Discovering Your One Explosive Number

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Feb 14, 2012

Recruiter, ignite yourself. You’re a firecracker. You’re a bomb of performance just waiting to explode…that is, if you haven’t already set your world on fire!

Some of you have already created such wealth and power that it’s genuinely hard to get your head through normal doorways. You’re like an NBA giant who has to have the doors in his mansion refitted so as not to duck when he walks around his palace. You need custom hats made to provide shade for your forehead since you’ve transformed your world and the world of those you love with your achievements. You’re a bomb that has already exploded.

The rest of us often present with much longer fuses and much riskier paths to true ignition. In fact, many of us just don’t know how to even light our own fuses at all. There is that dream of glory, waiting for the moment of initiation, but often fading and growing dimmer, even evaporating in the haze of confusion and disappointment. Many of us have forgotten our dreams of glory; lost our passion; allowed the inner fires to die down.

I say again, recruiter, ignite yourself. Allow me one more metaphor and then I’ll get down to brass tacks. Picture a magnifying glass in your hand, with the hot summer sun beating down. Your fuse is right there on the ground, and all you need to do is focus the light from the sun sufficiently and hold your hand steady enough to let that fuse heat up. You know the number, don’t you? You read Ray Bradbury’s incredible book Fahrenheit 451 in high school, didn’t you? That’s your number. Your fuse has to have sufficient heat focused upon it by your steadily held magnifier so that it hits the magic number and ignites. The key thing to picture is the cone of light zeroing in on the fuse. Stick with me…

A circle of light is concentrated by your magnifying glass into the shape of a cone. It is widest at the point the light goes through the magnifier and narrows as it descends. Your job, of course, is to get the smallest possible, most utterly concentrated single point of intensified heat on your fuse. If you don’t get the point – just one point of light – properly concentrated directly on your fuse, your fuse will not ignite.

We’re now done with our metaphor. What is the application? Let’s talk about numbers in general, recruiting numbers, to find the answer. I’ve never met a recruiter who argued that numbers in recruiting don’t count or matter. I’ve met hundreds, literally, who confessed that they kept no numbers, or worse, that they kept scores of numbers but paid them no real attention. The interesting thing, compared to all the other professions I’ve served as a consultant, is that no one in recruiting that I’ve met argues that the numbers are actually meaningless. In virtually every other profession I’ve encountered, there are always many and often even most performers who simply don’t believe in the numbers at all. That’s one of the reasons I decided to specialize in serving recruiters, but that’s another story.

Believing that the numbers count, why do so many recruiters fail to benefit from the numbers, or fail to benefit more than they do? Why don’t recruiters – ALL recruiters – know exactly how to light the explosive fire of performance through their numbers?

Part of the answer comes from that cone of light emanating from your magnifier. Most recruiters do not realize that before NUMBERS – in the plural – can count, you must find a single NUMBER – in the singular – by which you concentrate their force and ignite your fuse. You must narrowly concentrate your focus to what point; what ONE SINGLE point?

The answer is this. You must find the ONE NUMBER that guides you to ignition.

In the rest of this article, we’ll work through concrete steps you can take to begin the firing process so you can obey my initial command to ignite yourself. Right here though, let’s cut to the ultimate chase. Do you already know what your one number is? Let’s talk about that one number and what it looks like first, and then we’ll lay out and follow the other steps and wrap up with our conclusion.

Knowing Your Number

If you know your one number already, then you already know exactly where to turn for guidance toward immediate yet sustainably ongoing performance improvement. Your one number rises and falls. As you watch it, you know you must do this or that, more of this, less of that, etc., so that you will do better this month or quarter than you did last month or quarter. Your one number – to grab another metaphor – is just like a flashlight in the dark for you. It shows you the path to walk upon.

But is there just one number that can serve all performers? Shouldn’t I be telling you exactly WHAT the one number is? Listen up — ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is no such thing as one “right number” for everyone. Not only is there NO one right number for everyone, there isn’t even a type of number that universally succeeds for all recruiters. To follow that, you have to be able to distinguish between a number itself and a type or category of number.

