In 2009, I was working for Yahoo! as an executive recruiter and sourcer. I’d been with Yahoo! for nearly four years and loved the company, the work, and my colleagues, many of whom I considered (and still do) friends. But as the year wore on, it became obvious layoffs were imminent, and I knew my number would be called. The day I was finally laid off, I left Yahoo! with my severance and a smile. After years of being told I should, I was off to start my own company—recruiting my way, on my terms. Two weeks later, IQTalent Partners was born.
I know what I’m good at and I know what I’m not. Knowing that I didn’t have the business or financial acumen needed to manage a company, I asked an old friend from Vanderbilt, Tom Milic, to be my “grown-up” and essentially, to be my boss. At the time, Tom was in Chicago working in investment banking by day and spending his nights and weekends working for IQTalent Partners.
18 months later, Tom was able to leave the investment banking world and take a leap of faith to join me full-time at IQTalent Partners. I remember thinking that if one of my most trusted friends saw the potential for this to grow, we really could build something.
PLANTING A SEED IN NASHVILLE
For nearly a decade, I’d been volunteering in the career center of my alma mater, Vanderbilt University. In 2012, I had a skype interview scheduled with a recent alumnus to help him with his job search. We talked through what he had done to date and planned various strategies on how to follow up on the opportunities in which he was interested. As we were finishing the call, he mentioned that he’d applied to a few recruiter positions at one of the large firms. Considering I owned my own search firm, I asked him why he hadn’t told me this information at the beginning of our interview! After he explained the many reasons he was interested in recruiting, I realized he was aligned with the corporate culture I envisioned for IQTalent Partners and recognized that he had the skills to succeed in this industry. I offered him a position with IQTP on the spot. Judson Lancina was our first Nashville employee, and seven years later, Judson has grown into an invaluable leader within the firm.They realized the traditional #recruiting model was ripe for disruption and they did something about it. Take a look at @IQTalent's road to 10 years!Click to Tweet
After we hired Judson, Tom and I found a handful of other Vanderbilt graduates to join the recruiting revolution, and we were off and running. While I knew we were approaching recruiting differently by developing lasting relationships with our clients and our candidates, I recognized that the industry was changing. More companies were building out their own recruiting and talent acquisition functions in-house, and they were less inclined to spend a huge portion of their budget on an expensive outside search firm. These companies still needed recruiting assistance; they were often understaffed, and hiring would come in spurts when the talent acquisition department would be overwhelmed and inefficient. That’s when I had my “lightbulb” moment.
THE ON-DEMAND MODEL
We realized the traditional recruiting model was ripe for disruption. Why did a third party firm have to have a retained, guaranteed contract with a company or receive a commission-based fee, calculated by the salary of the person hired for a position, regardless of the amount of work it took to fill the role? Why couldn’t companies just hire recruiting help when they needed it and pay for the services they used? Companies hired other professional services firms by the hour, like attorneys, accountants, and consultants; why not recruiters? And just like that, our on-demand, hourly billing model was born.
In 2014, we rolled out our new business model, and the potential was incredible. That year, we hired our first (and only) CEO, David Windley. David was the CHRO at Yahoo while I was there, and I’d recently contacted him about a role for one of my clients at the time. Ultimately, he wasn’t interested in that particular position, but he was intrigued by what we were doing at IQTalent Partners and our hourly, on-demand business model. He joined our Advisory Board, and after a year of helping us hone our idea into a professional services model, he wanted to take his involvement to the next level.
Tom and I knew our limits, and we saw David’s vision for the firm and for our industry-disrupting model. With his leadership and business acumen, he took the helm as CEO, and we grew from a 12 person startup to over 60 employees with more than 200 clients in less than 4 years.
We had two fully functioning offices, one in San Jose, CA and one in Nashville, TN. The on-demand, scalable, and adaptable recruiting business model we created was helping companies worldwide find great talent in a cost-efficient and effective way.
July 2019 marks IQTalent Partners’ 10th anniversary. Our official headquarters is now located in Nashville, TN, and we are no longer a small startup from Silicon Valley. We’ve incorporated, and we have nearly 180 employees, with experts in every field and function. Our client list is nearing 300 global companies from startups to Fortune 500 firms, across five continents. We were named a Hunt Scanlon Top 50 Search Firm and listed as the number one recruiting firm in Nashville by the Nashville Business Journal.
While I’m certainly thrilled by the firm’s awards and growth, I’m most proud of the relationships we’ve built. From clients to employees to candidates, I genuinely care about the people with whom we work. Our clients trust our consistent quality performance, and our employees rarely turn over. We have a corporate culture where we collaborate as a team, produce effective results for our clients, and still have fun in and out of the office. While we strive for greatness, we don’t compete against one another. Instead, we celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Between our clients, our candidates, and our employees, we’ve truly created lasting partnerships. Finally, we really are IQTalent Partners.
Tom and I set out to build something. We didn’t know what would happen. There were a lot of changes and challenges over the past 10 years, but neither of us would do anything differently. We’ve learned from our mistakes. We’ve learned from our clients. We’ve learned from each other. The first 10 years have been so much fun; we can’t wait to see what the next 10 will bring!