2019 Changes and Opportunities

Egret will celebrate its 20th year later this Fall. 20 years!!! We’ve been fortunate to become the industry’s largest and most professional search firm and have been awarded the Forbes Top 250 Executive Recruiting Firms listing for two consecutive years. We’ve seen the industry grow and expand in amazing directions. Just a short list of how things have changed:

1. Technology has fueled new products, new markets, new channels, new people and new opportunities to learn.

2. Skills have changed. Many of our original clients are still clients, but the definitions of the roles in 2019 are significantly different than when we began. The requirement for technology skills is now a mandate; for all positions, at all levels of the organization.

3. Recruiting has changed. When we started, recruiting was focused on name gathering and cold calling into company phone numbers. We started when calling a cell number was considered rude; as it cost the candidate significant expense to answer a call. While we started when job boards were emerging; we chose to not use them…we earned our reputation as a firm that could find talent that wasn’t actively looking or applying to jobs or unemployed. Turns out…we were right; we’ve built thousands of relationships that endure well beyond our initial cold phone call.

4. Recruiting is harder. The pool of talent has changed; there are far fewer people available, relocation is less desirable, the skills required today often require us to look beyond the core talent pool, and the legal landscape has limited the ability to determine financial history and coordinate adequate offers.

5. The market is much bigger. With the expansion of technology into smart systems, IoT, new applications (UV, grow industry, healthcare, sensing and control technology) and new industries to recruit from…it’s like learning a new career, every day.

One thing that has remained largely intact, though…it’s still a rewarding career for us to help a good client attract quality talent and mutually grow. Our approach has always been a commitment to our clients, we will find the right talent through a careful consultative process together. Our results speak for themselves.

My thoughts throughout 2018:

1. Our Distribution and Wire/Cable markets remained solid. 

2. The Lighting industry endured a year fraught with issues: tariffs, trade wars, technology changes, acquisitions and several changes in the major players (GE, Philips, Osram, Cree all had significant changes to their position in the market last year).

3. The Power industry experienced the impacts of tariffs, as well as a decline in incentives for the solar industry and is going through a period of change as DER takes on a larger scope of opportunities. 
While I’m pretty sure the noise in the system hasn’t completely subsided, I do feel that 2019 will represent an interesting year for the electrical industry overall.

And now the future of Egret…

11 years ago, Brooke Ziolo joined Egret, at the very beginning of the Great Recession. While Brooke worked feverishly to build a client base when very few companies were hiring; she honed her skills in Lighting and has become a consistent top performer within Egret. In mid-2018, Brooke was asked to take the leadership of Egret in 2019. Brooke was named President of Egret Consulting Group effective January 1, 2019.

Egret will change, but we have a core group of outstanding performers. Our reach across the electrical industry gives us an unfair advantage over any competitive search firm; we can attract talent from any of our vertical markets and talent that has a strong grasp of the industry: channel partners, manufacturers, distributors, design firms and more. We are subject experts in our vertical markets, and our average tenure for our search professionals is over 11 years. Prudence Thompson joined as a founding member, Pati Kelly has been with Egret for 6 years and Rob, our ‘rookie’, recently celebrated four years. Each recruiter has a strong base of loyal clients who continue to rely on our expertise to help them attract talent.

Brooke has the drive to expand the company. The future of Egret is bright and the vision is clear to continue to add value throughout the industry.
As the founder and original owner of Egret, I will remain with Egret as a board member and an individual contributor. I will devote my time to the things I love to do: Executive Retained Search and oversee the Egret Consulting Services division.

So my prediction for 2019….life is wonderful.

Thank you for your personal help in making Egret a success for nearly 20 years.

Ted Konnerth,Egret Consulting Group’s founder and Chairman of the Board, recruits on a retained basis, helping leaders in the electrical and lighting industry identify their next C and V-level hire. Ted also manages Egret’s Consulting  Services division, assisting clients with Organizational strategy, Channel strategy and Succession planning. To learn how Ted can help your company view his biography, check him out on LinkedIn or email him at tk@egretconsulting.com.

