Chad Oakley, Will Bachman
Will Bachman 00:02
Welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host will Bachman Unleashed is powered by Umbrex. You can visit the show online at umbrex.com/unleashed where you can find the show notes and the transcripts for every episode. Today’s episode is a presentation that Chad Oakley gave to members of Umbrex on May 12 2023. Chad Oakley is the CEO of Charles heiress which is one of the leading retained search firms in United States focused on management consultants and placing former management consultants. Chad spoke to us about the current state of the job market for consultants. And it was a great discussion. He kindly allowed us to share that discussion as a podcast. So without further ado, here it is.
Chad Oakley 00:53
Will Bachman 00:54
welcome, everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Chad Oakley, who is CEO of Charles Aris Charles Eris is one of the top retained search firms in the US for placing former and current management consultants. We’re talking today about the shape of the current job market for consultants. And we’re going to be doing plenty of questions. So if you have questions, put them in the chat. We’re also going to be publishing this as a podcast episode later. Chad, let me turn it over to you. I know you had some initial thoughts you wanted to share. So what is happening in the job market?
Chad Oakley 01:28
Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be back with the Umbrex. Team. And great to see everybody. So yeah, team, I want to make this as interactive as we possibly can. And I want to try to be a sounding board or assist in any questions that people have in the marketplace. I thought though, that maybe what I could do is lay the groundwork on a handful of things. So maybe first, I’ll just give you a slight introduction to Charles Harris, just so everybody knows kind of who we are, and what it is that we do that’ll that’ll give you some context for how I spend my time and kind of the perspective that I’m bringing to this particular conversation, then maybe I’ll talk just for a second about our strategy practice, you kind of know what that practice is all about. And then what I thought I’d do is maybe talk about the market today, what we’re seeing in the in the overall hiring market, just in the world, and then maybe talk about the consulting market, specifically what we’re seeing from that particular space. And then we can also talk about what is selling today, right, where are we seeing demand from our clients, which I think would be would be helpful, too. And so and then I’ll be happy to answer any and all questions that that people have. Does that will hopefully that sounds like a good. Alright, awesome, fantastic. Team. First and foremost, let’s talk a little about Charles Harris. Right. So Charles Daris, we are a classic executive search firm, we really do one thing, we’re kind of a profit from the core kind of group hedgehog philosophy. We really just help companies find great talent for their businesses. So a very specific search, every search we do is bespoke. So for those of you in manufacturing, we have that skill set. We’re a job shop, right, everything we do is is an individual search, if you will. We’ve been in business now for 54 years, we’ve got roughly 90 team members on our team that are located across 15 states. And we have five key functional areas of focus. As well mentioned, strategy is our largest practice. We also have a corporate development practice that places former investment bankers into merger and acquisition type roles. We have a finance and accounting practice that places CFOs controllers and MDNA talent into the marketplace. We also have an engineering operations and supply chain practice, which places basically engineers into operations focused roles. And then we have a sales and marketing practice, which places Chief Commercial officers, chief marketing officers and everything in between those particular positions. We do those types of searches really across almost every industry, you can imagine our top industries would be industrial, consumer, and retail, financial services, private equity, healthcare and life sciences would probably be the big areas for us. Our client base is split 5050 between private equity firms in their portfolio companies and then non private equity organizations, publicly traded companies etc. And we do produce monthly newsletters for every single one of those practices that I just mentioned, whereby we list every search that we are working on at that particular time. Those newsletters also include offer reports and compensation studies that will help you to benchmark the market around compensation. So if you are interested in learning more about all the searches that Charles Harris is working on on a regular basis, you can sign up for all of those newsletters for free, of course, on our website, which is at Charles harris.com. Okay, but hopefully just as a high level about who we are and what we do. Let’s talk about our strategy practice, because I know strategy is the real focus of this particular group. Right. So we are forced or just consulting in general right, but we are fortunate to have the largest strategy recruiting practice In the United States, I started that practice in 2003. I’m a former consultant myself, I worked for Deloitte Consulting, I went to Wharton for my MBA. And then I went to Bain and Company. And then in 2003, I came here to Charles Harris, and started our strategy practice. That’s a practice that is completed to date, just over 12 150 searches. And there’s really no other firm in United States has done that many kind of strategy type searches. We place those strategies searches are basically we’re placing current and former strategy consultants or operational consultants, from the usual suspects. So Bain BCG and McKinsey would be our big three, if you will. But we work with individuals that come from firms of all shapes and sizes, right? So the LE ks of the world, the Parthenon II was the Deloitte, the Accenture is the E ys, the KPMG is right. All of those types of firms we’re constantly working with and talking with individuals from those organizations. We placed those individuals at private equity firms, private equity backed portfolio companies, publicly traded companies, and privately held companies that are not associated with private equity. And we worked up and down the SEC from a pre MBA candidate, right. So an associate level or analyst level, all the way up to the partner level. And everything in between is kind of is kind of who we are. So hopefully, that gives you all some context about how I spend my time and how our firm shows zero spends its time as well. How about if we talk about the market today, and I’m going to talk about the market broadly? And then we’ll dive deep maybe into the consulting space of the strategy space. So let’s talk broadly. All right. Wow, what a difference a year makes, right. So last year, at this time, if we go all the way back to May, of 2020 to last year, that time, the United States was experiencing perhaps the greatest candidate driven market in modern history. You all will know this right? Companies were begging their most mediocre employees to stay begging those individuals to stay. And those The unfortunate part is those mediocre employees along with the very talented employees were leaving firms for upwards of 50% pay increases. We saw 50% pay increases on a regular basis, truly unprecedented times throughout the United States. And let’s face it completely unsustainable, and definitely unhealthy for the economy. And we’re starting to pay some of those pay for some of that now, it was to use a phrase from Alan Greenspan irrational exuberance in the housing market, the inmates were definitely running the asylum. Right. And as a recruiting firm, we were truly overwhelmed with search requests. For the first time in our company’s 54 year history, we had to implement a 40 day delay on all new searches, which we had never done before. It’s a great problem to have. But it is definitely a problem that came with a lot of stress. Thankfully, and I really do mean, thankfully, we started to see a pullback starting in December of last year, Jerome Powell, as you all know, and the Federal Reserve had declared inflation their number one enemy, they