Technically, a number is a digit, such as 7. Seven what? The answer to the “what” question is a type of number. In my work, most often, I recommend that my clients track seven types of numbers, and here they are:

  • Phone Time
  • Candidate Data Sheets
  • Job Orders
  • Introductions (called EPOEJOS in the old days)
  • First Time Face-to-Face Send Outs (although many of my clients add in first time Telephone Conversations here, too)
  • Placements
  • Dollars Billed

Each one of these seven measurements is a type or category of number. Let me say that again, slightly differently:

  • Your Phone Time is a number measuring the amount of Effort in you accomplish each day and week, month and quarter, etc.
  • Your Candidate Data Sheets are a number measuring the Supply you bring to market.
  • Your Job Orders are a number measuring the Demand you procure out in the market for the Supply you vend.
  • Your Introductions are a number measuring the amount of Attraction you create between players.
  • The Send Outs you arrange are a number measuring the Romances or Courtships that result from your Introductions.
  • Your Placements are a number that measures the success or failure of the Chemistry – the bonds that tie relationships permanently together, ending courtship and commencing marriage – that unites players into new hires.
  • Your Dollars Billed are a number that measures the amount of Value you create for both your Candidates and your Clients, a portion of which they pay back to you as your reward and the basis of their investment, from which they expect to gain extraordinarily profitable return.

These are the seven types of numbers I’ve found to be most powerful in modeling a recruiter’s performance, through the thousands of recruiters whose performance numbers I’ve tracked. I’ve experimented with if not many dozens of other types of numbers then at least quite a few. Here’s the bad news. Even my testing — and I believe my testing has been more exhaustive than anyone else’s in the industry — leads me to NO single number that I can actually recommend for any and all recruiters. What I’ve found is this…

The one number that helps a recruiter perform must be the one number that he or she actually believes in most.

Here is part of where we tend to go wrong. When we have a number, we focus on the number itself, when it is actually the actions that the number tracks that matter. The purpose of the number is to tell you to do more or less of those actions. So, when identifying your single most important number, that’s the thing to select. What action do you believe in that has the greatest impact upon your placements?

Yet another mistake I see constantly is that people argue that you can’t select a single thing, since so many factors must be properly addressed for placements to occur. It is a true statement, but it misses the mark anyway and here’s why. You cannot improve all the factors that lead up to a placement at once. If you try, you’ll end up improving none. Recall our magnifying glass and its single point of intense heat. The way to improve all of your performance is to select a single area to focus all your effort on. As it rises — and if you honestly select just one, it will always rise — you can then monitor your outcomes to determine if you must continue focus here, or, with these improvements in hand, switch to another part of your placement process and repeat. These targeted focus points can be considered as projects.

Outcomes and Activities

When you’re just getting started in your search for your one number, the most important step to take is to divide your world up into just two great categories: Outcomes and Activities. I’ve served many recruiters who simply turned their eyes away from their outcomes and lived in denial. And, I’ve seen many such recruiters simply catapult their performance forward just by coming out of denial and looking closely, carefully, often, and with greater accountability at their outcome numbers. Some people are motivated that way, and will not improve until the back-end results of their daily and weekly work begins to be tracked religiously.

The second great category is effort, action or activity, as you prefer. In traditional sales theory, this is called “prospecting.” In my experience, managers tend to believe in tracking the front-end activities that lead to results more than AEs do, and it’s hard for a consultant not to side with the managers. But as I’ve studied the process over the years I’ve come to believe in neither the front-end nor the back-end, unless the performer also believes in it. Performers perform by their own beliefs. You can affect their performance from the outside with sufficient intensity of effort, but that investment will usually not lead to real change. Real change, true improvement can only be supported and sustained by belief. Belief and honest motivation. Neither of these things can be provided from the outside in the end.

On the other hand, for those recruiters who know the power of focusing on the front end, an activity measure can be the one thing that matters the most. My own favorite is phone time. But we’ll come back to this in a moment.