Everyone is a Volunteer

Every one of your employees voluntarily works for you.

David Dye made a great point in his article, Motivate Your Team – Avoid This Mistake: if you truly want to motivate your team, understand that everyone is a volunteer. Every employee you lead, every manager you report to and every coworker you work with voluntarily works. You can’t force people to work beyond the minimum. You can’t force them to be creative, a problem-solver or innovative. 

My mom used to tell me a story about two working men having lunch. The first man turns to the other man, who is disappointed by the contents of his lunch box; and asks, “what is wrong, Joe”, and Joe responds, “peanut butter and jelly sandwich again”. The first man asks, “Joe, why don’t you ask your wife to make you something different?” Joe says, “I am not married I live alone.”

Your employees choose: how they show up each day, how much energy they expend and if they solve or ignore problems. Wages and salary don’t motivate your team but your leadership, culture, clear goals and their own personal motivation does.

When you let your expectations go down, tolerate poor performance and bad behavior; you show your team you don’t care and you won’t achieve your goals. If there is an employee who volunteers their energy and time and strives to do their best but they work with someone who is half-hearted in their efforts and doesn’t care; that hardworking volunteer will quit.

Everyone has a choice and their time is precious. It’s up to you to make it worthwhile for your employees to work for you, your team and the company. Don’t keep making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for yourself, change it is up to you.

Pati Kelly is a contingent and retained recruiter exclusive to the electrical industry with a specialty in Wire and Cable. To learn more about how she can help your company identify and attract talent, check out her biography, view her LinkedIn profile or send her an email at pk@egretconsulting.com.

Emerging Lighting Professionals: Advice

As the third and final blog of the Emerging Lighting Professionals series, here’s the advice lighting firms had for emerging professionals in the lighting industry:

1. Be yourself, understand who you are. Write down your values i.e. helping others, being creative, financial security, etc.; and your interests, for example: what do you pay attention to, what are you curious about and what concerns you? What is your temperament: do you prefer being alone or with other people, do you make decisions based on feeling or facts, and/or do you prefer details or big ideas? Are you a morning person or night owl; when does your energy peak? What are your strengths, skills, abilities and your character strengths? Research different positions and look at job descriptions to see if they align with your notes about yourself.

2. Analyze the different sectors of the industry: manufacturers, specifiers (architectural firms, lighting design firms, MEP firms, etc.), rep agencies and distributors; determine which sector you prefer to be in. Manufacturers handle their own product line and are the product experts. Rep agencies are the middleman of the manufacturers and distributors. They represent many manufacturers products; which can be up to 100 manufacturers or more and they are market specialists, so they know all the distributors and specifiers in their city and which buildings are being built or retrofitted. Distributors stock the products for the manufacturers, so they can quickly ship to job sites. Specifiers are lighting design firms, architects or engineering firms and they design the building and select what products to buy. Specifiers are product agnostic, so they can use any manufacturer’s products they want. They design what the lighting will look like in the space and choose fixtures to create a specific effect.   

3. Find a mentor. Choose someone that’s seasoned and that you admire; ask them if they will be your mentor, take them to lunch or grab coffee; ask for their advice and ask them to hold you accountable. Choose wisely, look for someone that is enthusiastic, passionate, successful and positive. Choosing someone negative will drag you down. 