made it very clear that they were going to raise interest rates to tame inflation, even if that meant driving the economy into a recession, which I think we are headed in that direction. So if you were to like just press pause on today, where are we today? I believe that right now, at this moment in time, we are in the middle of a transition from what was a 100% candidate driven market, to what I believe is going to be maybe a 75% company driven market. What I mean by that is that a company driven market where companies have the majority of the power versus last year when candidates had all the power. Right. I will say that there is some confusion in the marketplace, right? There is some very strange mixed messages coming from the market right now. We get asked a lot about these mixed messages. So why don’t we talk about that for a quick second. So on one hand, you have report after report after report article, written after article written about companies conducting layoffs. We can’t go a week without reading multiple articles about major companies announcing sizable layoffs, which is always disconcerting, right? For instance, Amazon alone has announced 27,000 layoffs this year. 27,000. There’s a lot of people that are no longer employed. And Amazon, of course, is just one example of you know, a major corporation announcing sizable layoffs. On the other hand, the monthly labor reports continues to be incredibly robust, right, it comes out you all know this right? But the Department of Labor releases their labor report in the last Friday of every month. This past Friday, the Labor Department reported that we added 253,000 more people to payrolls in April, which is a very respectable number. And the unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, which is the lowest unemployment rate level we’ve seen in over 50 years. So how is this possible? Right? What is really going on? How can you have both companies announcing massive amounts of layoffs, and yet, we’re still adding to the payrolls and unemployment has fallen to the lowest level. I think in order to understand this, it’s really important to remember just how many people, a lot of these companies hired during the pandemic. You know, it’s easy to forget these kind of crazy statistics. But does anyone remember how many people Amazon hired in 2020? Amazon hired 500,000 new employees in one year, and 2020 500,000. Right? That is incredible. Right. And Amazon, of course, you’re just one example. So a lot of companies hired a lot of people. It’s also of course, important to remember that the very best run companies in the world in a normal year, terminate the bottom 5% of their performers, right? That was a big Jack Welch at GE mantra, you got to get rid of your bottom 5% every year and the best companies really do that. They replace them with new talent. And then the next year, they of course, terminate the next bottom 5%, etc, etc. But how many people did companies terminate during the pandemic? Zero. They terminated no one, right. As we said before, they were begging their most mediocre employees to stay until the fourth quarter of last year, they were making a mistake. The best way to describe what companies were doing during the pandemic is talent hoarding. They’re trying to keep every last person they possibly can. Right. So what are we seeing now? We just see companies catching up in the layoff department. We’re two years overdue on removing the bottom 5%. So you hear 27,000 layoffs, and you think, Whoa, that is a big number, right. But when you think about it across multiple years, it is a fraction that I mean, it’s truly a fraction of the number of jobs that have been added. But the good news, which is where the payroll information comes in, right, the good news is that for those people that are being laid off, they are being rehired by other companies pretty quickly. They’re being hired by those companies that frankly, couldn’t hire them during the height of the pandemic, because they just couldn’t match the compensation from the bigger more profitable companies, right? I mean, when you get that offer from Amazon, and it comes with a massive amount of stock options that start to vest pretty quickly, it is really hard to turn that down. Even if you had an interest in that other company, you’re like, Hey, guys, sorry, I’ve got an offer I can’t refuse, right. But when you’ve suddenly been laid off, you get a little bit more realistic about your compensation expectations. So while we continue to see a low unemployment rate, because all these employees that are laid off are being picked up, we’re definitely seeing a slowdown in the level of increases in compensation packages, which is exactly what Jerome Powell and the Fed was hoping would happen. So that is good. I will say this, though, there are certain pockets of the market where we still continue to see unprecedented demand. Literally, the call that I had right before this one was with our leadership team. And the one of the people that leads our finance and accounting practice, just lost a candidate to a counteroffer where they received a 40% increase over their current compensation. So again, we were still seeing some of these crazy increases in compensation, even today, after the economy is, you know, really starting to move on. Okay. Right. So that’s kind of the broader thing across the board from a market perspective. Let’s talk about consulting. And what we’re seeing in the consulting market. Okay. So team, we have we speak to hundreds of consultants every month. As an organization, we’ve got, we’ve got 40 people that do nothing but talk to consultants all day long. So we are talking to hundreds if not 1000s of these individuals every single month. So what are we seeing right now in the consulting market? In short, it’s not good. It is not good right now, right? As many of you know, professional services are a market leading indicator when it comes to the economy. And the demand for consulting services is way down. Relative to this time last year. I talked just mentioned, we speak to hundreds of consultants every month, the vast majority of the consultants we speak with have spent considerable time this year on the beach, or have been working on internally facing projects. By the way, when I say on the beach, many of you probably know this. But for those of you who don’t, at firms like Bain BCG and McKinsey, if you have a gap between projects, if you finish one project, and then you don’t start your next project for a period of time, they call that period of time being on the beach, because you’re pretty much allowed to kind of go do whatever you need to do. Right during that time. You’re not really working last year, right? No, there was no last two years zero each time. Right. I mean, you finished your project in the next hour, your your next one kicked off, right. Also, you’ve never really worked on internally facing projects, because client, you know, the external client demands were just way too high. So we’re seeing a lot of beach time this year. And we’re seeing a lot of internally facing project time this year as well. My guess is that many of you might be experiencing similar challenges. I hope you’re not. But it wouldn’t surprise me if you are right. Your phone is probably ringing a little less this year than maybe it did last year. And unfortunately, in my it is my opinion that based on some of the Federal Reserve’s actions, I think this is going to get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately, the major consulting firms are rolling out their recession playbook, which they have down pat, right, it includes a number of cost saving initiatives. So just you know, what the consulting firms are doing right now, they are doing a handful of things. Number one, they are managing people out at a much more aggressive clip, anyone that the firm’s don’t believe have the ability to come a partner when they in the future, really, regardless of your current position in the firm. Hmm, you’ve got a higher than average chance that maybe they missed out this year. Unfortunately, at the same time, promotions, are slowing dramatically. consultants that would have easily clear the bar for a promotion last year, we’ll fail to be promoted this year. And the reason, of course, is that promotions come with a higher base salaries and higher