Recruiting firm keep focus
to weather the tough times
Sunday, February 22, 2009
By Jessica Harding (Contact)
— It’s not part of her normal job, but
Sheila Greco, a recruiter with her own company in
Amsterdam, is finding herself doing more and more
The Amsterdam native
doesn’t mind. She started as a career counselor
in New York City, so she knows how to help people
spruce up their resume and actively search for jobs.
“I have no problem helping people do that,”
company, Sheila Greco and Associates, which employs
roughly 30 people, is working its way though the third
recession in its history. Greco said the company was
going strong throughout 2008 until September, when
things halted. “It was like a light switch,”
Sheila Greco of Sheila Greco Associates
poses in her Amsterdam office.
The human resource industry
began to see smaller organizations go out of business, mostly
mom and pop operations that focused on a particular industry
— especially those that focused on the financial industry.
“The strong will survive, and in this business that
seems to be the case,” Greco said.
Anna Brekka, senior director of Kennedy Information, a New
Hampshire-based organization with offices in New York City
that follows and trains the recruiting industry, said recruiting
companies that do executive recruiting, such as Greco’s,
have said that the last quarter of 2008 was tough and they
are expecting 2009 to be tougher. Brekka said the industry
has experienced a 12 percent increase in the last five years,
but it is impossible to tell what will happen in the future
because companies don’t assess themselves yearly.
Need for executives
Most C-level employees —
CEO, CFO, COO and so on — move within two to three
years, Brekka said, so recruiting for those positions is
still going strong, but recruiting for nearly all other
positions is tough in this economy. Brekka said many companies
are experiencing hiring freezes; however, most companies
can’t operate for long without a C-level employee.
“Certain positions that you can’t operate without,
that doesn’t change,” Brekka said. Recruiters
that recruit for just one industry are especially vulnerable,
Brekka said, and while boutique operations are going under,
larger recruitment companies are also flailing.
Global recruiting firm Heidrick and Struggles recently cut
their work force by 15 percent, she said.
Greco currently has 2,100 clients worldwide. Her 30 employees
often work nights assisting clients along the Asia-Pacific
rim. Her firm specializes in pharmaceutical, health care
and retail industries, and her clients include Nike, Sears,
Wal-Mart and Deloitte and Touche.
Greco worked in New York
City before returning to her hometown to start her own company
“I had no idea that the company would be like this,”
she said. Sheila Greco and Associates has four main branches:
research, recruitment, competitive intelligence and the
company’s special executive tracker.
Greco said she started researching potential employees for
clients and generating databases of qualified people. The
company now has seven databases. She then got into recruiting
people for her clients. From there she began to work with
her clients to study their competition. She now has her
specialized SGA tracker, which is a database that tracks
executives in 1,100 publicly traded companies.
While Greco said she doesn’t
have any Capital Region clients, she is negotiating with
two health care companies and is trying to work with Beech-Nut.
“We’re always making changes so we succeed,”
Greco said. “We want to come out of this strong.”
This is the third recession that Sheila Greco and Associates
has had to weather in its 20-year history. Greco said her
motto in times like this is “under promise and over
Greco does see a silver lining amid this recession for her
industry. In hard times, Greco believes it is more important
than ever for businesses to have the best possible people,
and clients will turn to her to seek them out. “There
are a lot of people out on the street right now so companies
are looking at the competition to pluck out their A players
and get rid of their B players,” she said.
In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting
that jobs in human resources and recruitment will increase
by 17 percent, faster than average, through 2016. As baby
boomers retire, it is predicted that there will be an increase
in demand for people to replace them, which will increase
the demand for people to look for and train potential employees.
For now, however, Greco said her company is surviving by
making practical business and personal choices.
In running her business,
Greco tries to work like Jack Welch, the former CEO of General
Electric, who cut the bottom 10 to 20 percent of his work
force at the end of the year. “At times like this
you really need utility players. You cannot have people
that can do only one thing,” she said. She said she’s
not sugarcoating the situation for her employees, either.
“Small companies are like a family, as most companies
are, and they have to believe in you and trust in you,”
she said. Greco is also reducing her fixed costs including
renegotiating contracts — especially those for health
insurance. She is in what she called “hunker down
mode” and thinking cautiously about every decision
she makes. “I always pretend I’m poor, I always
work like I’m just starting out and I always give
it 110 percent,” Greco said.