The ERP Industry just like any other is fraught with challenges. A vast majority of people in the industry are independent contractors; hired guns who fly across the country performing amazing acts of ERP and BI installation for substantially sized companies. It sounds very glamorous to those of us who drive to work after dropping children at daycare and see the same people day in and day out and dream of visiting other places. As a Recruiter in the ERP industry I will admit when I first started working with these brilliant minds I was a bit in awe and a bit envious of what I pictured life to be. That lasted only for a few months, and then I had developed a strong enough relationship with a few of them for them to spill it and tell me what it was really like for them. Sure- they made a great living and chose to be independent for good reasons…the ability to develop cutting edge technological skills, choose their projects and be constantly challenged, get better pay….etc….but…there were some other issues that never occurred to me. Like how they spent Fridays running errands and working extra hours to nullify that concept of the three day weekend, how living out of a suitcase every week and dealing with airport security is less fun when done every week, and more importantly….how leery they truly were of us wretched Recruiters.
It seems that many a Consultant has had a bad experience with one or more of my kind. There is a sense of having to sometimes work with us, but not really wanting to have to do that if at all possible. Consultants have some valid complaints. I have heard stories of people never being told how horrible the client environment was, having their rate marked up so high the client wanted God-like performance to justify it, crappy payment terms, verbally abusive screamers who threaten consultants to do what is demanded or they will never work with them again, and on and on. I get it, people can be shady (and truthfully we both know that can be said for consultants AND for recruiters).
People are people in any industry. Some are more and less professional, more and less honest and more or less adept at obtaining good information. I think we can all agree that in the ERP industry and many others, you are NOTHING without your reputation. The smart people know this. Smart Consultants meet their responsibilities, conduct themselves professionally and get referred to other clients and network with their own kind. Smart Recruiters run a desk where they develop strong trustworthy relationships with smart consultants. They work with the consultants to get them placed on jobs and keep them busy. I think we can all agree that if a Consultant doesn’t have to spend time finding another project, chasing AP for payment of an invoice, wondering if the client is creditworthy and not facing any account freezes that could impact them, etc…that is worth some percentage, right? So…how do you find the “good guys and gals” and how do you negotiate reasonableness?
1.Know Your Needs- Understand what you want and the need for your rate and why you deserve it, payment terms, project location, length, location etc. Make those parameters known to an agency. If they call with roles that match your requests….they are listening to you. If they spam you…run!
2. Do Your HomeWork. Ask those you trust who they work with in the industry and why. Sit at a dinner table with some veteran consultants and ask them who is good in the industry and you are bound to hear about the ones to talk with and the ones to definitely stay away from. Listen to what they say but also remember…the specific recruiter at the agency also makes a difference on how their experience will be.
3. Pay attention to layers. Smart Consultants always want to be as closely tied to the direct client as possible. My rule of thumb is to view this structure like the game of telephone from elementary school….
a. How many companies have touched the job description and interpreted it before you hear about it?
b. How many markups will be added to your rate before the client pays their bill rate amount and what expectations will be put on you because of it?
c. How many delays will there be to invoicing and billing and potential contract complexities with several companies involved?
Sometimes a well meaning recruiter will misinform you simply because of the “telephone” principal. The term ‘direct client’ is so watered down–why use it. They were told by someone who was told by someone that the client needs…..well, you get the idea, right? It is always smart to make sure the Recruiter you are working with works for a company that can deliver the most direct relationship possible for your contract.
4. Negotiate… and do it upfront. If you’re as good as you think you are, you can ask for what you need/want to get the deal done…within reason. I will admit it. There is nothing a good recruiter avoids more than a high maintenance diva consultant. Chances are that if you are demanding and high maintenance with us, you will also act like a diva on the project and we don’t want our reputation sullied with it. There is a fine line there and all negotiations must be handled prior to the accepting of the contract, or we lose trust in you (you would feel the same way, right?). So…if you want payment terms that are net 30, ask before we submit you so we can discuss the likelihood of being able to deliver it. Don’t waste our time, our clients’ time, or your time. If you are worth it, and it is a good agency, they will do their very best to meet your expectations if it can fit their company’s business model.
5. When in doubt, ask for references. We check your references, so why not check ours? If you’ve never worked for a company before and they have a great project, why not ask the Recruiter to allow you to speak with 2-3 consultants they have placed before who are happy with the service provided?
While I will never be able to do a thing but listen and be supportive when my consultant friends share horror stories about airport layovers, snow storms, hotel mix ups, sour milk being the only thing in the fridge when they get home from a long week away, I do hope my perspective helps consultants find good people to work with-in the industry so that being a recruiter is not always synonymous with a four lettered word.