bonuses, we add to our cost basis and the consulting firms. You know, revenues are gonna be down this year. And so they need to save money as well. So promotions will will slow dramatically. I will say what’s interesting is one of the biggest lies that is told by the major consulting firms, these are these are honest firms, not to people, there is a lie out there, that they that they say right, they will tell you that the bar for promotion never changes, they will tell you that the economy never factors into promotion decision. And that is absolutely not true. It is a major factor in promotion. Of course, the consulting firms will be hiring fewer new consultants off of campus this year, as well. And they’ll certainly be hiring fewer experienced hires as well. They’re also delaying start dates for those new consultants. Many of you may have seen an article in the Wall Street Journal last month in April, indicating that McKinsey and Bain were delaying start dates for their 2023 classes until 2024. So they’re pushing start dates out six to eight, maybe even 12 months, which is a major indicator of a slowdown in project work. Bain has done some truly unprecedented things to slow down their new hires, right? Bain has told all of their new hire MBAs, that if they wait to start until April of 2024, that Bain will pay them in the interim. And they’ll pay them on a tiered at a tiered about right. So they’ll pay if you go work for a nonprofit, they’ll pay you $40,000 to work for that nonprofit. If you go learn a new language or participate in some kind of educational program, they’ll pay you $30,000. And if you just want to go have some fun, go on safari, or become a yoga instructor. By the way, these are all very specific examples that they gave, they’ll pay you $20,000. So there’s truly saying just delay, your start date will pay you 4030 or $20,000. That has never happened in the past 20 years. Right. Bain also, just last week, announced something very interesting. So they announced that if you declare transition, that they will pay you out 100% of your transition dollars, even if you land a new job in week one of that transition period. So let’s do some people may not know what this transition piece is. So Bain BCG and McKinsey, I’ve actually a program called transition if you’re a consultant, one of those firms, and you decide that you want to leave and go do something else, right, go to corporate America or do anything else, as opposed to interviewing on the side while you’re doing all your consulting work for the firm. Instead, they say, hey, just let us know that you’re ready to leave, we’ll move you off of that project work. And we’ll pay you for a period of time up to six months to go and find a new job for yourself, right. And we’ll give you all these other resources that help you to find that next step. They do this because they don’t want people trying to do both at the same time, because you’re just going to compromise the amount of attention you’re giving to your clients, right? They call this transition. If you’re a junior consultant, in the firm, you usually get three months or roughly 12 weeks. But if you’re a more senior person, you could get six months, maybe even up to a year if you were a partner. Historically, if you declare transition, and in your first week of transition, you got a new job, then your transition payments stopped on a dime, right? Because they don’t want to say like, Hey, you can go on vacation for the next 11 weeks while we’ll pay you. Right? So they said sorry, your transition stops. But Bain is saying is, hey, if you declare a transition, we’re gonna pay you for your full 12 weeks, even if you get a job in the first week. So you want to 11 week vacation, you can now have it. Basically, they’re just trying to move people out of the firm because they’re not going to have the amount of work right. Clearly what’s very clear, the consulting firms believe that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets a lot better, unfortunately. Okay. Tim, let me pause for a second. I want to see if there’s, you know, questions that are that are coming through for individuals. And then what I’d love to do is I’m also happy to share kind of what we’re seeing that where we’re seeing demand, right for our services. because it’s also probably likely where you all will see demand for your services as well. So, Christina, so you’ve got a question, right? Is there a high correlation between the demand for consultants that consulting firms and demand for independent consultants? So you guys actually probably be able to answer that question better than I can just based on the demand that you’re seeing for your own services. But my guess is yes. Right. If if companies are slowing down the hiring of the veins in the BCG and McKinsey, it’s, in some ways, they may very well replace those resources with less expensive resources. Right? So they might say, Hey, I no longer have that budget where I can spend a million dollars a month, right on a project, right. But they might have something of a smaller budget that you know, the Bain BCG is McKinsey is just gonna mess with. And so it is possible that they will transition that to two independent consultants and so on. It’s not, you know, independent consults, I think, on average, are usually a little bit more affordable than what you might see from those firms. So it could be but my guess is that there is a correlation that you would probably see there. Because if you will, I’m doing this as a strategy include technology strategy and digital strategy. And the answer is yes, right. It is it. So I’m talking to I know strategy, but I’m talking consulting of all kinds, all shapes and sizes, operations, it everything in between. And you guys have these good questions, and they’re coming in quickly. So hang on a minute, scroll up. Are you seeing regional differences in hiring trends? I’m not necessarily. So maybe I’ll only answer that. So if you want to know about remote versus in office, right. So right now, I would say that probably 80% of the searches, we do have a location requirements might even be a little bit higher, they might be 85, I might go 85% of the searches, we do have a location requirements. In other words, we need someone in this location. And the reason is because we expect that person to be in the office in a hybrid environment, right? So probably 85 of our searches have a location credit of those 85, probably 70% of the companies are hybrid, they’re saying we believe in face to face interaction, we believe in that collaboration for our teams, we need you to be in the office, no less than probably two to three, it’s always two to three days a week, if you will, the balance. So the 50% between the 70 and the 85%, it’s five days a week in the office, I will tell you right now, everybody, the hardest searches we do, are those that are five days a week in the office. And there still are a handful of corporations that are all in on that. Okay, those are but most great talent likes flexibility. And they usually are like, Guys, I’m interested in this. But if they want me in there five days a week, I’m not gonna do it. That’s just not for me. Right. So we kiss a lot of frogs, as we like to say, to try to find individuals that are willing to go to go five days a week. But the locations are really illiquid. But I will say this, you know, the pandemic was a boon to the suburbs, as you all know, and also to the south. Right. So the place where most people move to is where I’m located North Carolina, right? This the southeast has had a huge amount of movement in this particular area, just because people said I can go work anywhere. And I’m going to go to warmer climates and things along those lines. And so, but in general, I think we’re not seeing huge regional differences in in hiring trends. Igor, let’s see, well, it seems that it’s not a good time to be an entity consultant. Could you please give us some information already? How this affected freelance consultants? All right, how this all affected freelance consulting scene, I believe that I’m calling freelance the same as an independent consultant, but maybe there’s a difference. Is there is there a difference? I think
Will Bachman 24:02
there’s just a slight difference in nuance, Chad, but I think for our purposes, you could use them interchangeably here.