4. In preparing for an interview, dress and act professionally. Research the company and the industry, read their website, google the company name for other news and research their key employees on LinkedIn. Bring several copies of your resume, a notepad and pen. For lighting design or engineering positions, bring a few copies of your portfolio in both a hard and digital copy. Your portfolio should exemplify your work, whether it’s from school or a job, and give them examples of the work you did to get to that design and be prepared to discuss your process/involvement in creating that design. Be prepared to discuss your accomplishments and skills with examples to support them. Rehearse answering those questions before the interview several times to build up your confidence. Use STAR analysis as a guide:

a. Situation. Backstory, who, what, where, when

b. Task. What was your exact involvement in the situation, what were you assigned to do?

c. Actions. The steps you took to solve the challenge, how you attacked  problems, how did you overcome roadblocks and any unique methods you used?

d. Results. How were things better off because of your actions? What did you learn? Include numbers where you can, for example: increased sales by 10%, came in under budget by 10%, etc.

5. Be patient. You must put in your time; and learn your craft both on the job and on your own. The seemingly mundane details have value and are important to master your craft. I tell my colleagues all the time, we must return to basics when we are in slump/when sales are down; they are what made you who you are today. Exercise those basics until you’ve mastered them. Michael Jordan famously said that “you can practice shooting for 8 hours a day, but if your technique is wrong then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise. If you get away from the fundamentals the bottom will fall out.”

6. Be enthusiastic and passionate about lighting and what you want to do; I hear this from my clients all the time. They are excited about a candidate on paper and when they come in for an interview, the candidate shows no interest or passion. If you’re not passionate or excited about the opportunity, they’ll question your longevity within the company and industry. Frank Bettger said in his book, How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling, “enthusiasm is by far the highest paid quality on earth, probably because it is one of the rarest; yet it is one of the most contagious.” How do you become more passionate and enthusiastic? Act enthusiastically (fake it ‘til you make it), surround yourself with enthusiastic people, focus on what makes you happy and what you are grateful for and take care of yourself physically and mentally (eat well, get enough sleep, exercise). Create a vision board: find pictures that represent your goals, of what makes you happy, things you’d like to buy and/or places you’d like to visit; and hang it somewhere as an everyday reminder.

Here at Egret Consulting, we are always willing to help. Please reach out to us if you have any industry questions or are looking for professional tips at info@egretconsulting.com.

Brooke Ziolo is a contingent and retained executive recruiter working exclusively within the Lighting Industry. To learn more about how she can help your Lighting company, LED company or Lighting Design Firm attract talent, check out her biographyLinkedIn profile or email her at bz@egretconsulting.com.

Brooke Ziolo, President of Egret 2019

Mundelein, IL – Effective January 1, 2019, Brooke Ziolo of Egret Consulting Group, will be President of Egret Consulting Group.

Brooke joined the Egret organization in 2008 as an Executive Recruiter and was named a Partner in 2013. Through Brooke’s recruiting success, she was inducted into the Pinnacle Society, the premier consortium of industry-leading recruiters in North America. She’s a member of Women in Lighting Design (WILD), IES and IALD. Brooke will continue to provide contingent and retained recruiting services for both lighting manufacturers and lighting design firms. Ted Konnerth will remain as Chairman of the Board of Egret.

Egret Consulting Group is entering its 20th year in business and proudly providing top services, earning its nomination on Forbes 250 Best Executive Recruiting Firms in 2017 and 2018.

For more information, please contact Allyson Raymundo, Marketing Coordinator, at ar@egretconsulting.com or (847) 320-1295.

Fallacy of Commissions

We’ve helped scores of clients identify quality sales talent over our 19 years of success. Our clients have a broad range of compensation models to support attracting sales talent;

● Fixed salary with bonuses tied to: individual sales, regional sales, company sales, company profits, etc.

● Salary with commission tied to: gross sales, incremental sales, GM’s, profits, etc.

● Commissions only; draw-based, or purely 1099 based, etc.

The underlining challenge is to attempt to create a compensation model that rewards high performers for their efforts. But ultimately there has to be a balance between paying a thoroughbred a disproportionately higher percent of their efforts versus the support staff surrounding them that has to manage that volume of business: inside sales, quotes, designers, technical staff, operations, administration, etc. It is generally assumed that sales people are in sales because they are more driven to make more money than their peers in corresponding levels of responsibility. We find that statement true largely borne out by our internal tracking of compensation programs across all functional disciplines. But we also find that commissionable efforts are not necessarily purely correlated to results for the overall enterprise. Let’s be a little provocative:

Salespeople deliver results that match their level of expectation; it’s only in harmony with the company’s goals if those levels of performance match expectations on both sides.

