On Headhunting and Buying Cars

You and your significant other are in need of transportation. Too busy to shop around yet determined to make a good decision, you decide to hire a broker to help with the purchase. Though your present family consists of the two of you, both early in your careers, you see a future with children, hockey bags, camping gear, and relative career success. You specify a vehicle well-suited for that future yet functional for today. You use terms such as ‘top of the line’, ‘proven’, ‘big’ and ‘powerful’. When the broker tries to engage you in discussions about budgets you say, “What’s important right now is the right fit…let’s deal with the money later”. When the broker suggests that the process is likely to be more focused and efficient if a price range is agreed upon at the outset, you repeat, “This is an important decision. We need to get the right vehicle. You focus on finding us the right car and we will figure out the rest later”.

Though unconvinced, the broker starts his search and returns with a top of the line Range Rover and a fully loaded Porsche SUV. You test drive them both and while impressed you admit these vehicles may be “too much”. When the broker asks you to clarify, you say “Too much power, a little too fancy, too much maintenance, and let’s be real with the $150,000 price tag. That is over the top”. You tell the broker however that he has the ‘right idea’.

The broker keeps thinking that there are only two of you, both young and early in your careers so he shows you several more ‘practical’ vehicles made by Pontiac, Hyundai, and Chrysler. He reasons that these cross-over vehicles and vans are more than adequate for today and will easily be able to accommodate a growing family for years to come. You test-drive several of these vehicles and report back to the broker… “We are not sure….they are OK but they didn’t wow us. Surely we can do better than this”. When the broker asks for clarification on the ‘wow’ factor, you tell him that he is supposed to be the expert, why do you have to spell everything out.

So the broker steps it up with higher-end vehicles such as Acuras and Infinitis and even Escalades. Though you are much more comfortable with these vehicles you remain very discriminating, always a little uncertain about whether this feature or that feature is exactly what you want. Gradually you begin to gravitate towards the Escalade Hybrid, an excellent well-equipped, yet environmentally responsible vehicle. You test drive it several times while concurrently researching it in great detail. You even grill former owners of the vehicle to make sure it meets your standards of performance, reliability and comfort. You finally tell your broker that you will purchase the car.

The broker prepares the paperwork. It had been a long process but the broker is proud to have found the car that meets your needs both today and in the future. As he tabulates all of the added features you insisted upon, the car’s price tag comes to just over $90,000, not inexpensive by any means but good value for such a luxury vehicle and still far less than the $130-150,000 you had rejected at the beginning of the process. He presents you with the contracts and the invoice.

You glance at the bill, and almost immediately turn angrily to the broker, “Are you crazy? Ninety-thousand dollars!!!! We are a young couple, just starting out in our careers. We cannot afford that!! Do you think they would accept $40,000??”

Welcome to the world of executive search.

About the Author

Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.

Contact Robert by email at [email protected] or call (1) 416-365-9494 EXT 777

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