Chad Oakley 24:08
Yeah. Yeah. i By the way, guys, I’ve got some I’m gonna I’m gonna talk about the good stuff. Right. So the second we talk about the good stuff, so they go through a couple of questions. I’m gonna tell you, some of them where we’re seeing some positives, man.
Will Bachman 24:17
Yeah, be great to see Chad where like, if there’s pockets where you’re seeing demand, like restructuring, or networking, capital people or cost cutting type lean, what are the areas that you’re seeing demand?
Chad Oakley 24:28
Right, what’s selling today? Right? Where are we seeing demand? So in the world of consulting, okay, no surprise. We’re seeing an increase in demand for transformation skill sets, which is really all about cost containment, right. So companies are looking into their crystal ball right now. And they’re looking into the future and they’re saying, oh, you know what, yikes, the next two years are probably a little bit questionable. We’re definitely not we probably aren’t gonna hit our revenue targets. So we’d really better improve our cost position. Let’s get some transformation experts in here to help us right. So if you’ve got skill sets or capabilities and how companies can reduce their cost structure, right, because a lot of companies have built up some pretty big investment cost structures over the last couple of years, right? During hay days, companies make a lot of investments we get outside of our core, we start thinking really creatively. And then the second that we see that turnaround, all of that extra curricular stuff comes to a halt, we get back to the basics, right? And companies need help unwinding some of those investments. So if there’s some transformation capabilities out there some cost containment capabilities out there, that is really, really helpful. Let’s talk about private equity for a second, because a lot of you, I suspect, support private equity firms and support private equity backed portfolio companies. If not, I will strongly encourage you to look into that space. Right? Think about, you know, private equity firms, as we all know, invest in companies, right? The investments are really slowing down right now. Because the cost of capital, right, the cost that they have to borrow money to buy those companies, because of the increase in the interest rates is much higher. So deal, flow is going to slow, it has already slowed, it will be slow for the balance of this year. So if you’re a private equity firm, and you’re not gonna do as much investing, what do you have to get right? You’ve got to make sure that your existing portfolio companies are really performing. So they’re not investing as much in new companies, but they’re investing a lot and their existing companies, they got to make sure those existing companies reach their full potential, realize that value creation plan so that when they sell that business in a handful of years they sell at the premium price. So they are constantly thinking about how do I improve operations for my portfolio, and they will make it they will spend money to save money, they will spend money to make money. And what we’re seeing within the world of private equity are spikes of demand and a couple of very specific areas. So one is transformation and cost cutting, right. So that’s certainly out there as well. But we’re also seeing it in finance and accounting capabilities, kind of office of the CFO type stuff, right? There’s a lot of private equity firms that say, Hey, listen, I own 25 companies, I got 25, CFOs, I want all of those CFOs, giving us the same reports, implementing the same best practices, I want to make sure that I’m sharing capabilities across that group. So if you’re, if you’re a finance individual, or an accounting individual, your skill sets can be highly valuable to private equity firms in those office of the CFO type roles in demand. We’re seeing a lot of spikes in demand for talent, professionals, right. So private equity 1/3 of what a private equity firms, the value that they add, is making sure that they have the right people in the right seat on that bus. So there’s a lot of private equity firms that are constantly saying, hey, I need talent professionals that can evaluate talent within my portfolio companies to make sure I’ve got the right people in those right seats on each and every one of my buses. So if you’ve got talent capabilities and skill sets, I think that’s an area where you can you can be effective. And then the other which we’re seeing a lot of demand in his operations and supply chain. Think Lean Six Sigma type individuals. So you know, if I’m a private equity firm with 25, portfolio companies and I’ve got a lot of manufacturing, I might have 100, warehouses and manufacturing facilities, I need to make sure that those warehouses manufacturing facilities are lean and mean during a downturn. So if you’ve got skill sets or capabilities in those in those particular areas, it can be really, really helpful across every last one of our practices. By far, the hardest position for companies to fill are finance roles, CFOs and FPA leaders. By far the hardest positions for any company to fill, believe it or not, in the world of private equity. CFOs are a lot harder to fill than even a CEO. I know that sounds strange, but CFOs are by far the hardest. This is all a demand and supply imbalance, right? Private equity has grown exponentially over the past decade. Right? Now. If you name any company, right now, any company, I’d probably tell you, there’s a 5050 chance there’s a private equity firm that has at least partial ownership, or some growth equity in that particular organization. Right. So private equity is ubiquitous, now. They’re everywhere. And there just aren’t enough private equity ready CFOs to go around. So if you if you are a finance person, or if you’ve ever thought of becoming a finance person, I will tell you the world is your