an organization consisting of 75 of the top recruiters in the United States. Joe is also author of the book “Work Your Network!” – available at – which has received rave reviews from industry leaders, speakers, and trainers, including Terry Petra, Bill Radin, Paul Hawkinson, and many others.