Executive Search: Is It Worth the Cost?


Is a search firm cost effective?

Your answer depends on whether or not you agree that having the right people working for you will determine whether you are struggling or prospering in your business.

Something to think about.

It’s like David and Goliath out there.

For small-medium businesses the market is increasingly competitive. Larger corporations are generally far better positioned to offer salary and benefit packages that are out of range for most small and medium businesses. Major corporations, generally speaking, have also developed very strong connections and often influence market conditions. By their very clout they attract a steady stream of access to the A-level talent who is seeking stability and long term security.

But what about the ones you want to hire?

The challenge for small-medium businesses to compete by attracting, finding (and keeping!) great people is at the very top of everyone’s list of concerns.

Yet many business owners turn up their noses at looking externally, outside of their trusted circle of friends and people they know, viewing it as unnecessary, too risky, or a waste of time. Are they right? Who knows? But perhaps doing things differently, looking outside ‘the comfort zone’, and engaging an outside consultant is just the solution to improve the quality of key hires — and bottom line!

To get answers, I interviewed business owners who are or have been clients of Ashton & Associates Recruiting, an executive search and recruitment firm with over 60 years combined experience in talent acquisition. I also spoke with several candidates who were successfully placed into rewarding careers by the team at Ashton & Associates. While most clients give our service very high marks, many prospective companies who contact us object to the cost and opt for the DIY approach.

Yet everyone agreed that getting your money’s worth – realizing full value – required a serious commitment and the willingness to looking at who and how they went about hiring differently, and that can feel uncomfortable.

Success Story

Spencer Dobell, president of Natures Fare, had always considered himself to be a good leader and manager, but two years ago he and his partner, Katherine found themselves faced with the daunting task of having to replace their store manager, the single most key role, next to themselves, in the organization.

I really didn’t know anyone who would be suitable and knew we had to start looking outside our circle of business friends and colleagues to get the talent we needed, but we didn’t have the time to start the recruiting process from scratch. Most of our time was already booked up interviewing and hiring for our store. We just didn’t have the time or the resources to deal with the sourcing and screening process. That’s when we turned to Ashton & Associates Recruiting.

After consulting with Venture Kamloops, the economic development arm for the City of Kamloops, the Dobells were referred to Ashton & Associates Recruiting. They turned over the hiring for this key Store Manager role and within months had successfully hired their new store manager, Gary Innis, someone who was not previously connected to the Dobell’s and in fact was at the time in a completely unrelated industry, yet had very applicable prior experience and all the skills they were looking or in spades, and most importantly the values and acumen to fit and quickly prosper within their organization.

How It All Works

Ashton & Associates starts with an uncover-discover session. This is where we ask all the questions to learn about your company, the history of the position, what the success factors are for star employees in your organization, and essentially everything about you, your leadership style, values and what you’re looking for to drive success in your team.

Then we set out to develop an ideal candidate profile, listing top personal attributes, tactical skills and experience, education, etc. From there we research, trenching deep into our resources to access key industry insiders, gaining referrals to the top talent we’re looking for.

Our long list of potentials is then ready for us to sit down and review, adjust the search or tweak the candidate profile, and get down to serious screening and short-listing.

How Long?

Typically searches run 8 weeks start to finish, depending how far afield the search takes us, Obviously the logistics on an international search will be more complex than someone local or in a neighbouring town. As well there are family considerations – school, spousal employment, etc – plus notice to employers.

Although we like to tout our search philosophy as unique, clients who have come to us agree that there really isn’t anything unique about our process. Granted, we do more than the average recruiter but in the end it’s all about getting the right person into the right seat, quickly and cost-effectively. Is a search firm cost effective?

Let me ask you this: are you brave enough to calculate what a bad hire costs your company? We have had seen clients come up with some pretty mind-numbing figures when they looked beyond these direct costs of sourcing and hiring, to the profit-sucking ravages of turnover, lower productivity, and heaven forbid, lost customers.

We can help.

We all know there is a ton of hiring advice everywhere you look online. What is distinctive about Ashton’s approach is consistency in screening tools and processes. Asked to identify where the greatest value is in our program, here’s what two other Ashton clients have to say…

I am particularly impressed with how you really “listened” to what was being said regarding what this “right-hand” would look like. I have dealt with a number of recruiters over my past HR roles, and you and your associate really stood out with your very obvious client focused approach. It is nice to see, as to tell you the truth, I have had less than stellar success (and opinions) of recruiters and headhunters in the past!

– Darin Kennedy HR & Administration Manager Tk’emlups te Secwepemc

We knew we needed help finding a new Production Manager for our plant in Kamloops. We had been recruiting for six months, nationally and world-wide, for this critical role without results. That’s when we called in Ashton Associates. The Ashton team took over the search process, and within a relatively short period of time, they had not only sourced one outstanding candidate, but a strong number two as well. We found both candidates to be well screened for skills, values, motivation, and overall fit. I highly recommend anyone with a critical role to fill to look to the search professionals at Ashton & Associates.

– Eric Isenor Plant Manager Lafarge Canada

What valuable company are you not building?

What could you be doing bigger, better, smarter, if you had the right people in place?


Hiring solutions come in all shapes and sizes. We’ll work with you to determine the most cost-effective, results-driven hiring strategy and then custom tailor that solution to meet your exact hiring needs.

Is executive search worth the cost? 

Your answer depends on whether or not you agree that having the right people working for you determines whether you are struggling or prospering in your business. Something to think about.