I don’t believe most businesses are planned. At least, KAS Placement (my business) wasn’t.
There were certain seeds that were planted almost unbeknownst to me at the time, but hindsight shows that they were truly crucial to my career, the careers of the employees at KAS, and those of our job seekers and our clients.
During college I took an unpaid internship at a brokerage house where I was assigned a cold-call list (from where, I do not know) of VPs at companies in Florida. My job was purely to see if one of the Series 7 brokers at our firm might send them out some equity research and follow up with them a month later.
Within a week and a half, I got to the point of stirring up enough interest from these people to pass them directly to a broker rather than having to wait that month‚ sort of like that movie “Boiler Room“, just not as cool.
Selling was a natural practice for me. Within a month, that unpaid internship turned paid, about $13 an hour, which was pretty good for me being the only paid intern in the office.
Within two years, my boss there was my own stockbroker. After the financial internship, I took an internship at a great company by the name of FivePoints Compliance in New York’s Chinatown.
This was three years after the Dot Com bubble burst, and the tech office complex we worked in was half empty. With a corporate gym only half full of equipment that wasn’t properly cleaned, the whole building had a Boulevard of Broken Dreams feel.
FivePoints was great, as they paid me $15 an hour plus commissions, taught me to use a basic CRM system, and gave me a more business-to-business understanding of cold-calling and inside sales. Within a month, I landed a 3 year / $18,000 deal from a cold-call.
But even given the experience and the money (which was a lot for a college kid), the absolute best part about working at FivePoints was the people. It was a small company and I got to see how a small company operated. The takeaways I got from simply analyzing their business model was worth well over the $15/hour.
I was all set to stay there after graduation until I was offered an outside sales job for $45,000 by a company based out of the Midwest. I would be working remotely, from home, and making calls around their New York City territory.
What they did, interest-wise, was on par with selling tickets to watch paint dry, but since they were paying so relatively much, why not?
Ironically, it was during this interview and offer process that I first came in contact with a recruiter. I had no idea what or who the person was or what a recruiter was.
She kept setting up appointments for me to interview with this company, which I found confusing because she did not work for this company and was only in the office three days a week.
Either way, I took the job and within three or four days, I realized that I made a big mistake. I don’t know if they hated their shareholders or what the deal was, but their business plan was just plain awful. In short, they were convinced that paper goods were the future.
As it happens, over the next five years, their stock went from $55 a share to nearly $7 — and we aren’t talking about an investment bank here. I spent the majority of my time at the firm writing letters to the CEO regarding how things could be improved.
Thinking he would never listen to a 24 year old, I mostly threw them in the recycle bin. As I remember, they were good business plans for a 24 year old.
I Got Fired
One day my manager, who was based from another Northeast city, called me early in the morning saying that I needed to get on the phone with two people from HR. Turns out that they were going to fire me. I was forced to resign as I didn’t want a dismissal on my resume.
However bad the company was, I was still devastated. After all, I was young and talented and unemployed in a great economy. I immediately started interviewing. Then, as I was a finalist for a sales role with a really top company, I dropped out of the race.
My mother was speechless and the whole situation scared me, but I figured if I couldn’t align with a corporate setting working remotely, I was going to get slaughtered at this place and its highly formal atmosphere. Starting my own business was really the only option, as doing well in corporate is an art — one that I could never master.
About the same time as all of this was happening, I went to take my girlfriend out to lunch. It was pure coincidence or fate that her office shared an open floor with a recruiting firm.
Sitting in the lobby for 10 minutes or so, I noticed a bunch of overpaid, over-arrogant, yet barely literate individuals barking at job seekers as if they were subhuman.
I remember one kid was literally making six figures.
“Yep,” I realized, “I can compete with those guys.” On my way home I went to Barnes and Noble and happened to pick up a 30-page book on recruiting so I could get a feel for what the contracts were like, etc.
I wish I could say the rest was all history, but that wouldn’t do justice to the amount of leg-work that it took to start my business. In the end, it was worth it.
I love my company and am grateful to my employees, the job seekers who have helped my company, as well as the clients of my firm. For the rest of my career, I want to be a recruiter.
The moral of the story is that great ideas are all around us and the ability to take advantage of them is rampant as well. When you take advantage of these ideas, exploit them to the fullest extent and all your dreams will come true.