oyster. Even right now, that example that I gave earlier, we literally saw a counteroffer for someone for 40% increase just to keep them that company knows going and trying to replace that individual, so hard to do. Right? So finance and finance in particular is easily the area where where we see the most the most demand. Maybe one of the things that I’ll just mention everybody is that if I was an independent consultant freelance consultant, if you will, what would I do? What would I be doing right now the first thing that I would do is, is specialize, right, I would choose a couple of things that I do really, really well and commit to those things as my specialties. That many of you, I suspect that the demand was so high for your services of the last two years that companies were saying, It’s okay, if you’ve never done it before, if you’re a smart enough person, you’ll figure it out. Right? You’ll figure this out. When the market when we see a downturn, all of that generalist type expertise tends to be less demand for that, and a lot more demand for your specialties. Right. So these things need to be like your true special, what are those things that you can do in your sleep, they might be stuff that you get kind of bored doing, because it’s really not a challenge for you. I hate to say it boring is probably pretty good and recessionary times, because it means you’re a true expert at it. You know, in those up markets, companies are more willing to roll the dice, it’s more acceptable for a project to fail. And some companies they reward failures, right way to go, thanks for trying types up, not in a down market, right people get fired for spending money that doesn’t yield a return in a down market. And because of that generalists tend to struggle in a down market, right. So you need to really pick those expertise, those areas of expertise, where you can do the stuff in your sleep. And then the second piece is just market yourself aggressively as a specialist in those three areas. And this is this is hard to do. Because in a down market, when you need business, right? The tendency is to maybe go broad, I can do anything you need, right. But in reality, I just don’t think companies want to hire a generalist when they need a specialist, especially, you know, in a time like this, right? If they’re going to spend money or justify the spending of money, they have to know that those dollars are going to yield a really strong return. And they know that they’re going to yield a strong return if they hire an expert, right? And so as much as you can quantify, in your marketing pitch, I would write so, you know, I would say something like, Hey, what I do my specialty is I help companies improve their procurement savings. Right, the last three companies I’ve worked with, I’ve saved an average of 17% from the contracts I’ve negotiated for them, something like that. Right? That’s an easy one procurements an easy one to kind of quantify. But I would I would try to quantify as much as you can. My core message on all this is specialize and kiss a lot of frogs. Right, you’ll land. If you do that. I think you’ll you’ll keep yourself busy. On that front. My team, I’m happy to let me pause. And I’ll go back to answering questions. But will if there’s anything else I can I can help with as well.
Will Bachman 32:31
Well, Chad, you’ve shared a bit about how the consulting firms are down in terms of their demand. Could you give us a perspective about when you are looking to hire former consultants for full time jobs outside of consulting firms in place? Former consultants? Where are you seeing demand for those kinds of skill sets?
Chad Oakley 32:51
Yeah. So the good news is, and I really do mean, this is we’re seeing demand a steady level of demand across all industries. So we’re not necessarily seeing any specific industry that is that is outperforming others. Actually, you know what, let me take that back just a little bit. Right. So areas where we’re seeing kind of more consistent demand would be places like insurance, insurances, recessionary proof industry, they’re constantly, you know, thinking, how do we innovate? How do we grow? And so insurance companies are steady, right in their, in their hiring source, where we’re seeing less demand is consumer facing and retail. Right. Even though retail, certainly on the grocery side is is is inflationary, or recession proof, right? Specialty Retail is really going to batten down the hatches in a time like this, right? So there’s going to be very little hiring that will take place in in those particular areas. Industrial we tend to see steady demand. In general financial services, healthcare and life science, we see steady demand. So those areas tend to continue to need great talent. But well, let me I’ll mention this. In these first five months or four months of this year, we’ve written 30% fewer searches than we did during the same period last year. So in general, the market is just down by keep in mind last year was probably the greatest year, right for most recruiting firms. So it’d be 30% down coming off your ratios, not not the end of the world. But hey, it’s gonna it’ll be a down year for just recruiting in general. And we were we follow a similar cadence to what you have for consulting services as well. What that means is you just have to you just have to crank up your marketing engine even even more. Right. Whereas the phone rang off the hook last year, not gonna ring as much this year. We’ve got to, we got to do the outbound calling, just like I’m assuming you guys want to do as well.
Will Bachman 34:56
Chad recognizing it’s tough to predict the future What just given the indications that you’re seeing and your past experience, you suggested that we should prepare for tougher times ahead, before it gets better? What’s your kind of intuition around how things might play out over the next six to 12? Months? Yeah.
