David Hoffmann has never tried to make DHR International Inc. the most affordable executive search firm in the market. His goal since launching the firm in 1989 has been to provide the most value to his clients.
And despite an economy that still has some business leaders feeling skittish about their finances, Hoffmann says his philosophy about pricing still fits.
“The overall competitive global landscape that we are all dealing with today makes price a secondary issue,” says Hoffmann, founder, chairman and CEO at the 410-employee firm.
“[Clients] are more interested in something that can change the marketplace and give them a competitive advantage that before this product or service offering, they didn’t have. In almost any business you can think of, they are all going after market share.”
Pricing may be more important in some industries and less important in others. But however your clients feel about your costs, how can you get them to really focus on the great value that your company wants to provide them through your product or service?
“If you’re going to have that ‘McDonald’s hamburger’ around the world, you need to be consistent,” Hoffmann says. “Any great company has a consistency with its message and a consistency with its product. General Motors is a big client of ours and those cars are distributed all around the world.
“They pretty much function the same in any part of the world as they do in Detroit where they are manufactured. Consistency of quality and consistency of brand is critical when you’re thinking about growing a company at any level.”
That doesn’t mean that you come up with one way to do something and then never change. It means you’re consistent about how your product is presented, consistent about how it is packaged and consistent about the way you respond to concerns.
“We say, ‘Look, not only are we going to find you the best executive to fill this need, but we’re going to tell you how we did it, demonstrate how we did it and build a competency that tells you that this is not just a good candidate, this is the best candidate on the planet and here’s why,’” Hoffmann says.
You need to be the kind of company that clients know they can turn to for anything and you’ll come through for them. You build a reputation and they just expect you to come up with great results.
Those results don’t just come from your own initiative, however. They come from an intense and consistent study of your competition.
“One needs to look at the competition and say, ‘OK, where are they weak?’” Hoffmann says.
Go back to the time when you launched or took over your business and identified a need you wanted to tackle in the marketplace.
“You had to see a need or why would you have started the business?” Hoffmann says. “I would define those needs and then I would exploit those needs in terms of messages to the marketplace. It could be that my widget has a lifespan that is 50 percent longer than the next competitor’s lifespan. Be able to demonstrate that is factually correct.”
The key is you’re constantly focused on your product or service and never assuming that you’ve got it all figured out.
“One needs to explore their competition, analyze their weaknesses, create a product around those weaknesses and exploit it to the potential customer base in a way that is going to be effective through advertising, marketing or media placements,” Hoffmann says.
“You have to be adaptable to change in a changing environment and evolve, but keep the fundamentals of that business intact. At the same time, you have to be anchored to that which made you successful in the first place.”
Being consistently great is never easy, but it’s what your goal needs to be. Don’t be afraid to use your team to make it happen.
“It’s getting everybody together and saying, ‘Look, in 30 days, let’s go out and figure out what our competition is doing and see how we can differentiate,’” Hoffmann says. “It’s not a bad starting point.”
How to reach: DHR International Inc., (312) 782-1581 or www.dhrinternational.com
Do your homework
Studying your competition is a very different thing than copying what they are doing. You’re trying to take what they do and do it better, says David Hoffmann, founder, chairman and CEO at DHR International Inc.
“The way I did it is I looked at our competition that was much bigger than us and I looked at their outlets that they utilized to get their message out,” Hoffmann says. “So we looked at the competition of the big five search firms in the world. Today, we’re one of those.
“Look at who is doing it really well, look at where they are going and take aspects that you think you can capitalize on in whatever business endeavor you’re in. Some of those will be attainable and some of them won’t.”
Hoffmann knew he couldn’t replicate the kind of advertising campaigns of companies such as Coca-Cola or Budweiser. But he found ways to sell his brand in a way fit his budget.
“There is just a whole host of ways to get one’s name and brand to the marketplace,” Hoffmann says. “You’ve just got to see what fits.”