Rogue Sourcing

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. — Galileo Galilei

The hand came up about halfway down the rows of seated SourceCon attendees after the Sourcing Movie was shown. Here’s the beginning of the show.

“At corporate we prefer to have someone in-between us and the name sourced. We prefer to hire sourcers like you to do the really proactive stuff.”

I think he meant phone sourcing, as that was the demonstration on the movie he had just seen.

Unsaid in that confession is the simple truth that many corporate staffing departments believe that the act of “sourcing,” especially phone sourcing, is best left to third party vendors — that it’s kind of a rogue activity.

That’s all yippee-skippee and profitable to us phone sourcers out here, but moving beyond that is the internal, mistaken, and dangerous belief that there is something not-so-sacrosanct about phone sourcing.

Okay, I’m going to say it. I hate to bring it up because it’s a politically unarguable debate that’s been beaten to death on the boards and that is the subject of ethics.

It’s a fact that many people don’t want to call another on the telephone and ask for information much beyond what it takes to order a pizza. Because this is a basic truth about much of human nature there’s a repugnance that’s developed around the subject of phone sourcing. It’s intimated over and over again among individuals that it’s a borderline honest activity.

Bolstering that repugnance are the lofty ministrations that usually emerge over the subject of calling another company’s employees and offering them another opportunity.

All of the high-handed discussions about the right to poach from other companies are just a screen for fear.

I’m willing to insist here that the loudest criers about “ethics” are those who don’t like to cold-call or, more maliciously, those that don’t want anyone else cold-calling because it breeches their own territories.

Let me ask you another question:

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Is it right not to?

The United States Justice Department doesn’t seem to think so.

We who are adamant practitioners of the craft don’t think so.

In fact, some of us who phone source have long since believed, in adherence with what the Justice Department has said on the subject, that “poaching” employees from other companies is the best way to keep a competitive landscape level.

Maybe a best solution is one in which companies (and individuals) think beyond the discomfort and faulty judgments they’ve allowed themselves to tolerate in the past over the subject of phone sourcing.

Maybe it’s time C-levels that are and will be held accountable for their failures to encourage cold-calling within their own organizations get (and give) buy-ins.

The best way to understand something is to practice it.

Maybe it’s time to go rogue.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!