Chad Oakley 35:18
I’ll be honest with you, I’m kind of bracing for it to be worse than I hope worse. And I and I think part of that is because in the last week, I have been in, I’ve sat in on live in person conferences, one with Henry Kravis, who you all may know, is one of the most part of KKR, founder of KKR, one of the most successful private equity investors in the history of mankind. He said last week, in the meeting that I was at, the United States is currently on the beach, enjoying the sun, and I have no idea the tidal wave that is about that, yes. Which is not a great statement or analogy, but that made me nervous. The other was just yesterday, I was in a conference in a economist from 13. D was there and said, there, they believe it’s going to be a very hard landing. And I respect those guys a lot they do, they do great research. And so I think I’m gonna be a little bit nervous about it. And I think the people that crank up their business development and marketing engine now are going to be in the best position to thrive during during the next, you know, the next six to eight months. So my guess is that between now and one year from now, if we’re going to be we’re gonna have to get scrappy everybody. And so that I will tell you that our team, it is easily the primary topics that we talked about where we’ve got right now, at this very moment in time, we have 119 retain searches that we’re working on. At the peak of last year, we were at 155. So we’ve gone from 155 219, we are working our tail off on landing new searches, and I suspect we definitely go below 100 This year, on the searches we’re working on. So even working our tail off, we’re expecting, you know, that that the number of searches we work on will drop. By the way. Eric, I saw Eric pepper, I saw that you your question, was looking at the list of opportunities on the chosen website. Impressed by the extent are these all active searches? The answer is yes. There’s no searches list on our website that are not active open searches that we’re working on right this second. So just so you know. So I don’t, I don’t know if all of them get listed. There are some searches where we actually don’t list them. Because we get inundated by applications. And we we want to reply to everybody. And we just can’t do it. There’s too many. But I suspect that the majority of the 119 are, are listed there.
Will Bachman 37:51
So we’ve had a couple questions about other geographies outside the US. I think your firm is primarily focused on the US. But what insights can you share, if any on going to Europe, Asia? What? What you think is going on in those geographies?
Chad Oakley 38:05
Yeah, well, good question. So Charles Harris is the US affiliates of an international consortium of search firms that goes by the name of inner search. So we represent the US. And there’s, we have partners and 50 other countries, we just had our annual meeting in Colombia, in South America last month, and my brother who is our Chief Operating Officer attended that. And the feedback from the international countries was similar in nature, right. In general. You know, I think the same goes that if the, you know, the US sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold, you know, type of thing. And I think that’s definitely what the international countries were saying. And so you know, I think it’s going to be a tough year globally, frankly, for organizations. And I hate that I’m, I don’t want it to people to feel like I’m being this doomsday individual. It’s I don’t think we’re going into a depression. But I think we’re going into a recession. And, you know, hey, when you go into recession, you need to have recession playbook. And you need to you need to execute on it. If you do that, you’ll be fine. But if we’re if you’re waiting around for the phone to ring like it did last year, that’s not a strategy that I would I would encourage it. All right, I would say implement your your, your recession playbook. But I think the I think internationally is going to be a tough year to I don’t think any part of the I don’t think any part of the world is gonna go on stage here. Unfortunately,
Will Bachman 39:36
Chad, Claire asked a question, and several other people as well. What insights do you have in terms of fee levels? Are you seeing the consulting firms reducing their salaries or reducing their fees to clients in this environment?
Chad Oakley 39:51
Yeah, so we have not seen we’ve not we’re definitely seeing a reduction in the offers that can consulting firms are making to the next crop of answer we’re seeing slightly lower compensation but not low, sorry, not lower than the class before, right. So the compensation is going up but at a decreasing rate, right. But compensation continues to go up but at a decreasing rate. Fees wise, you know, Bain BCG and McKinsey will hold their fees steady as they possibly can, for a long time, where we see them make adjustments. They will add more consultants, to existing projects to keep their team busy, and to help with learning. So they’ll say things like, pay, we’re not lowering our fees. If you work with us, we’re not going to lower our fee, but we’ll double the size of the team. And we’ll do some extra stuff for you on the side, right, we tend to see that, if you will, if the recession gets really, really bad, yes, we will see a reduction in fees. I do not believe here. Here’s what if I was an independent consultant that had specialty capabilities for which I was a true expert and I could do that work in my sleep, I would not lower my fees, I would simply get out there and kiss more frogs to find those organizations that need my services. And that would value those services. Right. So lowering of the fees would be my last resort, we we have not even hinted at lowering our fees, that shows errors hadn’t even come up at the top. Right. So and I don’t foresee that happening in the in the near future. I believe this You just gotta kiss more frogs to find the business that will gladly pay your fees and valuing. Same time.
Will Bachman 41:33
We’ve had a couple of requests about specific areas. Wendy asked about the data science market and Francisca asked about ESG sustainability.
Chad Oakley 41:43
Yep. Data science, you know, oh, my gosh, the amount of attention that’s being played to AI, which is a part, you know, kind of a part of data science is this huge data science. If I if I had, well, I have three kids. But if my kids were probably more politically minded, I would say, oh, my gosh, data science is a no lose career choice. Over the next 10 years. Ai Of course, right? If you’re an expert in AI, you can do anything you want. That’s the same kind of demand that you would see for finance, great finance, talent. So those areas, absolutely huge amounts of demand. ESG is harder, and ESG is harder, because it’s unfortunate that I think this is the case. But for a lot of companies ESG is a luxury. Right? It is not at the heart or the core of their business. It should be I think we would all agree that it should be and it is becoming more of that over time. But ESG is an area where with a recession, we’re going to see companies downplay their focus on ESG. And downplay the amount of investments that they will make on ESG. Because at the end of the day, they’ve got investors and those investors expect profit and ESG sometimes can be a cost center. So cost centers in general are going to slow down and unfortunately, ESG is likely to be one of them.
Will Bachman 43:13
Have you seen any boutique consulting firms, in particular, perhaps in some industry or functional niche that are actually doing great?