We have clients that regularly tell us they want someone who is hungry and driven to write business; and in exchange for that hunger, they want to offer them a minimal base salary, with uncapped upside incentives tied to some growth metric; as described above. They also typically couch that program in terms of needing someone who is ‘young’ and hungry; we equate that with wanting someone who is cheap, and hopefully effective. I think the belief that giving large upside potential to someone who will starve for several months while they identify customers, learn your products and value proposition and operate within your sales cycle parameters…is deeply flawed. Let’s explore those key points individually:

1. Upside potential. Everybody wants the chance to make unlimited amounts of money. Uncapped!!! The reality is, that the volume of sales or gross margins any individual salesperson can sell is capped.

a. There are a limited number of customers s/he can call on within that imagined 70-hour week of hard charging, hungry sales efforts.

b. There is a limit to the amount of support any salesperson can rely on to achieve infinity…quotes, inside order services/support, operations/shipping, warranty, finance/credit, etc.

c. There is a timeline to become efficient in any new environment; training, onboarding, team bonding and more.

2. Sales cycle. Every product line is tied to a sales cycle; if you’re selling MV transformers to utilities; that’s a sales cycle that can take longer than a year. Specification products that are tied to new construction, 1.5 to 2 years to be effective. Stocking products in distribution, maybe 6 months to see tangible results, but heavily dependent upon the marketing support behind the company.

3. The value of your products is always tied to the image in the market: are you a startup? Then, the sales cycle and proof of concept to switch vendors adds to the sales cycle. Are you a legacy company? Then, the expansion of sales for a hungry, aggressive salesperson is limited by existing salespeople and region, channel divisions or customer assignments will limit the ability to sell.

4. Salespeople sell to achieve their own internal level of success. If a salesperson is earning commissions of $100,000/year and they have an uncapped program; then logic would tell you that they either are restricted by the limits from above, or they’re restricted by their own value proposition; i.e. they weigh time versus value internally. Working 40 hours a week and making the amount they ‘want’ or need, is a great value proposition for them, why would they work 50% harder to try to get to $150K/year? The facts of sales is:

ALL sales people plateau.

When they meet their intrinsic needs for success…they plateau.

Egret recently conducted a deep dive survey of lighting reps, and of all the information we’ve documented, the one intriguing finding was that rep salespeople are more likely to be compensated on a fixed salary with a bonus program tied to company goals. The complexity of the sales process is much higher; the need for more support people blurs the definition of who’s ‘sale’ it is…it’s more of a team effort with multiple people handling an order from spec to cash. While any small business is motivated to push fixed expenses as low as possible; it becomes just as difficult to manage the cash flow of a thoroughbred salesperson who takes a disproportionate piece of the revenue and reduces the available cash that supports the larger staff that takes that order from entry to cash.

Our industry is becoming increasingly complex with the expansion of technology, new channels, new competitors and new threats. Complexity adds layers of support to handle the complexity; while tech may be perceived as the driver of efficiency, it rarely enables a company to reduce skilled, educated talent.

Would you like to discuss your sales compensation models? Give us a call!

Wishing all of our industry friends a safe, happy holidays!!!


professional recruiter electrical industry ted konnerthTed Konnerth, Egret Consulting Group’s founder and CEO, recruits on a retained basis, helping leaders in the electrical and lighting industry identify their next C and V-level hire. Ted also manages Egret’s Consulting Services division, assisting clients with Organizational strategy, Channel strategy and Succession planning. To learn how Ted can help your company view his biography, check him out on LinkedIn or email him at tk@egretconsulting.com.