Founder & Managing Partner
I had a dream and it wasn’t #startup
Fourteen years ago today I started my career as a recruiter and this week I started my own recruiting firm. My first week in start-up mode was filled with IT, Marketing, Accounting/Finance, Procurement and even a car detail which are all proof that start-up mode requires a lot of work!
I’m writing this article as encouragement for the next dreamer. The last 14 years have been a wild ride but I’ve been able to do things for friends and family that I could never have imagined. Being in start-up mode is like working 5 jobs while being unemployed (no pay) but I’m not phased because I am positioned with my passion and purpose, so I cannot be stopped.
A few things that I have learned chasing my dream…
- Focus on learning, not earning, and you’ll be forever rich. I have taken 5 pay cuts in the last 14 years and each time that I do my ceiling goes up.
- If you have a dream, follow it (I’m not done). It may seem hard to get where you want to be and the first step is usually the most “uncomfortable”. Take that step!
- Sacrifice everything for what you need (want). It’s all about priorities. Do you value your bed more than your desk? I have a belief that people get what they really want out of life. What do you really want?
- Don’t be an expert, rather have expertise. Expertise is lent to a situation. Experts just know. There is a difference!
- Get a side hustle. The Gig Economy is real. If you want your dream be willing to work for it.
- Take Risks. When you take risks, they either work and you’re are successful or you fail and become wise.
- Don’t make plans, instead go in a direction. When plans fail, you fail. Going in a direction never stops.
- If you don’t like your current situation, use your dream as motivation. Sometimes the only way out is through.
How I got into recruiting…
In 2003, my college football career ended due to a shoulder injury that was so bad that my brother literally had to help me take off the pads for the last time. I had been an athlete since age 6 and all I had was transferable skills so I ended up getting a job through a temp agency in an Aerospace factory for $5.15/hr. I was beyond excited to work on aerospace parts not to mention that my Grandma Ellie worked in a factory for 30 years so I jumped right in. I was on 2nd and 3rd shift, so at age 23, I was in the factory Friday and Saturday nights not getting off until 3-5am. After a few months, I was promoted and began to work on ergonomic projects, time studies and shared an office with the Plant Manager. I was happy but when my brother called and asked if I wanted to move to Cleveland to work with him as a recruiter, I said absolutely. Lebron James just started with the Cavs and I was living in a rural area of Ohio so this was a major upgrade for a 25-year kid. I worked my last 2nd shift on Sunday, January 4th getting off around 10 pm, went home and slept until 3 am, loaded my car, put on a suit and drove 3 hours straight to the office in Cleveland to work my first day Monday, January 5th, 2005.
My start in recruiting…
Until my first day, I knew nothing about the industry besides that I was going to help people get jobs and I’m a people person so that seemed to be a great fit. The first year I made 50+ calls a day cold calling to companies to see if they were hiring. That process was brutal and my competition was all in their 40’s and 50’s so I was clearly a young kid at 25. I did two things that saved my career at that time, 1) I began to call on Youngstown companies because the Cleveland recruiters didn’t value them & 2) I began to envision that while the phone was ringing I was giving a cadence and when they picked up the phone the ball was snapped. Being a Quarterback, I was doing what I could to make it through 50 calls a day with maybe 3-4 conversations a week. The recruiting industry was in transition at that time and the reputation of recruiters was not very good. When I told my friends what I was doing, they would respond very negatively “you’re a recruiter”. I had major concerns whether I had made the right choice and considered getting a night job to help make ends meet but decided that I just needed to double down and focus on recruiting.
“You’re a recruiter”
I recall distinctly the first time the tone changed to a positive, “you’re a recruiter”. Finally, people were seeing the value in what I did versus picturing the grim reaper harvesting. I began to see the reward in 2007, and was able to fly my family to San Fran where my sister lived for her 31st birthday. I threw her a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and had a limo with 50 pink princess balloons inside. In 2008, I was able to throw my brother a surprise birthday party where he was actually surprised and both are memories that were worth the struggle that it took to be successful. In 2010, I got married and moved to Michigan so I needed to change jobs since my firm was focused only in NE Ohio. I chose a firm that worked national and there was a huge learning curve. About a year into the role I began to have success and I was expecting my first commission check. I didn’t tell my wife because I wanted to make sure it was real so I went to the ATM at 4am to check the balance. I took out $100 for me and brought her the receipt showing what was hers! Once again, I was able to do things for my family and at this time I had a chosen-son that was a teen. Not only was I able to provide for him but I was able to show him what commitment and work ethic looks like. After my son graduated from high school, we were able to move to Florida and work remotely. Life was good, until…
“I had a dream”
Martin Luther King’s famous quote wasn’t, I have a plan or I want to work, rather “I have a dream”. What I have learned is that if you want your dream, it is a lot of work. In 2015, I started having a vision for what I wanted to offer my clients in the future. So I left my Managing Partner role and started my first LLC so I could start two small businesses. 321 Clean, a car detailing business and Brand-U, a consulting firm helping clients reach their dreams through intentional marketing. I have since shut down Brand-U and what seemed like a dream felt like a nightmare when I was on my knees washing my first quarter panel but these starter businesses allowed me to fail (and learn). After three months of detailing cars and driving Lyft, my wife really wanted me to take a job. We needed benefits for our family and even though I had driven 15k miles in 3 months, the money just wasn’t adding up. I remember thinking my vision didn’t include me working for someone again but I reminded myself that I am going in a direction rather than making plans so I started looking for a job.
I found a non-profit, Christian Ministry that was growing by 400% and needed someone to help recruit leadership roles in Accounting, Finance, Big Data, Call Center, Nursing, Marketing, Organizational Development, Legal, Executive and more. It was diverse work and a chance to navigate an internal structure rather than being on the outside as a consultant. I learned a lot in this role but the most important thing that I learned was that I need to offer expertise, not be an expert. When I was hired, I felt they hired me to be their subject matter expert but they actually hired me to work and fill jobs. There is a difference and I was humbled! The difference that I see in expertise and being an expert is that if I am an expert, I know everything and don’t need to listen. If I have expertise, I can lend it to a situation if I listen. The key point is listening! In this corporate culture, I also was able to deal with a major character flaw of mine which is over talking. Being a former quarterback, we are the only person who’s allowed to talk in a huddle so that is not a transferable skill and I am glad that I was able to grow my ability to “really listen”. I recommend the Ted Talk by Celeste Headlee, 10 ways to have a better conversation. https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation?language=en
In closing, I would like to thank everyone who has ever given me a chance to prove myself. Without you, I would have never been able to achieve anything. I would also like to encourage anyone that has a dream to chase it.
2019 is going to be great!
Ryan W. Modica