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My friend and ace executive recruiter Harry Joiner (aka the Marketing Headhunter) has a saying in the talent business (and I'm paraphrasing):

"The right candidate (which is what Harry provides in the e-commerce space) to fill your open spot will be so good that my $30-40K fee will be lost in the rounding of the value that he/she will create for you."Aints

What Harry's saying is that you're too focused on the recruiting fee.  Don't worry about the fee.  Worry about finding someone exceptional, and the fee, once a sizable concern, becomes a distant, almost laughable object in your rear-view mirror as your department/team/company kicks #$$ and takes names from the talent upgrade.

Before you start whining about something pedestrian, let's keep this strategic.  Let's talk about how organizations can turn it all around by getting on a roll with a key hire, who in turn keeps the momentum going by hiring more people with exceptional talent.

Let's talk about the New Orleans Saints.  The New Orleans Saints were as low as you can go in 2006, a franchise playing in a city dealing with post-Katrina issues that make parts of Iraq look like suburbs.  Somehow in the midst of all that humanity they were able to hire Sean Payton as their coach.  Once Payton came in, he made a great call to sign free agent Drew Brees, who was coming off a completely torn-up shoulder and was thought by many to be done as a quarterback in the NFL.

The signing of Brees was a great talent acquisition for the Saints, and Brees become the backbone for an incredible turnaround for the Saints.  But that's not the most outlandish talent grab that Sean Payton made in the years leading up to the Super Bowl.

No, Payton proved that paying for the right talent represents a rounding error compared to the value the right talent creates.  When faced with hiring a leader for his defensive unit and being told by the Saints brass that his target (a coach named Gregg Williams) was too expensive, Payton said "what the hell" and offered up around 10% of his own salary to help sign Williams.  More from NBC Sports:

"In January of 2009, Sean Payton coughed up a quarter of a million dollars so that the Saints could afford to hire his preferred choice of defensive coordinators, Gregg Williams.  After winning Super Bowl XLIV, Payton joked in an appearance on NFL Network that he gave up the money under the influence, and woke up having second thoughts. "I had a few beers in me," Payton said. "Woke up the next morning, and my wife said, 'What?'"

But on a serious note, Payton said that what it all boiled down to was, "It'd be a shame to lose a good coach over $250,000."  Payton added, "I just wanted to make sure ownership, and the General Manager Mickey Loomis knew that this is who we needed."

As it turned out, ownership became so convinced that Williams was who the Saints needed that they repaid Payton the $250,000 he gave up."

As a result of the bravado of fronting his own money to hire the right person en route to winning a Super Bowl, Payton has guaranteed that his career as a NFL coach will net millions, if not tens of millions, in additional salary.

What about you, buckaroo?  Are you willing to front your own money to get the right person on your team?


Paul Hebert

Wow.... I dream of the day that $250K becomes a rounding error.

But seriously, what kind of loyalty signal this sent to not only Williams - but to the team in total. Here's a coach who believes in us and is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Thanks for sharing Kris.


I agree with Paul. What a signal to send to everyone in the organization and a foundation to lay for the rest of the season.

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