Signs You’ve Outgrown A Big Brand

With the growth and maturing of an industry, comes big brands. The blue-chip, household names who’ve ruled the roost for years. And recruitment’s no different. There are some juggernauts out there.

And life at a big brand isn’t a bad thing by any stretch.

You’ve got a reputation you can lean on. A wealth of resource to learn from and a widely useful infrastructure to support you. All with the intention of helping you become better at your job.

But it’s not right for everyone.

Sometimes, you don’t need those things any more.

You need more.

From life. From work. From your company.

I’ve worked in teams composed entirely of unique ‘individuals’. They’ve normally found home at the “smaller” brands.

I’ve worked in bigger ones too. Places where organisational constraints determine how you perform.

Sometimes that’ll change how far you go on your career path.

Other times it’ll determine whether you find work enjoyable

I asked Carnegie Consulting’s Guy Steel about leaving a big brand. And how you know the writing’s on the wall.

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Work life balance

No company or brand becomes a monster without being good at what they do. And so they repeat that success over many years.

What got them to that point is generally deemed to be the blueprint for their success. It’s foundational and easy to replicate.

For a lot of big brands in recruitment, that means making sure you’re at your desk from 8 to 6. Normally, as a minimum.

Which works brilliantly. Unless you have kids, hobbies, or respect for your personal life.

Work life balance is usually the canary in the coal mine for Recruiters outgrowing big brands.

The conversation around work life balance has taken a few lunges forward in recent years. And I’ll give you a single guess as to the size of brand typically hesitant to join the group chat.

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Less focus on clients

When firms start out, clients are everything.

As brands get beyond a certain size, so too does their client base.

More clients means more work. But also more revenue. So it becomes a balancing act.

And at scale, priorities begin to shift.

So what can happen is clients become part of a collection, rather than the be all and end all.

There’s a big focus on delivery, obviously. And it’s hard to pinpoint, but somewhere along the way, filling roles becomes more important than helping clients grow.

Leaving a big brand doesn’t necessarily mean losing a bunch of clients. It usually means being more involved with them.

A good question to ask yourself is this: “Did you win all that business?” or “Did the name on your business card?”

Ever felt like testing that?

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KPIs for the sake of it

Brands with thousands of Consultants are harder to manage. How do you keep track of huge teams through growth and differentiation?

KPIs are a straightforward, uniform solution to managing a workforce of individuals at scale.

There’s generally nothing wrong with KPIs. Particularly when you’re starting out. Or if you’ve had a good honest look at yourself and realise you need a structured environment to do well.

It’s when you start questioning them. Like how many BD calls do you need to make to pull a job?

10? 20? 40?

The answer’s one. And really, you only need to make one call to a candidate to fill it. Technically.

A big brand, through no fault of their own, are more likely to lose sight of this. Simply because of the way management’s structured. But, and this may or may not be hard to believe, there exists an alternative.

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Your motivation’s changed

Most Recruiters, when asked, would say they got into recruitment to make money. Nothing wrong with that.

And normally that’s enough. Until it isn’t.

You can have more Rolexes than arms to wear them, but as your motivation evolves so should your career. Big brands can be great at offering more benefits than smaller brands. But they’re less tailored to your specific situation.

It’ll be a package designed by committee. None of whom you know.

How do your motivations compare from the day you joined to today?

Are you a recruitment machine? Or just a cog in one?

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Your commission scheme’s restrictive

Chances are, if you’ve been at a big brand for a while, you’ll know the commission structure inside out. You’ll know what your bank statement will say after every single deal.

How good is it then?

Comparatively? Against your competitors and smaller businesses? If you don’t know this, you really should.

Because not knowing is like never assessing whether you could be getting a better deal.

Realistically what would you change about your commission if you could? Would you want to take home more, per assignment? More, per pound billed? Give less money to a threshold? Give less money into the shared pot?

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You want more

I’ve spoken at length about how the organisational structure of a bigger brand is more likely to impact the day to day activities of Consultants.

You have deliverables. If you hit those, you stay out of trouble.

When there’s a fire, it’s one person’s job to extinguish. But to the Recruiter who wants to be involved in every area of running their business, this can be more stifling than streamlined.

Most of these points come down to a question of scale.

And the reality is, there are brands out there where you’ll have more of a say in the way you work.

There are companies who’ll give you the licence to use your full skillset. And not just within the parameters you’ve been set. It’s just less common, the bigger the brand.

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And finally some Greek mythology

Theseus’ Paradox asks whether a ship’s still the same ship if it’s had every last one of its parts replaced.

And I wonder if the same question’s appropriate to ask of brands?

Whether they’re the precise combination of the sum of their parts. Or whether their identity and way of working exists beyond that.

I suppose a modern equivalent would be football teams. Players come and go but teams endure.

There’s nothing wrong with working for a big brand. As I’ve mentioned a few times, it’s great.

If that’s what you’re after.

But if you’re with a big brand right now feeling lost at sea, get the wind in your sails and set your compass for a brighter horizon by opening this tab.