Let’s look again at the back-end in just a bit more detail. The ultimate back-end is dollars. Myself, I can’t ever find that I care about the difference between billings, 45 – 90 days earlier, or cash in, 4 – 8 weeks or so later. Many people do care, and I understand that. I just can’t keep accounts receivable in my mind. Besides, I believe that fall-offs are a real problem only when they’re excessive. Other than that, the vast majority of the deals I’ve monitored really are deals and the fee check really does get sent. So, I always recommend that we track billings as opposed to cash, when I’m asked. But, I’ve learned here that I have to ask back, “What do you care about?” and “How are you best motivated?”

But what about deals as opposed to dollars? If I could, I’d use an average fee ratio and just not care about the dollars at all, since a deal is a deal, and a small one is every bit as challenging (if not more so) as a big one. Besides, I’ve never seen recruiters fail due to closing small deals. I’ve even kind of come to love them, somewhat, since the recruiters who specialize in small deals do tend, in my observation, to rack them up fast and consistently. I used to hate the term “low hanging fruit.” Over the years I’ve revised my reaction. Picking the low hanging fruit is just about as unarguable a thing to do as can be.

So if it was just left up to me, I really would pay most attention on the back-end to deals alone, regardless of dollar results, just tracking those by ratio. But, it really is NOT ever just up to me! What I’ve found is that both deals and dollars have to be monitored for what I’ve come to call the “reality factor.” If we don’t watch them both, we’re very likely to slip away from reality and live more by denial or fantasy.

There’s been so much discussion in our industry over the years about such things as the four-hour connect time day, marketing, and all other front-end activities that I almost feel like no further discussion is needed. But this is not the case. Let me ask: do you have a firm opinion about front-end activity tracking? Do you have a number or set of numbers you truly believe in, monitor, and correct against?

Here, if your faith is absolute, you may well have all you require. Most people I’ve served though, no matter how strong their faith in the front-end, are still not completely motivated by it. Front-end tracking suffers from an almost inescapable “should” factor. You know you should, but…

I’ve found that for those who care enough to track the front-end, we truly do end up needing a powerful tie to the back-end through our ratios. Action – to – Outcome; Effort – to – Reward; these are the kinds of cause and effect relationships our ratios must track.

That brings us to the question: can your one number, the one that lights your fire, be a ratio – which is technically two numbers?

My answer is yes…but.

Yes, if you really do work out your ratio to the degree where you can feel its meaning intuitively, a ratio may actually be the best kind of number there is. For my part, the way I work with ratios is that I do place effort in front, reward in back, and I’m always looking to increase reward, no matter what. So, if I have to increase activity – through blunt effort alone – in order to get the back end number to rise, then I just have to work harder. But, if by analysis or better planning or even better tactics I can increase the quality of my effort I find I can often drop the front end while improving the back end, and that is just pure fun!

With a ratio, though, you really may not have two numbers, but one that’s kind of gussied up. It may be that you watch one side or the other carefully, but simply keep the other side in mind. This is a fine way to hone in your one number, as fine as any for certain.

Perhaps the ultimate physical metaphor for a ratio is a teeter-totter. Push down on one side, and the other side goes up. The tie is instantaneous and absolute. When you live by a single ratio, you come to know this ratio with the same kind of intuitive certainty. It may not be my favorite ratio, but the Send Out – to – Placement Ratio is surely one of the most important tools in our kit. As your Send Outs rise, against flat or even worse, falling Placements, you can see your pain itself in objective clarity. If your Send Outs continue to rise, though, sooner or later you will see a snap back down in the ratio as ultimately the placements come together. That snap is a moment of release and intense joy and power. How much pain can you tolerate? How much joy can you win?

Other ratios are worthy of your consideration, indeed. The key is that, when you understand your ratio as well as you understand our teeter-totter metaphor, your ratio will trigger both intellectual and emotional response, and powerfully. This is perhaps the form of recruiting ignition by the numbers that is worth whatever effort you must exert to attain it. When your emotions and your intellect come together, understanding your numbers, this combination is really just like fuel and oxygen. The heat of your passion, your dream, sets it aflame, and the power of the numbers releases your faith and your action toward your dream of recruiting prowess.

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