Chad Oakley 43:23
Yes. Those that you know, there are some consulting firms that are experts in finance. And if companies cannot hire enough FPN a talents, they will absolutely outsource those capabilities to consulting firms. So there are a handful of boutique finance consulting firms that are busy really busy now, almost all the consultants that they hire, or maybe a CPA or have spent a lot of time and money, so the course of their career, but that that for sure. I would also say that just data science in general will, as you know, we’ve called you to say, well, I need some data science assistance, right? We need some assistance with survey data and things like that you’ve been great to steer me to a couple of your people really appreciate that. And, and so I think, you know, big data, absolutely, you’ll see demand for that. And then of course, anything in AI, you’re gonna you’re gonna see areas of that as well. And there’s, there’s always going to be pockets, right? Like, I mean, you know, healthcare companies, you know, providers, hospital systems and things like that. They are always struggling with, you know, how do we get paid faster? Right, if you’ve got capabilities or skill sets that can help hospital systems to find a way to get paid faster? Yes, you will always your services are always going to be in demand. Right? So there’s always gonna be those little niches that you can find in certain industries. But broadly speaking, those are the areas I would say we definitely see. Chad, you have a
Will Bachman 44:53
self selected population on this call that’s primarily interested in you know, independent consulting and projects but some people we’ll be considering stepping back into a full time role. What are your suggestions for people in terms of how to best interact with a retained search firm like yours? What’s the best way to get on a radar screen of a firm like yours and to be a great candidate that would get noticed?
Chad Oakley 45:19
Yeah. Well, thank you. That’s a great question. So the one thing to keep in mind everybody is that, as awesome as you are, right, as great as you are, all of the demand from for me comes from companies. Right? And so I will tell you guys, I talk with absolute rock stars in their field every single day that I can’t place. And the reason why I can’t is because it just doesn’t happen to align with the 119 searches that our firm is actively working on right now. Do we get those individuals on our radar screen so that we can reach out to them when the 120 of search shows up? And it happens to be a perfect fit for them? Absolutely. Right, an executive search firm is only as good as their database and their ability to mine it. And we’re really good at that. We have to be good at that. Right? So what I would say is, you really don’t have to do much to just make sure you’re on an executive search firms radar screen, send your resume, I promise you that resume is getting into their system. Right? Every resume that comes to us absolutely gets loaded into the system. The point is, a lot of times people say, Hey, listen, can I get to 10 minutes of your time, can I get 30 minutes of your time just to walk you through my background tell you what I’m looking for all kinds of stuff. That is really hard to do. Right? I, you know, a recruiters like me, even in a even when no one’s looking even in a candidate driven market like we had last year, I could fill my day talking to individuals that would like to speak to me about their career. And unfortunately, there’s just not that I literally have to dedicate that time to the search work into the clients that are better paying us. So in other words, send your information in. But don’t, don’t be disappointed if a recruiting firm or a recruiter says I’m so sorry, I can’t, I can’t spend time with you, I know that your information is on their radar screen, and then try your best to put as much in your email that says this is what I’m looking for. Because not only will we upload your resume, and it becomes searchable, aka things, but if you say I’m looking for something in financial services, in marketing, in this region of the country, that all gets added to your profile. Right. And so that way as those opportunities presents itself, the first place we do is we go right to our internal database, we say Who do we know, who do we interface with in the past, that we think could be a potential fit for this. So it’s really you don’t have to do much. And I think sometimes people over concern themselves with I haven’t talked to Chad, so therefore I’m not on Chad’s radar screen. That’s not that’s not the case, I promise you, you send me your resume, you’re gonna be on our radar screen. Also remember this, this is actually incredibly important. We are one of the we are the 30th. I think last year, the 29th. Last year, we’re the 29th largest executive search firm in the country by revenue. Okay. And last year, we completed 265 searches. There’s 330 million people in the United States. And we placed 265 of them. In other words, the likelihood that you get placed by an executive search firm is pretty low. Right? At the end of the day, I’m not saying don’t, don’t do that don’t get on the radar screen of executive search firms do you should. But never rely on that as your way to advance your career. The number one mechanism by which you advance your career to your next job is through you. Just through your polite persistence through you getting in front of individuals through your networking for yourself. So I also always want to share that within the videos. Trust me, I would love to play. Yes, it would be fantastic. But I also want to be realistic about what what the market will bear. Chad,
Will Bachman 49:09
you mentioned earlier suggested that we you know, consider and look into doing work in private equity firms and their portfolio companies. And Dwayne asked a question about how to do that. Recently, I was speaking to a partner at a private equity firm. And his advice to me was, I get pitched, this is a P firm talking all the time by consultants seeking to do work with our portfolio companies. But honestly, the best way to get embedded with us is to do work for one of our portfolio companies first and have them you know, say what a great job you did. So you should really be spending your time doing BD with the portfolio companies. And then you can maybe spread horizontally. What are your thoughts around how to approach and get work with private equity firms and their portfolio companies?
