How The Best Recruitment and Search Agencies Harness Their IP to Win More Work

By Dom Moorhouse

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There are two extreme poles that demark the world of recruitment and search agencies.

At one end, you have the agency that is purely transactional. Their focus rests solely on winning the placement, filling it and moving quickly on to the next one. Whilst such recruiters might bring relevant sector-role expertise and personal network to bear on this task there will be little in the way of additional client value offered over and above a fulfilled placement. Such agencies may not even worry too much about long-term client account management – reacting as they do to today’s latest demands. Last year’s key account can quickly dwindle into dormancy. Such agencies live a tactical existence; they are typically poor at forecasting their future book and will, most importantly, be viewed as a transactional supplier by their clients. Whilst such agencies may make healthy income when “the sun shines” they are inherently value-less as longer-term concerns (i.e. there would be limited interest in them from a hypothetical external buyer).

At the other end of this spectrum, you have agencies that systematically invest in developing their service of offerings to clients such that they move “up the value chain” from transactional recruiters to strategic, advisory partners. Such companies have relationship-based accounts (managed over the long term) and much more predictable forward pipelines of work; they are, as such, inherently far more valuable businesses.

How do recruitment and search agencies move up this value ladder?

The answer is a multi-dimensional one but one critical success determinant (an indicator for external assessors!) is the harnessing of intellectual property (IP) to differentiate their services over competitors (cf. being just another transactional phone-basher).

What do I mean by this?

To illustrate, let’s take an example. The Pi Group was founded in 2013, out of Connecticut, to serve the USA consumer goods sector with mid-level placements (via their Perpetual Insights team). Established from the off with an ambition to serve their clients strategically, it very quickly gained permission to move to the Board Room with executive level hires (via their Pi Executive team). Constantly listening to what their clients needed (another hallmark of the strategic venture) and investing in new internal capabilities led to a further expansion of offerings - including the facilitation of high-performing team transformation projects, talent mapping reports, career transition support, executive coaching etc. In short, they moved successfully to becoming a strategic “talent advisory partner” for their clients. In four short years, they now have two offices (New York and Connecticut), a tremendous portfolio of world-class clients and a growing, talented advisory team.

One of the critical steps in this (ongoing) journey was their systematic investment in intellectual property in the form of service delivery frameworks and internal operating procedures. With the use of an innovative new platform designed to help professional service companies build, capture and share methodologies – – they have now built an impressive array of intellectual property.

In terms of frameworks, they can now demonstrate to prospective clients their bespoke system for executive search and all additional services such as talent mapping, career transition, coaching and high-performing team programme development. Being able to “show off” the depth and granularity of this methodology (which gets updated regularly with additional materials and lessons-learned from every client engagement) quite simply - enables them to win more work.

It has also, according to Steve Morrissey MD of the Pi Group, “been a game changer” with respect to facilitating their impressive team growth. “Having Method Grid has enabled us to efficiently train and induct new team members … to get them client-ready as fast as possible and deeply familiar with all our company’s offerings and ways of working”.

Take a peek inside The Pi Group’s account and you will see this library of external and internal methods – growing daily. Their twelve-week staff induction programme now includes 100+ knowledge “elements” (or lessons) that a new joiner can work through in a structured manner. Every single one of these elements is tagged to colleagues in the team who can best support new joiners in this knowledge area. In short, this investment in IP is oiling their impressive growth – and – ensuring that the delivery of their services to clients is standardised and consistent across the whole Pi team 

This is a perfect demonstration of a company investing in the disciplined build-out of their intellectual property to win more work but – also – just to become a more valuable business all around. 

If you are interested in starting off on this journey, is currently in free-to-use public beta mode.




Dom Moorhouse, the founder of Moorhouse Consulting, is the co-founder of Method Grid. He writes regularly on the topic of building value in professional service firms. See and for blog rolls.


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