Starting an executive search firm can be quite lucrative, but you’re going to have to work hard for those liquid assets.

Executive search projects are more complex and time consuming than other search projects, and success will require you secure the best people and tools to meet the demands of executive search projects.

We wrote “How to Start a Recruiting Company from Home,” to cover basic steps of starting a recruiting business, so this post will focus on starting an executive recruiting business rather than all of the boxes you need to check when starting a company.

Find Your Executive Recruiting Niche

The first step in starting a successful executive recruiting company is to find the best niche for your company.

For people with specialized careers who have mostly worked within a single industry or closely related industries, this niche will be easy to find. Simply look back over your career for the most successful executive search projects completed in this niche and leverage these examples to help your firm win business and excel on your home turf.

For generalists who have worked executive search projects in a variety of industries, it is also in your best interest to specialize. For instance, you could look back on your career to see whether you have been more successful on executive search projects for B2B companies or B2C.

No matter what niche you choose, specializing will only give you an advantage if you, your firm’s partners or your recruiters have direct experience hiring executives in this niche. As a new firm, you will be relying on successful work from the past to win your first client, making “breaking into” a new industry nearly impossible for a newly formed firm.

Finding Your Niche

  • What industry or related industries have you completed the most executive searches in?
  • What are the shared attributes of the client companies you have most successfully served (Company size, B2B vs B2C, product type, location, etc.)?
  • Which executive roles have you had the most success hiring for?
  • Which recruiters in your network are experienced in your niche and qualified to be a partner at your firm?
  • Which recruiters in your network are experienced enough in this niche to be a recruiter for your firm?

Proving Your Success in Your Niche

  • What are the highest profile executive search projects that your partners and/or recruiters have successfully completed in your niche?
  • Who are the highest profile executives you have personally placed for companies in your niche?
  • When was the last successful project you completed in for a company in your niche?
  • Which executive search projects completed outside of your niche can still be used as good examples for proving your abilities to clients in your niche industry?

Build Your Brand

Once you’ve defined the niche your executive recruiting company is going to dominate, start building a brand that goes hand in hand with your company’s focus.

These are the baseline brand assets you should launch your company with:

  • A logo appropriate for your company’s niche to go on business cards, letterhead, your website, your LinkedIn, etc.
  • A company website that is easy to navigate, responsive and visually organized.
  • A LinkedIn profile and/or a social media profile for your company on the social network that is used most widely by companies in your niche.

You don’t have to hire a consultant when building your brand. Just think strategically about your company’s target customers, the brands of the executive recruiting companies that work in your niche and how you can stand out positively from these competitors.

Who is in your Brand’s Audience?

  • Who is your target audience within your niche and what are good examples of companies that you can serve better than your competition?
  • Who are the decision makers within target companies that will decide to hire you and how will they decide that your company is going to provide value?
  • What are the shared executive talent needs of target companies and how are your competitors speaking to these common needs in their branding?
  • What are the major trends affecting your target client companies and how are these trends affecting their executive talent needs?

How Will Your Brand Stand Out?

  • What is the story of your brand? Why are you here and what are you here to do?
  • What advantage will choosing your firm give your target clients?
  • Why should your target clients choose your company over a competitor?
  • Who are the executive recruiting firms you will be competing with and how are they branding themselves?
  • What are the common themes in the branding of your competitors and how will you stand out from them without misbranding your company for your area of focus?

Secure Executive Recruiting Talent

To ensure that your first executive search project is successful, you should secure executive recruiting talent for your firm well before you sign your first client.

As a new firm, you will need to rely on your personal reputation and the reputation of your business partners to attract talent, but you will also need to provide a competitive job offer to get talented recruiters onto your team.

What do you Need from Executive Recruiters?

  • How will an executive recruiter’s past work be judged to determine their fitness for the work your company will be doing?
  • What attitudes are essential for successful executive recruiting in your target market and how will these attitudes be identified in candidates for your first recruiter roles?
  • What qualifications or experiences will separate a good executive recruiting candidate from a top executive recruiter candidate?
  • What is the company size of your target clients and how much experience should executive recruiters have working with companies of this size?
  • What industry or industries should your executive recruiters have experience in and what is an example of a useful connection for a recruiter to have in this industry?
  • What industry-specific certifications will your clients want and expect from you and your recruiters?

How will You Recruit the Executive Recruiters you Need?

  • How will your job description get executive recruiters excited to join your newly formed company?
  • Who are the contacts that can distribute your opportunity to the best executive recruiting talent in your industry?
  • Which recruiters are on your short list for your company’s first hires and what are you offering to convince them to join your team?
  • How will your executive recruiters be compensated and how does this compare to competitors in your area?
  • What is the value proposition you are offering to executive recruiters?
  • How will working for your company advance the careers of your recruiters?
  • What kind of work environment will your company provide? For example, not requiring recruiters to hold regular hours will appeal to independent people.

Secure Executive Search Tools

To ensure your executive recruiting company is a success, you need to secure executive search tools to support the effectiveness of your recruiters and the timely close of your search projects.

You should secure tools that:

  • Manage communications with clients and update them on the status of search projects.
  • Manage communications with executives being engaged in a client opportunity to prevent fatigue from too many messages and disengagement from too few.
  • Source executive candidates and automatically gathering extensive career information on these candidates.
  • Identify passive candidates and nurture these relationships into placements.

Loxo’s all in one recruiting platform uses a comprehensive CRM + ATS, automatic sourcing and contact creation powered by AI and a suite of candidate marketing tools to meet the extensive demands of executive search projects.

Our customers are leading executive search and boutique staffing firms that are tired of complex recruiting software that slows them down. Loxo is simple and intuitive so you can reduce your overhead and dramatically simplify the way you work.

Not only has Loxo automated your manual and mundane processes, we built smart tools into your recruiting experience. From finding contact information with the click of a button to automatically sourcing the top 10 percent of every market, it’s time for your software to work for you.

If want an executive recruiting tool that enhances the effectiveness of your team, schedule a demo to see how we’ll be improving search project outcomes for you and your clients.

Find Your First Client

You’ve got the brand, recruiting talent and tools required to make great placements, so all that’s left is finding the first client for your executive agency.

When you engage a potential client, your goal is to prove that you are trustworthy, experienced and capable enough to handle this company’s most important hires.

Identify New Client Leads

  • Which companies in your industry niche have recently acquired a new round of funding, were acquired by a larger company or otherwise gained significant capital?
  • Are there any prominent executives in your niche that have been experiencing friction with the public, other executives and/or their board of directors?
  • Are there any companies that have relatively new executive hires who have not had a positive effect on valuation, market share or other executive KPIs?
  • Are there any companies in your niche that are opening new branches or otherwise expanding in a way that will require more executive hires?

Use Your Network

  • Do your partners or recruiters have any leads or potential leads that you can use to win your first client?
  • Which past clients were highly satisfied with the work that you, your partner or your recruiter did for them?
  • Which executives expressed a high level of satisfaction with the placement or placements you have made for them?
  • Which of your contacts are most likely to share insider information on an impending executive transition?
  • Which past clients have acquired significant capital or are otherwise displaying a high likelihood of making high-level hires?