Human Resources

Recruiting firm expands footprint after ‘slow’ growth

Harrison Gray Search & Consulting opens office, adds employees to better serve growing clientele.

January 17, 2020
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Harrison Gray
Adam and Beth Kail preach patience in regard to expanding a business. Courtesy Carbon Stories

Harrison Gray Search & Consulting is flourishing as it sees growing demand for its executive search, outplacement and consulting services in Grand Rapids and beyond.

The firm — founded in January 2014 by husband-and-wife team Adam Kail, president, and Beth Kail, CFO — in September moved into a 3,000-square-foot leased office at 2311 East Beltline Ave. SE, Suite 102, in Grand Rapids.

Located inside the Andrews Hooper Pavlik CPA firm building not far from its former office at Woodmeadow Drive and Breton Road SE, Adam Kail said Harrison Gray’s new space is “much bigger and nicer.”

It includes a reception area, a lounge furnished with West Elm pieces, a conference room with a custom table made by Steelcase, open plan workstations designed by Custer and furnished by Steelcase, private executive offices and a media studio.

The move was made possible by the firm’s exponential growth in the past few years, Kail said. Last year was Harrison Gray’s “biggest year of growth” with revenue jumping about 135% and the company hiring four team members, he said.

Harrison Gray primarily serves clients in the insurance, banking and pharmaceutical industries, but it also has seen increasing demand for executive- and director-level search services in the manufacturing and technology markets.

The average salary of candidates it placed last year was about $107,000, Kail said.

He said the company has two main methods of generating revenue from search services.

It has a retainer model for recruiting candidates in which the client pays 30% of the estimated fee upfront in exchange for guaranteed results. If the firm fails to produce three candidates in three to five weeks, it refunds the client’s deposit. If the firm delivers, the client then pays Harrison Gray the remaining 70% of the fee. So far, Harrison Gray has never had to refund a retainer fee under this model.

The other method is a contingency fee, where the client pays for Harrison Gray’s search time only if the firm refers a candidate that the client hires.

“That’s a peace-of-mind way for a company that’s interested that says, ‘Hey, I’m not sure I want to pay a fee, but if the person was the right fit and they were worth it, we would definitely do it because they’re going to affect the bottom line in a short period of time,’” Kail said.

“It’s a nice way that we can say, ‘Let us do our job. Let us prove our worth,’ and it doesn’t cost you anything unless we present somebody to you (who) you can’t afford not to hire. … The risk is very low.”

The “consulting” part of Harrison Gray’s company name refers to other services the firm offers, such as outplacement services for layoffs and insights on staffing, compensation and the labor market.

In addition to advising organizations in Grand Rapids, Harrison Gray has a national client base, primarily concentrated in New York, Chicago, Texas, Colorado and California.

“It’s understanding each market individually, what each market needs and what each market is demanding, which can get challenging because although people are hiring in 2020, every market has a different rate at which people are hiring,” Kail said.

Harrison is in the early stages of exploring adding a contract IT search vertical in the next two to three years, but first it wants to concentrate on managing and accommodating the volume of permanent placements in the industries it already serves.

“We want to make sure that we’re in a good spot and continue to grow this way and not take our eye off the ball,” Kail said.

This fits into an idea the Kails recently started fleshing out, that “good” growth comes slowly. For the first two or so years of the firm’s existence, everything came slowly, one client at a time, until the firm saved enough money to add employees and grow its book of business. Harrison Gray has not had investors or financing and still carries no debt, operating solely on its profits.

Observing how the firm has flourished in the past 12 months, Kail’s friends have come to him asking how to replicate that success in their own startups.

“I say to them, ‘You can have that. It just takes a lot of time to do the right thing,’” he said.

With that in mind, Kail and his wife are in the process of recording several episodes of a podcast they hope to launch next month, called “Good Grows Slow.” Recording sessions take place in the media studio at their new office.

“(We) talk to other business leaders about growing (their) business and the slow process it takes to build something really good,” he said.

“What did it look like for Harrison Gray to grow slow, what does it look like for XYZ company in Grand Rapids that’s maybe in year 20, and they’ve got an amazing building and 300 employees? What was it like (for them) 20 years ago? What did they do day after day that was repetitive, not sexy, but mundane?

“It does lead to really great things over time.”

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