Chad Oakley 49:55
Yeah, that’s a great question and I want to I’m not going to say that that private equity individual is, is incorrect, because there’s absolutely some truth to what they’re saying. But that does not mean that I would give up on trying to approach the private equity professionals at the firm level, either, right? As I mentioned before, you know, if I’m, if I work for a private equity firm, either on the deal side, or if I’m on the in the portfolio team, my job is to know what the value creation plan is for that company. And to know how I’m going to realize it. And that value creation plan includes a little bit of everything, right? In some cases, we’re trying to grow revenue. In other cases, we’re trying to reduce costs, right, or improve efficiencies, whatever it might be. Right. So I should have a view on what that portfolio company is absolutely trying to accomplish. And therefore, I’m, it’s all it’s all about timing. Right. I mean, you know, just like anything else in life, right? If you happen to be that procurement experts who helps companies save money on their contracts, you know, that there’s a certain portion of companies that are struggling with that, right, the second, it’s just a matter of who, right, the only way to figure that out is to get yourself out there and to just those frogs, right. So I would absolutely be sending those emails to those private equity individuals. And I would say something like, you know, in my, you know, the title of your email matters. It absolutely matters, right? If I’m sending like, every once awhile, I’ve got a private equity client, and I’m trying to tease them a little bit with what I have for them. Right. So I don’t just say, I’ll just email them and say, executive recruiter would like to talk. I mean, John, oh, my gosh, how many executive recruiters out there want to talk? Right? So they’re not going to say that what I will say is McKinsey top bucket performer, specifically interested in this portfolio company. So and So healthcare, right. So they see that they go, Okay, someone from McKinsey, specifically interested in this portfolio company, likely to get them to open that email, right? And then I say, Hey, this is who I am, this is what I do. Check. I’ve got a teaser, a little bit of a profile. I’ve got a McKinsey individual, top bucket performer for the last five years, all in healthcare, ready to make a change, once private equity, specifically mentioned your company, would you like to talk? Right? And that’s often usually you’ll get someone who says, Hey, Chad, great candidate, great profile, not right for that. But what about for over this over here? Any chance that person might have said this over here? And now the dialogue is starting? Right? So I’ll encourage you all to think similarly, right? About? You know, you might say something like saving 12% at blink company, right? Something that’s going to get them to say, what is this, right, and then you say, This is what I do, this is how I do it, I could do it for this, or I’ve done it for other organizations like this, and I can do it for you that type of thing. But that title, structure really, really matters. And that’s when that email, a lot of quantifiable things. By the way, private equity firm, you know, historically chose zeros, we lived on the telephone. Private equity is very specific, like a lot of private equity folks communicate via email. So I would send an email. Three days later, I’d send the exact same email, it’s for the exact same email, just wanted to bring this back to the top of your inbox because I know you’re busy. And then the next week, I’m picking up the phone, I’m making a phone call. And basically, hearing your voice can be important for them to realize this is a professional, a normal individual who really can help. Right, so hearing your voice can be very important in that as well. But that kind of go email, email, phone call, with the mind board of operations there to try to give a shout out to friends. And at the same time, we’ll, I would also learn about that private equity firms, portfolio companies, which are always on their website, go to any private equity firm, there’s all their portfolio companies listed. And I would be reaching out to those private equity firms as well. Keep in mind, the CEO of that private equity firm is in lockstep with the private equity firm, or the CEO of that portfolio companies in lockstep with the private equity firm, they are all about value creation plan, value creation plan, value creation plan, they know what they’ve got to accomplish. So they need to save money, and you can help them save money, that CEO is going to pay attention to it as well, or the CFO, or whoever it is that you were, you know, your service would target within the business.
Will Bachman 54:09
For someone who’s been an independent consultant for some period of time, you know, a year, two years, several years. And if they’re interested in going back and taking a full time role, what are some ways that you can make sure you’re positioning your experience as an independent consultant appropriately? You know, some companies may be enlightened and and see that it’s been a valuable entrepreneurial individual, some companies, maybe not so much. So how could people on this call present themselves and make sure you’re, you know, articulating that you weren’t just unemployed, but you are, you know, lightly employed, but that have the value
Chad Oakley 54:47
that you can deliver? Yeah, well, it’s a great question. So again, I’ll kind of go back to what I mentioned earlier, which is specialty, right. mainstay, you know, If all of you are going to be experienced, or what we call what consulting firms will call experienced hires, right, they have new hires, which are coming off of campus, right, undergrad or MBA schools, whatever it is. But consulting firms always add experienced hires as well. But they own they don’t add any experience hires as generalists. Right, they’re not going to do that. They’re only going to add individuals, when they bring a specific skill set to the table that they’re trying to add within their business either grow, because they already have a practice, they want to make it larger, or it’s a net new. And so they don’t like if you go in saying, Hey, I’m a smart individual who can do just about anything that’s never gonna fly. Right? You have to go in. And you have to say, I do these two things exceptionally well. And by the way, look at these 510, whatever number of companies that have done this exact thing with in the last couple of years, and if you’d like to talk to them about how awesome I am, I’m happy to make that introduction, right? Are you trying to add to this practice to I would think that this would be a capability to practice that you all at XYZ firm would like to do more? Right? So you’ve got to, you’ve got to say, I’m an expert in this, I can bring that expertise to you. I can demonstrate that expertise. Based on the history, my history and my capabilities with plenty of people that will swear by me is kind of the key. That’s how you’ll get this. That’s how you’ll you’ll get back into or get back to a broader firm.
Will Bachman 56:17
Amazing, Jen, I want to wrap this up with a question for everyone. So come to the top of the hour. And I’ll observe that we started with 97 I think participants and we have 96 Now, which indicates that people were very engaged and appreciate what you had to say, if everyone before you hop off, if you could put in the chat. What was one thing that you heard from Chad today, that was you know, challenging, or surprising or insightful or helpful. It’s always very valuable for a speaker to hear what resonated or was helpful to the audience. So if everyone could just do that, we will, it’s always useful and chat. I’ll get these. I’ll send these to you from the chat. So I’m hearing focus versus generalist specialization, kissing more frogs? email, email, phone call being a sequence of specialists a lot of specialization. Don’t lower your price, but sharpen your expertise. Adams’s this was helpful. On Yes. Also specialization. You’re seeing these, any of these fries? You
Chad Oakley 57:26
know, it’s great. I mean, I think guys are good listeners. And I so appreciate you letting me opine on topics that I’m incredibly passionate about. And I just love and I, the good news is not a lot of people are saying this downturn is going to be because I don’t want to be a doomsday guy
Will Bachman 57:50
or leader. Alright. So Chad, thank you so much. This was fantastic. I really appreciate you joining us today. And we will make sure that everyone has your your link to Charles heiress. So if you want to sign up for your periodic notes on the practice as well as the compensation survey, that is the industry leading compensation survey for consultants, Chad, thank you so much for joining us today.
Chad Oakley 58:20
Yeah, my pleasure. This compensation says will be great benchmarks for you. And also if you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll just see what people are hiring in the marketplace that will also be given for you as well. My pleasure. Well, thanks so much as always for the opportunity. Really appreciate it. Everybody be we’ll talk soon.
Thanks, everyone for joining